Herrera Estelí was introduced in 2012 at the IPCPR show, later seeing an extremely limited number of cigars released at exclusive events, before finally making its official, public debut in early 2013. The cigars were in high demand from a hungry crowd of astute enthusiasts, who’d been watching from the sidelines since the summer of 2011, when Drew Estate formally announced the hiring of ultra-boutique cigar crafter Willy Herrera.
The goal was clear: adding an industry-respected master of the craft; a man that helped turn his family’s El Titan de Bronze factory, an operation no larger than the average home’s “family room”, into one of the most respected factories in the country—soon to be world. At the time, Drew Estate had set itself apart from the infused market for which it had become known and was now among the industry’s most respected in the arena of super-premium maduro smoking experiences, through its bold/gritty Liga Privada and Undercrown cigars. But the company was lacking a more classically-geared Habano. Of course, hindsight is “20/20” and it now seems almost impossible to imagine Drew Estate without its Master Blender, Willy Herrera (as promoted in 2014). But the move now goes down as one of the most perceptive and strategic in the modern industry—especially as former CEO Steve Saka and head blender Nicholas Melillo (often regarded as major contributors to the former two cigars) later retired to pursue their own ventures.
Needless to say, Herrera’s first foray at Drew Estate proved to be a success, as the small batch production could not be kept on retail shelves for long. Demand quickly grew for Drew Estate’s first true, Cubanesque Habano and the cigar went on to win numerous awards throughout the industry; including Cigar Dojo’s #10 cigar of the year 2013 and Cigar Aficionado’s #8 cigar of the year 2013 (Drew Estate’s first appearance on this prestigious, year-end list).
The year following, the HE brand was awarded a follow-up sister blend: Herrera Estelí Norteño, as well as additional sizes to the original cigar, such as the fan-favorite Edicion Limitada 2014 Lancero. In late 2014, Drew Estate also introduced the Tienda Exclusiva by Willy Herrera, a shop-exclusive cigar (for Barrister Cigars) under the HE brand. This began a new series of limited-run releases that featured tweaked versions of the HE blend, eventually transforming into completely new blends in 2016—such as the Herrera Estelí TAA Exclusive (Connecticut Broadleaf blend) and the highly-anticipated Herrera Estelí Miami.
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*Images above provided by Drew Estate*
Herrera Estelí Miami Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro
- Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra
- Filler: Dominican | Nicaraguan
- Factory: El Titan de Bronze (USA)
- Production: Limited Edition / Small Batch
- Vitola: 5¾” × 48 (corona)
- Price: $13.00 ($130/box MSRP)
Herrera Estelí Miami is easily the most unorthodox release within the HE lineup to date, potentially in Drew Estate’s entire portfolio! This is due to the fact that Drew Estate routinely boasts their impressive La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate factory, going so far as to host trips to the factory and DE’s facilities in Estelí for hobbyists and other industry members throughout the year with their Cigar Safari—easily the most popular arrangement of its sort in the industry. Aside from DE’s work with their cohorts at Joya de Nicaragua (where DE distributes Joya’s brands and Joya manufactures collaborative projects, such as MUWAT), you would be hard-pressed to find a premium DE cigar to come out of another factory.
This is why fans have been eagerly awaiting the launch of Herrera Estelí Miami—where a quite unusual collaboration between one of the industry’s largest manufacturers and smallest boutiques has taken place. Of course, it’s not a random move, or sign that, “Things aren’t the same since Swisher bought Drew Estate,” that you might normally expect to hear. The project makes perfect sense in the eyes of the enthusiast, bringing everything full-circle, with Master Blender Willy Herrera returning home—now backed by the powerful arsenal of Drew Estate and their near-unparalleled resources of premium tobaccos.
But things have changed at El Titan de Bronze (ETDB) as well. Since Willy’s departure, the tiny factory, located in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood (on Calle Ocho), has doubled in size and increased production more than tenfold—now producing fan-favorite cigars, such as La Palina’s Goldie series, three cigars in Warped’s lineup, and many more. It’d be safe to assume the small factory was already operating at max capacity, but working with Drew Estate, ETDB’s largest client to date, all but ensures it.
For this special collaboration, Willy has changed the blend from its Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Honduran and Nicaraguan binder and fillers; now featuring a much darker Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper over an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Nicaraguan & Dominican fillers. The cigars have been rolled in a singular, corona vitola, offering Willy’s ideal smoking experience for the new blend. Exact production numbers have not yet been given, but the cigars are clearly limited in some fashion. Boxes include “2016 Limited Edition” on the underside of the lid, therefore it is our best guess that we will see new, limited sizes of the blend for each year—similar to what you find with La Palina’s Goldie series.
