I've talked about it in the past, but there's something about going from a high elevation place to a low elevation, high heat and high humidity place. People have asked me in the past how I'm able to smoke so many cigars while on the Cigar Safari. Honestly if I were to smoke 4 cigars in half a day at home I would likely spend most of the evening and the next day sick.
I think it's a combination of being able to smoke at a very relaxed pace, and increased oxygen coupled with increased heat raising nicotine tolerance.
The other consequence, or benefit as I see it, is that I just can't sleep for very long. I'm sure a lot of it is the excitement but Thursday I was wide awake at 6 am and I knew there was no way I was getting back to sleep. I hopped in the shower to wash some of the cigar stink off me and headed out to the pool area for some coffee and cigars.
Enjoying a morning cigar and coffee with James.
Now I'm not much of an ACID or infused smoker, but my experiences on this Safari definitely opened my eyes in trying new things. Bill and Dave suggested I try a Tabak with my morning coffee. It was my first Tabak (I smoked a Dulce this morning I believe) and it was an excellent pairing to start the day. The sweetened cap didn't see as intense to my as the Natural line, and the blend was medium bodied so my palate had a chance to ease into the day.
I sat out on the veranda looking over the valley in Esteli and just tried to soak it all in. I knew that my time here was limited and precious so I was determined to make the most of it.
Derek taking in some sunshine before the day got started.
After a while everyone made their way into the pool area for breakfast. Another amazing breakfast with many traditional Nicaraguan offerings. I can't speak enough about the food on the Safaris. You're getting a quality (and quantity) of food that would absolutely rival the best restaurants you could go to.
Everyone finished up with their breakfast and we hopped back onto the Safari bus for the short ride out to some tobacco fields.
On RedditCATS Trip #1, someone in the group suggested that we should have farmer hats for going out to the field. It looks like JD was listening because this year we got some fantastic oversized farmer hats.
My roomie Dave. Super chill guy.
Kito listening to JD talk about tobacco fields.
The smell of tobacco pilones is something amazing.
Each one of these seedling specs represents a tobacco plant.
JD talks about the different growing regions and how it all comes together. I could listen to him talk about the industry for days and never get bored.
Pedro has a chance to enjoy a cigar while JD drops some knowledge on us.
Tom Navarro listening with interest as JD goes into depth about growing tobacco.
One of the main points of focus was the seedling nursery which was a new experience.
The nursery looks quite small but a single nursery can produce a staggering 27,000 plants. That seems like an impressive number until you realize that Drew Estate's tobacco production is burning through more than 80,000 plants in a single day. I didn't recall the number of Manzana's (Nicaragua's measurement of field size) that a nursery produced but it was also quite significant.
JD listens intently as Pedro talks about tobacco growing.
Although it looks like JD is threatening us with a machete, he was demonstrating stalk cutting and gave the machete to Dave to try his hand. Dave did a fantastic job and attacked it like a man possessed.
Here is the curing barn, and the windows and doors were closed to raise temperature. We saw a closed curing barn with holes in the ground used to raise temperature. You can still see some green on the edges of the leaves so they haven’t been in here for a long time yet.
JD talked about curing barns and KFC tobacco at length. He talked about the process getting the KFC to market and the challenges they had with get the fire cured leaves to burn.
Hop on the bus and off to the Oliva factory, one of my favorite cigar companies. I get a lot of grief for being a Drew Estate fan boy, but I have far more boxes of Oliva product than any other brand. Being able to tour their factory was an amazing experience.
Maria shows some of the molds they use for cigars at Oliva.
This is a draw test machine. Maria mentioned that cigars as tested in groups of 10. You test 1 cigar out of that group and if it fails, they have to test the remaining 9.
Area 2 was a nub only area where the top rollers go. This is where the nub production is.
A box press machine with some box press cigars already stacked.
The holding area where cigars rest at least a month was divided between maduro and Connecticut wrapped cigars. The maduro wrappers are so moist that they would completely destroy Connecticut cigars if they were stored in the same area.
The one room alone held a staggering 500,000 cigars. Some keen eyes in the group spotted some unusual stock on the top shelves.
Some original Master Blend 1 and 2 on the very top shelf. Tempting to climb up and get them …
Saw the banding area where Linda and Gloria got to try their hand at applying bands. It is obviously much harder than it appears. Linda tried her hand first.
There was an interesting bundle of tobacco in a pilone that Oliva doesn’t use. Either they’re looking at blending a new product or just experimenting to find something interesting.
James tries to identify the tobacco origin by smell.
From there we went into the office for some beverages and a cigar sampler from Oliva. Aaron was generous enough to give me the Oliva Culebra he had won during our tour, which I split with Rahim and Rob.
Hopped onto the bus to head to JdN, it was nice to see Mario again.
The board room was a significant upgrade from last year. Plush chairs and a large table with a projector.
We were shown a presentation on the history of JdN cigars which was fantastic.
Mario walked us through the de-veining and sorting areas. We went into a holding room where we looked at the 3 different types of leaves (viso, seco, ligero).
Watched a roller do bunching and another roller apply the wrapper.
Another visit to the resting room where there are hundreds of half wheels sitting on shelves.
Walked through the boxing and banding area.
Here the cigars are sorted for color consistency before being boxed.
From there we went out back for some custom blending. A wide assortment of amazing Nicaraguan coffee, chocolate and rums.
After our time at JdN we went to the leather shop where people could buy belts, hats shoes. Also a souvenir shop. We headed back to Drew Estate to relax.
At dinner time Henry brought out a box of L40s. The box was empty in the time you could snap your fingers.
After dinner Jessi did a tattoo for James.
By that point I was pretty tired having carried the camera around the entire day. So I didn’t manage to snap any photos or videos after the tattoo session.
I finished the night played poker with the same group and JD sat in. Got beat by Brooke with a 10 high flush over my 9 high flush. Shiyong was the big winner for the night.
Next up …