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No 211 - March 5, 2009
Through the Smokescreen

An article in a recent Trade magazine made me sit bolt upright: Pipe smoking in the USA is on the rise! Can you believe it? Apparently College students in particular are re-discovering the solace of the pipe – as an alternative to other forms of smoking. Enough of them it seems, to have turned the tide in pipe and tobacco sales.
This may well explain the interest of our Ben – read what we wrote about the equipment he needs.

His request just before he received his parcel was that we lead him briefly, but comprehensively, along the path to placid pipe smoking. We realized that while we have all the information in various places on our website, it would save a lot of searching if we put it all together, so this is what we wrote:

Good morning Ben
Here we go – ready to start when your pipe arrives.
There are three things to think about –
A. You have a new pipe
B. You are a new smoker
C. You have more than one tobacco

Wood burns, and although briar is one of the hardest woods to be found, it is a little unreasonable to put a fire inside the bowl and expect the wood to resist the flame. However the pipe will build, naturally, a carbon layer to line and protect the inside of the bowl.
Helping to build the Carbon layer:
1. Before packing the tobacco, moisten the inside of the bowl with a drop of water, or saliva. Alcohol, honey or molasses will aid the formation of the carbon layer, but they burn rather hot, bad for the pipe and you.
2. The carbon layer should reach right to the base of the bowl, so fill the pipe one-quarter to one-third full for the first smoke. Smoke it quietly and smoothly, as close to the bottom as you can. Don't smoke outdoors or in a draught.
3. Over the next 6-8 smokes gradually fill the pipe a little more each time, moistening the inside before packing, and smoking as far down as possible. Clean gently so as not to disturb the carbon.
This will provide the final drying out and toughening process for the wood, and build the carbon layer essential to protect the wood

As a new smoker you should aim for a relatively quiet, maybe even uninterrupted, time in the late afternoon or evening. One day you will know the pleasure of tranquilly puffing on your pipe, and will barely remember the days when you started - when the pipe wouldn't stay alight, you used more matches than tobacco, and the smoke was so hot that your tongue felt raw, but right now the pipe needs your full attention.
Cautionary note - remember pipe tobacco doesn't contain ANY additives to assist burning. Don't puff vigorously, the tobacco will only burn hot as a result. Simply let it go out and re-light as often as necessary. Tobacco will burn easier if it is rubbed out, or allowed to dry a little.
 Filling: Blow through the stem to make sure it is clear. If it isn't, use a pipe cleaner or the pick of your pipe tool to clear it. Feed the tobacco into the bowl, pinch at a time. Press down and check the draw - it must be firm but not too tight. To start with you may have to test the draw with each pinch but in time it will be second nature to pack it just right for you. If you have filled the pipe, but it doesn't draw comfortably, empty it out and start again. It won't smoke well if it burns unevenly.
Loosen the top of the tobacco slightly so that it will accept the flame readily. Apply the flame (from a slow-burning match or a pipe lighter) moving it from side to side over the whole surface so that all the tobacco at the top of the bowl is lit. After a puff or two the tobacco usually goes out. Tamp down, tease the surface, relight - and this time it should burn steadily.
Don't rush it, puffing furiously. Smoking should be an extension of breathing, gentle and rhythmical giving a cool smoke, good for the pipe and for the tongue. The majority of pipesmokers do not inhale, the taste is all in the mouth. Of course you will also enjoy the fine aroma of the smoke. If the pipe goes out, gently tap off the loose ash and relight, but don't refill a warm pipe, use another pipe and let the old one rest and dry out. It isn't necessary to smoke solidly for hours.
Stop when you're satisfied, put the pipe down, and it will go out naturally. When you're ready for another smoke, relight the pipe, or start another pipeful if you prefer.
When you’re finished, empty the bowl, remove the filter, and run a pipecleaner through the stem. (Have a deep ashtray or bowl ready for the discarded ash and to hold the filter between smokes)
Don’t oversmoke the pipe – let it dry out between smokes.
The Filter:
Remove the filter between smokes (makes it easier to clean the pipe) - replace it once it is too moist.

