Editor's Note: I've been meaning to port my old blogs over to Cigar Federation for awhile now, but have just been too lazy to do it. This is a blog I posted on another forum in late May 2012 after my Cigar Safari trip - I have not made any updates to this.
Good morning from Esteli! Quick notes - I might rush through this as I have 20 minutes to get all this down before I have to go. At the end of the trip, I'll have a more thorough summary of the trip and the events and the people. I'm doing this to keep you all updated and to make sure I don't forget any good parts of the story for later. Also, many have asked for pictures. I have taken a LOT of pictures AND videos. Unfortunately, due to time and Internet connection, those will have to wait until I return, but STAY TUNED!
Thursday started at roughly 7:00am with a cold shower and a breakfast at Hotel Colonial in Granada. I had some scrambled eggs with a side of pico gallo, some salty cheese that is unknown to me, and some of the freshest fruit I've ever tasted. Also, there was some sort of juice that was served - I can't explain it...I'm not sure what it was...but it was orgasmic!
After breakfast, we got back on the bus and proceeded to be engulfed with street merchants trying to sell their "wares" to us. With their non-existant English and our "poquito" Spanish, it still amazed me at the haggling we were able to accomplish back and forth. Needless to say, it was an extremely fun 45 minutes or so as we were practically attacked from outside the bus!
Shortly after 10am, we departed Granada and began making our way on the 3 hour journey to Esteli. This was really a great time. Conversations continued, and ranged from cigars to our real life jobs to sports to music. Finally, Johnny Brooke commandeered Pedro's iPod and we went from listening to all reggae to some classic rock that seemed to really get the party started and make us all pine for 'Rock Band' guitars so we could prove how great our musical skills were! Some excellent cigars were smoked, lots of Tona beer was consumed, and we took in the beautiful landscape - from mountains to rice paddies.
Shortly after noon, we arrived in Esteli and the expansive Drew Estate. We immediately were ushered onto the back patio near the pool for a lunch as we overlooked the tobacco fields.
After lunch, the bonding/Nicaragua portion of the trip came to a close and we officially began the "cigar tour". We hopped back on the bus and made our way to Joyo de Nicaragua factory - the oldest cigar factory in Central America.
There, Mario Perez and Jose Blanco greeted us and proceeded to take us on a tour of the JdN factory. Beyond the extreme heat and humidity, this was really a thrilling look at the "romantic" side of cigar creation. If you haven't been on a tour like this and you are an enthusiast, what are you waiting for? From the fermenting of leaves to the preparation to the rolling to the aging to the packaging, we went through the entire factory.
At the completion of the tour, we all headed outside and Mario and Jose invited us to use some of the information they just imparted on us to blend our own personal cigars. Everyone knew this was coming, but for a bunch of "cigar junkies", I still got a kick at watching everyone smiling and giggling like little school girls as they went through the process. I ended up with a Habano Criollo wrapper, CT - Ecuador binder, and a filler comprised of Condega Seco, Jalapa and Esteli Viso and Esteli Ligero. Hopefully it will be an enjoyable smoke with some kick, but it might suck too...we'll see!
At the completion, Jose asked us to stop smoking until after dinner as he had a surprise in store for us so we made our way back to Drew Estate, popped Moneyball on TV, had a few drinks and waited for dinner. Dinner, again was a fantastic meal as Jose and his fiance joined us - soup and chicken with some fantastic sauces that I can't even describe.
After dinner, Jose asked us to all come sit around two tables and he proceeded to impart his wisdom in his Tasting Seminar. Each of us was given a specially rolled cigar which had 5 different wrappers separated (think JdN Cabinetta). The goal of the seminar was to get us all to realize the fantastic effect different wrappers have on the cigar smoking experience. Over the next 2 hours or so, Jose and then Jose and Steve Saka imparted so much wisdom on us I can't even begin to detail. From Jose discussing the differences in flavors and aroma and balance and complexity to Steve detailed the origination of tobacco seeds in Peru to their spread through the Americas, this was a cigar enthusiasts wet dream!
After the seminar, we all thanked Jose and then headed up to the Drew Estate clubhouse (think the coolest man cave you can possible imagine) with Steve for lots more drinking, many more cigars the finish of Moneyball and some old Jackass clips.
I've cut this post short as I've already gone 10 minutes over my allotted time, but I hope I've given the basics to everyone.
Cigars Smoked Day 2: JdN 1970 Antano, T52, MUWAT Bait Fish, JdN Cabinetta, Big Black Rat, and JdN Cabinetta Lancero (also the tasting seminar cigar). The MUWAT Bait Fish - much smaller than the traditional large ring gauge - was actually quite pleasurable. I don't claim to be a reviewer and I've only had one, so I won't go into too much detail, but I think I enjoy the Bait Fish more than the traditional MUWATs. The Big Black Rat - a take-off on the Dirty Rat with a different wrapper - was very enjoyable. I'm not sure I liked it better than the Dirty Rat - one of, if not my favorite, DE stick - but definitely something I'd smoke again.
Let me reemphasize. I'm not saying this trip is for everyone - as much as I wish my lovely fiance was here, I'm not sure she'd be enjoying herself quite as much as I am - but if you are an enthusiast, you need to find a way to make this trip. You need to find a way to take Jose Blanco's seminar. You need to find a way to see what's going on down here and experience this for yourself. JD and everyone have been giving us a first class trip. We have been treated like kings, and my mom would be happy to know that we're extremely safe. The DE Cigar Safari is a MUST DO event and I'm not just blowing smoke up your a****!
That's all for now. Again, I'm just trying to get my thoughts on paper and I'm cutting this short so I can eat breakfast! I'll try to give more thorough information once I return. Hope all is well! Adios from Nicaragua!