2014 was a big year for Drew Estate. Willy Herrera who had previously released the very successfully Herrera Esteli line joined Drew Estate as their master blender. The first release at the IPCPR 2014 in Las Vegas was the Herrera Esteli Norteño.
Available as 10 count boxes in soft press vitolas of: Coronita (4’ x 46 gauge), Corona Extra (4 3/4” x 48 gauge), Belicoso Fino (5” x 50 gauge), Robusto Grande (5 1/2“x 54 gauge), Toro (6” x 50 gauge) and lastly the Lonsdale Deluxe (6 1/2“x 44 gauge).
The bird on the band is the national bird of Nicaragua; the turquoise-browed motmot or Guardabarranco.
It’s not secret that I’m a fan of almost all the products that Drew Estate puts out. I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a table with Willy Herrera back in 2013 on my first cigar safari, and we had free reign to smoke all of the Herrera Esteli vitolas that were available. When I found out that Willy was blending a super full bodied follow up to that amazing release, I had it on my calendar.
The IPCPR 2014 in Las Vegas gave us our first opportunity to sample them for the first time, handed to us by Jonathan Drew himself. Fortunately we were able to secure samples for a proper review.
The nose on the Norteño is outrageous. Notes of molasses, cedar and a heavy pepper have me salivating to light up.
My first few draws are exactly as advertised on the nose. Thick molasses with an equally heavy pepper with a curious very dry mouthfeel. A few minutes in and there’s almost a pipe tobacco-esque smoky finish to it. Some sweetness bleeds through the heavy flavor profile as the first third winds down.
The second third has savory cedar and more of the peppery molasses but it finds a perfect balance here as the complexity starts to notch up. The dry mouthfeel from the first third is complete gone. Retrohale brings through strong clear flavor notes without any bite or harshness to it. Once I hit the mid-point of the cigar I can really feel the tobacco strength hitting home. A last note of heavy earth enters into the mix before the final third.
The last third is a medley of all of the previous flavors fighting for dominance. They seem to wax and wane through the last third until it becomes quite earthy to finish.
The Herrera Esteli Norteño is a fantastic entry into the already full Drew Estate line-up. I do want to revisit these after a few months because I have the suspicion that they will be even better and the review will notch up to a 93 or 94.
The Norteño is a no brainer box split choice for me.
The Norteno is the newest release from Willie Herrera and Drew Estate. This is the follow up to one of my absolute favorite cigars, the Herrera Esteli. I’m tellin’ you, if you haven’t smoked the Herrera Esteli in the Lonsdale vitola, then you are missing out and I don’t know what I can do for you. With that being said, I had very high expectations for this one.
Flavor: I talked with Willie at IPCPR 2014 and he warned me that this is a very different blend than the Herrera Esteli. The flavor profile is much more rich and full, so I was prepared. Right off the bat I was hit with classic maduro flavors of dark chocolate, molasses and damp earth. There was a white spice on the retrohale that quickly transitioned to a heavy black pepper spice. The flavors maintained their balance for the first half.
In the second half the pepper ramped up to a high level and the chocolate took on a bittersweet vibe. Things held in that frame for the remainder of the second half. There were points when the sweetness ramped up and other points when the spice really took over.
Strength: Willie was right when he said this was a richer and stronger cigar, but it wasn’t super strong. I would call it a medium strength with a trend toward a medium-plus. Not overpowering by any means.
Recommendation: If you like maduro cigars, then you need to check out the Norteno. I said above that I feel this cigar is good now and has potential to be great with a few months of rest. That is in reference to the pepper. It had a little too much pepper spice for me. That spice will calm down with some rest so I really want to revisit the Norteno in October or December. If you are looking for a powerhouse, then you should temper your expectations. The Norteno has some strength, but it’s not a powerhouse.
The Norteno has a chance to be an amazing cigar and right now it is a very good cigar. Seek out the Norteno and you will be pleased.
Probably one of the cigars I was most eager to try going into IPCPR was the Herrera Esteli Norteno. I've enjoyed much of what Willy Herrera has blended in the past, and I anticipated much the same with the Norteno. The Norteno's band reminds me a bit of the Herrera Esteli, and I'm really digging the color scheme. The wrapper - a dark brown Mexican San Andres - might be the toothiest wrapper I've seen in awhile. Pre-light draw gives me a myriad of flavors - part sweet cedar, part bitter chocolate and part dry grass-like in that order.
Upon light, you're immediately smacked in the face with a powerful shot of pepper. The pepper - like a hot, burn your tongue kind, not black - is heavy and dominating, but once you hit the half inch mark, it slows its roll. The pepper remains the story of the show, but you get some subtle flavors of earth and sweet cedar that hit you to accentuate the pepper. The spice slowly takes a step back while chocolate and cedar marry. The spice remains on the finish and I feel like it begins to slowly return as I enter the finale. The cedar and spice ramp back up in the final third and the cedar has a twinge of leather-like flavors as we hit the nub.
I have to assume that most people will compare the Norteno to the first Herrera Esteli - it is inevitable. They are two very different cigars, and I am not sure they will appeal to the same people. Surprisingly, I think I prefer the original a tad, but this remains a very good cigar, and I'm definitely eager to try it again in a month or two to see how it develops over time.