Decide on one of the tobaccos and stick to that one only until you have settled in and are managing to keep the pipe alight. From our experience in the shop I would suggest that No.43 Old Gold is likely to be the best for a starter.
Once you’re comfortable with your pipe you can experiment with other tobaccos.

While you’re puffing gently read the leaflets to reinforce what you’ve learned and help you anticipate future pleasures.
We look forward to following your progress.

By now Ben’s pipe will probably be in need of a little more thorough cleaning to loosen up any residual juices, and to freshen up the aroma. A cleaning fluid (spray is convenient), and a little polishing will make for a more pleasant smoke.
Some of your pipes may be in need of the same treatment.

This fortnight we offer the new CGA Pressurised Pipe Cleaner spray (CFC free) - R33.30
That’s more than 25% off the normal price of R44.50 - includes 10 free Bristle Cleaners
From 12 March - Offer finishes 25 March 2009

Because it makes such a difference, give your pipe the benefit of a full clean and freshen-up.
You too will enjoy the benefit.

Colin Wesley
No.211 5 to18 March 2009

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No 212 - March 19, 2009
Cigar Casa and Cigar Collection

On our recent visit to Frankfurt (Germany) we had scheduled a late Saturday afternoon meeting with an expert on humidification. The young man and his wife suggested we take advantage of the crisp, cloudless weather (after days of rain and snow) and walk to the very newly-opened La Casa del Habano.

The Casa is well laid out with entrance area and bar, walk-in humidor (accompanied) and smoking lounge. Surprisingly, the humidor is not air-conditioned. The aim is to create conditions close to that of Cuba – which is definitely not chilly. We were assured by our host that his humidification unit, which works on evaporation, would keep the surroundings at 22ºC and 70% Relative Humidity. It certainly felt like it.
Gill and I recalled the old days in Durban where anything over 21ºC would encourage the incubation of the tobacco beetle; Cuba’s new system of freezing the cigars over a 5-day period before releasing them for distribution seems to be a success. A large overhead fan ensured good circulation – even in the private boxes, which backed into the humidor but were only accessible from outside.
Another surprise to me was the lack of 3- and 5-packs of cigars which offer such good opportunities for building up a comprehensive selection of cigars for one’s private humidor. Per cigar, the pack prices are the same as the boxed – except for those packs offering the beautiful (fancy) aluminium tubes. Maybe everyone in Frankfurt is happy to buy 25 each of a number of different cigars. Or maybe they select the exact cigar(s) from the really wide range of open boxes on show. I find that quite a few of my customers like to select their cigars individually; but to learn about the wide variety of cigars on the market, and to experience the differences, nothing is better than the very well-priced Wesley’s Selections.

My host and I hesitated for some time over our choice of cigars. We were tempted by the new Limited Editions, Partagas Serie D No.5 (Petit Robusto) and the giant Montecristo Sublimes (164mm x Ring 54) but although it was late in the day neither of us had eaten and we felt the cigars needed to follow a good meal. I settled for my favourite Trinidad Reyes, and my host a Bolivar (both in very good condition), and we settled down to business in the large, comfortable smoking lounge.

