Nica Rustica (Pre-Release) by Drew Estate

The Nica Rustica is a new line of cigars that will be launched by Drew Estate at the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas this month.  Back in March, Drew Estate CEO Steve Saka did an interview in which he first discussed the project.  A couple of months later, we caught up with Saka in Esteli, Nicaragua and got some further insights of this project.  The blend of the Nica Rustica uses a locally (Nicaraguan) grown strain of tobacco out of the rustica family.  Rustica (or Nicotaina Rustica) is considered one of the most potent tobaccos in the world as it has a higher concentration of nicotine. At the time we talked with Saka, his big question was could Drew Estate handle the production capacity to produce the Nica Rustica blend.  By the announcements last week, it appears that all system are go for a 2013 launch.  We recently had an opportunity to smoke a sample pre-release blend of the Nica Rustica.  At the time, Saka did mention this was the blend they were going with, although there has been a report saying the blend has been tweaked for the final release.  In any case, we’ll share our experiences with smoking this cigar, and overall it is an excellent cigar made by Drew Estate.

Back when we talked to Saka, he described the Nica Rustica project as follows:

A kind of a rough cigar, it’s rustic.  The name is apt for what the product is.  It’s a little dirty, it’s a little rough.  It’s not round, it’s not elegant. When I say round, round in flavors. It’s definitely something that either you’re going to say ‘wow I really like that’ or ‘wow, you know that’s just not for me’.  But it’s definitely a very interesting cigar because you probably will not have ever had the opportunity to taste this tobacco.”

As we reported in our Nica Rustica preview last week, a decision was made to launch this cigar at the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show.  The cigar is being launched in one size a 6 x 52 toro.  The packaging around the cigar is meant to be a tribute to the people Esteli, Nicaragua – the city where Drew Estate’s La Gran Fabrica is located.

The goal of this assessment is to really share the experiences of what Saka mentioned above – namely smoking tobaccos we have not had before.  We will default to a our pre-review format to document our experiences with this pre-release Nica Rustica.  Once the cigar is released, we will re-visit the Nica Rustica and provide an assessment rating and score.  As a disclaimer, this pre-review was based on a single cigar experience.

Blend Profile

From the comments from Steve Saka, we can infer the Rustica tobacco is a part of the filler since it is “locally grown”.  The official announcements from Drew Estate over the past day have made no specific confirmation of the Rustica element.

The blend we are smoking is known as the blend “503”.  We anticipate this is close to the final release blend.

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Mediums
Binder: Mexican San Andres Negro
Filler: Nicaraguan (Esteli and Jalapa)

Vitolas Available

As mentioned the cigar will be made in one size – a 6 x 52 toro-sized cigar.  This appears to be the size of the pre-release sample we are smoking here.  

When the Nica Rustica is released, the cigars will be packaged in 2 -25 count trapezoid bundles stored in a rustic style box.


In terms of the appearance of the Nica Rustica sample, Saka’s description holds true to the cigar’s external appearance – namely it has a rough look.  The wrapper has a coffee bean color that is almost mocha-like.  There is some darker marbling on the wrapper.  The wrapper has an oily complexion.  What seems to give the cigar its rough look is that the surface is bumpy.  There are some visible veins, but the wrapper’s dark color does a good job at hiding the wrapper seams. The cigar features a covered foot and a pig-tail cap.

Covered foot – Nica Rustica (Pre-Release)

Pig-tail cap – Nica Rustica (Pre-Release)

Since this is a pre-release sample, there was no formal band on it.  The design for the bands were showcased in a photo by Drew Estate Chairman Jonathan Drew.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

While my sample of the Nica Rustica had a pig tail cap. I still opted to use a straight cut to remove the cap.  I then moved on to the pre-light draw.  With this particular pre-light draw, the covered foot seemed to impact the dry draw.  I was able to detect a mix of cocoa and leather notes.  I didn’t get any sweet or spicy notes on the pre-light.  There are some cases with a covered foot that I can get a bolder pre-light draw; but with this particular Nica Rustica, this was not the case.  Overall this was still a satisfactory pre-light draw.  At this point, I was ready to light up my Nica Rustica sample and see what the cigar experience would bring to the table.

