Last weekend was all about Drew Estate and their 25+ years of re-birthing cigars. This was supposed to happen last year but was postponed due to the pandemic but the company did not disappoint their fans at this first of 5 major events celebrating DE25. This was the Florida Barn Smoker and DE25 pre-party. If you attended you know what a great time we all had. If you were not able to or are on the edge as to attending one of the events in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or Kentucky then you are in for a big treat, bigger and better than past Barn Smokers. Don’t forget, the year of celebration culminates in a massive finale – The Savage Feast – being held at the South Fork Ranch in Dallas, TX.
The DE25 Pre-Event – Horsepower Ranch – Geneva FL
The week started on Friday evening at the Horsepower Ranch in Geneva, FL. The location was a short one hour drive from my home. Parking was plentiful and the evening air was perfect for a cigar herf.
As you entered the grounds, the first stop was ticket validation and then you were presented with a amazing amount of DE25 swag, a coin to use at the casino tables, a raffle ticket, and a coupon book that included food and drink tickets along with activation tickets where you got additional new release cigars. You then paid a nominal fee of $10.00 and received your first batch of cigars including a DE25 Collector’s Edition cigar box containing:
- Undercrown 10 Lonsdale
- Nica Rustica Broadleaf Toro
- ACID 20 Toro
- Herrera Estelí Tienda Exclusiva CT Broadleaf Lancero
- Liga Privada Unico UF4
- Liga Privada Unico Year of the Rat
- Liga Privada Unico Pork Beli
- Tabak Especial Negra Toro
- Deadwood Leather Rose
This was in addition to receiving 2-count coffin boxes of each of the Ambassador’s cigars
- Undercrown 10 Tuani
- Herrera Estelí Caja China
- Liga Privada 10 Aniversario A Savage Feast
Now that you got your swag and cigars the next stop was a photo taken by DE’s photographers.
Having got past the entry point, loaded down with swag and cigars, it was time to mingle amongst the many Brothers and Sisters of the Leaf as the venue started to fill up. The grounds were expansive and there was plenty of room for the 100’s of attendees. The whole Drew Estate staff was in attendance and welcoming everyone to the party. There were some new faces and old and I even met an alumni from alma mater – Pratt Institute. That just added to my growing enjoyment of the evening.
Since it was after 5PM, it was time to get a cold beverage and they did not disappoint with cold brew and mixed cocktails. There were plenty of drink stations and I did not have to wait long to get a beverage.
Once everyone get settled in, it was time to announce the man of the hour, Jonathan Drew to give his keynote speech. Masters of Ceremonies, Pedro Gomez and Jack Heyer, kicked it off while DJ Eli, Straight Outta Chicago, spun some tunes and sound bites. Once JD took the stage the crowd gave a warm round of applause and gathered to hear the story. There was a large stage with a jumbo screen in the back, that displayed photos of the company’s history through the 45 minute speech, which took us through the whole history of Drew Estate from Brooklyn, NY to Estelí Nicaragua. There were a number of Herrera Estelí branded lawn chairs to sit and watch the speech. If you thought you knew the whole story, you may be surprised at what you will learn, like the story of how they bought the Perdomo factory and the antics that took place when moving in. The road to success was rocky to say the least but here they are, the largest premium cigar company in the world. For those that are attending one of the other events around the country, you want to hear these stories!
After JD’s keynote speech, it was time to get some food and some more drinks. The food was amazing and included a smoked hog, roasted gator, pulled pork, crab sliders and claws, brisket, baked beans and salad. This was free diet night for me so I was not counting points and devoured the gastro experience. The meal line moved quickly and there was a covered pavilion with ample tables to sit and eat while meeting others.
Once the belly’s were full, it was time to meander around the event and continue to meet and greet others, share stories, and catch up. There was a special pavilion that housed the additional activation tables where we all received a 3 pack sampler of the new Nica Rustica Adobe and the latest H99 Phineas Gage. There was also a full bar in the pavilion and a play casino where you cashed in your coin to get chips to play at various table games. There was no lack of fun at the event.
After losing all my chips, I took the time to wander about and mingle some more with old and new friends and take in the sights of the Horsepower Ranch and listening to international sensation Pop ROCKS live on stage to close out the night. Somewhere along the way, I idiotically dropped my phone and cracked the glass but more on this in the next section – The Barn Smoker. The night came to close for me and I drove home loaded with swag and cigars only to get a short rest and woke up at 6:30 AM to drive to Clermont, FL for the main event.
The BarnSmoker Event – Florida Sun Grown Farms – Clermont FL
With a short rest and a large cup of Dunkin Coffee in hand, I headed from home for the 2 hour drive over to the Florida Sun Grown Farms in Clermont, FL to begin another day of cigars, friendship, food and drink. Yep I am counting this a long 48 hour free diet day for sure. On my way over, I glanced at the passanger seat and realsized I left my camera at home. Already 30 minutes into the drive I had a mild panic moment as I had no way to take photos without my camera and having broke my phone the night before. Damn, turn around or just keep driving? I took a deep breath and looked up at the sky and spoke to my decided brother Tom. I heard him say, ‘Jimmie, stop worrying, it will be alright, just take a day to really enjoy yourself.’ So that is what I did. Thanks to a number of great Brothers of the Leaf including, Ron Maggio, Kevin Shahan, Juan Nuñez, Pasquale Lombardi, Paul Casavant, and Keith Staples, I was able to gather photos to tell the rest of the story.