I was delighted on my return to South Africa to discover that both these Limited Editions had arrived on our shores. I’m not sure when I’m going to have time for one of the Sublimes, but the Partagas Serie D No.5 will be the “Star” of our next Cigar Dinner.
Just the other day one of my longstanding Cuban Cigar customers dropped in to say hello. He wasn’t really in the market for cigars, but after I showed him the new Limited Editions, he was eager to try each of them in singles.
However, as he turned to leave the Humidor he came out with “Oh yes, I had better have a few more of these”, and picked up 2 boxes of Hajenius Petit Corona. “Just perfect for a short, light smoke at any time.”
You know, hand-rolled Cubans and other “Premium” cigars, great as they are, are not the only smokes worth considering.
The term "Premium Cigar" can be misleading, because it is usually only associated with handmade, long filler cigars. Not all long filler cigars fit into the premium category. During the boom years of the mid-nineties there were numerous exotically named handmade long filler cigars which definitely didn't deserve the appellation "Premium" - it was said there were more "Don" names in cigar catalogues than in the Spanish telephone directories.
On the other hand some short filler cigars should be described as "Premium".
The names "P G C Hajenius", “Vasco da Gama”, "La Paz", "Justus van Maurik" certainly come to mind. Cigars made from 100% pure tobacco - binder, filler and wrapper. 
Consistency is the keyword.
Since the bunch (filler enclosed by its binder) is machine made, the consistency of construction is very high. Machines can be set to weigh out exact amounts of tobacco, roll them into an exact diameter and cut to an exact length, with no room for human inconsistency. So an even, easy draw is virtually assured. The filler is composed of small pieces of tobacco (hence the term "short filler"), and the composition is a Blender's dream. Up to as many as 15 to 20 different tobaccos may be used to fine-tune the blend, and again the degree of consistency will be very high. Here the skill of the tobacco buyer comes into play - to ensure consistency of flavour and quality from year to year.
Although the maximum Ringsize appears to be limited to about 42, the blend can still be designed to be full flavoured, with a wide variety of carefully selected complementary tobaccos combined into a homogeneous whole, for a complex yet subtle taste experience and a consistently good draw, at a relatively modest price.
They offer an advantage over their long filler counterparts, where only the best quality and highest paid rollers must be used to achieve the same consistency of a good draw; and only the larger, more expensive ring sizes in long filler cigars offer the same complexity of flavour.
Such a short filler cigar is a good "first cigar" of the day or evening.
Activating the taste buds, not hammering them.
Leaving them ready for something more substantial later.
They are also ideal for a coffee break smoke, or just a light smoke at any time.
My suggestion is that you consider them to see where they can fit into your cigar smoking portfolio.

Pipe smokers have a saying: “the only way to test a pipe tobacco is to put it in your pipe and smoke it”.
Here we go, cigarwise – a selection of fine cigars for you to try.

From March 26 
Premium Short Filler Selection - R110.00
P.G.C. Hajenius Petit Corona – 107mm x Ring 40 – R52.00*
La Paz Corona Superiores CK 126 – 114mm x Ring 41 – R59.00*
Justus van Maurik Classique – 104mm x Ring 32 – R32.00*
*Normal price per cigar in a glass tube

Three cigars of different lengths and ringsizes;
Don’t draw too hard - just savour the complex blend of flavours.
Be honest now – aren’t they smooth, light, flavourful smokes, with a very easy and consistent draw?
Use the Tasting Form to record your impressions.

I find them really well-suited for a casual in-between smoke – and the prices make for excellent value.
In the old Carlton Centre days this is the undemanding type of cigar I used to smoke to keep me sane driving home in the traffic.

Colin Wesley
No.212 March 19 – April 1, 2009

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No 213 - April 2, 2009
Down Memory Lane

For us, putting together a selection of Refurbished pipes is a trip down Memory Lane:

Savinelli took us back to the mid-seventies, well before the Dry System was developed, when we were privileged to go with Achille Savinelli (by tram) to his penthouse in Milan. A new experience at lunch was “Polenta” (mealiemeal bread!) – quite commonplace now.

And St Claude in the Jura Mountains, still the home of the French Briar Pipe industry, brings back the memories of a long-ago visit. Only one restaurant in town and three suppliers to see. Everybody watched everybody else, but all very friendly. Quality brands such as Chacom, Butz Choquin are still made there.

On a visit to the original Stanwell factory we gave Mr Stanwell a hand with the English text for their pipe catalogue, and were rewarded with a sumptuous Smorgasbord dinner.
One of the pipe ranges was the “Bamboo Shank”. A Limited Edition of “Bamboo Shank”” pipes was handmade from selected special quality bowls in honour of the Beijing Olympics last year – and presented in a stunning Lacquer box. We’ve been allocated one!
(Some other good Stanwells in the next batch of Refurbs.)

