In June, 2011, Drew Estate officially announced that Willy Herrera, the former master blender at El Titan de Bronze, would be joining the Drew Estate team in Nicaragua. The objective was simple and brilliant – give a talented craftsman the best tools in the world, and allow him to create fantastic cigars… Of course, this was not an easy decision for Herrera, leaving his family’s business, one of the most celebrated cigar factories in the world, one that he’d directly managed for the past six years, for the potential to do something great.

It was a solid two years before the Herrera name found its way onto a Drew Estate product, coming in the form of the Herrera Estelí, an Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped cigar made in a true, classic Cuban fashion. Met with much fanfare, as was anticipated, Herrera Estelí delivered on the promise of something new and great from the Drew Estate camp, a style of cigar the company had not yet capitalized on. And as such, the cigar earned many accolades, including the #10 spot on Cigar Dojo’s Top 10 Cigars of the Year list.

Now, only a year later, Willy has returned with the new Herrera Estelí Norteño, an ambitious sophomore release for Willy, as well as his first new cigar after being named Drew Estate’s master blender. The new cigar was featured front and center at Drew Estate’s booth for the 2014 IPCPR trade show, showcasing its beautiful packaging presentation, though no samples of the cigar were given. Despite having a similar naming structure as the Herrera Estelí, Willy has stated that Norteño is a completely new blend, not simply a maduro version of the Herrera Estelí.

Herrera Estelí Norteño Breakdown

  • Vitola: Toro
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Length: 6″
  • Package Count: Box of 10 Cigars
  • Profile: Full Body
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés maduro
  • Binder: Honduran
  • Filler: Nicaraguan – Estelí and Jalapa
  • Price: $11

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It’s well known that Drew Estate has some of the coolest packaging in the industry, and the Norteño is yet another perfect example of how great packaging really does have an effect on the way you perceive a cigar. I’m all for the blind taste test, after all, that’s what we want right? A tasty cigar. But there’s just no denying that a brilliant concept, packaging, and design alters your experience of any given smoke, whether it’s subconscious or not. The Herrera Estelí Norteño has that advantage right out of the gate, displaying a simplistic, two-tone color scheme of forest green on cream white banding; as well as a cutout of the Guardabarranco, Nicaragua’s national bird. The cigar itself aids in the beautiful presentation, having a rich, dark wrapper and a firmly packed, semi box-pressed shape that just “feels right” when held.

Prior to lighting, the cigar isn’t the most aromatic, typical from the San Andrés wrapper, though there are hints of leather and tobacco. The draw feels great, with a hint of cherry just after cutting. And with a quick light, the Norteño gushes with silky, white smoke! Instantly, I noticed a roasty-like flavor, it was very similar to freshly roasted coffee beans. There was a zing of pepper spice in the nostrils as the smoke began to take shape. Flavors layered and I began to feel this cigar had some complexity to it – espresso coffee, salt, black pepper, and a subtle sweetness on the finish. There was no singular demanding flavor, everything balanced out quite nicely on the palate.

Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Norteño cigar

At one inch in, the pepper has already subsided, making way for more of the coffee flavors and an added dose of sweetness. The smoke is at medium body and the flavors are FULL. Pairing nicely with the coffee is a sweet toffee candy flavor and just a hint of cocoa powder.

As the Norteño nears the halfway mark, it really hits the sweet spot (in both senses of the term), showing tons of full mouth flavors of aged tobacco, toasted marshmallows, and even sea-salted brownies! There is no more spice at this point, simply a concoction of salty, sweet, complexity. It’s at this point that the Norteño finally won me over – not as a singular cigar, but as the standout cigar in today’s highly competitive Mexican San Andrés-wrapped offerings. It wasn’t the amount of flavor, they all have a ton, but the complexity and truly refined taste that must only be from better, well-aged tobacco.

Herrera Estelí Norteño cigar review

Passing the halfway point and moving into the final segments of the smoke, Norteño adds a hint of anise, accompanied by an increase in strength (as per usual). There are more roasty/toasty flavors and an emphasis on that toasted marshmallow, as well as a background of salty, sugary dough. As the smoke rounds out to a finish, the toasty flavors increase, but it retains a similar profile as before. With the last few puffs, I’d describe it as medium/full strength, full flavor, and full bodied.

Would I smoke this cigar again?

Didn’t you read the review? YES! I would smoke this cigar any chance I get, though I’d prefer this one for dessert – like having a nice Italian coffee after a big meal of spaghetti.

I must admit, before smoking, I was a bit curious to see if this cigar was anything like Drew Estate’s other San Andrés cigar released this year: the Cigar Dojo commemorative Undercrown Dogma. Of course I knew the blends were different, but I couldn’t help but wonder how noticeable the difference would be. This cigar is nothing like the Dogma, it doesn’t have that continuous outpour of smoke like so many Ligas do, and the profile tastes nothing alike. It is, however, very similar to the profile of Surrogates’ Satin Glove and Crowned Heads’ Jericho Hill cigar releases. Though I feel (at this point) the edge goes to the Norteño, we shall see the final results at this year’s Cigar of the Year ceremony.

Herrera Estelí Norteño cigar review and rating

Herrera Estelí Norteño
I must say, I was very impressed with the complete performance of the cigar - it didn't just taste great, it had a perfect burn, no touchups throughout, fantastic draw, tons of smoke output, and burned for a good hour and 15 minutes. The ash fell about every inch and a half, not getting in the way and keeping the embers burning perfectly. I will say I was a bit surprised to find the $11 price, not because it didn't taste like it, but perhaps because it's quite a bit more than the other two big competitors in the same weight class: Surrogates Satin Glove and Crowned Heads Jericho Hill.
  • Perfect burn/no touchups
  • (More than) Satisfying smoke output
  • Deep flavors with noticeably aged tobaccos
  • A little pricey
92%Fantastic Mexican
Reader Rating: (10 Votes)
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