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The Herrera Estelí Miami (which, I feel I must mention the oxymoron within the cigar’s own title…) utilizes the alternate, red color scheme (and accompanying sub-band) found on other HE offshoot releases, such as 2016’s Inktome and TAA Exclusive releases. As such, the boxes abandon the Cuban-inspired cabinet selection packaging—using 10-count, hinged boxes and wrapped in cellophane.
The bands not only differ in color, but read “Herrera Estelí by Drew Estate” on the front (changed from the original’s “Herrera Estelí – Imported from Nicaragua”, which is seen on many of the updated HE iterations), as well as “We warrantee the tobacco used in Herrera Estelí are the finest, vintage, aged, air-cured, black cigar leaf” on the right side, and “Handmade at El Titan de Bronze, 1071 SW 8th St. Miami, Florida” on the band’s left side. The sub-band displays “Miami”, with “2016” to either side.
The 5¾” × 48 size will be quickly appealing to most enthusiasts—it brings a medium weight, solid, medium-firm bunch, and sturdy feel in the hand. Construction looks top notch, having tight (but visible) seams, triple cap, and a minuscule toothiness that gives a suede-like feel between your fingers. The shade is very interesting, it’s about as dark as can be without entering “maduro” territory; having an intriguing, red/rust and orange tinge to the overall Colorado Rosado shade.
The tobacco isn’t particularly aromatic, giving light notes of cedar, mineral, and must. The pre-light draw offers vegetal notes and a strange soapy/ammonia vibe through a medium-firm resistance.
Herrera Estelí Miami lights up with subtle spices and muted notes of must, mineral, and wet concrete—like walking into an old basement. The first half-inch is slow to build, offering an overall dull atmosphere—not meaning it’s boring, just very muted. The burn line is wavy, slowly igniting the liberally bunched tobacco and creating a medium amount of smoke in the mouth. The draw is medium-firm, which is sufficient—it could, ideally, be a hair easier, but that’s if I’m getting picky. A quick summation would rank HE Miami as medium strength, mild/medium flavor, medium body.
Around the one-inch mark, there are flickering signals of a more interesting profile, with a distant cedar sweetness developing at the tail end of the retrohale. It’s almost as if there’s a breaking point, where the profile snowballs from the sweet cedar into a much more lively experience of earth, caramel, and espresso powder. Even still, the profile doesn’t command your attention—it remains subtle and refined. Construction-wise, HE Miami is impressive, having a dusty, soft and muted, light gray ash; producing rounded stacks of flake-free, fuzzy and fairly solid ash—eventually dropping just before the three-inch mark.
Getting into the core of the cigar, the profile begins bulking up—it’s a little heartier, with aspects of buttered steak and black pepper (on the palate, not retro). The overall experience has evolved into a medium strength, medium-full flavor, and medium-plus body. Interesting, a lot of the flavors seem to develop on the palate, with a more restrained retrohale; lacking the edgy spice you may expect in the nostrils.
Nearing the end, the overall experience darkens, not reaching harsh territories, just toasting the aforementioned range of flavors. The cigar’s first touchup comes just before the band. This opens up the profile for one last hurrah, providing interesting notes of mineral, vegetation, and steak seasoning—all through a dry smoke texture.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
No doubt about it! Herrera Estelí Miami is just about what you’d expect from the star-studded cast involved in the cigar’s creation—it’s refined, subtle, and often complex, bringing a fun roller coaster ride of bright and muted flavors on the palate, all the while providing the truly excellent construction that ETDB is known for. The price does feel a tad steep, but it’s in line with other premium offerings out of the ETDB factory.
Compared against other HE cigars, this ranks pretty high for me. The Edicion Limitada 2014 Lancero still tops the list, with the original Lonsdale size and the 2015 addition of the Toro Tubo vitola hovering right around the HE Miami (would come down to the mood and time frame). Compared against other HE spinoffs, such as the TAA Broadleaf blend, etc., the Herrera Estelí Miami is far and away the best. Altogether, an easy recommendation for a box purchase (if you can find ’em!).
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: imperial brown ale, Old Cuban cocktail, 100 – 120 proof bourbon
- Purchase Recommendation: box purchase
- Superb Construction
- Dynamic yet refined mid-section
- Long-lasting for size
- Slow start
- High price