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No 12 - April 15, 2001
Your own Pipe or Cigar Club

In a previous article (December 14) we posed the question:
"Is a pleasure shared a pleasure doubled?"
We talked about the pleasures of reading about cigars - books and magazines. The new laws prohibit the sale (including import for resale) of magazines whose main purpose is deemed by SA Customs to promote smoking. Some of the current issue of Cigar Aficionado were impounded at SA Customs, and we don't know whether you will see any more of these magazines on the shelf in future. So buy this issue while you can.
Back issues: Wesley's are selling them off at very good prices, including some that are going for high prices from the Cigar Aficionado website.

But there is another way of sharing your pleasure - your own Pipe or Cigar Club.
Simply smoking with friends at an appointed place and time - like a Dinner Club or a Book Club.

In response to a request from Mr Bundwini, one of our website visitors, we offer a few guidelines.

Purpose of a Club
A congenial time spent with friends - fellow pipe or cigar enthusiasts.

Where and when.
Most clubs seem to work on a consistent day and time, eg. the second Tuesday of the month at 5:30pm; or every Saturday at 10:15am. The time and frequency depends on your other commitments.
The location can be fixed, flexible or rotating; at private homes or at smoking-friendly venues - club, pub, coffee bar, cocktail lounge, restaurant.
Snacks or a meal.

Finance options
· A set fee per function - pooled.
· Everybody pays for his or her own drinks/snacks.
· The host for the occasion pays.

If you envisage a more formal club, some points to bear in mind are:
Who will administer the subscription?
What will the subscription be used for?
Who will organise the functions?

Getting started
Gather a few friends together, they may invite other friends - let it snowball.

Possible Activities
· Smoking and conversation;
· A presentation of smoking or other products or techniques, by a member or outside enthusiast;
· Each meeting one person brings favourite cigars or pipe tobacco for everybody to try - free, or pay in to a kitty each time;
· Introduction to a new pipe tobacco - scoring;
· Tasting cigars - comparing different sizes or leaf or rolling techniques;
· Tasting blind and rating the cigars.

Borrow ideas from the activities of other clubs - some websites follow.

After visiting, close the window to return to this page.

Pipe Clubs (Please note: Some of these sites seem to be out of operation at present - April 29, 2010 )
http://www.pipeclub.org
http://www.execpc.com/perique
http://www.naspc.org
http://www.arkansastobaccoplus.com
http://www.se.mediaone.net/pipesman
Cigar Clubs
http://www.cigclub.com
http://novacs.freeservers.com

Wesley's will provide a forum for cross-information.
Give us your ideas and functions to list on the Wesley's website.
Maybe we can facilitate a periodic get-together of all the clubs in your area
for a casual meal or formal dinner.

An imaginative new experience
Have you ever tried a gently flavoured cheroot with your coffee break?
Next week we feature the light, mild Moods cigarillo.

Do you have a question that would offer suitable material for an article?
If we use it, you will receive a cigar (or tobacco) with our compliments.

Colin Wesley ........................................................................................................... ....
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No 13 - May 3 , 2001
Why all these new brands from Cuba?

The cigar boom that started in the early nineties was the obvious breeding ground for the multitude of new cigar brands that flooded the market when the established brands could not cope with the skyrocketing demand. Most of these new brands originated in the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
New entrepreneurs entered the trade, factories mushroomed, tobacco was bought willy-nilly, rollers were poached or hastily given basic training, fancy labels and boxes proliferated, and quality was low down on the list of priorities. It was said at one stage that there were more Don "This" and Don "That" on the market than there were "Don"s in a Spanish phone book.
Such is the market place when driven by demand and supply.
In Cuba the land suitable and available to grow the variety of leaf needed for a good cigar is limited and they did not have direct access to the vast United States cigar market. However they could not afford to miss out on the burgeoning global market. Production was increased from 80 million in 1990 to 148 million in 1999. The industry could not cope and quality was sacrificed.

And in this same period, when capacity was stretched to its very limits, Cuba launched new brands. Why?
I subscribe to the theory that because big Cuban names such as Montecristo, Punch, Romeo y Julieta, H.Upmann and others are registered in the USA, then if (or when) the embargo against Cuba is lifted royalties would have to be paid to the owners of these brands. A good way to avoid these payments would be to create new brands, with names registered by Cuba Tobacco.
And so we have seen the introduction of brands such as Cuaba, Vegas Robaina, Vegueros, Trinidad, San Cristobal and now Juan Lopez.
By creating such new brands Cuba Tobacco would be able to invite distributors to bid for the market rights for these brands. Production could be tailored to suit the best interests of Cuba.

