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No.510 February 3-16, 2022

The Simple Cigar Band!!

The Simple Cigar BandSimple today, but how did it come about
and how is it used today?

The two popular myths involving the Tsarist Queen Catherine the Great, who allegedly used strips of silk wound around her cigars to prevent her fingers becoming contaminated by tobacco; and the English Officers demanding a band to prevent their white gloves becoming stained with tobacco juice; have been debunked as lacking any factual evidence.

The more plausible story that prevails today gives credit to one Gustave Bock, a German immigrant to Cuba around 1830.
Between 1800 and 1840s Bremen, Germany, was the largest centre of cigar production in the world.
40% of cigars smoked in the USA came from Germany; even larger percentages went to Austria, England and Switzerland.
Cuban Cigars were considered “the best” but their supply was very limited in the total world cigar market.
Even selling at fifteen times the price of the German cigars demand outstripped supply.

The Cubans were happy with this until they found German cigars being sold under the Cuban names. One Cuban producer was quoted as stating “for every two million cigars I ship to Europe six million are sold”.
Enter Gustave Bock.
To protect his name he insisted that a paper band bearing his initials be put on every cigar he made in Cuba for export.
This practice was soon taken up by his fellow producers in Cuba.
By 1855 just about every Cuban producer with significant exports, had their cigars banded, with designs registered with the Cuban Government.

The story of the Band was well underway.
The producers made them and the cigars smokers wanted them as indicators of quality and individual characteristics.
Banded cigars boomed and by 1900 printing costs had reduced, increasing the demand for more and more bands. In that year two billion bands were sold in the USA alone.
Funnily enough the application of the bands to the cigar has not changed much. They are still hand fitted and sealed with a drop of vegetable gum from the third finger.

Back to the story.

With so many bands being left behind in ashtrays, dropped on the floor, or left on discarded cigars, it’s no wonder they started being collected by all and sundry.
Vitolphilia, the collecting of cigar Bands, was born.
Marketers pounced on this phenomenon.
Complete brand sets could be bought – albums to hold them were given away through Tobacconists and other small shopkeepers.

How is this ……..  
In an effort to dominate the cigar market an American cigar company offered products in exchange for collections of its bands.
In 1904 its fully illustrated catalogue offered a full range of household items - from 50 bands for some children’s silverware, to 179-950 for a Baby Grand Piano to your door.
For bands not turned in, the art of decoupage offered scope for artistic flair.
Even today we see stands at the InterTabac Trade Show offering collages of bands, called “Folk Art”.
Quite stunning.

But today, bands are also used to carry a message to the consumers, for example:

Edition Limitado 2017 Cigar BandsCigar band showing the message - Maduro 5 (5 years matured)

Edition Limitado 2017

Maduro 5 (5 years matured)

These extra bands lead to another twist to the question of whether to remove the band before lighting up or not.
My Father Judge Grand Robusto - a cigar with extra bands
My Father Judge Grand Robusto

Some of these double bands cover so much of the cigar that if you don’t remove at least one of them you may be denying yourself a substantial number of flavourful puffs on the cigar.
Makes you think doesn’t it?

Desk humidor covered with fine black leatheretteDesk Humidor • 10 cigarsYour cigars – a practical thought:
Last month we talked about the correct way to pack the humidor, and the necessity for rotating the position of the cigars in order to keep them all evenly humidified.
However, between the rotation they will possibly be happier to rest undisturbed – try to avoid opening and closing the humidor and disturbing the cigars too often.
It may be an idea to keep a few different cigars separately in a smaller humidor ready for everyday use.
Early in December we received more of the popular leatherette-covered desk humidors for 10 cigars. That’s about the number of cigars you need for immediate use, outside of your normal humidor.  http://www.wesleys.co.za/humidors.htm#0155
Beautifully tooled, will look great on your desk, cedar lined and fitted with a simple oasis humidifier. Easily good enough for the time the cigars will be kept out of your main humidor.

Also great is our next fortnight’s special offer:

From 10-23 February, 2022, we offer
25% off Desk Humidors 73-J0155, covered in fine black or brown leatherette
Normal price R1195.00

Visualise one on the table in your smoking room, wherever that may be.
Looks good, doesn’t it!

