FSG by Drew Estate
FSG Drew Estate
Owner: Jeff Borysiewicz, Florida Sun Grown
Master Blender: Willy Herrera, Drew Estate
Some people might never have been exposed to FSG. Tell us about this project, where it began, and what challenges you’ve faced reviving cigar tobacco in Florida.
JB: Florida Sun Grown is a tobacco project we started in 2013. We didn’t invent this whole thing. We resurrected it. Cigar tobacco hasn’t been growing in Florida for 150 years, and what I really focused on is that Florida had two primary types of tobacco. One was the shade grown, which was Sumatra seed, which was competing against Connecticut, and then the other was what the Cubans came over for, which was the Cuban seed, and the Cuban tobacco. During the Spanish American War, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of Cuba. These tobacco farmers came over who were traditionally selling their tobaccos to the factories in the United States. They knew they needed to do something because there was a blockade on Havana Harbor. So they went to Ybor City and ended up in a place called Fort Meade. They had a 350-acre tobacco plantation. That is a tremendous amount of tobacco. This was done in 1895, ‘96, ‘97, ‘98, when the war was brewing and when the war was occurring.
So there’s a very long intertwined history between Florida, Cuba and tobacco. I’m trying to keep that history alive. Our target yield is between five and six thousand pounds of tobacco. That’s not a whole lot, but it is a whole lot of work. There’s a reason nobody is growing cigar tobacco in Florida anymore. It’s because it’s impossible to make money. You’ll lose money.
We want to do it where we have a brand that’s available on a national level. That’s where we partner with Drew Estate and Willy Herrera and the skills that these guys have in Nicaragua. It’s one thing to grow tobacco and cure it, but you can mess this up at every step of the way. Let’s say these guys ferment a pilón that’s got too much water, too much heat. You don’t realize that that could be $400,000 worth of tobacco gone. If you’re growing tobacco, you never want to get cocky.
Drew Estate committed early to FSG. What’s it been like to blend with FSG and how did you land at the current blend?
WH: Man, it was a lot of going back and forth with Jeff, a lot of trips to Orlando to smoke samples. When I first joined Drew Estate, 85 percent of the tobaccos I was working with at Drew Estate were new to me. I hadn’t worked with those tobaccos in my family’s factory in Miami. With FSG it was the same thing. It was a new tobacco, I had never worked with it, I didn’t know how it would blend with other wrappers, other binders, other fillers, so it was a lot of trial and error. We were trying to target a certain profile based on what Jeff and his team were looking for. So it was just make blends, smoke them. If it was OK, we would put it on one pile and if it was bad, we get rid of it and start all over. So it was just creating blends, testing and tweaking until everybody thought, “This is great.”
JB: This was brand new for anybody to work with and that was one of the biggest challenges. Because you can put it in a pilón and wonder, “Do I treat it like Corojo grown in Nicaragua? Do I treat it like Broadleaf grown in Connecticut?” This is where things can get expensive. Fermentation on all these tobaccos is different. Anybody who had worked with this stuff is dead. The industry hasn’t had a new leaf to work with in a long time, but Drew Estate took that challenge and perfected the fermentation process for FSG.