An interesting scenario, which has become even more interesting.
In 1999 the tobacco giants SEITA of France and TABACALERA of Spain combined to form ALTADIS. ALTADIS has subsequently acquired 50% of HABANOS - the marketing arm of Cuba Tobacco - and 100% of Consolidated Cigar in the USA. Consolidated own Montecristo, H.Upmann and other Cuban labels. The possible ramifications of these developments are mind-boggling, and are of grave concern to the whole cigar industry.

We wait and watch.

Juan Lopez (Flor de) - the revival of an old Havana name.

Now available in South Africa in 3 sizes.
  Size Rudman Rating Single price in glass tubes
Petit Coronas 42x129 (Petit Corona) **** R61.00
Selection No.1 (SLB) 46x143 (Corona Extra) *** R91.00
Selection No.2 (SLB) 50x124 (Robusto) **** R87.00

Fortnightly Feature was - 3 glass tubes with 3 sizes of Juan Lopez R165.00
Compare 3 sizes of the same brand with reference to taste and draw.
Remember if the draw is too easy, try a thinner cigar.

Colin Wesley ........................................................................................................... ....
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No 14 - May 17 , 2001
Liquid Fuel Lighters

...... or "petrol" lighters as they are often called have been around since the early 1900's. But only two names have really stuck to this principle and survived - Imco (Austria) and Zippo (USA).
The attractions of these lighters are their simplicity and reliability. If there is a spark, some fuel to burn, and a clean wick to carry this fuel, it must light. That's a practical fact. The number of moving parts is minimal. There are no valves to leak, no flame adjusters to jam, and maintenance is simple. Mechanically they are so straightforward; almost nothing can go wrong.
Hence the 10 year guarantee from Imco, and the famous "it works or we fix it free" lifetime guarantee from Zippo.
The downside of these lighters is that they require more frequent filling ("topping up") than their butane gas counterparts. Our suggestion is that you place a can of fuel somewhere near where you empty your pockets (or leave your handbag) so that it reminds you to top up the lighter every 4 or 5 days. Also liquid fuel may impart a possibly unacceptable (temporary) taste to the smoke.
The emergence of butane gas lighters, both flint and electronic, in the 1950's appeared to herald the demise of liquid fuel lighters, but history has shown that they have their place, especially for outdoors - hiking, camping, golfing, fishing.
You can depend on them in the wind and rain - for rugged reliability nothing can beat them.

But can you use them to light your pipe or cigar?
Yes you can - but it requires a slightly different ritual.

Zippo have this to say about using their lighters for fine cigars:
1. Before striking the flint wheel to ignite the lighter, leave it open for 4 or 5 seconds. This pause will allow any fumes that were trapped by the lid to dissipate.
2. Strike the wheel and then pause again for 4 or 5 seconds. This pause allows excess fuel to burn off and steadies the flame, which in most cases is a good wide flame.
3. Then, as with a gas lighter, hold the cigar at a 45° angle above the flame evaporating the natural oils and moisture from the foot of the cigar.
4. As the rim of the foot starts to show signs of lighting, raise the cigar to your lips and gently blow through the cigar. This will remove any fumes generated by the burning material.
5. Rotate the cigar through the first few puffs to ensure an even burn covering the whole foot of the cigar.
A fuel flame burns at a lower temperature than butane gas, so the whole lighting process may take a few extra seconds - savour them.
For Pipes:

Zippo Pipe Lighters have a special insert, which allows you to draw the flame directly into the bowl. Once the tobacco is alight, you may like to blow gently through the pipe before settling down to smoke.

Feature from May 24 to June 6 (Current)
Zippo "Keeper of the Flame" - R165.00 (Normally R333.95)

A Collectible Lighter - brushed chrome with a leather/brass logo - in a special tin.
The "2000" bottom stamp authenticates this lighter as a Millennium edition.
Colin Wesley ........................................................................................................... ....
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No 15 - May 31, 2001
Pipe AND Cigars?
Subsidise your cigar smoking!

Several of my cigar customers have recently revived their old pipes.
There are many similarities: the smoking rituals, the enjoyment of the taste, both types of smoking require time, patience and an understanding of the tobacco product.
One of the main differences, and a good reason to combine the two, is the cost factor. A good 30-minute cigar may cost anything from R30.00 to R80.00 - the equivalent quantity of pipe tobacco should be in the region of R4.00 to R5.00. The capital cost of a good pipe with all the paraphernalia is less than the cost of a box of 25 cigars.
Smoke your cigars when out to dinner or sharing the experience with friends; smoke your pipe when relaxing alone. Smoke either as the mood takes you.
The natural taste / flavour of a cigar comes from the blending of tobacco leaves for the filler from similar plants grown in different areas (maybe with the addition of flavourings). See "Cigars - Smoking for Pleasure".
The flavour in pipe tobaccos is created by blending leaves from very different tobacco plants, processing and maturing the blends, adding flavouring essences.
In both types of smoking, the enjoyment and satisfaction come from the taste buds - not from a need to inhale.
Just as you select the correct size cigar, and the appropriate flavour for the occasion, so you can select the right size pipe and the "perfect" tobacco.