Colin Wesley

No.510 February 3-16, 2022

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No.511 February 17 to March 2, 2022

The Marca Smoking Pipes brand

Are you old enough to remember the Kruger Opstaan pipe?
An Oom Paul shape pipe which was available at every corner café in the seventies and early eighties.

It was distributed by a big tobacconist wholesaler who imported them, literally in the thousands, from a company in Italy.
This Italian company specialised in large quantities of prepared (turned and cured) bowls to be sorted into price groups and finished according to the requirements of the customer. The balancing factor for this efficient production is that there is a minimum quantity involved, quite substantial, but the result is that the prices are very competitive.
And the quality is excellent – we still have the occasional Kruger Opstaan in for refurbishing.
A considerable percentage of the Private Label pipes we see in the USA come from this Italian business enterprise; in fact the company was recommended to us by an associate in the States many years back.

In 2005 we were fortunate to make contact with this Italian company, and after a few trial runs the Marca Smoking Pipes brand was born in 2008.

When the Albanian factory making Lorenzo/Spitfire pipes closed we turned to our Marca pipe factory to help create substitute ranges at similar prices. We are really pleased with the results: ranges of Marca Mini pipes, and of medium bowl size Marca Medio pipes with 6mm filter option. They have been well accepted.

Now we offer you the medium-large Marca Milano pipes with 6mm ”filter” option.
The smoking quality is as good as you have come to expect from Marca pipes:
ps. I'm still enjoying the Marca- really good value for money. DB” 

Shapes: Twelve shapes with medium large bowls and stunning finishes:  
Each shape available in the approximate colour pictured.

There are some interesting variations on classic shapes:
Sandblast MIL8, MIL11, Smooth MIL1 – lovely rounded top to the bowl
Smooth MIL4 – bevelled rim for easier fillingMarca Milano Sandblast
Smooth MIL2 – gentle curve to the stem lends elegance to the classic pot shape

Genuine Sandblast – showing the natural grain in relief:
Glowing Tan - Shapes MIL8, MIL9
Rich Burgundy – Shapes MIL7, MIL12
Classic Black – Shapes MIL10, Mil11


Smooth – Small specks and fillings can’t be disguised, but they don’t affect the smoking quality of the well- cured briar, and without them the pipes would be 3 times the price,



Amber, darkens slightly with use to a rich golden brown - MIL2
Burgundy, classic finish for smooth pipes – MIL1
Natural, nothing is hidden and the grain shows beautifully – MIL4, MIL6
Walnut, rich brown, not too dark – MIL3, MIL5


All the shapes offer the 6mm ”filter” option suitable for charcoal or meerschaum cartridges, or for balsa inserts.

Remember – the pipes must be smoked with the filter or an adapter (provided).
If not, the juices that condense and are filtered out naturally by the pipe will collect in
the shank and may cause it to swell and crack.
And of course, to introduce the Milano ……….

We offer less 25% on the range of Marca Smoking Pipes Milano pipes.
Normal price R695.00
Valid February 24 – March 9, 2022

Back to the Marca Medio pipe – especially good for the new Pipe Smoker.

The “Medio Starter Kit”, is ready

We’ve chosen the Medio pipe because it is:
Not too big – it’s easier to keep the pipe going for a short time when you start;
Not too small
– you need some time to practice keeping it alight;
Well priced – you may not want to invest too much in a new idea;
Lightweight – preferably bent or half-bent to reduce strain on the teeth,  
all the Medio pipes are light for their size;
Quality well-cured briar – so the taste won’t put you off.
Suitable for easy-burning tobaccos.

Plus other necessities:
Pipe Tool – simple tool with round-tipped scoop, pick and tamper,
Pipe Cleaners - 10 standard and 1 bristle for a start,
Pipe Rest – to hold your pipe between smokes,
Lighter – with angled flame which is easier to direct onto the tobacco in the bowl.

We’ve chosen a pouch which will hold all of the above, with room for a second pipe when you’ve settled in.
The tobacco section will hold a 50g packet, or 50-80g of our loose Houseblend Tobaccos.
The kit includes leaflets “The Complete Pipesmoker”, and how to find “The Perfect Blend”.
Available now –
PU (Vegan) 71-HK124340SetPU R760.00 (Normal price R949.05)
Leather 71-HK124340SetL R950.00 (Normal price R1189.05)
Prices include Vat.
Choose your pipe from the Medio shapes – Sandblast or Smooth.

