At the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, Drew Estate showcased its most premium offering to date, the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition. The Pappy Van Winkle Tradition is the second release under Drew Estate’s Pappy Van Winkle line – a line that is a collaboration between Drew Estate and Old Rip Van Winkle Distilled. The first release, the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve, featured Kentucky Fire Cured barrel-fermented tobacco and was sold directly from Pappy & Co. The Pappy Van Winkle Tradition is a more mainstream blend developed by Drew Estate Master Blender Willy Herrera. Today, we take a closer look at the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition in the Belicoso Fino (5 x 50) size.
Back in 2010 when Herrera was in discussions to join Drew Estate, he was given an opportunity to showcase his blending talents at the factory. He produced three blends, one of which would become his first Drew Estate blend – the Herrera Estelí. The other blends were put on the shelf. Last year, Drew Estate co-founder Jonathan Drew gifted a box of one of those blends to Julian Van Winkle, President of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. Van Winkle would fall in love with the blend and eventually, it would lead to Drew Estate releasing the blend as the second installment of its Pappy Van Winkle line – the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition.
It’s important to know the Tradition differs from the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve. It is a completely different blend. While the Family Reserve incorporates barrel aging techniques, the Tradition uses different tobaccos and is more of a cigar designed to be a tribute to the Van Winkle family.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition and see what this cigar brings to the table.
The Pappy Van Winkle Tradition is a four-country multi-national blend highlighted by an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro
Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican
Country of Origin: Nicaragua (La Gran Fabrica)
The Pappy Van Winkle Tradition has seven sizes. Four sizes are limited production offerings that are sold to Drew Estate’s Drew Diplomat (preferred) retailers. These sizes are: Coronita, Robusto Grande, Toro, and the Belicoso Fino.
In addition, a Churchill size has been available to Drew Diplomat Spirits Retailers. There are also two “Not for Sale” sizes in the form of a Lonsdale and a Corona. The Lonsdale is an event-only cigar for Drew Diplomat Rewards Events Finally, the Corona is only available personally from Jonathan Drew and Julian Van Winkle.
Each size is packaged in 10-count boxes. Pricing is based on box price.
Coronita: 4 x 46
Robusto Grande: 5 1/2 x 54
Toro: 6 x 50
Belicoso Fino: 5 x 50
Churchill: 7 x 48
Lonsdale: 6 1/2 x 44
Corona: 5 1/2 x 44
I found the Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper of the Pappy Van Winkle Belicoso Fino to have a nice rosado tint to it. There wasn’t much in the way of oil on the surface, but has a nice silky complexion to it. The visible veins were on the thin side, and most of the wrapper seams were well-hidden. The Belicoso Fino shape has a short gentle taper and the tip was slightly flat.
The band of the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition features a red, gold, and white color scheme. On the front of the band is the iconic antique portrait of Pappy Van Winkle founder Julian Van Winkle. Across the portrait is the text “PAPPY VAN WINKLE” in a white gothic style font on a red ribbon. To to the left and right of the portrait is a red background with gold pinstripes. The left side of the band has the red and white Drew Estate logo. This logo is surrounded by a gold ring that has the text “DREW ESTATE NICARAGUA” in red font. The right side has the red and white old Rip Van Winkle logo on a gold ovular background. The band itself is surrounded by gold trim.
There is a secondary band just below the primary band. It is red in color with the text “Tradition” in white gothic style font. Above and below that text is a thick gold stripe.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
As I do with all figurado cigars, I used a straight cut to remove the tip of the Pappy Van Winkle Belicoso Fino. I used my Credo Special T cutter with the 36 ring gauge hole to get an ideal cut of the figurado. This allows me to get a smaller ring gauge cut and to take advantage of the tapering of this cigar. After clipping the tip, it was on to the pre-light draw stage. The dry draw delivered a mix of natural tobacco, wood, and a slight mint-like note. Overall I considered this to be a satisfactory pre-light draw. At that point, I was ready to toast up the Pappy Van Winkle Belicoso Fino and see what the smoking phase would have in store
The start to the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition Belicoso Fino started out with notes of citrus, natural tobacco, cedar, and earth. Early on the citrus notes moved to the forefront while the natural tobacco became a close secondary note. At the same time, the cedar and earth notes receded into the more distant background. At the same time, there was a layer of black pepper on the retro-hale.
Midway through the first third of the Tradition Belicoso Fino, the natural tobacco notes morphed into chocolate notes. These chocolate notes moved into the forefront and eclipsed the citrus notes. Simultaneously, the citrus settled in the background with the earth notes with a subtle black pepper note surfacing. The cedar notes had now pretty much dissipated.
Around the midway point, the earth and pepper notes started to increase in intensity. By the later part of the second third, I found these notes had eclipsed the chocolate notes. Meanwhile, the citrus notes also receded into the background.
The final third saw the earth and pepper primary, but some nice balance provided by the citrus, chocolate, and some resurfaced natural tobacco notes. This is the way the flavor profile of the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition Belicoso Fino came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch but cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
From a burn perspective, the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition Belicoso Fino maintained a straight burn path. At times the burn line got a little more jagged than I prefer. This was remedied by some touch-ups, but I also found this cigar seemed to need more touch-ups than I prefer. The ash had a light gray color. This was an ash that was slightly on the loose side. The burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.
While I would have preferred a little more resistance on the draw of the Pappy Van Winkle Tradition Belicoso Fino, this was still a draw that was low maintenance in terms of deriving flavor from.
Strength and Body
Strength and body-wise, I found the Tradition Belicoso Fino to started out in the medium range. As the cigar experience progressed there was a slight increase in the intensity of both attributes. In the end, the cigar never crossed out of the medium range. Both the strength and body balanced each other well with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
First up, I will say I’ve smoked several Pappy Van Winkle Tradition cigars since the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show, and this is a cigar that has responded very well to age. It’s a better cigar than it was five months ago – and I still think there is room for further aging potential. While this is a cigar that is called “Pappy Van Winkle Tradition,” I think this cigar is less about the Pappy Van Winkle spirit beverage and more about the Tradition. I think it’s great that Drew Estate has built a strong partnership with the Van Winkles, but what the “Tradition” shows is how Drew Estate continues to make great strides in the traditional premium cigar segment.
The Pappy Van Winkle is not a cheap cigar. The Belicoso Fino is priced at $24.00+, so for many cigar enthusiasts, it is more of a special occasion cigar. That being said, it still is a cigar I’d recommend – whether one is an experienced or novice cigar enthusiast. As for myself, it’s one that I would smoke again – and it’s worthy of picking it up at your local retailer.
Key Flavors: Chocolate, Natural Tobacco, Earth, Pepper, Citrus
Burn: Very Good
Draw: Very Good
Complexity: Medium to High
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy One
News: Drew Estate to Launch Pappy Van Winkle Tradition at 2017 IPCPR
Source: Drew Estate
Brand Reference: Drew Estate
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop