Master Blender for Drew Estate Cigar Co.: Willy Herrera
Undercrown is a monster brand. We wrote about it in our May/June 2021 issue where we wrote about the brand’s origins and trajectory since 2011. What was it like taking a blend that is already so successful, and celebrating it with a new version of itself?
It’s a very similar situation to when I was working on the Liga Privada 10-year anniversary blend.
The Undercrown 10 is a cigar that comes off the heels of an established brand, Undercrown. So it’s very different when you’re creating a cigar under the same name as an existing brand. For example, Liga Privada is our halo brand. Everybody knows Liga, everyone knows the Liga #9, the T52, and so on. Undercrown, it’s another one of our halo brands. So I went into this project along with our team in Nicaragua and said to them, “All right, we need to work on another Undercrown,” but just like I did for the Liga 10, I told them, “this needs to be an Undercrown on steroids.” By that I mean it needs to be richer, with much more depth, much stronger, but at the same time very smooth. And so that was the concept. Undercrown is a cigar that was blended by the team and born in the factory at Drew Estate. When there was a Liga shortage and they told the workers to smoke something else, they created Undercrown. And so, when we started this exercise for the Undercrown 10 I decided to again work very closely with the same team that developed the original Undercrown. I had a blend in mind, which I had them smoke and we just started to go back and forth, and back and forth. They would tweak it, give it back to me, and so on. We went on like this, until it got to the point where I really felt good about it and truly enjoyed it. Luckily they really enjoyed it also – the rest is history after that.
The Undercrown 10 comes in five sizes but one of them, the Lonsdale, comes with a very different presentation that you guys call the Factory Floor Edition. That’s a pretty unique box. Can you tell us what the thinking is behind that presentation?
Well the cool thing about this box is that we basically dissected the guts of the cigar and incorporated those tobaccos individually along with the actual cigars in the same package. We created a tobacco library, as we refer to it, where we basically rolled up a “tabaquiado” (a single varietal, single priming mini cigar used for tasting and blending purposes) of each tobacco in the blend to isolate the flavors. This, by the way, is how I taste new tobacco when I’m working on blends. Once it comes into the factory, I’ll roll up a tabaquiado so I can get the true taste of what that tobacco is like. The idea behind the factory floor box was to give consumers somewhat of an experience like what we do on the Drew Estate Cigar Safaris. Where on the last day you get to blend your own cigar. We take you into this room with shelves from one end of the wall to the other that have all the different tobaccos that we use on all of our cigars; wrappers, binders and all the different fillers. You get to smell them, feel them, and burn all these different tobaccos and get the aroma of what each tobacco gives off. By doing this it gives you an idea of which ligero to use, which viso to use, do I use from Brazil, or should I use from Honduras, so on and so forth. And so the cool idea behind this was for people to smell all these individual tobaccos, and then smoke the Undercrown 10 and see if they can pick up any of those individual aromas that they got from this library.