Colin Wesley

No.511 February 17 to March 2, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top

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No.512 March 3-16, 2022

“Premium Cigar Imports Exceed 400 Million
                                       — With One Month Of Data Still Not In”

“November Pushes Premium Imports Past 400 Million For First Time Since 1997”

This headline in a communication from Cigar Aficionado caught my attention.
Which cigars are doing so well in the States?

In December 2021, Cigar Aficionado wrote:
As long as people smoke premium cigars, there will always be the proud debate as to which cigars are the best, and the argument usually boils down to Cuban cigars vs. non-Cuban cigars. 
Lifelong Habanophiles will always preach “inimitable Cuban taste” while more universal cigar fans retort “Cubans are overrated"

It is this magazine’s opinion that Cuban cigars are great, but they are not alone in their greatness. The best Nicaraguan, Dominican and Honduran cigars can compete on the quality level with the finest Cubans. 
The top-tier smokes of the major cigar-producing nations are all outstanding in their own way. They are true agricultural and artisanal expressions of their respective countries. This is evident in our tasting sections and in our Top 25 Cigar of the Year awards. Sometimes a Cuban cigar wins, sometimes it doesn’t, as in our most recent Top 25, which was won by a Dominican cigar.” 

I couldn’t have put it better = I still remember the Honduran Punch Churchill cigars Gill and I smoked at a Big Smoke in New York in 1995. They took all evening to finish, and we enjoyed every minute.
The taste was different, but the quality was excellent.

In his article, Jan 6, 2022 David Savona, Executive Editor of Cigar Aficionado Magazine expanded:
Nicaragua was responsible for essentially all the gains in the September update. The Central American nation shipped 23.4 million cigars to the United States, up 41 percent over the 16.6 million shipped in September 2020. Dominican shipments were essentially flat at 13.1 million, and No. 3 producer Honduras showed a decline, dropping 11.6 percent to 7.6 million cigars.”

Read more about the Nicaraguan cigar industry – the past problems and the progress -
“Almost all Nicaraguan producers started from zero. They came to Nicaragua with no money, but a lot of tobacco knowledge and a dream. That start was the key to giving us the real dedication to make the best cigar in the world. Secondly, the very fertile volcanic ground in Nicaragua helps to make this ambition a reality. The tobaccos and flavors that come out of this rich soil are perfect ingredients to make fantastic cigars.”

We’re very fortunate in South Africa in being able to enjoy some of the excellent Nicaraguan and Dominican,  puros, together with some beautifully constructed cigars having filler blends of tobacco from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil, Columbia and more. Cigars with a variety of binder leaves, and frequently with wrappers from Ecuador.

Ecuador has 32 volcanoes, and these provide a well-fertilised soil, excellent for growing cigar seed. Combined with the cloud cover and a 9-month growing season Ecuador produces tall plants with oily and elastic leaves, perfect for wrappers. These leaves are often richer and smoother than those from the plants grown from the same seeds in their native areas.
So we have the wrappers: Ecuadorian Sumatra, Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade, Ecuadorian Habano.
Read more about the Ecuador wrapper leaf industry.

We’ve chosen a group of these fine “non-Cuban” cigars from which you can select a variety to judge -technically the best quality cigars rolled, using exceptionally high grade leaf, in a variety of tastes and strengths.

They are mostly Robusto size (still the single most popular vitola today), but also some Short Robustos (almost a nub), and a double Toro (165mm x 52).
The cigars are from La Aurora (the oldest brand in the Dominican Republic); VegaFina, Arturo Fuente, and Davidoff (who moved to the Dominican Republic when he was disappointed in the quality of the cigars coming from Cuba and bearing his name). Plus more, including two from Oliva – known in South Africa mostly for their Nub, but in the greater cigar world for their wide range of cigars which have featured in 9 of the last Cigar Aficionado Top 25 cigars of the Year, and one of which was Cigar of the Year in 2014 and Cigar of the Week in February 11, 2022.

See the list of these great cigars.
Offered at very appealing prices.

Add variety to your cigar-smoking pleasure and increase your enjoyment.

Colin Wesley

No.512 March 3-16, 2022

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No.513. 17 to 30 March, 2022

Pipe Tools - How do you choose?

