Our third day of Cigar Safari began, as usual, with a fantastic breakfast at Drew Estate. Suffice it to say that I will need to spend more time at the gym when I return to reality. I could really get used to this life. Three catered meals a day. All the cigars you can smoke. Wonderful weather and great people. In fact, Smokey Butts and I hatched a plan to attend Cigar Safari next year and never leave. Our idea is to sign up for every Cigar Safari in a row. We’ll fly in once. Stay for every Cigar Safari living the high life at Drew Estate, and then fly home at the end. At the cost of $650 every four days or so, you can’t go wrong. Heck, you couldn’t get a cheaper all inclusive vacation anywhere.
After breakfast, we boarded our magic cigar bus and headed to the outskirts of Esteli to visit the Tisey Estanzuela Nature Reserve. The Reserve is about 30 minutes from Drew Estate and the drive is a bit familiar. . . over the river and through the woods to the Nature Reserve we go. And bumps, and cattle in the road, and cow pies. After we parked the bus at the end of the road, literally, we hiked through the woods for a good 30 minutes and ended at the top of a small mountain. The views were spectacular with 360 degree views of Nicaragua. To celebrate our conquest of the mountain, we all took a shot of Flor de Caña rum and lit another cigar courtesy of Drew Estate’s Herrera Esteli line. We hung out for a few moments, took a few photos, and then headed back to the bus.
After our hike, we drove to the relatively new La Zona cigar factory in Esteli. La Zona is owned by Espinosa Cigars and this was a great opportunity to see another cigar factory in action. This small factory has less than 25 roller pairs and produces a tiny number of cigars compared to Drew Estate. However, the tour highlighted that cigar producers come in all sizes and that everyone has to start somewhere. After the tour, we relaxed on the rotunda of the cigar factory smoking a fine Espinosa cigar. Many of my fellow Cigar Safari members commented how much they enjoyed the Espinosa cigars. Smokey Butts and I found the cigar to be okay. In fact, Smokey commented he’d rather have smoked another Liga Privada No.9.
Following this tour, we drove past a house that was built by Drew Estate employees for a poor family in Esteli. Last year, Drew Estate raised funds for and built over 30 houses in Nicaragua. This is one of many community service projects Drew Estate takes on each year. While the house was very small and basic, it was the finest house in the area.
After the tour, we returned to Drew Estate for another wonderful lunch. Did I mention that I need to spend more time at the gym?
Next, we traveled to the Joya de Nicaragua factory for a another tour. Joya de Nicaragua was founded in 1968 and is the first Nicaraguan cigar factory. Joya de Nicaragua was a stark contrast to Drew Estate. Joya de Nicaragua uses a traditional style of cigar making compared to Drew Estate’s modern and sometimes avant-garde methods. During the tour, we learned about each step of their cigar manufacturing process. My favorite factoid is that Joya de Nicaragua does not allow men to put the wrapper on cigars. In their view, woman have the delicate skills needed to produce a cigar with a quality wrapper. Men, as it turns out, are brutes and tear the wrapper.
After the tour, we participated in a blending session at the Joya De Nigaragua Factory and blended our own cigars using their tobaccos. Like the session yesterday, this was a real treat. I truly enjoyed doing this and quickly learned how hard the blending process really is. Unfortunately, those cigars will be mailed to us at a later date.
Following the session, we returned to Drew Estate and had an opportunity to relax for a couple of hours doing what else? Smoking Drew Estate cigars and enjoying a refreshing beverage. Also, Drew Estate’s King of Design, Jesse, offered to give tattoos to any of us who were up to it. As it turns out, Drew Estate used to have a side business running a tattoo shop in Managua. When they decided to fold up the tattoo shop, the tattoo artists got a job at Drew Estate creating art for their cigar business. Two folks in our group decided to get a tattoo, including our very own Smokey Butts. The other guy eventually chickened out and Smokey Butts went solo for his tat. And what did our illustrious Smokey Butts get as his tattoo? Well, after staring at the cool griffin logo in the bottom of Drew Estate’s swimming pool, he decided to get the Liga Privada griffin logo. Check it out. Disregard the goofy sun tattoo above the griffin. We were all young once. . .
After relaxing, we ate dinner, and then spent our last night enjoying Flor de Caña rum. Lots of Flor de Caña rum. Additionally, Marvin Samel handed out a custom t-shirt made by Acid Studios to each attendee. We then received our personally blended cigars. I am looking forward to smoking one of my cigars when they have time to cure and will report on them at a later date. We celebrated Cigar Safari by enjoying more Flor de Caña. This time we had their 18 year old, Centenario Gold blend from Jonathan Drew’s private stash. Marvin claimed he had permission from Jonathan but none of us really believed him. Wholly crap was it good. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. Later that night I had an enjoyable talk with Steve Saka, CEO of Drew Estate; Gary Pesh, Chief Executive Officer of Old Virginia Tobacco; Rob Roth, owner of of Nice Ash Cigars; and Smokey Butts, owner of a new Liga Privada tattoo. Our discussion covered many aspects of the cigar industry, including their unfiltered opinions on a number of topics. Saka is a real hoot. He has an unvarnished opinion on pretty much everything and fits in well with the Drew Estate culture. I will not disclose our discussion as it was a private conversation between acquaintances, I learned a ton about the business and am thankful for the time I had with these leaders in the industry.
After Smokey Butts handed me more rum drinks than I care to remember, I hit the sack.
Click Here for Part Four of C.Gar and Smokey Butts’ Cigar Safari trip. . .