I know most of the media guys on the recent Cigar Safari trip have been banging out articles about the trip, but for some reason, it has been difficult for me to write about it. I guess you can call it writer’s block, being terrible with the written word, being scared of writing something that isn’t good, or a host of other things.
If I really want to boil it down, it would be impossible for me to explain how amazing this trip was. I can’t explain how DE smelled, the sounds I heard in DE1 on the production floor, or how breathtaking the sunrise was from the back patio each morning. This is why Seth and I are going to have a show on 4/29 with some special guests from Drew Estate - so I can better articulate my experience. Until then, I will do my best to put it into the written word.
I was nervous to go on the trip because most of the guys know way more about cigars than I do. I was worried about holding a conversation, not smoking some super special release everyone else had, or knowing the blends of every Drew Estate cigar. I was nervous. In hindsight, it was actually really stupid to worry about these trivial things because all of the guys on the trip were super chill, welcomed me in, and talked about everything other than cigars. At the end of the day, we were all dudes from various walks of life who had at least one thing in common - the love of cigars.
Willy Herrera is one big ass dude. He reminds me of the Jolly Green Giant. He was super chill, and helped me with my blend. I know for a fact I wouldn’t want to take a punch in the face from him. Not only is he one big dude, but he was super welcoming. I talked to Willy about my blend during the blend session, and he gave me some great advice. He took time out of his day to work with us, and while I was walking around in a frenzy trying to figure out what I was going to blend, he saw the look of confusion on my face, and offered his assistance.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity to blend a cigar, it is FAR more difficult than one could ever imagine. You don’t just throw leaves of tobacco in a cigar, and it is done. You have to smoke the individual tobaccos, smell the individual leaves, and light each leaf to get the aroma. Some good advice I heard during one of the factory tours was that “you can’t be a master blender until you know exactly how each tobacco should taste, smell, and burn before you even light it. Blending cigars is a process, not an event”. I don’t think there could be a more accurate statement.
JD and I got to talk quite a bit on the bus ride from Managua to Esteli. I have never gotten to speak with JD for an extended period of time before, and it was one of the most interesting chats I have had. I was expecting to talk about cigars and Cigar Federation, which we did, but we also talked about my job, the company I work at, who I thought my company’s competitors were, and other stuff.
It blew my mind time and time again during the trip how savvy Drew Estate is at business. Behind the marketing, packaging, and cigars there are countless individuals who are super intelligent and keep the pulse not only of the cigar market, but general business and worldly happenings. I think this is one of the things which make Drew Estate so great.
If Nicholas Melillo ever leaves Drew Estate, I know where he can work. He will be able to get work as a psychic since he predicted the recent Esteli earthquake based on the current alignment of Mars and the Moon. It was crazy shit, but if he tells me to buy a lottery ticket, I am going to listen.
Nick, for those who don’t know, is the master blender at Drew Estate. After this trip, I learned he does WAY more than just smoke cigars all day. He purchases a lot of their tobacco, oversees the pilon ageing and fermenting, and is also a bad ass poker player who whooped my ass several times.
Waking up and drinking coffee and listening to Seth talk about some hippy herbal shit he was using for soap while watching the sun rise over Esteli is something I will never forget. Also, it was great finally getting to meet Seth in person after chatting with him and smoking cigars on Skype for countless hours.
I learned how to play dominos and my dumb gringo ass was laying the hurt on some pretty seasoned players which I won’t mention their names because they will probably deny it anyways. I am pretty confident Seth and I could take about anyone on in dominos now. After dinner was a blast. All the guys sat around and drank, played cards, and watching TV. Although we were there to learn about cigars, which we did from 8 until 6 every day, I would compare the nights to being in a cigar lounge. We came together to smoke cigars, hang out, and share the common bond of cigars which bound us all together.
I have a decent amount of formal book learning, and have managed teams at my current job. I think the older I have gotten, the more I have gotten away from having fun at work. When I was managing sales teams, when I was like 25, we had a ball. Now, I find myself sending out emails micromanaging people, which isn’t me, but I know there are results I have to deliver. Watching everyone at Drew Estate have a blast working together, obtaining amazing results, and still love coming into work is something I took away which will apply again in my career.
Seth got called Jesus in the streets of Esteli by a guy asking for money. No kidding. The best part was sitting next to the guys outside this leather shop and watching Seth explain how this guy had two paths he could take. He could use the money to get himself drunk for a night, or he could use the money to feed himself for a week. Seth is still convinced he took option two.
Poor Eric Scism had to listen to me snore because we were roomed together. I feel sorry for that bastard because I can wake the freaking dead. It was great getting to meet Eric and learning about his job, and I was able to pick his brain on a lot of stuff. I look forward to hanging out with him whenever I travel to Nashvegas for work.
I learned Brooke is a cheater in cards when he tried to pull this “wrap around straight” bullshit. Cool guy, but I will never leave my wallet out around him. Also, Brooke explained how the “dark net” works. I had no idea there was even an unpublished parts of the internet.
Sam from Drew Estate might be one of the funniest people I have ever met. I didn’t know it was possible for someone to use Rome in several different contexts. I keep hearing, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or “All roads lead to Rome”. If you have noticed with Drew Estate they are doing a lot around email marketing, which is Sam’s baby. I got to pick his brain around some best practices while he told me some amazing drunk stories.
I am honored to have even been extended an invitation to the trip, had the best time I could have possibly had, learned a ton, made several new lifelong friends, and I won’t be able to ever put in the written word how awesome it was. The only way for you to truly understand is for you to experience yourself.
I think I will probably do a better job explaining how awesome this trip was when Seth and I do the video show on our experience next week.