This past Wednesday, April 19th, I had the opportunity to trip on over to Corona Cigars in Orlando, Florida for the official John Drew Brands launch party. What is John Drew Brands you may ask? It is the latest disruptive creation from Jonathan Drew, famed cigar maker. This time it is not cigars that Drew was announcing but rather some fine libations, yep in case you missed the press release early this year, Jonathan Drew has gone into the spirits business. Of course a party with Drew would not be complete without Drew Estate Cigars, and there were plenty of them to be had.
Let me walk you through the event. It all started at 7 PM at Corona Cigars located on Sand Lake Road in Orlando. I arrived around 6:45 and the place was already packed and the attendance just kept increasing like the smoke on a Flying Pig. There were local Florida Drew Estate reps, Drew Estate Diplomats, and seekers of Drew abound.
The parking lot was cordoned off in front of the shop, and in the center of the lot was a mobile Acid van and outdoor lounge. Big specials on Acid cigars if you that was your flavor, 3 bucks each. Take a photo and post it on your social media with the tags @experienceacid and #experienceacid and you were gifted an Acid T-shirt. There were plenty of Acid girls around to keep the smile on your face and take photos with. The mobile van had a local DJ spinning for hours before the main event at around 9:30 PM when DJ Maseo from De La Soul entered to spin the party into the later hours.
The outdoor lounge had comfortable couches and chairs to chill in, and the cash bar served up plenty of tasty beverages throughout the evening. Of course the main reason for the party was to roll out the John Drew Brand of Rum, Rye, and a Bourbon Rum mix. Free tasting were savable through the night. We will get back to that in a moment as I needed to get some stogies first.
As I entered the shop, it was wall to wall patrons. Most were puffing on Drew Estate cigars and darning some of the best Drew Estate garb. This has to be the largest single brand event I have ever attended. I made my way to the Drew Estate shelves and selected a decent sample of blends and to my surprise the specials were outstanding. If you purchased any 4 Drew Estate branded cigars or Drew Estate marketed cigars, you got a free “Year of the Rat” and a “Velvet Rat”. Wicked awesome if I say so myself!
Once I got my stash I made it back out to the Acid Lounge and bumped into a few locals from the Drew Estate team. But the question was, where is Jonathan? He was yet to arrive, and of course the crowd was building over the next couple of hours in anticipation of his arrival. It was like being at a rock concert with a warm up band prepping you for the main act.
Since this was a launch party for John Drew Brands, I fired up a Flying Pig and headed to the Acid bar and got me a tasting of the newly released John Drew Brands spirits.
- First up was the Dove Tail Rum, – a tasty smooth delight that had a hint of vanilla and delicate sweetness to it. The bottle describes it as 80 proof rum that is aged 3 years in bourbon barrels. Not bad at all.
- Next was the Rye – aptly named John Drew Rye. I am not a fan of Rye whiskey, being more of a Single Malt guy myself, but a tasting was in order. Normally I would drink rye with a mixer, but straight up this was a silky whiskey with spice and caramel notes to fire up the palate. If you are expecting a bite in this whisky, move over, because this was smooth and easy on the palate. I am told the Rye was distilled in Canada and aged for 4 years in oak barrels and then shipped to Florida where it was held for an additional 3 years. It clocks in at 90 proof.
- The last was the Brixton Mash Destroyer, a Bourbon Rum mix. Okay, the name had me a little worried, not sure if I wanted to be destroyed so early in the evening. To my surprise, the blend was as unique as Jonathon himself. We all know he is a master blender of fine cigars, but his palate shines in this blend of spirits. It started with a bourbon burn and finished with a silky rum after note. Definite complexity on the palate and I can see why it may be a Destroyer as you would want to drink more of this. Like the Rye, the Brixton Mash Destroyer clocked in at 90 proof.
All John Drew Brand spirits come in 750ML bottles. The Dove Tail Rum and Brixton Mash Destroyer are priced at an MSRP of $35.00/Bottle and the John Drew Rye will cost you $45/bottle.
Now that I had my tastings, it was time to fire up another Drew Estate creation, one of my favorites, the Herrera Esteli blended by Master Blender Willy Herrera, which by the way was also in the crowd for the launch. We also had an appearance from Colonel Sanders!
I sat back down in the Acid lounge and had some conversation with the patrons as we waited for the man himself to arrive. I have to say, once he did, it was like the Pope was in the house. People lined up to shake his hand, share a laugh, and take photos. Jonathan Drew is rock star in the cigar lifestyle.
A little side note:
I remember last year visiting the Dominican Republic with some friends, one of whom was older than I (yea that ancient) and we visited the Davidoff lounge in Santiago. In attendance that night was Henke Kelner Sr. of Davidoff fame, who my older friend described as the godfather of premium cigars. My other friend, much younger than us, chimed in and said he felt Jonathan Drew did more for the Premium cigar business than anyone else, and the debate went on. Now I am a fan of both Davidoff and Drew Estate, but I have to say, the crowd and the love for Johnathon was unlike anything I have witnessed. Debate aside, in this modern world of 21st century premium cigars, Johnathon Drew is the king.
As the night went on, DJ Masea took continued to spin, Jonathon continued to shake hands, and the smoke filled the air. I bid farewell and journeyed back to Melbourne, FL with memories of a terrific cigar and spirits evening.
Now that the John Drew Brands are launched you can keep an eye out for them and give them a try. I suggest the Brixton Mash Destroyer. By the way, if you ask Jonathan if they were created to pair with any particular Drew Estate cigar, I am told he will say “no, the spirits stand on their own”. I guess we shall see what social media has to say about that in the coming months.