Even though it’s been a couple weeks since we got back from our trip to Drew Estate, I thought it would be a great time to talk about a few new items that we have coming from them. Both of the new cigars making their way into our humidor, the Herrera Estelí and the Norteño, come from the mind and palate of Drew Estate master blender, Willy Herrera.
Herrera became Drew’s master blender just over a year ago but in that time he has produced some outstanding cigars. His first major release was the Herrera Estelí and, wow, did he hit the ground running! The best way to describe this cigar is that it is Drew and Willy’s homage to Cuba. Think back to the days when Cuban cigars were renowned not only for their strength but complexity. Yes, this cigar is on the full strength side of the scale so don’t let the slick and luscious-looking Ecuadorian wrapper lull you into thinking this one isn’t going to bite. It even starts out very slowly, with intense flavors but not a lot of power. How things change as you venture deeper into the cigar. As expected there are the spices one expects from a cigar with Nicaraguan and Honduran filler, but the pepper isn’t over-powering. There are some nice nutty notes and even a hint of vanilla sweetness in the finish that one would expect from a charred bourbon barrel. The cigar burns easily, provides thick plumes of smoke and finishes strong. I can’t find anything bad to say about this one.
The second offering that we are bringing in is the Norteño. Now I love this cigar, but I must admit that this one might not be for everyone. There is no middle ground here. I call this the “Bill Walton” cigar; you are either going to love this guy or hate it. To best understand the cigar (and what Herrera was thinking when he blended this) we must first take a close look at the name. Norteño simply means Northerner and that is who this cigar was made to represent. Throughout Nicaragua’s tough history, it was the Northerners and their self-reliant spirit that spurred many changes in the country. It was the people of the north who sparked the revolution against the Somoza regime. It was also the people of the north and, most notably, the residents of Estelí that suffered the most losses, not only in the revolution but also during the bloody counter-revolution that stretched from 1981 through 1989. Despite all of the tragedy that still remains, they are working hard to provide a better way of life for their children.
The Norteño cigar does its best to capture this tough, “no surrender” spirit of the people. The cigar is definitely a power stick and if you are not a fan of strong pepper spice then this isn’t for you. There are also hints of chocolate and some nuttiness, but the Estelí filler is what really sets the tone for this cigar. The cigar is encased in a toothy and dark San Andres Negra wrapper which provides some of those cocoa and espresso flavor notes. Knowing the idea behind this cigar set my expectations very high as far as flavor profile and Mr. Herrera certainly hit a home run with this one.
Look for both of these Nicaraguan beauties in your favorite ABC Fine Wine & Spirits store very soon.
Chris Gwaltney, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Category Manager for Premium Cigars and Craft Beer
Follow me on Twitter @abccigarchris.