A sub-two-dollar cigar; it’s a style few thought would ever come out of the revered La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate factory, even when taking into account the tin-packaged cigars that began making their way to retailers in 2017. Drew Estate has made it known that the company opposes the “factory seconds” style sometimes released by other factories—that is, offering cigars that didn’t meet quality standards for regular-production brands at discounted prices. But this mindset doesn’t, however, extend into the category of “bundle cigars,” as Drew Estate debuted a line of four cigars in 2018, intended to offer consumers an extreme value, while maintaining Drew Estate’s unorthodox flair.
The brand is Factory Smokes by Drew Estate, debuting at the cigar industry’s annual IPCPR trade show with four styles: Maduro, Shade, Sun Grown, and Sweet. The cigars are touted as being rolled “alongside the same buncheros and rolleros who create premium cigars,” with understated packaging and bulk manufacturing processes being used to offer the cigars at prices much lower than previously seen from Drew Estate—ranging from $1.60 to $2.10 per cigar.
Factory Smokes Maduro Toro Breakdown
- Wrapper: Maduro
- Binder: Indonesia
- Filler: Indonesia
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 52 (Toro)
- Price: $1.70 (MSRP)
Incorporating a nondescript “Maduro” wrapper over an Indonesian binder and mixed-fill Indonesian filler (a tobacco commonly known for delivering high flavor/cost value), Factory Smokes Maduro is rolled in four sizes:
- Robusto: 5″ x 54 | $1.60 (MSRP) | $40.00 / bundle of 25
- Toro: 6″ x 52 | $1.70 (MSRP) | $42.50 / bundle of 25
- Churchill: 7″ x 50 | $1.80 (MSRP) | $45.00 / bundle of 25
- Gordito: 6″ x 60 | $2.10 (MSRP) | $52.50 / bundle of 25
Unsurprisingly, when inspecting a $1.70 toro, the cigar is not the picture of perfection. The presentation begins with a generic, clear cellophane bundle, holding together five rows of five cigars. The bands are more eye-catching than your standard value ‘gar, with bold text and bright colors to differentiate each blend style (brick red for the maduro). The cigar’s wrapper is veiny and rough to the touch, with some wrapper veins being thick enough to alter the cigar’s overall shape. The rough leaf causes the seams to appear loose, spiraling to a double cap at the toro’s head. The bunch feels about medium, showing no noticeable soft spots and a decent overall feel—all things considered.
The Maduro wrapper smells of hickory, natural tobacco, and campfire; this is joined by cherry pipe tobacco and a damp mustiness on the foot. With a pre-light draw, there are light notes of earth and natural tobacco, shown through a pleasantly medium draw resistance.
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Before diving in, I feel it needs to be restated that this is, in fact, a sub-two-dollar cigar.
It’s an interesting start for the Factory Smokes Maduro; it takes me a few puffs to gather myself, eventually interpreting the profile as a mixture of burning brush, chocolate, and natural tobacco sweetness. Each puff seems to begin with a jarring harshness, eventually mellowing into a surprisingly flavorful mid-section, before finishing with an underlying sweetness (and a return to harshness in the late finish). Additional flavors to materialize in the first half come in the form of a woodsy smokiness, bitter cocoa, and Cherry Coke (perhaps the cigar’s most interesting/unique characteristic).
Despite the rough appearance, this toro boasts a much better construction than anticipated. The burn line is wavy at worst, accumulating semi-solid chunks of white ash that seem to hold for around an inch and a half. In true Drew Estate fashion, the cigar spews with smoke; it’s not quite up to the volcanic stream of smoke found throughout the Liga Privada series, but still greater than average. The draw proves slightly more firm than the pre-light, but it’s still very favorable—about two ticks firmer than dead medium. In terms of overall profile, the smoke nearly medium on all fronts—perhaps slightly lighter in the strength department.
Just a friendly reminder: this is a full-grown toro that costs less than two dollars.
Where the first half of the smoking experience far surpassed the cigar’s thrifty price, it seemed that the latter half was more in line with my preconceived notions of the mixed-filler style… Clay-like flavors were the first sign that things were becoming… a bit odd. This led to an earth-forward profile, with an off-putting astringency on the finish. Dark, roasted notes and tar-like flavors dominate the cigar’s later portions, with a final, somewhat positive flavor of burnt pumpkin seeds shining through before the conclusion.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Easy answer—I sure will!
Despite some bitterness and a second half that may warrant tossing long before you may be accustomed to, the Factory Smokes Maduro’s great construction, draw, enjoyable flavors throughout the first half, and insanely affordable price make for an easy recommendation.
With a cigar of this nature, the old adages of “treating a cigar like a woman” need not apply. Drew Estate admits as much, stating in a press release, “A handmade value priced line of cigars perfect for sharing with your friends on a Monday, mowing the lawn, washing the car, you know, smoke it, enjoy it, toss it if you must, then grab another.”
Say it with me: this is a TWO-DOLLAR cigar!
- All four Factory Smokes cigars use the same binder/filler, swapping the wrapper to offer different experiences.
- With names such as “Maduro,” “Sun Grown,” and “Shade,” one would be forgiven for mistaking the line as “factory seconds” of Drew Estate’s Undercrown series (with all three UC blends sharing the same secondary names), but the Factory Smokes are actually only similar in name (and perhaps wrapper varietal).
- After smoking all four Factory Smokes back to back, I’d rank/score them as such: Maduro (73) > Shade (73) > Sun Grown (69) > Sweet (62).
- There is enough flavor in the first half of each of these blends to warrant the $2 price point.
- As Cigar Dojo primarily reviews premium cigars, it was an interesting experiment to see where a non-premium would land on the 100-point scale. Ideologically, our scale is large enough to accommodate cigars of all styles, with “convenient store” cigars taking up the first 20-ish points, machine-made cigars roughly ranging from 20 to 40 points, mixed-fill cigars landing in the 40 to 75 range, factory seconds scoring between 60 and 85, and traditional premiums ranging from 70 to 100. Of course, any of these cigar styles could be scored outside of these numbers, but this offers an idea of how the 100-point system takes into account all cigar styles.
- When taking this scale into account, it becomes clear that the Factory Smokes by Drew Estate cigars are some of the best mixed-fill-style cigars currently on the market.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium-light
- Body: Medium
- Wild brush
- Natural tobacco
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Mexican Coca-Cola | Black coffee | Lager | Hamburger
- Purchase Recommendation: Spring for the bundle
- Higher-than-average smoke output
- Low maintainance
- Extremely cost efficient
- Astringency/bitterness (especially on finish)
- Rough appearance and outer construction
- Steep decline in flavor through second half