This is the finale of my attempt to recap my trip to Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari in Esteli, Nicaragua. The trip was from March 9th the the 12th, 2011. My son, Corey, went on this trip with me, along with 9 others from a couple other groups who we didn’t know prior to this trip. I would recommend this trip to any rabid cigar nut, it covers all aspects of the cigar manufacturing process and the folks at Drew Estate bend over backward to make sure you have a good time.
We got off to a rocky (and early) start to Friday with Corey up at 3am hurling violently. I’ll spare the details, but after an hour or so he was able to get back to sleep, I wasn’t so lucky. I got out of bed finally around 6am and got a shower and went for a wander around the compound. The staff was busy getting breakfast together, and Jonathan’s wife’s newly adopted puppy was looking for a playmate. I had a seat and pet the pup for a little, but he was making it clear that he was up for some rough-housing. I played with him a little bit, but I wasn’t as enthusiastic about playing at that hour as he was. He started barking (which had been an issue for Steve Saka the night before when we were in Managua, the dog was barking, keeping Steve awake, and he didn’t know who’s dog it was) So, for the second time in 3 hours I’m worried about waking my fellow Cigar Safarians up. Monty was chasing me around, biting me and barking, he got distracted by a bug, or a piece of moss, and I’d try to hide, then he’d find me. He’s such a cute little pup, but I was growing less and less amused by his antics. He eventually was distracted by the cooks and I went back to the room to check on Corey ,who was sleeping soundly.
Breakfast was a delicious Huevos somethingorother dish. I let Corey sleep, but, in a bit of an optimistic moment, I urged him to get up and get a shower and join us as we went to visit one of Pepin Garcia’s farms. Looking back, I should have left him sleep, but I didn’t want him to miss anything. This would come back to bite us in the ass.
We loaded up on the bus, grabbed a cigar, and went to the My Father Factory and met up with Don Pepin himself, who led us to his farm, Finca la Estrella. This is the first time I’ve been to a tobacco farm, except for the odd patch of burley growing in PA Amish country. This farm was enormous, with un-ending fields of tobacco, and numerous curing barns. Seeing the acres and acres of tobacco in the fields and hearing Don Pepin tell us that every plant has the flowers trimmed off is a pretty amazing realization as to the labor involved. Not to mention the primings when the leaves are ready, it’s awe-inspiring. We walked through one of the curing barns and saw leaves in various stages of curing. We also got to see the workers stringing the leaves on poles and hanging them in the rafters of the barn. Then we went to see where the baby plants are housed, a green house where they start the plants. We were also shown tobacco seeds, billions of them in a small vial. I asked how many crops were in the bottle and got a good laugh out of Pepin. I think the answer was something along the lines of “many”. We also went to the fields where the famed Pelo de Oro tobacco variety was grown. This rare leaf is only used in the Tatuaje La Verite, I believe, and some other very limited releases. The trek to the fields was pretty muddy, and a couple people took home some of Pepin’s soil as a souvenir!. We also saw the largest curing barn in Nicaragua, which was quite a sight, complete with an armed guard.
We loaded back on the bus to return to Drew Estate to take the tour of the factory. At this point Corey had been feeling a little queezy and became ill again. Jonathan insisted on having him taken to his doctor to get checked out, and, against my better judgment, I continued with the tour while Pedro and Jonathan’s dad, Gary, took him to the doctor, We toured some of the packaging areas, as well as some of the cold rooms where they store the finished cigars for a period of time before boxing them. We also saw the loading dock and the warehouse where all the packaging is stored. There was also a separate humidified warehouse where the boxes were stored. If it seems like my descriptions of this part of the tour are less detailed than they could be, I was a little distracted by my son’s situation.
After this part of the tour we had another great lunch, at which time Corey returned from the doctor, who had prescribed several medications, one of which was an antibiotic. Not 10 minutes after taking these, Corey was sick again, and things got worse. Without going into too many more details, we ended up helping him back to our room where he had numbness in his extremities and was white as a ghost. Jonathan called the ambulance who took him the the emergency room while Jonathan, Pedro and I followed. Corey’s blood pressure was through the roof so they gave him and IV with something to bring it down, and drew blood to test. It turned out to be a reaction to the Doxycyclene, and after about 4 hours he was feeling much better. The “emergency room” was a room with a bed and an exam table and that was about it, very different from what we’re used to. However, the care was excellent, although it was much better when Pedro was there to translate. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jonathan, Gary, and Pedro for the way they handled the situation. I was a wreck, and these guys were so cool and just made everything happen that I can’t ever begin to say thanks. I think Jonathan was as concerned as I was, but he was so supportive and positive during the whole thing. I also thank Steve for taking over for Jonathan making sure that the rest of the group didn’t miss anything. When Corey was stabilized Pedro took Jonathan back, and came back with the blending sheets so that Corey and I could blend our own cigars. The rest of the group got to see and play with the tobacco, but we were happy to just be able to work it out on paper. I can’t wait to smoke mine as I’m confident that I came up with an amazing recipe (this is BS of course, but I tried to pick out tobaccos that I like in other blends, not sure how the proportions will work out). Corey went the polar opposite of his Joya de Nicaragua blend, having been ill and told by the doctors to lay off the cigars for a while. It all turned out good, after Corey was released we hung out on the streets of Esteli, watching the rush hour traffic go by while we waited for Pedro to pick ups up. As Corey’s shoes were in the car, all the locals kind of pointed and stared at the barefoot gringo!
When we got back the group was finishing up the tour of the Subculture Studios, Drew Estate’s in-house art studio. Corey when to clean up and I went to find a cigar. Dinner was a barbecue of chicken (pollo!) and some sausages that someone will have to let me know what the name of them was. Corey still wasn’t hungry and ended up turning in early, he’d had a long day. I caught everyone up on our adventures, and got a little recap of what I had missed. I had the pleasure of dining with Luis of Oja Cigars again, who had stayed at the Safari. We went up to the lounge and Pedro handed out great t-shirts for everyone, and we all received our own blends, as well as the cigars we blended at Joya de Nicaragua. More cigars were smoked, and as the evening wound down we watched the cinematic masterpiece “Machete”.
I awoke on Saturday not feeling particularly well myself, Corey had an enormous breakfast, and I had some delicious fruit. I grabbed a Tabak Especiale Negra which would be my last cigar of the trip. We boarded the bus and bid farewell to Drew Estate, bound for Managua Airport and our flight to Miami. It was a great trip despite the detour through the local emergency medical system, I hope to return one day. Nicaragua is a beautiful place, and the folks at Drew Estate are second to none. I’ve known Steve Saka for years, and I feel like Jonathan, his dad, Pedro and the rest of their staff are old friends as well. A big thank you again to everyone involved.
That wraps up my report. I’m sure other memories will surface in the near future that will make it onto these pages.
I know it’s cruel to have made you wade through the whole post to get to the winner of a box of 5 Liga Privada cigars courtesy of Drew Estate. Last year, unsolicited and against my wishes, Steve Saka sent me a whole bunch of great stuff to give away in contests. This is the last of the cigars that he sent, although I still have a couple more items for future contests (and I can’t bring myself to send someone a hat and cutter without including a cigar or two, it’s one of my many failings!). Anyway, you’ll recall we had a tie, JohnG and freakboy791 correctly guessed that I smoked 18 cigars on he trip, and now you know why my number was that low. Corey smoked 12 cigars on the trip before circumstances caused him to stop. That means that freakboy791‘s guess of 15 is the winnner! Please e-mail me with your name and address so I can ship this to you. Thank you to everyone for your entries, I’m sorry to disappoint some of you with my relatively low number!
Stay tuned for another contest coming REAL soon, and watch for La Gloria Cubana Serie N Day this Friday, March 25.
Until the next time,