Herrera Esteli Toro Especial Cigar Review
Sorry for slacking last week! At least Jeremy was on his marks. I had a lot of family in town this past week/weekend and Daniel got the flu (stay away from him) so we were in a bit of a bind. But I am back this week reviewing one of the newest creations to hit the shelves from Drew Estate. The Herrera Esteli Toro Especial.
The Good Stuff: The Herrera Esteli is created by the infamous Willy Herrera. This man was the force behind El Titan de Bronze until joining forces with the Drew Estate team recently. Here is what Steve Saka had to say about Willy and the blend:
Herrera Esteli is the brainchild of Willy Herrera, newest member of the Drew Estate team. Willy’s presence at Drew Estate is notable, as he brings an authentic Cuban influence to the team. Herrera Esteli is a medium plus blend with an exceptional amount of creaminess and great balance of spice and sweet. Herrera Esteli will be available in select retailers in 25ct Slide Lid Boxes. The brand will feature five sizes, including the Short Corona Gorda, Robusta Extra, Lonsdale Deluxe, Toro Especial, and Piramide Fino.
Saka speaks about Willy coming on board at Drew Estate:
“Unlike most companies, we have decided to take the slow and low approach to his joining our team. Basically, we stuck him in Nica for over a year at a bench and gave him the key to our tobacco and said: “Create a great cigar…” We gave him no boundaries or limits. Willy then spent f’ing forever working on this first blend… drove me a little crazy, made a lot of bad blends along the way, but I think we overwhelmed him a bit – I don’t think he was prepared to have so many tobaccos to blend from, rather daunting… our man Nicholas helped nudge him a little here and there and viola! Willy created something I consider great.
Along the journey, Willy has become a very competent handmade cigar bunchero and rolero – so over this next year you will begin to see him in stores personally handrolling his own and other blends. Check him out when he is in a store near you! Ask him tons of questions while you’re at it!”
I got a chance to meet Willy in Nicaragua last year and he actually let us sample a few of the prototypes for this blend. I don’t know how close they were to the final release, but Jonathan Drew made mention to us that Willy was tearing through prototype blends like there was no tomorrow. That’s how meticulous this man is and that there was a good chance we smoked wasn’t near the final product. The Herrera Esteli should start hitting shelves any day now. The blend will come in 5 sizes: Short Corona (5 ¼ x 46), Robusto Extra (5 ½ x 52), Lonsdale (6 x 44), Toro Especial (6 ¼ 54), and the Piramide Fino (6 x 52). The will come in boxes of 25 and will range from $7.95 to $10.45 a cigar. I have had the pleasure of smoking the Short Corona, Robusto, and the Toro.
Size: 6 ¼ x 54
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Pairing: Sixpoint Brownstone (American Brown Ale 6% ABV)
Prelight: The Herrera Esteli starts off with one of the most beautifully consistent wrappers I have ever seen. Silky smooth, oily as hell, and a perfect light yellowish brown from foot to cap. The Herrera Esteli screams of Herrera’s Cuban heritage from the meticulous construction, flawless choice of wrapper, round triple cap, and design on the band. I am a sucker for minimalistic band designs (and maximum design, it’s that area in between that does nothing for me) and this cigar pulls it off perfectly. The band mimic’s old Cuban style band designs with a simple white band, with gold embossed flourishes and red text. The front reads: “Herrera Esteli – Imported from Nicaragua” in big, bold text with some additional disclaimers on the side informing the consumer of the highest grade tobacco used in the blend, created at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate by hand. The Herrera Esteli is a beefy cigar with a lot of weight to it. It’s extremely firm with no soft spots, but I can feel how thin and delicate the wrapper is as I worked around the cigar. The wrapper sports only minor, seamless, thin veins running the length of the cigar.
The wrapper on the Herrera Esteli gives off a very sweet aroma mixed with some mild cedar while the foot of the cigar gives off nothing more than a subtle tobacco scent. I really had to dig deep to really get any type of aroma off the cigar. The cap cut clean and like butter using my double bladed Palio cutter. Right off the bet I am greeted with a ton of spice and cedar. I wasn’t expecting the amount of flavor produced by the cold draw considering how tame the aroma of the blend was.
First Smoke: The cigar starts out with a nice little black pepper bit that I wasn’t really expecting. Shortly after the cigar blasted me with strong spice, cedar, and what almost tastes like black tea. The draw on this bad boy is perfect. Seriously, every little puff just fills my mouth with this linger, thick, white smoke. This is the construction that Willy has been known for in full effect. The burnline on the cigar is rather thick and it’s producing a few early, minor waves that don’t really concern me too much. The ash is a beautiful this, compacted white with light grey spots. It held on for about an inch and a half before giving way. The ash fell onto the floor literally a split second before this picture was taken. Sorry, but I wasn’t able to capture the first ash. Stupid wind..
Halfway There: The spice continues to be the dominant flavor in this Herrera Esteli. It’s crazy, I have had a handful of these all in different sizes but this Toro has to have the most pronounced flavor out of each of the formats I have smoked. Outside of the spice the black tea is still going strong with some slight vanilla, sweet tobacco, and soft cedar with just a bit of lemon. The retrohale on this cigar is shockingly good. Despite the soft cedar in the smoking experience the cedar is crazy strong on the retrohale along with a bit of the black pepper. The burnline has corrected itself for the most part and I am feeling a slight nicotine kick from the cigar already.
Finish: That spice is just killing it in this cigar. It’s still rocking while the cedar has ramped up, the black pepper finally faded out, the vanilla and tea are gone and have been replaced with a heavily creamed coffee flavor. This is one of the smoothest, creamiest experiences I have had in a long time. It’s interesting that a cigar with a bit more strength can be so smooth. Good work Willy. The burnline finished a bit wavy but I never had to touch up or relight the cigar the entire time. I did feel a nice little nicotine kick from this cigar once I laid the nub to rest. One note on this cigar is how slow it burns. It actually took me almost 2 hours to smoke this cigar down to the nub. The entire process was very, very creamy and smooth. It reminded me of the feeling you get while drinking a full glass of milk.
Overview: The first time I smoked this cigar I wasn’t overly impressed. Each time I smoked it afterwards I liked it more and more. Now that I have smoked this Toro I can honestly say that not only is it my favorite size in the line-up, but it completely changed how I feel about this cigar. You can really taste the blend and the increase in body and strength. This is a damn good cigar. And although it has the makings of a great “Mild, in the morning with my coffee” cigar, the extra body will make me consider this cigar a regular rotation blend. It’s smooth enough to enjoy any time of the day, but has all the makings of a cigar that you could enjoy in place of your hefty, after dinner smoke. I’m really interested to see what Willy has in store for the upcoming year. I think that Drew Estate scored a gem here. I’ve always been a fan of his work and Drew Estate needed the character that Willy’s blends bring to the table.
Pairing: I posted on my twitter page yesterday that I have been a Sixpoint fan boy as of late. Every brew that I have had by the company has been remarkable. They make one of the only IPAs (Resin) on the market that I could truly see myself enjoying everyday. I decided to pair this Herrera Esteli with Sixpoint’s staple brew, the Brownstone. When I was thinking about a pair for the cigar I remember just how smooth and creamy this cigar was, and the Brownstown is probably one of the creamiest beers I have had in a long time that shares a lot of common characteristics with the blend. The Brownstone is an American Style Brown Ale that comes in at 6% ABV. The beer starts off with an almost milky texture (much like Guinness) and finishes with a creamy mixture of malty, barley goodness. You will pick up a lot of subtle spices and a nice mild hoppyness from the brew which actually helped me pull that lemon flavor out of the cigar.