Orlik Silver Mount (mind you it was always said that silver bands didn’t sell in South Africa, but this seems to have changed) - reminded us of when we met members of the founding families of Comoy and Orlik at the time they joined the Cadogan Group (formerly Oppenheimer) run by John Adler a long-time friend in England (who incidentally inveigled me into smoking my first cigar). Comoy Cellini (this is where John’s old friendship with Lorenzo led to Lorenzo designing some stunning shapes for the Cellini range). The Cadogan group also owns the GBD, Loewe, BBB and Dr.Plumb brands, and is now run by John’s son Michael – but we were never offered anything like the GBD Flame Grain and Unique, and we never found out the source of the name of the BBB Ultonia.
And the Dunhills: They revived memories of the PPD (Principle Pipe Dealers) Convention in 1982. We were allowed to select from over 500 pipes on display.  The best range of Dunhills we’ve ever bought (although the Germans bagged the Straight Grains).
And we were entertained royally, culminating in a magnificent banquet at Blenheim Palace - the speaker was Harold Wilson. It was sleeting, so the Pipe Band performed in the Great Hall. The performance was so precise and perfect that a fellow pipe retailer from the USA turned to us and said “What size batteries do you think they use?”
But that’s all in the past now – the Dunhill shop in Jermyn Street no longer has any smoking products, as a customer of mine discovered when he went to organise a new mouthpiece for his pipe. Sad – I remember the wonderful display of pipes in the antique counters and cabinets, and that the Cigar Room on the upper floor was quite beautiful.

Kapp & Peterson, Keyser, Byford, Sashar pipes are old names in the trade – and of course, the South African legend, the late Willie Mattner. I spent many hours with Mr Mattner in the latter years of his life, but also knew his pipe workshop in Fanora House, Rissik Street where his pipes were, quite rightly, in great demand. They still fly out when they appear in our collections.
Even having been in this business a long time, every now and then unknown names appear - like “AirFlow (made in the Republic of Ireland) and “Marlin” - have you heard of them? Although I knew the previous owner I don’t know how these pipes came to South Africa, but they look like really good value.

Besides these two “unknowns” our current selection, which will appear on our website on 9 April 2009, includes some exceptional pipes from Dunhill, GBD, Peterson and Mattner; and a really interesting “Hybrid” Keyser.
The pipes have been sterilised, cleaned and polished to restore the mature, dignified appearance – like a fine piece of antique furniture. The briar in some cases must be well over a century old.
If you have any reservations about smoking a pipe that has been smoked by somebody else – consider the response given to this concern by a sensible shopkeeper we met in the USA: “You don’t take your own knife and fork to a restaurant, do you?”

Something special - included this time are a number of Estate pipes that have never been smoked!
Every pipe is worth looking at, and you just may find a treasure to add to your collection.

If you are a member of our email database: you will receive a link
for the special preview from Tuesday, 7 April. Look out for the email.

And if you’re impressed by the way these pipes have “cleaned up” – take your old favourites to your nearest Wesley’s to be sent for a complete refurbishment – or if the nearest Wesley’s is too far, post them direct to P O Box 52466, Saxonwold 2132. The new pipe repair lady has settled in and is doing a stunning job!
Maybe you prefer a bit of DIY – here’s how: step-by-step instructions.

Colin Wesley
No.213 2 -15 April 2009

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No 214 - April 16, 2009
Selections – Trial without Error

I love spending time in my shop, and my day is made when a customer walks in and says “What cigar selections have you available today?”
If you aren’t familiar with our cigar selections let me explain.

When I started these “Selections” many years ago, my thinking was to make it easy for cigar smokers to try a bigger variety of brands and sizes at affordable prices and in manageable quantities.
Because when you want to experiment it is helpful to have some idea of what you’re doing!

Our selections mix up brands in the same sizes or different sizes in the same brand; they traverse the whole gamut of premium cigars: Cuban, Honduran, Nicaraguan, long or short filler. They introduce new brands, new sizes and Limited Editions. On occasion we create a “Blind Tasting Selection” by covering the bands. (Of course you can simply uncover the bands – and enjoy the cigars without the mystery.)
Enclosed in each Selection is an informative leaflet which may include ratings from Cigar Aficionado or the late Theo Rudman, and you can download a Tasting Score Sheet to help you make your assessment.
Two or three friends together each with the same selection, discussing the cigars and comparing notes, can have a lot of fun and increase their appreciation and enjoyment of cigars.

