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Cigar Review: Drew Estate Undercrown Gran Toro

24 Aug 2011

Maybe I’m just cynical, but many of the stories that accompany the release of new blends sound like complete B.S. Usually they involve finding a mysterious stash of fantastic leaf in a hidden corner of a factory (how disorganized is your factory?), an accident on the part of a roller (thousands of cigars were mistakenly made?), or a personal blend made only for the cigar master (which they were able to scale up to hundreds of thousands of cigars?).

Most of these “cigar creation stories” seem like the creation of a marketing department as opposed to an account of what took place. For once, I’d like to hear that someone created a cigar because they thought they could sell a ton of them and make a lot of money.

The Drew Estate Undercrown also has a creation story, though despite its complexity it rings more true to me than most. As both Drew Estate co-founder Jonathan Drew and company president Steve Saka recounted to me at the recent IPCPR Trade Show, Undercrown was born on the factory floor when the rollers responsible for Liga Privada were told they could no longer smoke Ligas while they worked because Drew Estate was already struggling to meet demand. So they created their own blend using tobacco bought for Liga Privada but not specifically used in the blend.

As it was described to me, where Liga Privada might use the seco from a particular tobacco plant, Undercrown might use viso (or vise versa). The only exception is the wrapper, which is a dark and oily San Andreas leaf on the Undercrown (Liga Privada uses Connecticut broadleaf). The result is a cigar similar to, but distinct from, the Liga Privada blend. It all actually makes sense when you consider that the tobacco in Undercrown was already being purchased (or grown) by Drew Estate, which should make Undercrown a profitable blend.

The resulting cigar is very impressive. It’s slightly milder than the Liga Privada, placing it solidly in the medium (maybe medium-full for some people) spectrum. It’s toasty with nutty flavors and coffee bean. As it develops, roasted tastes dominate and there’s a little spice in the final third.

Undercrown comes in five sizes: Robusto (5 x 54), Belicoso (6 x 52), Double Corona (7 x 54), Gordito (6 x 60), and Gran Toro (6 x 52). The cigars sell from $7.45 to $9.95.

Each of the three Gran Toros I smoked (all of which I received at the trade show in July) displayed perfect construction. The burns were even, the draw firm but not difficult, and the ashes held strong.

I think Drew Estate has another fine cigar on its hands here, though perhaps not quite as exquisite as the original Liga blend. If the Liga Privada is a fine steak, Undercrown is a perfectly cooked hamburger. And a good burger is certainly nothing to sneeze at. That’s why the Undercrown Gran Toro earns four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

22 Responses to “Cigar Review: Drew Estate Undercrown Gran Toro”

  1. tim Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    I cannot be the only person who thinks that this manufacture is nothing but hype and that the cost of that marketing is reflected in the price of their cigars.

  2. Ashburn Dave Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Heh, Tim, that's how I feel about Tatuaje. I like the Liga Privadas, but they're kinda pricey and seem to be increasing. Dirty Rats are going for almost $13 at my B&M. This Undercrown sounds like its put together from leftover tobacco yet it's priced nearly the same as the No. 9s.

  3. Patrick Ashby Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    I wonder how successful a cigar would be if it put 97% of its expenses into producing and delivering a well-made cigar and only 3% into marketing. The box could look something like the White Album, and the cigars themselves could come bandless. If this cigar were actually good — and if it could spread in popularity by word of mouth — it may be able to outperform its competitors in a given price range by offering better quality for the buck. It would be an interesting experiment, anyhow…

    • tim Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      Perhaps word of mouth on sites such as this?

  4. Steve Saka Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    You probably aren't Tim.

    And of course the expense of marketing is reflected in the cost of our cigars as it is for every manufacturer. In the case of Liga Privada to my knowledge we have run I think 3 ads in the last 4 years… so I guess their price is what it is because we are greedy?

    My advice remains the same. Smoke our cigars and decide for yourself if you enjoy them or not. If you feel as though you are getting your money's worth and are happy, great, please buy more as we appreciate the business. However if they don't float your boat for whatever the reason, no harm no foul, buy another product you like better.

    Some people love LP while others do not. The same will be true for Undercrown… I always tell people you can not make a cigar that everyone likes, because when you do you have ultimately made a cigar that no one loves.


    Steve Saka
    President, Drew Estate

    • Patrick Semmens Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

      Thanks for dropping in.

      I'd add that people don't buy things (particularly cigars) multiple times because of marketing. A flashy ad campaign may get people to try a cigar once, but it can never turn them into repeat customers.

      Once you try a cigar once, then its up to the cigar to stand on its own and make the smoker want to buy it again. As for greed, no one gets rich without providing a product that people want to buy again and again. And if they buy it again and again, then clearly you don't think its priced excessively (or else you wouldn't be buying it multiple times).

      • Patrick Semmens Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

        And I would also add that I've bought cigars by Drew Estate multiple times (including by the box), so I certainly don't think they're all hype. If I thought that, I would have stopped at one cigar.

      • Andrew Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

        Couldn't have put it better myself!

    • jwterry (Jeff) Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:56 am #

      LOL. Steve, i dont think ive seen one single ad for the Liga Privada (No. 9 or T-52, or Undercrown)! But damn, I smoke the shit out of them! The only reason i havent smoked as many Undercrowns is that theyve not been. around long enough. YET. Blend on, Steve.