If your impressions of pipe smoking conjure up thoughts of a raw, sore tongue - banish them. This can easily be avoided by smoking more slowly. (See "The Perfect Blend".)
The key focus is the strength of the tobacco. If a tobacco is too light you may smoke too fast, the tobacco will burn hot and a sore tongue will result.
Consideration of strength is also important in a cigar - we'll talk about this next time.

The feature (just in time for Father's Day), a "really useful" design of pouch for pipe, tobacco and tools - either leather or synthetic - with 25g of a Houseblend tobacco thrown in. Use the opportunity to replace your lost or ageing pouch, and try a different tobacco at the same time.

Colin Wesley.......................................... . . . ............................................................... ....
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No 16 - June 14, 2001
Perception of strength in a cigar
- a complex question!

More complex than in pipe tobacco (see the previous article), and the answer is dependent on several factors and your personal reaction to these factors. This reaction is subjective - we need to recognise our own likes and dislikes so that we can make personal adjustments to a rating given to a cigar by somebody else.
For example, how could you and I define "strong" coffee?
I make instant coffee with 2 loaded spoons of granules, you may prefer a half spoon. If we know this about each other we can make allowances. Coffee that you consider strong might not be anywhere near strong enough for me.
In a similar way, this applies to the character of a cigar.

Test this theory with a little cross-referencing between the ratings given by Theo Rudman, Rick Hacker and Wesley's, and establish where your personal strength rating lies.

Some of the factors that come into play are:

  1. The actual tobacco in the blend: The perception of strength is closely allied to the richness of flavour of the tobaccos in the cigar. This gives rise to the terms: "light, "full-bodied", etc. This flavour is influenced by the country in which the tobacco is grown, and within each country the degree to which the leaf is matured. The 4 countries that dominate the supply of cigars to South Africa (and their strength characteristics) are: Cuba (mostly full-bodied), Honduras (medium to full), Dominican (mild to medium) and Holland (light). (See "Cigars - Smoking for pleasure") Since the time of Castro some top brand names (eg Dunhill) have been manufactured in the Canary Islands. These are also mild to medium in strength. One of the newest brands is ST DuPont.
  2. The Ringsize: Too thick might give you too much smoke per draw, and make you feel dizzy. Too thin might burn hot and bitter. Both could be perceived to be "strong".
  3. Rate of smoking: Smoking too fast often causes a hot, bitter smoke - the cigar gives the impression of being "strong".
  4. Time of day: That delightful light, short filler cigar perfect for the morning might be meaningless in the evening.
  5. Before or after a meal (and the nature of a meal): In a series of blind tastings with which we were involved, it was found that when cigars were smoked before snacks or a meal, the lighter Dominican cigars rated more marks than the traditionally strong Cuban cigars. When the cigars were smoked after food, the ratings turned around. At a recent function the pre-dinner premium Dominican cigar was "surprisingly good", but the same brand and blend offered after dinner was "disappointing".

It seems fairly obvious from the above that a single cigar is unlikely to satisfy everybody all of the time. Experiment with different cigars. How would you categorise their strengths?
Does your humidor offer you sufficient choice?

The "strength" categories on our pricelist:
Since we have no control over the last 4 factors, we have based our "strength" categories on the main tobacco that forms the filler of each cigar, making reference to food and occasion. We have gratefully drawn on the knowledge and experience contained in Theo Rudman's "Complete Pocket Guide to Cigars", the works of Richard Carleton Hacker and our personal preferences.

We've arrived at 5 levels of strength:

  1. Gentle. Suitable in the morning or before a light or delicate meal.
  2. A little more taste and body - yet easy going enough for the novice. Excellent after lunch or any light meal. Good with cocktails.
  3. Pre-dinner or after a more substantial lunch - sufficiently satisfying even for an experienced smoker.
  4. Full-bodied, hearty - the perfect ending to a rich or spicy meal.
  5. Smoke with care - superb with a robust liqueur or strong coffee after a sumptuous meal, or when there is plenty of time. A demanding smoke.
June 21 - July 4 . Featured: "Sample the Strengths"
For R155.00, the pack of "Three Coronas" one each from:
Cuba - Punch Corona,
Canary Islands - ST DuPont (NEW),
Honduras - Don Mateo

Colin Wesley.......................................... . . . ............................................................... ....
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No 17 - June 28, 2001
"Freeform" - pipes with personality

There was a buzz around the International Ambiente Fair this year: "Pipes are back in favour"

Special attention was being paid to those pipes not quite in the classic mould.
Pipes expressing some element of "freeform" and individuality.
Preferably fitted with a filter system.

