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Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Norteño (Pre-Release)

2 Jun 2014

A few weeks ago, Drew Estate announced the naming of Willy Herrera as “master blender.” The move does not place Herrera in charge of La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate; rather, he will maintain current blends, produce new ones, and report directly to Jonathan Drew.

Herrera Norteno“This represents a major change for Drew Estate, marking the first occasion where someone of Cuban descent has held a top-level position at the company,” read a press release. The news came just a few days after Nick Melillo left Drew Estate, where he served for 11 years with responsibilities ranging from purchasing and fermentation to quality control and shipment planning.

To date, Willy Herrera’s biggest contribution to Drew Estate has been Herrera Estelí, a five-vitola line of Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped cigars with a Cuban-esque flavor profile. The blend has been well-received within the online cigar community, and also in mainstream publications. The Herrera Estelí Piramide Fino was named the eighth best cigar of 2013 by Cigar Aficionado.

Due out soon is Willy’s follow-up to Herrera Estelí: the Herrera Estelí Norteño. Norteño translates to “northerners,” which is what people in Nicaragua call those who live around Estelí, which is in the north of the country. It will come in six box-pressed sizes and feature a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, a Honduran binder, and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. Like the core line, Norteño will be manufactured at Drew Estate, despite earlier reports it will be made at Joya de Nicaragua.

When I was in Nicaragua earlier this year, Willy gave me a single Herrera Estelí Norteño sample (4.75 x 48). It’s a flattened box-pressed smoke—almost rectangle-pressed, if you will—with a dark, dry exterior and pungent pre-light notes of cocoa and earth. Given the unique format, I decided to use a punch cut, and that was enough to yield a smooth draw.

Herrera’s highly anticipated sophomore effort is a chalky, chocolaty smoke with espresso, cashew, and a lingering spice on the tip of the tongue. Red pepper and cocoa seem to fight for control of the palate. The texture is heavy and coarse, and the body straddles the border between medium and full.

On the single sample I smoked for this review, I needed to touch up the burn with my torch several times to keep the cigar burning straight. The other combustion qualities leave no room for criticism. The draw is very easy, the smoke production above average, and the sandy, white ash holds well off the foot.

Given the quality and popularity of Herrera Estelí, I expect large numbers of cigar fans to actively seek out Norteño and take this blend for a test drive. They won’t be disappointed, though they may be surprised by the lack of Cuban-eqsue-ness given Willy Herrera’s reputation. My take is Norteño is a unique line that fits nicely into the overall Drew Estate portfolio, and it showcases the range of Herrera’s talents. I’m awarding this pre-release sample a solid rating of four stogies out of five.

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

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

4 Responses to “Cigar Review: Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Norteño (Pre-Release)”

  1. Eric Scism Monday, June 2, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Man I loved this stick. I had it one morning with a cup of coffee and it was delightful. Full of chocolate notes and a hint of spice. It went really well with the coffee.

  2. Anders Monday, June 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    Can't wait to try!

  3. mphxaz Monday, June 2, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Thanks for the review of this new stick from DE! Just one correction / update in the review. Unless something has changed since Drew Estate announced Willy Herrera the new ‘Master Blender’ for DE, in that announcement it was noted that the production of the Herrera Estelí Norteño was being brought back into the Drew Estate factory. Quote from News item from 5/15/14:

    “Due to Drew Estate’s decision to appoint Herrera as “Master Blender”, they have also decided to bring the new “NORTENO by Willy Herrera” line into production at Drew Estate, as opposed to Joya de Nicaragua, where it was originally to be produced. Additionally, this will allow Joya de Nicaragua to focus on production of the MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured line, which is currently backordered, along with the new Joya de Nicaragua products to be released at IPCPR.”

    • Patrick Ashby Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Thanks, mphxaz. Looks like this development occurred shortly after I wrote most of the background component for this review. I've updated the article and appreciate you bringing this to my attention.