Like all BArn Smoker events, the day started by checking in and receiving your swag bag and a curated collection of Drew Estate cigars. Of course the extra $10.00 fee was fair enough to get the sweet collection that featured numerous vitolas of the latest 20 Acre Farm blend which you were about to learn more about along with rare cigars that have been previously released at DE25 Exclusive Pre-Parties throughout the season. You also received a coupon booklet that included a number of free cocktail tickets in addition to activation tickets for the various event pods placed throughout the farm. These pods offered special activities and once attended you received another cigar including the likes of Joya de Nicaragua, Undercrown, Herrera Estelí, ACID, TABAK Especial, Pappy Van Winkle, ACID and Deadwood.
The event kicked off with a rousing welcome to Jonathan Drew who gave a much shorter speech that at the pre-party. JD, then introduced Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigars and the Florida Sun Grown Farm which we all were standing upon. Jeff explained what it took to take a seed form Nicaragua that at one point came from Cuba and plant it and grow the plant in central Florida. He noted that the state of Florida is not foreign to tobacco growling but the farms of the past died off for more lucrative businesses. This is a passion project, he said. After almost 10 years, he and JD are pleased with the outcome the farm the yield they have been able to achieve.
After the introductions, the attendees were split up into three groups to take the tour of the farm that included three stations:
- Curing Barn
- Tobacco Field
The tour was time well so the groups moved well from station to station.
~The Curing Barn~
The curing barn is one of my favorite visits on a farm. When it is filed with curing leaf, the aroma is simply to die for. Watching the color changes from green to yellow to brown and knowing this is just the start of the long process once the plant is primed gives you great respect for the ages old process of creating cigars. This years Barnsmoker took place during the growing season so the barn was not stacked with leaf from the rafter to the floor but Drew Estate and Florida Sun Grown made it work just the same. Jonathan Drew got on a box and explained the whole process of curing leaf and we even got to feel the few leaves that they had in the barn. It was noted that the process used at Florida Sun Grown is an air curing process which is the classic process. The barn is closed at night and then opened during the day, repeated over and over, to adjust the humidity and temperature. Leaf is moved from top to bottom of the barn and side to side to even the process and create the best cured leaf they can.
~The Tobacco Fields~
The next stop was over to the fields and this year they did not disappoint. We were in the midst of the growing season as I mentioned and the leaf were mature, tall, and flowering. Everyone got to touch the leaf and even got to plant a seedling.
Did you know that these beautiful plants all start with these tiny almost microscopic seeds?
~Walking The Grounds~
After the tour it was just the right time to walk the grounds and get some cool beverages, and there was plenty to see and enjoy. They had numerous spirit tasting and even Franky Drnaks and his Sips and Sticks crew were mixing up some fine cocktails. Food was also served and it featured some of the best from Pig Floyd’s BBQ along with black beans and rice, corn on the cob, brisket, pulled pork, plantains. Seating was plentiful under the large outdoor ten and if you you did not want spirits there was plenty of ice cold bottles of water and soft drinks to stay hyrdated.
~The Activation Pods~
New this year was what they called “activation pods“. These were small round tents set up along the farm featuring the many different brands of cigars offered by Drew Estate. Their was a coupon in your booklet that you handed over and you received a branded cigar for that pod and the coupon was put in a box to later be used in the raffles. Two of my favorites were the Herrera Estelí Dart Board throw and the Joya De Nicaragua Dice toss. They offered you a one of the those brands based on what your number on the die you tossed or color you hit in the dart board. They also had a cigar rolling booth where you learned to roll cigars and the Subculture Studios pod were silk screening t-shirts and had artists drawing caricatures and you could watch the deconstruction of a pair of Nike sneakers and reconstruction to add DE25 and Barn Smoker insignias. The Deadwood pod had the Deadwood cigar girls and an artist air brushing a motorcycle.
~The Rest of The Day~
As the day drew on, we all had time to walk about and meet and greet each other and spend time catching up on the time since we last saw each other and also making new friends of the leaf. The event culminated in a a number of raffles which included numerous branded mini tower ash strays, art work, those sneakers I showed earlier, and even a mini branded standup bar. Cigars for Warriors was there too and through out the day they raised over $7,000 in raffle sales which Drew Estate added an additional $5,000 to out of the Ticket sales from the event. All in all, I would say it was a splendid day for all.
I finally got home around 6PM Saturday and was fairly exhausted from all the fun over the weekend. Here is a photo of the swag from the two days and I can’t thank Drew Estate enough for their generosity and knowing how to throw a party for their fans. They say #DE$L for a reason. I also want to thank those that took the photos to make this article better, you save the day… I will be attending the Connecticut Barn Smoker in August for the first time and hope to see some you there. It will be fun to compare the experiences in that article. Stay Smokey Everyone …