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Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 32 - February 7, 2002
TARGET MARKET
Is this you?

"The connoisseurs and aspirants to connoisseurship, who desire the best of the best, who are or wish to be the arbiters of taste. They know of and frequent the "best" places, travel in the best way and style, own or aspire to own the very best which, by definition, is limited and exclusive. High price is a benefit - it allows the affluent and those who aspire to affluence to obtain psychic and emotional satisfaction from the consumption of the "ultimate" brand."
This is the target market of the Chancellor Cigar Company which unashamedly describes its "Treasurer Grand Robusto" as the most exclusive and (at R185.00 per cigar) one of the most expensive cigars in the world, beautifully blended, with smooth smoking characteristics for all-day round smoking, and luxuriously packaged.

The "Treasurer Grand Robusto" cigar is a convenient 5 inches (127mm) long with a generous 50 ring size (19.84mm diameter). It is made from a blend of long fillers - "Olor Dominicano" (a native Dominican seed) and "Pilato Cubano" (a strain that originates from precious Cuban seed) - "two of the most luxurious long leaf filler tobaccos ever rolled into a cigar" according to Rick Hacker (The Ultimate Cigar, 2nd Edition). A unique feature is the use of two wrappers in the construction. A Cameroon quality wrapper for the binder, and for the wrapper "the new highly-acclaimed Habana 2000 leaf." Theo Rudman said of the blind tasting at the Bosman's Restaurant that the guests found that it was a very well constructed cigar with the easy draw expected from a cigar of this ring size, and an intriguing flavour. They agreed that the quality is quite remarkable.

You may not own a Porsche or a Rolls Royce, but isn't it great to test drive one?
Now you're invited to "test drive" the Treasurer.

Featured February 14 to February 27: Available from any Wesley's or via Mail Order (visit www.wesleys.co.za), for only R370.00 a pack holding 3 of these superb cigars in glass tubes.

Chancellor intend to extend the "Treasurer" range beyond cigars to precious-metal smoking accessories and ultimately to branded luxury goods.
Their mission is to deliver the utmost in consumer pleasure, making the Treasurer brand
a mark of taste, a mark of grandeur.

Indulge yourself!

Colin Wesley
February 7 to February 20, 2002

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 33 - February 21, 2002
MATURE PIPES

I spend most Saturdays in my shop in Rosebank, and when I'm away I really miss it. My wife says that when I don't want to work I go onto the counter. It's the interaction with the customers that I enjoy, discussing their problems and experiences is interesting and often gives me ideas of how to improve Wesley's services and product range.

Take last Saturday - I was showing a knowledgeable pipe customer the Prestige pipes. After some deliberation over the selection of grains, he settled on 2 but wanted to see what else we had. I took out a particular drawer, put it on the counter and waited. "What are these?" he asked - "my refurbished pipes" I replied and went on to explain where I'd got them and what had been done to make them saleable. He was sufficiently impressed to select two in place of one of his earlier choices. He bought 3 pipes for less than the price of the original 2.

Then it came to me - "why not picture refurbished pipes on the Internet?" These pipes come from many sources - an estate, a smoker who has had to give up, a pipe that just didn't suit the smoker.
They have one thing in common, they are all top quality pipes from the leading brands - Dunhill, Charatan, Savinelli, Stanwell, Comoy, Larsen, quality Freeforms, etc; they have their original mouthpieces and haven't been battered.
We have the pipe sterilised, cleaned and polished to restore its mature, dignified appearance - like a nice piece of antique furniture.

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: "You don't take your own knife and fork to a restaurant, do you?"

So in the not-too-distant future we will develop a new section on the website "Refurbished Pipes" - and we will need stock from you. If you have a pipe you'd like to sell that fits the description above, e-mail me the details. If it seems to be acceptable I will ask you to send it to me for assessment. I will either make you a cash offer, or return it to you if I don't feel it is suitable. We'd like to build a good supply of "golden oldies" waiting to give pleasure to new owners.

Now, while you're waiting to see the refurbished pipes, save money on our feature (Feb.28 -Mar.13) which offers 2 beautiful bent pipes at less than last year's price - ANGERA - shapes 7150, 4115 in a stunning matt finish with a distinctive band (limited stock).

Colin Wesley
February 21 to March 6, 2002

PS You can refurbish your own pipes - have you read the article on Longevity? I've been discussing with a Website visitor from Beaufort West whether certain of his pipes are worth refurbishing. If you are in doubt about your pipes, contact me with details of the pipes you'd like restored or to restore yourself.

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 34 - March 7, 2002
HAND OR MACHINE
OR BOTH?

3 ways of making
Cuban cigars:

..... By machine
......By hand
..... A combination of both.

Do they each offer a good smoke, are they good value for money?
What's the difference?

A totally machine-made cigar is fairly easy to identify. The head is rather pointed, not flat, and there is no "cap". The wrapper, which needs to be thicker and stronger to prevent tearing, is often heavily veined and bruised, diminishing the appearance of the cigar. On opening up the cigar it may be found to have short filler. The general consensus on smoking these cigars is that the taste is definitely Cuban, but raw Cuban. Not much subtlety about them. The draw is almost consistently good, and the price is basic.

Rick Hacker's definition of the fully handmade cigar is "bunched, rolled and trimmed by individual hand labour. It can be one person working alone on a single cigar, or the work can be divided between a buncher and a roller working on the same cigar. The main criteria is that the entire cigar is completely made by hand from start to finish."
The general consensus on these cigars is that they represent the purest form of cigar making. At their peak they fully satisfy the most demanding of criteria for appearance, taste and draw. Prime leaves are reserved for these cigars - especially the wrappers. A true luxury product to be savoured, not just smoked.

A happy medium may be the machine bunched, hand finished cigar.
According to Theo Rudman these have been produced since the 1950's, but because they still involve much handwork, they were often labelled as "handmade". Since the wrapper is applied by hand, they are very difficult to distinguish from a fully handmade cigar, price often being the only indication. The general consensus on smoking these cigars is that the taste is far more refined than the machine-made cigar, probably due to the quality of the wrapper, and the draw is usually good due to the consistency of the bunching machine.

To compare prices of the different methods of rolling, consider three Petit Corona size cigars from Romeo y Julieta (singles in glass tubes):
Handmade Cedros de Luxe No.3 R84.00
Machine-made Belvederes R44.50
Machine bunched Mille Fleurs R53.00

To help you make your own assessment, we are offering a pack of these three Romeo y Julieta cigars for just R120.00.
Smoke them and experience the difference.


Perhaps
different occasions deserve different quality cigars - after all it may be a waste to smoke the best on the beach.

Colin Wesley
March 7 to March 20, 2002
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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 35 - March 21, 2002
COMPACT CUBANS

For many years the irony in the cigar industry has been that (as the saying goes)
"the Communists make cigars for the world's elite, and the Capitalists make cigars for the masses".
But the industry has changed - first when we saw premium cigars from non-Cuban countries reach standards of quality never seen before - often rated above Cubans in blind tastings.And then a comparatively recent development in these non-Cuban cigars with the introduction of more full-bodied "Cubanesque" cigars, probably in preparation for a possible Cuban "invasion" if the current US embargo is lifted.

Now Cuba is seriously entering the small cigar or "cigarillo" market with their big names - Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, H.Upmann, San Luis Rey, La Gloria Cubana, Partagas, Jose L.Piedra, Quintero - made entirely in Cuba. (In the past Cuba traditionally focussed on larger cigars - demitasse was the smallest except for a few mini cigarillos made entirely of Cuban leaf under license in Spain, France and other European countries.)

My thoughts are that when Altadis, a partnership of French SEITA and Spain's Tabacalera, bought 50% of the Cuban company HABANOS, part of the deal was possibly that Altadis would provide the machinery and the know-how to mass produce and market these small cigars.
Both partners in Altadis have experience in the small cigar market, and their influence can also be discerned in the improved packaging.
It's a win-win development for everybody (except resident US citizens). Cuba produces more products, making more money, and the smoking world enjoys more of their fine small cigars.