"Freeform pipes" burst on the pipe scene in the late 1950's / early 1960's and Denmark was the breeding ground. Names such as Kriswell, Stanwell, Larsen and Jensen become as well known as Savinelli, BBB, GBD, Barling and Comoy.
Everybody was caught up in this new wave.
Manufacturers who didn't have the craftsmen to produce these new shapes contracted small firms of artistic craftsmen to make pipes for them, and branded them with their own names.
(Dunhill "styled by Harcourt" was a classic example of this arrangement.)
But production costs were high and the individually hand-carved pipes were expensive.

Then Stanwell pioneered the use of a metal template from which four bowls could be turned simultaneously. The Danish carver Sixten Ivarsson (now considered the father of modern pipemaking) was commissioned to create new shapes capturing the spirit of the "Freeform" movement.
Each shape was registered.
Each shape was perfect and true to the vision of its creator.
Suddenly "Freeform" pipes were affordable to a larger pool of Pipesmokers.

Today Stanwell is the major pipe manufacturer in Denmark, producing over 100,000 pipes per year, exported to all the corners of the earth. The company still enjoys relationships with the most talented craftsmen in Denmark to produce new shapes. Over the years more than 200 shapes have been discontinued - the current range of 75 shapes (both traditional and modern) includes the best of the past and the inspiration of the present.

From July 5 -18 (current) we feature one of the Stanwell Speciality shapes:
The "Calabash" - which expresses the essence of the freeform spirit in a classic manner.
The Stanwell Speciality Shapes are made in limited quantities from top quality briar.

Colin Wesley ........................................................................................................... ....
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No 18 - July 12 2001
Richard Carleton Hacker

Christened "The Cigar Czar" by the media, author of over 300 published articles on pipe and cigar smoking, member of France's honorary "Confrèrie des Maîtres Pipiers de Saint-Claude", elected to the exclusive "Academie Internationale de la Pipe", knighted by the "Internationales Tabakskoliegium" in Germany, Rick Hacker is one of the world's most celebrated, internationally known pipe and cigar authors of our time. His books are listed as important reference works by the Encyclopaedia Americana.
More important his works are informed and witty, easy and entertaining to read.

He was asked by the Pipesmokers' Council of Great Britain in an interview published on their website (www.pipesmokerscouncil.org) and in their booklet "Pipesmokers' Welcome Guide 1999":
"How did you start writing about pipes?"
Richard answered as follows:
One of the most frequently asked questions reporters put to me is "How did you ever start writing about pipes?"
To be honest, it is a question I never really thought about, as pipe writing, just as pipe smoking, has always come quite naturally to me. But I guess, in the scheme of things, pipe smoking had to have come first. Otherwise I could never have written about it, even though I was a published writer long before I was a published pipesmoker.
I actually remember when it all began - during my junior year in college. As was my scholastic style, I was cramming for final exams on the eve before that fateful event. My study hall was an Italian restaurant whose owner kept filling me with coffee and pasta free of charge, which was fortuitous as I had no money. But the protein and caffeine weren't enough. I needed a friend to stay with me throughout the night, someone to keep me awake and just alert enough to retain the information needed to pass the test the following morning.
In desperation - I don 't know why, perhaps because I thought it made me look smarter (which it did) - I had purchased a pipe that afternoon, a classic billiard. It was not an expensive briar, but it fit my hand perfectly. I suspect it may actually have cost less than the tobacco I bought to go with it. In any case, as I scrutinized my notes, I filled my new briar with tobacco, struck a wooden match, and thereupon began a love affair that has lasted to this very day. Of course, I passed the test, a tribute that I owe to the scholastic bearing of my billiard.
Since then, I have learnt that there are infinitely better grades of briar and that the quality of the pipe is proportionately related to the enjoyment of the smoke. However, that is not to say that price is the deciding factor. One of the secrets of pleasurable pipe smoking is to find a pipe that is within your means, but buy the very best you can afford. No one ever regrets buying quality.
Another salient point is that you can never have too many pipes.
As for tobacco, never stop searching or you lose the thrill of discovery. Eventually you may find nirvana, and if so, use it as your "safe haven", when you want to relax. But there might be something better in the next tobacco specialist's shop, and your next bowlful may be even more rewarding.
Today I have an enormous collection of pipes, and all of them are my friends. They have seen me through good times and bad, and have never let me down when I needed them. So the least I can do to repay their kindness is to write about them and to share their pleasures with others. Which is what I'm doing now. Which is how I got started writing about pipes in the first place. Rick Hacker's books can be bought from Wesley's and other specialist Tobacconists, or ordered through Wesley's Mail Order (011 4402717).

Colin Wesley ........................................................................................................... ....
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