Pipe tools are so useful, and are always getting lost.
Colin used to say: “there must be a pipe-tool graveyard somewhere in the universe”.

So what do you look for when you come to buy another Pipe Tool?

First – the three essential elements:
• A tamper for pressing the tobacco in the bowl before, and during, the lighting up process.
• A blunt-tipped spoon or knife for cleaning out, after smoking, the remnants of tobacco which form a soggy “dottle” in the bowl. Remember – to enjoy your pipe to the full you need to keep it clean and dry.
• A “pick” – thin enough to remove any small pieces of tobacco which may have been drawn into the shank while smoking. You don’t want it to get blocked. 

Some points to check:
• Open the pick, wobble it gently – is it firmly attached?
• Look at the tamper – is it rounded / oval so it will fit the bowl and spread the downward pressure over the whole surface of the tobacco?
• To relieve the twist on the hinge of the knife you will probably wrap your finger around the hinge end of the blade. Is there a straight or scooped blunt area for this?
• The instruments should be easy to open and should snap back firmly into place. The blade shouldn’t wobble on the hinge.
• If the knife has decorative panels – are they well secured? You don’t want them to fall off.

It’s worth repeating – to enjoy your pipe to the full you need to keep it clean and dry.
However, the pipe is a natural filter – tars and juices will deposit on the inside of the shank and mouthpiece.
So - every time after smoking you need:
Pipe tool, Cleaners, some form of alcohol, Soft cloth to clean the outside**, large ashtray.

  • Use your tool to empty the dottle, gently scraping to remove loose dust. Don’t scrape away the carbon lining.
  • Let the pipe cool down, then remove the mouthpiece, remove the filter (if any). Discard the filter if it is saturated, otherwise let it dry out.
  • Use the pick to push out any bits of tobacco from the shank. Clean them out of the bowl.
  • Run a pipe cleaner through the shank until clean – it helps to dip it in some form of alcohol, or CG Pipe Spray.
  • Repeat for the mouthpiece – try to make sure your final run through the mouthpiece is from lip to peg, so you won’t leave deposits on the lip.
  • Wipe the outside of the whole pipe with a soft cloth** to remove finger deposits and dust.

** Best is Dunhill Silicone cloth to protect the bowl and slow down oxidation rate on a vulcanite mouthpiece – we use it every time before shipping pipes.

  • Stand the pipe, bowl down, in a rack – to finish drying out.

Your pipe will be clean, dry and ready for your next enjoyable smoke.

CG Pipe Spray:
At regular intervals use the bristle cleaner (and CG Pipe Spray) to remove stubborn residues.
Give a burst into the shank and into mouthpiece, let it sit for a moment and then run a bristle cleaner through (included) and give it a good scrub. As usual being careful not to twist and drill into the bottom of the bowl, or scrub too hard around a bend in the mouthpiece of a bent pipe.

To make sure you can enjoy the best from your pipe - we offer:

As our next special,

25% off all pipe tools (normal prices from R35.00 to R1450.00)
25% off CG Pipe Spray (normal price R79.50)

Valid March 24 – April 6, 2022

Suddenly, that elegant, slim stainless steel Rodgers knife looks even more attractive!
And you can be sure that every smoke will be a pleasure.
It’s the little things that make the difference.

Gillian Wesley                                                                                      

No.513. 17 to 30 March, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top

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No.514. 31 March, 2022

“The Three part cigar”

Where did this format of cigar originate?
What do the three parts mean for a cigar – and for you?

According to the late Theo Rudman, a South African who in the 1990s was considered a world authority on Premium cigars, the three part formula of Filler, Binder and Wrapper originated in Spain and was passed on to Cuba in the 1740s.
This formula is still the standard method of cigar manufacturing today, and with the wide variety of choices from the various tobacco plantations of the world, the blenders can have a real field day in what they come up with.