    • Russ W. Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 10:51 am #

      I haven't seen any information on the binder and fillers used in this cigar, is that something you or Patrick could share? I'm assuming there must be some Honduran component.

      BTW, Hats off on the Undercrown, what a great cigar, sounds like you have some excellent torcedores / torcedoras there at DE. My only gripe is I wish production was a bit higher. They say patience is a virtue, obviously those people aren't waiting on backordered #9s.

  5. Tyler Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    I have had several different smokes from Drew Estates and I think they are great smelling and great tasting. The Wafe, Kuba Kuba, Kuba Deluxe, and the Blondie were very good. I also had a La Vieja Habana Corojo with a Maduro wrapper which was pretty decent.

  6. jwterry (Jeff) Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Wow. Why jump on here to state something you obviously know nothing about. You, Tim. I was actually first attracted to Drew Estate cigars because the B&M had a great painting from DE. I gave their cigar a whirl. I have never looked back. I am PROUD to call myself a member of the DE Army. A private; a foot soldier. DE is an amazing company, as loyal to it's customers as we are to them. Get a life, Tim. Why get on here to rag on DE? What exactly have they done to you to make you feel this animosity? Obviously something. You didnt state youve smoked a vigar from DE. I have smoked them all. Padron 1926 and 64. Opus X. Many Cubans from Switzerland. NONE compare to DE Liga Privada for the quality and taste for the buck. If DE was all hype, tell me why, in far short of two decades, has DE become the fourth largest cigar manufacturer in an industry with companies well over a century old? I will tell you why, in case you are still clueless. Premium cigars at a VERY decent and affordable comparative cost.

  7. CADE Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    I've been a loyal DE smoker for well over a year now. Marketing had ZILCH to do with it. Taste, burn, melody of flavors, aromas, satisfaction in a smoking an expertly crafted cigar – that has EVERYTHING to do with it. As a filmmaker I'm used to seeing people troll websites to bash the labor of love of others but this is my first experience in the tobacco world. Hey, it's fair game, everybody is entitled to an opinion obviously. But you could at least smoke it first. The Undercrown is fanfuckingtastic, I smoked one and immediately bought a box. Not because of hype or flash but because of QUALITY. You get what you pay for, asshole. I'm so tempted to be mean here but I won't…

    • jwterry (Jeff) Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:50 am #

      Hope I wasnt mean! Well, too mean anyways.

      • CADE Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:58 am #

        If you don't like it don't buy it AGAIN. But that implies you have to smoke it in the first place…. ugghh

  8. Donny Payne Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 6:49 am #

    DE doesn't have a cult following because of hype. They have a lot of fans because they make a great quality product that is always consistent.

  9. Neal Wollenberg Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    @Tim – Dude, seriously. Smoke one before you knock it.

    @Ashburn – Again, have you even smoked any? As for the Undercrown being put together from leftover Tobacco and being priced the same… you don't have a clue. The UC uses some excellent tobacco in filler, binder and wrapper. It's a "different" blend, not necessarily better or worse than the LP line. The LP line is an exceptional line of cigars and they're priced accordingly. As for pricing between the two, do a bit of research, the LPs go for almost $100 more than the UCs in a given size.

    @Patrick S – Your review isn't bad, however, you know as well as everyone else that there are some undertones in it that are meant to bring out the trolls. And the idea that the UC is a fantastic hamburger is a crock. To use your red meat metaphor, it's just as much a steak as the LP is, it just happens to be a different cut.

    I picked up DE sticks, not because of marketing, or because of hype, but because I first saw their Acid line in a B&M and was curious. I did a bit of research, found their other lines and have been hooked ever since. So much so, that when I dig into my humi, I have a hard time not bogarting all of my DE sticks day after day. They're just that damn good.

    Secondarily, their customer service is second to none. My first interaction with a DE person was Steve Saka, and the man backs the company he reps as a gentleman. My other interactions have been with Jessi Flores, and Jonathan Drew, as well as DE Ambassador Tom Navarro. ALL of these guys are class acts to the core.

    DE doesn't need slick marketing. The men and women behind the scenes love the product they make and it shows in every single stick that is rolled, rested and retailed. Personally, I think DE is a gem, not only for cigar enthusiasts world wide, but also for the people of Esteli, Nicaragua.

    When it comes down to it… this company is about its people and its product. Other companies would do well to learn from them.

  10. Neal Wollenberg Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    @myself – and when I say $100 more in a given size, I mean by the box, because that's how much I love these sticks.

  11. Jonathan Drew Monday, December 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Happy Holidays Everyone.

  12. Craig Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    Just finished one these. It was the first non infused stick I've had from DE. Loved Tabak Especial Negra, Toast, and Kuba Kuba in the past. Wanted something a bit more traditional and I ve never gone wrong with Drew before. It was a pretty good smoke, but I have to say I had to work to keep it lit and burning even. Gave up about 2/3 of the way through. Could've been the humidor here wasn't quite right. I'll probably give it another try one of these days, but buy from my regular tabacconist.

  13. Gil Singer Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    Smoked my first one last night. I thought it was a fantastic smoke and bought a box today. Very flavorful, not too strong and tasty till the very end.

  14. Peter Brown Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 1:34 am #

    It just awesome, nothing to say. The flavor is light and the foam is creamy, a perfect match for this cigar. And the draw is easy with the perfect amount of confrontation.