Drew Estate

Louisiana Barn Smoker Photo Recap

A few weeks ago at L.A. Poche in St. James parish, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans, Drew Estate kicked off their first Louisiana Barn Smoker. More than 300 attendees joined Drew Estate founder Jonathan Drew, Master Blender Willie Herrera, and Carrie & Louise Van Winkle for a firsthand look at the barrel fermentation process unique to St. James parish.

St. James parish grows Perique tobacco, and has been barrel fermenting for a long time. Tobacco typically ferments in covered piles. Using an ex-bourbon barrel for the fermentation process helps impart a touch of the spirit’s qualities into the tobacco as well as breakdown the leaf’s unwanted flavors. A few years back, Jonathan Drew got together with L.A. Poche and started barrel fermenting their Kentucky fire-cured tobacco. It is this tobacco that is used as the wrapper near the head of the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigars, giving the cigar its signature character.

Jonathan Drew and Willie Herrera walked attendees through the process of how tobacco is processed, from tiny seedling to ready-to-smoke cigar. These guys answered all questions honestly, which is something not always found in the spirits industry. Transparency and education seem to be major themes of the Barn Smoker events. Kudos to Drew Estate for that!

A raffle was also held at the event, which generously raised $12,000 for Cigars for Warriors. The group sends cigars overseas to deployed soldiers, providing a little comfort in the process.

Angel’s Envy, MB Roland and Jonathan Drew’s own spirits were also available for attendees to sample. Add to that the deliciously spicy Cajun catering that was served for lunch and the gorgeous weather, and it was a recipe for an unforgettably entertaining, educational and relaxing event. If you have even a passing interest in cigars, you have to make it out to one. Let me tell you, future Barn Smoker events are now on my radar.

L.A. Poche, the site of the first Louisiana Barn Smoker.

Cured tobacco awaiting rehydration.

A rehydrated tobacco leaf.

The warehouse was filled with barrels fermenting tobacco. On a side note, the smell in here was quite nice.

A closeup look at fermenting tobacco. All that’s added to the barrel is tobacco and water.

Jonathan Drew giving attendees a bit of the Drew Estate history. The company, founded in 1998, is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year.

Drew Estate Master Blender Willie Herrera recounting how the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigars came to be.

Every attendee walked away with a few sticks and some swag as part of their ticket price.

A special thanks to the good folks at Drew Estate for the invite. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Pappy Van Winkle Tradition Cigar Review

Drew Estate has once again teamed with the Van Winkles for a new cigar blend – Pappy Van Winkle Tradition.  The cigar features an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper, Indonesian Binder and aged fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  As its name implies, the cigar is traditionally made, especially when compared to the previously released Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigar.  Where that cigar is available only through Pappy & Company, the new Tradition has a limited availability at Drew Diplomat retailers.  

Tradition wasn’t initially blended for this collaboration.  Years ago when blender Willy Herrera was in talks to join the Drew Estate Family, he put together three cigar blends.  One of those blends was especially loved by everyone within the company who smoked it.  In 2016, when Jonathan Drew handed Julian Van Winkle a box of cigars featuring this blend, Van Winkle was mesmerized with the blend. With that, Pappy Van Winkle Tradition was born.

The Pappy Van Winkle “Tradition” comes in the following sizes:

  • Coronita (4 x 46) MSRP $146.00/10ct Box
  • Robusto Grande (5.5 x 54) MSRP $216.00/10ct Box
  • Toro (6 x 50) MSRP $236.00/10ct Box
  • Belicoso Fino (5 x 50) MSRP $246.00/10ct Box
  • Churchill (7 x 48) MSRP $236.00 / 10ct Box Exclusively available at Drew Diplomat Spirits Retailers
  • Lonsdale (6.5 x 44) (Not for Sale) / 10ct Box Exclusively at Drew Diplomat Rewards Events in October, November and December 2017
  • Corona (5.5 x 44) MSRP (Not for Sale) / 10ct Box Exclusively available from Jonathan Drew and Julian Van Winkle

As I took the Belicoso Fino from its wrapper, aromas of aged tobacco, vanilla and molasses hit me.  It has a great draw and features hints of cedar, molasses, raisin and vanilla, as well as a bit of spice and slight earthiness.  There wasn’t a great deal of further development the more I smoked, which was okay by me.  The flavors presented were delightful.  I generally lean towards medium-bodied cigars, and Pappy Van Winkle Tradition hit my sweet spot.  The well-constructed cigar lasted about 45 minutes or so.  The cigar is a little bit on the pricey side, but offers a superb smoke.  I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed with your purchase.

Once I had a good idea of how Tradition smoked, I was off to find a great whiskey pairing.  I first reached for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20-year-old bourbon.  The dark, rich, and refined character that defines the famous whiskey played nice with the medium flavored cigar.  The stick’s spicy quality elevated the pairing’s overall experience while not feeling overpowering.  I especially liked that the dried fruit notes of the bourbon were enhanced as well.  Again, a beautiful pairing.

Since PVW 20-year is impossible to find, I also paired the cigar with the slightly easier to obtain Michter’s 10-year-old bourbon.  Michter’s sweet cinnamon notes complemented the cigar’s sweeter molasses and vanilla notes.  Overall, it was a nice pairing as well.  

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Thanks to Drew Estate for the cigar samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.