Late in 2014, Drew Estate announced a partnership with Pappy & Company to produce a small batch cigar line to be distributed exclusively by Pappy & Co. The concept of this project would be to create a cigar could be paired with Pappy & Company’s Van Winkle bourbon and rye products. The resulting line would be known as the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented Cigars. The first two sizes of the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented line would be in the form of a Robusto and Toro. In 2016, Drew Estate announced two line extensions with a 7 x 48 Churchill size and a 4 7/8 x 60 Limitada. Recently I’ve had an opportunity to smoke the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented Churchill. Not only was this an excellent cigar, but one that would also showcase Drew Estate as innovators in the cigar industry.
There are two key innovative features that went into this blend. For starters the company incorporates some of its Kentucky-grown Fire-Cured tobacco into the blend. After the Kentucky tobacco undergoes a fire curing process, it is then put into barrels where it is not simply aged, but fermented right in the barrel. The actual fire-curing and fermentation processes take place in the U.S. before the tobacco is sent to Drew Estate’s La Gran Fabrica in Nicaragua.
The use of Fire Cured tobacco is not new to Drew Estate as they have incorporated it into its Kentucky Fire Cured line. Most cigars utilize air curing. This where where the tobacco is hung in a barn for several weeks to remove moisture from the leaf. With Fire Cured tobacco, hardwoods are kept on continuous, low smoldering flames to remove the moisture. Typically this process is used for pipe and chewing tobacco. Fire-cured tobacco is cured quickly and it results in a smokey, camp-fire like flavor in the final product.
The barrel fermented Kentucky tobacco is incorporated used as a “tapa negra” wrapper over a Mexican San Andres base wrapper. The name “Tapa Negra” translates to black cap and this name is appropriate because the Kentucky wrapper rests on the cap of the cigar creating a segmented wrapper effect.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented Churchill and see what this cigar brings to the table.
In addition to the two wrappers found on the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented cigar, the blend contains Nicaraguan tobaccos that were personally hand-selected by Drew Estate co-founder Jonathan Drew.
Wrapper: Kentucky Fire-Cured / Barrel Fermented Tapa Negra, Mexican San Andres Base
Country of Origin: Nicaragua (La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate)
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented Cigars are available in three sizes limited production sizes. Each of these sizes are available in ten count boxes. The Limitada size is a vitola that is reminiscent of a Liga Privada Unico Serie Feral Flying Pig. At the time of this assessment, the The Pappy Drew Limitada is only being sold in three packs and is available as gift when consumers purchase at least one box each of the Churchill, Toro, and Robusto sizes.
Robusto: 5 1/4 x 52
Toro: 6 x 52
Churchill: 7 x 48
Limitada: 4 7/8 x 60
The Mexican San Andres wrapper of the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented Churchill extends from the footer and has medium brown color to it. Upon closer examination, some darker marbling can be seen on the surface. The Kentucky Tapa Negra cap extends almost two inches from the top of the cigar. It has a rich dark espresso bean color. While I didn’t find the much oil on the Mexican wrapper, I did find the Tapa Negra was quite oily. The wrappers on the cigar were quite smooth. On both wrappers the veins and wrapper seams were on the thin side.
There also was a strong fire-cured aroma coming from the cigar, but this was not a surprise given fire-cured tobacco is a part of the wrapper.
The band of the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigar has a white background and highlighted by the iconic antique portrait of Pappy Van Winkle founder Julius Van Winkle. Above the portrait is the text “PAPPY VAN WINKLE’S” in a gold gothic style font. Below the portrait is the text “FAMILY RESERVE” – also in gold gothic font. Just below that text is the text “PREMIUM HANDMADE CIGARS” – also in gold font. The remainder of the band is highlighted by various gold adornments. The left side of the band has the Drew Estate logo surrounded by the text “DREW ESTATE NICARAGUA”. The right side has the Pappy Van Winkle key logo.
The back of the band has the Pappy key logo with the text “PAPPY & COMPANY” and “Louisville KY”. Just below it is the text “Produced Exclusively for Pappy & Co By Drew Estate – Esteli, Nicaragua”.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
Prior to lighting the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut. The cut was placed into the Tapa Negra leaf. On the dry draw, I was not surprised by the strong fire-cured “campfire” like note. I was also surprised to pick up a rich roasted coffee note. Overall I considered this pre-light draw to be excellent. At this point I was ready to fire up my Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill and see what the smoking experience would have in store.
The start of the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill delivered a mix of mocha, cedar, and for what I will call “Bourbon Sweetness”. This bourbon sweetness was a compound note had a mix of charred wood, sugar cane, and caramel components. The mocha was also compound note that had both chocolate and coffee components. As the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill moved through the first third, the mocha and chocolate notes moved into the forefront while the cedar notes took to the background. On the retro-hale, I definitely picked up a mix of campfire charred notes and cedar spice.
During the first third, there was an interesting dynamic that took place. I found the mocha and bourbon sweetness varied as to which was the dominant note. The individual chocolate and coffee components of the mocha varied in intensity. Meanwhile the wood, sugar cane, and caramel components within the Bourbon Sweetness flavor also varied in intensity.
By the second third of the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill, the bourbon sweetness moved into the forefront. At times there was also a slight sour component, but this didn’t have too much of a negative impact. Meanwhile the mocha notes were now in the background with the cedar notes.
Moving into the last third, I found some earth notes surfaced with the bourbon sweetness. The cedar slightly increased in intensity and I could still taste some of the mocha notes. This is the way the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill. The resulting nub was firm to the touch and cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
The Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill burned extremely well through both sections of the wrapper. The cigar maintained a straight burn line and a straight burn path. There were some touch-ups along the way, but an excessive amount was not needed. The resulting ash was light gray. This was a firm ash that came off the cigar in clean chunks. Meanwhile the burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.
The draw to the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill was also ideal. It was not too loose, nor was it too tight.
Strength and Body
Overall the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill is a cigar that I would put as medium in terms of strength and body. While there was a slight increase in intensity of both attributes, I still found that the strength and body remained in the medium range when the cigar experience came to a close.
In terms of strength versus body, both attributes balance each other nicely with neither one of them overshadowing the other.
The Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Churchill was a highly impressive cigar by Drew Estate. I found it to deliver a very unique flavor profile – and an enjoyable one at that. It’s one of the better cigars I have had to incorporate fire cured tobacco. While Drew Estate is a large tobacco company, this is a release that shows they can be “agile” when it comes to delivering high quality small batch releases. Most importantly, it shows the company continues to maintain a core competency when it comes to innovation. I don’t drink Pappy Van Winkle, so I cannot comment how well this cigar pairs with it. What I can say is that on its own, this cigar was very enjoyable. It’s a cigar I would recommend to a novice or experienced cigar enthusiast. As for myself, this is a cigar I would smoke again and it’s definitely worthy of a box purchase.
Key Flavors: Mocha, Bourbon Sweetness, Cedar
Finish: Very Good
Assessment: 4.0-Box Worthy
News: Drew Estate Adds Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented Churchill and Pappy Drew Limitada
Brand Reference: Drew Estate