Working from the outside, the Wrapper leaf is the most glamorous leaf in the blend. It is the leaf that catches the eye, provides the soft feel to the touch, and the enticing aroma.
In fact, to get the full aroma of the cigar, one should sniff the open foot.
A wrapper can be various shades of brown, or even green, but it should have fine veins, few, if any, blemishes (such as rain or sun spots) and be slightly oily. It is often grown under shade cloth for this reason.
Ecuador, with its volcanic soil and natural cloud cover offers wrapper leaf from a variety of seeds, and is very much in demand.
The wrapper should be large enough for the size of the cigar it is to wrap, and supple enough so that it won’t break in the process. Two different wrapper leaves can be wrapped “barber pole” fashion in alternating layers to make the flavour even more complex. For example, the Fuente Hemingway “Between the Lines” cigars combine USA Connecticut Shade and USA Connecticut Broadleaf.
In cigars with ringsizes up to 50 the wrapper may contribute up to 40% - 60% of the taste.

The Filler is the heart and soul of the cigar, being put together with carefully selected leaves chosen for their taste, flavour and strength. In 2006 Jorge Luis Fernandez (Maique), an official of the Cuban cigar industry for many years, was unhappy to find that the most expensive cigar was not from Cuba. It was a Fuente Opus X.
The challenge was to make a cigar better than a Cohiba – which was “the best”. He hit on the idea of adding Medio Tiempa leaves to the filler. It was found at the top of certain tobacco plants in the plantations which supply the tobacco for the Cohiba cigars.
This meant making thicker cigars to accommodate the extra filler leaf. And so the Behike range was born.
The advent of thicker cigars has delighted the blenders – they can really go to town with the variety of leaves making up the filler. In Cuba these would be leaf from different vegas within Cuba, outside Cuba the world is open to the blender.

The Binder plays a meaningful role of support in the cigar.  It holds the filler together, helping to keep the shape of the cigar; it must be slightly thicker and must be elastic. With its good combustion it encourages an even burning rate.
Binders usually come from the lower part of the plant which gets less sun, and the resulting underdeveloped veins create a smoother surface for the wrapper, otherwise the cigar will appear lumpy.
The binder is in fact, much underrated.
As Gary Korb says in his article on https://www.famous-smoke.com/cigaradvisor
The Loneliest, Yet Hardest Working Leaf in the Bunch.” “Poor little Binder”

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo said:

“Every leaf is important to the overall blend, but most importantly, the binder has to blend well with the wrapper. To me it is a key tobacco in the overall profile of the blend. If the wrapper and binder don’t blend well there is no way you’re going to get a blend that is going to be enjoyable. For me, it can be the difference between an ‘OK’ cigar and a memorable cigar.”

On occasion the Wrapper, Binder and Filler are all from the same country – the Puro cigar.
A Puro cigar must be completely constructed with tobaccos from the same one country. This is quite rare for cigars from outside Cuba, where all their cigars are Puros.
However, there are Puros from the USA (The American, not available here), from France (Hedon) from Nicaragua and from the Dominican Republic.

Our “Selections’ will give you an idea of what you can experience in the vast arena of Puro and non-Puro cigars.
The Cuban Robusto Selection: 3 very different Puros from Cuba
The Robusto Varies Selection: 3 different blends in the Robusto format.

As interesting as all this cigar talk may be, what you should be thinking of right now is “climate change”.
Not the obviously parlous state of our planet, but the state of the climate around your cigars.
Right now, we are moving from our warm summer/autumn weather to our cold winter, which for most of the country is cold dry air. If this is allowed to affect the climate in your humidor it can be disastrous for your cigars.

Cigars should be stored at 65% to 70% relative humidity, at a temperature of around 70° Fahrenheit (about 21° Centigrade). Dale Scott postulates that the cigars need the same amount of water vapour all the time, so if the cigars are stored at 20ºC (68ºF) the Relative Humidity reading on the hygrometer should be 75%. If the cigars are stored at 21.5ºC (72.5ºF) the Relative Humidity reading should be 68%.
Depending on how often the humidor is opened the air may dry out – that can mean insufficient water vapour at lower temperatures.
Conversely, in winter if the heaters are on, there may be too much water vapour at the higher temperature.
The safest way to control the climate around your cigars is to check both temperature and relative humidity in the humidor. A digital hygrometer will show you both readings, allowing you to adjust the humidity as necessary.

On special: :

From 7 - 20 April, 2022 we offer

25% off: 73-J6501 Slim black Digital Hygrometer/Thermometer ~ °C or °F

Normal price R795.00 (incl.15% Vat)

Less than the price of two good cigars - don’t take a chance on the condition of your cigars.

Gillian Wesley                                                                                      

No.514 March 31 – April 13, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top