When Drew Estate’s Kentucky Fire Cured cigars were released in 2013, the cigars landed in the midst of a brief cigar boom of fire-cured tobacco experimentation. And while some would say Drew Estate was late to the party, four years later, they’re basically the only player left in the game. The company further solidified their rank as the fire-cured champion in 2016, venturing deeper into the heart of unusual/experimental tobacco flavor experiences with a followup project dubbed Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang—a cigar that combines fire-cured tobaccos with a bright green candela wrapper.

As with the Kentucky Fire Cured cigar before it, Swamp Thang falls under Drew Estate’s MUWAT brand, which is a collaboration between Drew Estate’s own Subculture Studios (an art studio within the Drew Estate factory) and Joya de Nicaragua. As such, the cigars exhibit greater liberties in the design; carrying over the kraft paper packaging seen throughout MUWAT releases and showcasing perhaps the most unorthodox label design from Drew Estate to date.

SEE ALSO: The Most Exciting New Cigars from the First Half of 2017

But it’s the cigar’s unusual blend that has brought the most attention from cigar hobbyists, as Drew Estate has become the first premium cigar manufacturer to combine the unique attributes of fire-cured tobaccos and a candela wrapper. To accomplish this, the cigars offer a dual wrapper, which hides its seam beneath the cigar’s band. The first wrapper leaf is a vibrant green candela leaf, which covers the entire cigar. The cigar is then further wrapped in a natural shade leaf that has been barrel-fermented and fire-cured. But, in a similar fashion to the original Kentucky Fire Cured cigar, Drew Estate has remained tight-lipped about the complete details of the blend. It is assumed there are fire-cured tobaccos in the cigar’s filler as well, but this is not specified.

ADDITIONAL INFO: CANDELA & FIRE-CURED TOBACCOS

CANDELA

  • Candela-wrapped cigars feature a green-colored leaf, attained by raising the heat of the curing process much higher than normal (165°, compared to under 90° for a standard leaf curing process)
  • Curing Candela leaves takes only 3 days time, compared to 30 to 45 days for standard tobacco
  • Candela leaves do not require fermentation or aging, further reducing pre-market time by months or years
  • The Candela-curing process was discovered in Cuba in the 1940s
  • Candela cigars were once the most popular choice in the US (late ’50s – early ’70s), becoming known as “American Market Selection”
  • Candela-wrapped cigars were replaced (in popularity) by Connecticut Shade wrappers

FIRE-CURED

  • Fire curing tobaccos is one of the oldest curing processes for tobacco, dating back hundreds of years
  • Fire curing tobaccos involves sealing hanging leaves in barns, gradually heating the tobacco with the smoke of smoldering fires from various wood types
  • Fire curing involves a similar process to curing Candela leaves, only taking a longer period of time and intentionally showcasing the aromas of the smoke; rather than the shorter, hotter, and odorless heating process used for Candela
  • Fire-cured tobacco is most commonly seen in pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco
  • Drew Estate features Kentucky-grown and fire-cured tobaccos in their Kentucky Fire Cured cigars
  • Drew Estate holds events each year at the curing barns in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where attendees are shown the process used on the tobaccos in the Kentucky Fire Cured cigars

Drew Estate Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang 360

Swamp Thang Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Dominican Candela | Undisclosed Kentucky Fire-Cured
  • Binder: Undisclosed
  • Filler: Undisclosed
  • Factory: Joya de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
  • Production: Regular Production
  • Vitola: 6″ x 52 Toro
  • Price: $8.75 (MSRP)

Swamp Thang was unveiled at Drew Estate’s trade show booth for IPCPR 2016, displayed in three sizes: Toro (6 x 52), Robusto (5 x 54), and Swamp Rat (6 x 46); which continues the theme of Drew Estate’s notorious rat imagery, as heralded by Subculture Studios’ mastermind, Jessi Flores. Despite the introduction, the cigars would not be experienced by consumers until October of that year, as Drew Estate handed out samples to attendees of their annual Kentucky Barn Smoker event. The blend would then go dormant once more, finally shipping to retailers in late April of 2017.

The blend was described by Drew Estate—

Pairing the smokiness of Fire Cured Tobacco with the sweetness of Candela wrapper, Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp creates a uniquely balanced, complex and savory cigar; perfect for fans of both Fire Cured and Candela tobaccos.

Appearance

Click images below for full resolution

As with all candela-wrapped cigars, the look of Swamp Thang is eye-catching, easily standing out in crammed humidors of various shades of brown. Perhaps its the marketing or the contrast from the natural shade wrapper against green candela, but Swamp Thang’s candela wrapper seems to carry an extra greenish green, reminiscent of the preternatural, neon-green ooze seen throughout the late ’80s (à la Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, aka my childhood).

The ultra-green hue of the the cigar’s wrapper is paired with the familiar kraft paper bands seen on the original Kentucky Fire Cured cigars. The biggest change to the cigar’s look, aside from the candela leaf, is the paper bundles that house the ten cigars. While the original cigars showcased a traditional slice of Americana, featuring a design one would expect to see situated cater-cornered in ink next to ol’ Dale Junior, the Swamp Thang and Swamp Rat cigars are more akin to 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon. The kraft paper bundles have traded in their natural, brown hue for a muted green. And the stickers that adorn the package’s front (simultaneously holding the paper bundle together) now showcase artistic, comic book-like renderings of the creatures for which the cigars are named. The whole idea here is that this is a diabolical project that just shouldn’t be… and yet here it is, piquing the interest of even the most purist of aficionados (okay, that may be a stretch, but you get the idea).