Flavor Profile

Like the appearance, I agreed with Saka’s assessment that the Nica Rustica is a “rough” cigar. However its not “rough” in the sense that it is not aged.  It has more of a “rugged” style of flavors. I also found an incredible amount of complexity in this cigar.

The start to the Nica Rustica started off with a mix of exotic spice, mocha, and leather.  I classified the spice as exotic spice, but it was definitely a spice I had not detected in a cigar before.  This spice was definitely prominent on the retro-hale.  The mocha notes gave this cigar some sweetness and the leather gave it a “rugged” feel in the taste profile.

Around the five percent mark, some chicory notes joined the mocha in the forefront – giving the Nica Rustica some more ruggedness.  In the background, I detected some cream notes.  The flavor profile settled into exotic spice, mocha, and leather in the forefront with cream in the background.  As the cigar moved toward the first third, the exotic spice lingered on the tongue – and increased on the retro-hale.

Toward the end of the first third, the leather flavors remained in the forefront, but had an almost a natural maduro sweetness quality to it.  The mocha, chicory, and exotic spice were close behind. The cream was a tertiary note.
In the second third, the rugged feel of the flavor profile continued.  The flavors in the forefront had leather and chicory and had an almost “chewy” quality to it.  The maduro sweetness and spice notes were secondary.  There was definitely less of a mocha presence in the flavor profile. The cream notes had dissipated.
In the last third, the chicory and spice notes were the dominant flavors.  The Nica Rustica lost some of its natural sweetness.  The close to the cigar had some spice and was rough (as I expected). At the same time the end of the cigar was flavorful. The resulting nub was a real finger-burner – firm to the touch and cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
The Nica Rustica holds true to Drew Estate’s commitment to making high quality construction cigars across all of its lines.  The burn line to Nica Rustica remained relatively straight.  It required a few touch-ups, but not an out of the ordinary amount of touch-ups.  The cigar produced a large amount of smoke – and this made for an easy retro-hale.  There was a tight and firm ash.  The ash had a white color with some darker speckling mixed into it.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal

Burn of the Nica Rustica (Pre-Release)

The draw was perfect on the Nica Rustica.  It had a touch of resistance to it – which is something I normally like.  This made for an enjoyable smoke to puff on from start to finish.
Strength and Body
As we mentioned at the start of this assessment, the rustica tobacco strain is considered to be a potent one.  No doubt this is reflected in this cigar’s strength profile.  This is a full strength cigar from beginning to end.  This is one of those cigars you want to have on a full meal.
The flavors have some nice depth.  They started out medium to full-bodied.  By the second half, they did progress into full-bodied range.  I pretty much give the strength an edge over the body. The gap is larger in the first half, but the body closes the gap in the second half.  The strength having an edge over body seems to fit well with this cigar’s rugged theme.
Final Thoughts
If the Nica Rustica which is going to be released following the 2013 IPCPR is like this one, this is going to be a huge hit for Drew Estate.  Saka’s statement that we mentioned earlier on could not be truer.  This is a rough cigar that is going to provide tastes that are very different than what you had before.  The roughness of this cigar is its charm.  It works very well with this flavor profile.  I also feel the 6 x 52 was the ideal size for this particular blend.  Finally if anyone is thinking if this is like Drew Estate’s premium line Liga Privada – think again.  This cigar couldn’t be more different.
Given this cigar is a powerhouse, I’d recommend this to more seasoned cigar enthusiasts.  As for myself, if the final product is anything in the ball park like this one; this is a cigar I would seek out and buy immediately.  It is one worthy of a box purchase.
Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: High
Strength: Full
Body: Medium to Full (1st Half), Full (2nd Half)
Finish: Excellent
Source: The cigar for this assessment was provided as a part of Drew Estate Cigar Safari.