Drew Estate Cigar Safari 2013 – Day 3
Well here we are again. I hope you guys enjoyed my run-down of the first few days at the Drew Estate Cigar safari. If you missed it, you can catch up here. You can also check out the post I wrote on last year’s safari here: Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3.
Without further adieu, let’s get right into it shall we?
After a very restful evening (the staff gave us all extra pillows cause we are special) and a wonderful breakfast (seriously, you will gain about 20 lbs. on this trip) we were back at it. This time, we were spending the day with the Drew Estate team touring their facilities and learning their processes.
We started out by visiting one of Drew Estate’s tobacco bodegas. One of many. In fact, Saka actually told us they have about 7 spread out through Esteli. He also went on to explain that land in Esteli is getting more expensive and harder to come by. They would love to consolidate and expand, but it’s tough due to cost and location. Drew Estate is about to take their bodegas from 7 down to about 2. I’ll touch more on that later though.
The bodega was a simple, crude building filled with millions of dollars in tobacco. Not joking, millions. As I talked about in the previous post, tobacco is stored here in pilons for a number of years while the tobacco ferments. As the tobacco generates heat it is then broken down and rotated. This process happens over and over and over until the tobacco reaches a storing point where it is no longer fermenting and can go on to be used in cigars or stored for future use. Here is an example of the detail in the process. The following picture illustrates a number of pilons, their daily temperature reads, and when the pilon had been rotated.
We headed to a facility next door where there was a number of women sorting tobacco leaves which was ready to go on to other processes. One note is that you see mostly women doing the sorting as well as the rolling while men handle the bunching. This is due to the idea that women tend to have a gentler, more matriculate composure making it easier for them to be more accurate. Again, tobacco here was sorted by type, weight, size and texture.
After that we were brought to the newest addition to the Drew Estate family. Basically it’s a massive, MASSIVE, project under development. Once done (later this year) the facility located directly across from the Drew Estate factory will house 6 out of 7 of the previous tobacco bodegas. Big right? My first thought was “Yay more room! That means, more production!”. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Saka went on to explain that even with the addition of this facility, since they would be combining bodegas, it really wasn’t going to be adding more room or space for production. In fact, Saka went on to tell us that they are pretty much maxed out as far as production and storage goes at the moment. That’s great for the company. Basically every single brand that they have right now is growing in profit each year. Even brands as small as Ambrosia are turning profit. Keep it up guys.
After a quick stop at the new facility we headed to the Drew Estate factory. This factory too has changed quite a bit since the last time we visited. An outdoor cafeteria area that I remember walking through last year now houses a rolling room where eager rollers master their craft before hitting the production floor. The cafeteria has since been moved to the new facility across the street.
We didn’t spend too much time at the factory as the guys knew we had all already seen it so we took a quick tour and went straight into blending. We hit the factory floor to observe bunching and rolling, then took a stroll through their tobacco storage and sorting operations. It’s worth mentioning that even now Drew Estate houses the largest production floor that I have ever been on. Not only that, but the employees are encouraged to enjoy a smoke, rock out to music, laugh and talk. You don’t see that too often.
Before stopping at the blending room we took a quick stop at the new rolling room and tried our hands at the process. Needless to say, mine were terrible. These chubby, stubby fingers just do not understand how to roll a cigar. It was fun though and I think the rollers had a good time laughing at our expense. We also got a quick lesson on the difference between standard bunching/rolling and the entubado technique (rolling each leaf into small tubes while bunching) which Willy is famous for.
The blending session was great. Drew Estate hooked it up with new, awesomely designed tobacco menus which give detailed descriptions of each of the tobaccos we could use. The room also contains huge bins with each different leaf sorted so that you can smell, burn, and some each different leaf before you make your decisions.
From there, it was a quick stop over to see Jessie Flores the Heart and soul of Subculture Studios and pretty much all of Drew Estate’s look and feel. This man and his team are responsible for the marketing, merchandise, and design that you see coming out of the factory. Jessie showed us boxes they were screen printing (that’s right! They screen print some of their own boxes), shirts they were pressing, stickers and magnets they were creating. It’s basically and artist’s dream workshop. A lot of the Subculture Studio was actually blocked off as they were working on this year’s booth set up for IPCPR and if you have ever seen one of their booth’s you will know just how crazy those get.
That evening we spent some time together in the lounge with Steve Saka, Jonathan Drew, and Jose Blanco. It’s always a bit sad to know that you are going home the next day and that it will be a long while before you see everyone again. We shared stories and heard many more before receiving out personal blends and saying our goodbyes. We headed out early the next morning.
If you have not ever been on a Cigar Safari tour I cannot stress how amazing it is. The culture, the land, the views, and the knowledge you take in is incredible. Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua are generous hosts and my deepest thanks goes out to them and their crew for inviting us to come along on yet another adventure.
Dates for the 2014 Cigar Safari Tours will be released soon. You can keep up with the tour as well as book your own here: www.cigarsafari.com
Again, the following gallery may be a bit cumbersome. You can view the entire photo set over at our facebook by clicking this link (no need for an account).