Click images below for full resolution



The candela wrapper is very bright green, showing a multitude of light veins and clearly visible seams; as well as an occasional splotch of dark green across the wrapper. The natural wrapper is quite oily and has a solid look to it. The construction feels solid and very consistent from head to toe, with no soft spots to be found. Upon cutting the cigar’s head, you’ll notice the candela wrapper peeking through; showing that the cigar is fully candela-wrapped, with the natural wrapper being the final component of the cigar’s construction.

The aroma is dominated by the cigar’s fire-cured tobacco (as it tends to do), offering a repair shop / garage-like smell straight away. The smokiness overpowers the candela wrapper’s aroma, and the notes become more BBQ-like when hovering over the natural wrapper. On the foot, the cigar smells of a freshly lit charcoal grill. And with a quick cut, Swamp Thang unveils a medium-plus draw resistance, showing barbecued notes of pork crust.

Smoking Experience

Swamp Thang kicks off with a light smokiness and decent amount of sweetness/tanginess. Unlike your average cigar (especially from Nicaragua), there is barely any spice in the retrohale to be found. The profile is sweet and mellow, offering a floral, perfume-like note and subtle nuances of greenery / lemon grass. There is also the expected smokiness, though it is much less pronounced than anticipated (interestingly, the larger Robusto size seemed to showcase much more of this smokey quality). This BBQ smokiness is sometimes welcomed, showing BBQ/molasses/hickory/meaty/campfire notes; but other times off-putting, bringing a grease-like/garage/”BO” sensation. This “body odor” vibe is interesting, as you’ll often notice the same peculiarity with various woods, as when walking down the millworks aisle of your local hardware store (try it for yourself). The connection here is that the fire-cured flavors are from these same “various woods” being smoked into the tobacco—interesting but peculiar.

Drew Estate Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang Toro review

The cigar exhibits a medium smoke output through a medium-firm draw resistance. This produces a flakey ash that falls after only a half-inch—though, the cigar rebounds from this, with later ash drops falling in one-and-a-half-inch chunks. The burn line is wavy but very manageable, not requiring any adjustments or touchups.

Progressing, the cigar displays further notes of greenery, with a noticeable green banana vibe. This is backed by a more interesting combination of sweet, charred oak and vanilla and an appreciated sweetness of the raw tobaccos against the tongue. As the smoke builds, a lingering spice is eventually detectable; it’s not intense but is noticeable as a subtle biting sensation at the tale-end of retrohales.

The smoke is medium on all fronts: flavor, strength, and body; providing light and aromatic aromas and flavors throughout. Nearing the wrapper change, the cigar becomes darker, with more charred woods, anise, a touch of chocolate, and caramel. Even still, the overall vibe is sweet and airy. As the wrapper switches, there is no noticeable flavor change (mostly caramel, dark toast, and oak)—as this happens too close to the cigar’s nub, where the heated tobaccos provide little in the way of discernible complexities.

Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang Toro review

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

No problem. While I’m the first to admit candelas rank among my least favorite wrappers, I also have a soft spot for innovation and experimentation! This is certainly not a traditional smoking experience, I think that’s made more than clear; but it’s not in the realm of infused cigars either, which I think most enthusiasts can appreciate.

When the original Kentucky Fire Cured arrived in 2013, I was not a fan. Luckily, as most hobbyists will note, the cigars seemed to have been slightly tweaked after the original release, becoming much less overwhelming and more in the realm of something a traditional cigar smoker would smoke. Drew Estate seems to have taken this a step further with Swamp Thang, as there are times when the fire-cured smokiness is barely noticeable. As I mentioned before, the fire-cured flavors seem to be much more available in the larger size of this blend. Personally, I’d choose this (the Toro) or the Swamp Rat (which I have yet to try).

  • Smoke Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: mezcal, peaty Scotch, kombucha
  • Purchase Recommendation: 3 cigars (one of each size)
Drew Estate Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang Toro cigar nubbed

Images without Cigar Dojo watermark were provided by Drew Estate

Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang
In a sense, it isn't truly fair to give Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang the classic review/rating, as the cigar doesn't really fit the mold of a traditional cigar smoking experience. But in another sense, this is our job; helping to guide the cigar smoker's purchase inclinations. Therefore, we suggest you look more towards our experience rather the final numerical rating, as this was a fun experiment for the enthusiast in constant search of new challenges for the taste buds!Construction-wise, Swamp Thang performed admirably—you really couldn't ask for much more in a stick of this price. Unfortunately, the flavors didn't meld quite as well as I'd have hoped—offering more of a clear division of "candela on one side and fire-cure on the other," rather my hope for a newfound fusion of the two.Sometimes our palates need an occasional jumpstart to awaken the senses—a palate cleanser, if you will... and in that case, Swamp Thang is just what the doctor ordered.
Appearance91%
Burn/Construction96%
Draw95%
Flavor82%
Complexity65%
Price/Value87%
Pros
  • No touchups
  • Atypical flavors
  • Great construction
Cons
  • Flavors are certainly not for everyone
  • Wrapper change is too low to be noticeable
  • Lacks flavor development
86%It's ALIVE!

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