The 3rd annual Drew Estate Florida Barn Smoker is in the books. The hundreds of attendees braved the weather and were rewarded with an outstanding event where they met old friends, made some new ones, and got to meet the Drew Estate staff. The event was held on Saturday May 19, on the grounds of the Florida Sun Grown farm in Clermont, FL. The farm is the vision of Corona Cigars owner Jeff Borysiewicz who has been growing tobacco on the farm now for 6 years. As part of the $90.00 admission and $10.00 cigar fee, attendees received a 10 premium cigars, 2 Undercrown Coronet Tins, 5 drink tickets, unlimited water and soft drinks, and a large,never ending BBQ spread. There were raffle tickets sold throughout the day with some terrific prizes with the proceeds going to the Cigars for Warriors charity – Drew Estate presented a check for $13,500 to the charity at the end, so even if you did not win a prize, you can feel good that your donation helped our brave men and women across the globe who put their lives on the line every day for freedom.
Once we all got settled in, Jeff Borysiewicz, Jonathon Drew, and Drew Estate Fabian got the event started with some opening statements. In the video that follows, you can here Jonathon explain why he chose this years theme “You ain’t shit without your homeboyz!”, and in his own words what is is about:
“The people in life that I am so blessed, that I surrounded myself with, and the people that brought me into their lives, so for all of you guys that are here…and your home girlz and your home boyz, and the people that make you who you are, and give you the strength to push hard and to go against the odds, and to build something, those guys I dedicate this barn smoker to all my friends and i dedicate this Barn Smoker to the people i love, and I dedicate this Barn Smoker to my home boyz and home girlz, without you guys Drew Estate would be the same old shit, like all this other bullshit.”
After the opening speeches it was time to head out to the farm and facilities. The crowd was was broken up into three groups F, S, and G, because this event was all about Florida Sun Grown (FSG) tobacco. Each group headed to different starting point either, the Curing Barn, the Planting Field, or the Blending discussion. I was part of the S-group and our first stop was the curing barn.
As we entered the barn, it was sad that it is void of leaf. As Jeff mentioned in the video, they had a complete crop destroyed and therefore they had no leaf to hang. For those tha have never been to a barn they missed a wonderful aromatic experince of leaf being dried but shit happens and it is what it is. Jonathan Drew gave an enlighting presentiion during the barn tour and expalined thourougky what goes into the process. He expplained the process of leaf curing and the differense between air cured and fire cured. He said that in this barn they do air curing where they hang the leaf to dry as it goes from green, to yellow, to orange, to brown. The process can take up to 2 months.
He also explained the process of how they cure the leaf for the Drew Estate Fire Cured tobacco. In that process, they hang the leaf and close the doors while burning hickory and oak. As the smoke fills the barn the leaf absorbs the aroma of the smoke giving it that unique flavor. He further explained another process called stalk cut tobacco. As most know, when it comes to cultivating the leaf, the farmers prime the plant in stages starting with the bottom “Seco” then the middle “Viso” and finally the last leaf at the top of the plant “ligero”. Each stage it done at different times so that the ligero become the strongest leaf, as it is the last to be primed. In the case of stalk cut tobacco, they cut the plant at the stalk and hang it upside down. That process allows the nutrients to feed through the plant to make an even stronger leaf. If you think of Liga Privada, that is how they do it.
One of the many topics Jonathan talked about was his love for the agriculture side of the process. He explained how he lived in factories and on farms for years to learn the process. He did not just visit the farms. That experience provided him the education that allowed Drew Estate to harvest some of the best tobacco in the world.
Though not part of the curing barn process, he described how the fermentation process works, describing the large piles (pilones) that stack the cured leaf and allow the fermentation to occur. As the temperature rises in the center to around 100 plus degrees F, the pilone is broken down and reformed, rotating the leaf from the bottom to top and inside to out. The process continues and is repeated, until the fermentation ends. When not rushed this provides a consistency in the tobacco flavor.
The next stop was the blending station, where Willie Herrera, Drew Estate Master Blender, gave a talk about the challenge of blending the right leaf to get the desired flavors and burn qualities.
He noted that during the Drew Estate Cigar Safari, where attendees actually get a chance to lend their own cigar, many are surprised that what they thought the flavor would be like was not the case. It takes a long and learned skill to not only understand the flavors but also how the particular leaf will burn in the overall construction, providing the proper combustion between the filler, binder and wrapper. For example a 100% ligero may turn out to be a terrible cigar with a crappy burn and harsh flavors.
As part of the blending station we all participated in a long ash contest using a 100% Florida Sun Grown fuma. The winner received a FSG ashtray. I did good, maybe second but the winner took it down almost to the end. Of course there were ashes falling all though the 15 minute contest, as Willie was giving his talk.
The final stop for our group was the field where we would get to plant our very own seedling, but first we would listen to Jeff Borysiewicz talk about growing tobacco and the plant itself. Jeff took out a jar of tobacco seeds to show us how small they are, minuscule in fact. As he passed around a some tobacco flowers you can see how small the seed was. Each Seed pod contains about 5,000 seeds.
The presentation moved to the ready to plant seedlings. One of the take always form this was that sometimes more than one seed is placed in the seedling cup and more than one plant forms. Any cup that has a dual pant is not transplanted to the field. Once planted in the field, which has been properly tilled and prepared, the seedling will take about 60 days or so to reach maturity and grow to a height of 4 to 6 feet depending on the variety.
It was time for each of us to pick out a seedling and walk out into the field. I was a little worried that with all the rain we had and how wet and mucky the parking lot was, this was going to be a mess, but to my surprise the field was much drier. I suppose that was due to the drainage of the field and also that it was a slightly higher in elevation. Anyway, we each pulled a seedling out of the cup and grabbed a wooden stake and walked into he field. The stake had a two fold purpose; it was used to measure the proper distance between the plants and it to make the hole to place the seedling in.
Each seedling, when pulled out of the cup, has a full root and soil system that is shaped like a cone. Pulling it out the cup is like pulling a carrot out the ground. Once placed in the filed, we each had a small flag that we wrote our names and email addresses on., When it is time to harvest the plants, the tallest plant will win a prize. I suppose it is all up to mother nature now.
Food and Drink
Well that was easy, now it was time to indulge in beverages and eat some BBQ. First on the list was the drink stations which included a fine selection of whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila and beer. Of course it would not be a Drew Estate event without some John Drew Brands spirits too.
After wetting the whistle, it was time to get some food and and relax among friends. The tobacco gods must have been watching over us, as the rains held off till this point in the event. The clouds darkened and the rain began, as we sat, ate, and shared story’s and waited for the raffle to begin.
As mentioned earlier, raffle tickets were sold throughout the day for some amazing prizes and raised $13,500 for the Cigars for Warriors charity. My table mates and I did not win anything but we all knew our donation was going to be put to a good use, but those that did win were very happy. In addition to the many prizes, there were two grand prize winners, each of which won a one of kind (ok, maybe two of a kind) large stand-up ash trays that were hand carved and painted with the FSG logo on the front and a seriously larger pewter ash tray on top. You can see the top of it in the picture below, in front of the check. Yea that is big!
Here are some of the other prizes and winners of the day.
With the raffle out of the way, it was time to end the event and hit the road. The rain was still coming down and I hope everyone was able to get out of the parking lot and down the farm road ok. Here is a final gallery of of the event.
In closing, I would like to thank, Drew Estate and all the sponsors who helped put this event together. It was one of the best events I have been to and look forward to attending it next year.