In addition, it is probably hoped that these cigarillos will introduce the Cuban taste to a whole new segment of the market, maybe previously intimidated by the perception of Cuban cigars as being big and strong and expensive. Part of this new market might graduate to larger Cuban cigars.

Now available in South Africa, these small cigars are made in 3 sizes:
"Mini" - a mini cigarillo (82mm x diameter 7.8mm),
"Club" - a cigarillo (96.5mm x diameter 8.8mm),
"Puritos" - a Demitasse (112mm x diameter 10.65mm).
Not necessarily all three sizes in each brand, but well spread over the brands. Some of the brands on the shelves in South Africa are still from the European licensees (check the wording on the boxes for country of manufacture), but no doubt it won't be long before these are replaced.

A very welcome development!

Colin Wesley
March 21 to April 3, 2002

PS The Fortnightly Feature from March 28 is aimed at larger cigars - an elegant tan leather case for 3 cigars from Petit Corona to Double Corona sizes (with adapter). At the incredible price of R335.00. Current price R675.00. Stocks limited.

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 36 - April 4, 2002
COMPACT PIPES

There is nothing wrong with a "short" smoke.

On many occasions it is appropriate - but do you have the appropriate pipe?

For the "10 minute" smoke a pipe with a small bowl is the answer - trying to finish a normal pipeful in a hurry is a recipe for disaster. While it is not impossible to half-fill and smoke a normal size pipe, a few grams of tobacco in the bottom of a large bowl will not be easy to light, and the relatively wide surface area will probably encourage it to burn so fast that it will be burnt out before you have had time to enjoy it.
If you add to this situation the fact that it is often when you are away from your favourite smoking place at home that you need a "short" smoke, another factor to be taken into consideration is how well a delicate small-bowled pipe will stand up to the possibility of being dropped or manhandled when out and about.

This is where the Compact Pipe claims its place in any pipe collection.

Short and sturdy, but neat and well-balanced, it is tailor-made for the 10 minute smoke. The ratio between the diameter and depth of the bowl is such that your tobacco will burn comfortably down to the last few grains.
Its compact design makes it less likely to snap while it's travelling, and it can be pre-packed and tucked away into the smallest pocket or pouch.
The bowl is normally thick-wooded - another plus if you are smoking outdoors.

Such pipes have long been part of the shape selection of many manufacturers, and we offer compact pipes from Savinelli - the Lollo (in three classic finishes), from Big Ben - the Ranger (with its stunning modern colours), and an attractive range of budget Beechwood Compacts. The compact Savinelli Roley has a swivel action mouthpiece which provides an even more creative defence against mishaps on the move.

From April 11 to April 24 we invite you to buy a Compact Pipe at 25% off the normal retail price. Don't miss this opportunity to add one to your collection.

Colin Wesley
April 4 to April 17, 2002

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 37 - April 18, 2002
Cigar Dinners -
What do you think?

In the heyday of the cigar boom, cigar dinners were regular events, and were most enjoyable - good company, good food and wine, and of course good cigars. The emphasis was on creating a relaxed comfortable atmosphere, to be appreciated at a reasonable price.

For the uninitiated the event was a 3 course dinner (or lunch) with 3 cigars.
On arrival guests would be welcomed with aperitifs and a small cigar. This could be either a very light Dutch cigar, or a small Cuban - Purito or Demitasse or a smaller Slim Corona - to ease the palate into the evening.
The guests would then be seated - usually at tables of 10 in "parties" or with acquaintances or even strangers - who would no doubt be friends before the evening was over.
Between the first and main course a medium-bodied Petit Corona would be offered, Cuban or Dominican or Honduran with an informative talk on the cigars (and wines if sponsored) for the evening.
After dessert, with coffee and liqueurs, would come the cigar of the evening - usually a full bodied Cuban - a Corona Extra, a Robusto or even a Churchill.
Some cigar dinners offered light entertainment at this stage; others left the cigars to speak for themselves.

At the end of the evening there would be wisps of blue smoke in the air, and the lovely aroma of good tobacco. Memorable moments!

Cigar Dinners can still be held (even under the new laws), and we are receiving requests to stage one. We've done them before and would be happy to do one again. We have the backing of the trade, and I'm sure a suitable venue could be found.
I invite you to respond whether you would support a dinner or not, and from your responses we can decide "yes or no", and if "yes" - the size and date. Is live entertainment a good idea, or would you rather concentrate on the reason for the evening - good fellowship and cigars?

Our cigar feature (April 25 to May 8) is a 3-pack "Cuban Dinner Selection"
The "aperitif cigar" - Romeo y Julieta Panetelas - (117mm x Ring 35), a smallish slim corona.
Between first and second courses - Bolivar Petit Corona - (129mm x Ring 42), a little larger and richer.
With coffee and liqueurs you can enjoy - Cuaba Exclusivos - (145mm x Ring 45), a large, slow-burning rich Perfecto, a perfect ending to a fine meal.

Have your own cigar dinner with a few convivial friends and enjoy yourselves.

Colin Wesley
April 18 to May 1, 2002

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 38 - May 2, 2002
A new Humidor

The following e-mail was towards the top of the pile in my "in-tray" when I arrived back from Italy in mid-March.

"I was wondering if you would be so kind as to offer me some advice on the purchase of a humidor. I have been looking around and have seen some that I do like, however I have been a little confused over price, even after considering volume!! I have noticed that they range from
+- R400 to R7700, why is there such a difference in price and what does this mean wrt cigars being kept in the various boxes?"
Andy Hartslief

My suggestion was that Andy evaluate each humidor against the checkpoints on the list on Wesley's website, expanded as follows:

1. General construction and finish.
Do you like the look of it? Is the finish solid wood or a veneer? Are the corners mitred? Are the hinges adequate and good looking? Does it have a lock? (Do you need one?)
2. The quality of the hygrometer and the humidification system.
The basic items must work, but if they prove to be inadequate, they can usually be upgraded
3. How well does the lid close?
It should be as close to airtight as possible. Beware of a warped lid. Lift the lid a centimetre or so and let it drop - you should be aware of a cushion of air.
4. Does it have a natural cedar lining? If not, has the inside been sealed?
Cedar usually looks nicer, but there is nothing wrong with any well-sealed walnut or other hard wood.
5. Large Humidors (50 cigars or more): Does it have divider(s)?
Separating sizes or brands is useful, and the dividers offer support and prevent damage that might occur through having to handle all the cigars each time you want the one at the bottom of the box.
6. Larger Humidors (more than 100 cigars): Does it have a tray?
At this size, air circulation can be a problem, also access to the lower lying cigars. The less handling of cigars to reach the one you want the better. Would two smaller humidors be more practical for you?
7. Which will be most harmonious with your home / office?
Are you looking for an exquisite piece of cigar furniture, or merely a good practical storage container for your cigars? What is important to you?
General rule of thumb on size - if in doubt, go bigger.

Now, settle on the one with which you feel most comfortable - size, appearance and price.

Whichever humidor you choose, make sure you prepare it properly before trusting it with your cigars.
If it has a cedar lining, the wood will be dry and will absorb moisture from the cigars. Before use, dampen the inside of the box and close it for about 8 hours, repeat if necessary until the hygrometer gives a reading of about 70% relative humidity. See Humidification for preparing the Humidifier and setting the Hygrometer.
Then establish a routine to check the cigars on a regular basis. The main factors to be conscious of are temperature and humidity - read the article on keeping your cigars in good condition. The feel and look of the cigars will tell you whether or not the conditions are correct, and you can act accordingly.

There is an anticipation of enjoyment in just walking over to your humidor to select the right cigar for the moment. It's exciting. You may end up with several humidors - some aging cigars and others with those ready to smoke. They're all part of the cigar lifestyle. Make use of them and enjoy the benefits of well-stored cigars.

Colin Wesley
May 2 to May 15, 2002

PS. Three models of humidors are "featured" from now until May 22

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