Our selections are a great starting point from which to build and improve your humidor stock, and a great opportunity to break from your normal choice. You can try new cigars without being afraid of expensive errors.
All in all, combined with the usual price advantage, our cigar selections are always well worth looking at – very seldom does a browser leave without finding a selection to try, confident he’ll enjoy the experiment.

Available right now:
International Selection (R495) – something of everything in a travel case, ideal gift especially for a novice;
Selection Edición Limitada (R555) – now here is a great gift for the connoisseur (if you don’t receive one as a gift, buy it for yourself - by definition the quantities are limited);
Benchmark Petit Corona Selection (R265) – how do Sancho Panza and Romeo y Julieta compare with the “benchmark” Montecristo No.4;
Budget to 5 Star Selection (R295) – is the budget Jose L Piedra only a “braai cigar” or can it stand up to the 5 star Trinidad;
Premium Short Filler Cigar (R110) – There is life outside long-filler: consistent, smooth, superbly blended 100% pure tobacco cigars, with an easy draw;

Available from 23 April:
Churchill Selection (R675) – a few of these great cigars are essential for any collection;
Corona Extra Selection (R440) – time to try this size which is almost a short Churchill - two of them (“excellent” and “outstanding”), together with an “excellent” Perfecto having the same dimensions;
Blind Petit Corona Selection (R220) – smoke them “blind” or uncover the bands and enjoy the three “excellent to outstanding” cigars (see if you can recognise the “leathery” flavours);

Now you can try one of life’s great luxuries – without costly mistakes!
(Because the cigars are in glass tubes, they’ll keep for Father’s Day – June 21; why not buy them in an attractive and useful travel box.)

Colin Wesley
No.214 April 16 – April 29, 2009

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No 215 - April 30, 2009
“I don’t  need a Tobacco Pouch!”

OK. If you are one of the very rare breed of pipesmokers who smokes his pipe in the same place every time, and from that place has access to pipe, tobacco, lighter, pipe tool, cleaners and a pipe rest you are probably right.
If you are a little more adventurous with your pipe smoking, and like to enjoy a pipeful when you braai,  move around your garden or golf course, relax at your favourite bush camp, mountain retreat or  surfside bench, or keep sane and alert on a long drive - you should re-consider.

So you’ve decided to re-consider.
What do you need to look for in a tobacco pouch or carry case?
First and foremost it needs to have a lining that will keep your tobacco fresh – one that won’t absorb the moisture from your tobacco. In the “old days” this meant a rubber lining, but with the progress in technology, a  soft synthetic lining is less expensive, has no aroma and is very effective – especially if you introduce a “Humydrole” if you live or travel on the Highveld or any arid area.

Then, what do you want to transport?
Just tobaccoeasy, a simple roll-up, one-zip or drawstring pouch will do the job. (And the yellow roll-up is now fitted with a sieve dust trap in the bottom. An old Dunhill design.)
A pipe, tobacco and cleaners – exactly what the 2-zip companion pouch was made for.
A pipe, tobacco, pipe tool, cleaners and lighter  – add an extra zip compartment to the companion pouch, and there you have it.
An extra one or two pipes, tobacco, pipe tool, cleaners, lighter and fold-up pipe rest – no problem, the compact pipe bag / carry case is fitted to handle all these and more; maybe your car keys, wallet and even your cell phone (“mobile” for overseas readers).

You can see all these on our website (just click the links) and then visit a Wesley’s to feel them before deciding to choose leather or synthetic. With eyes closed it is difficult to tell which is which, over time though the leather will prove its worth.

If you can’t visit a Wesley’s Bricks and Mortar, remember that if you’re not completely happy with your mailsale choice, you can always return it for a full refund.

But don’t buy just yet, because from next week
we offer less 25% on any pouch or carry bag.

But only for 2 weeks – from 7 May to 20 May, 2009.

 Now that’s worth considering!

Colin Wesley
No.215: 30 April – 13 May 2009

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