As has been mentioned on this site many times before, it is not unusual for cigar manufacturers to release specific cigars to commemorate special occasions, but it is not very often that two totally different blends are introduced at the same time for that purpose.
That was the case with Drew Estate, who celebrated the 20th anniversary of its ACID brand of infused cigars by releasing not one, but two very different cigars: the appropriately named ACID 20 and the subject of today’s review, ACID Kuba Arte. The latter creation is actually a collaboration with five different Brooklyn graffiti artists from New York who produced original art that is wrapped around seven different water tower boxes the cigars are packaged in, which happens to be a central Drew Estate marketing identifier.
“KUBA ARTE is a groundbreaking project that has never been seen in the cigar industry,” said Jonathan Drew, president and co-founder of Drew Estate, in a press release. “For inspiration, we returned to our roots in DUMBO, the origins of Drew Estate and ACID, and meditated from the Brooklyn rooftops finding our Chi. We witnessed a skyline to behold, decorated with water towers, graffiti and of course the illustrious Manhattan Bridge. It was on those rooftops that we spent many of our nights dreaming of what Drew Estate would become, that “KUBA ARTE” was born.”
Drew Estate introduced the five artists who produced artwork for the water towers in a post on its website:
- David “Chino” Villorente — Per Drew Estate: One of the foremost practitioners and ambassadors of graffiti culture in the world, David “Chino” Villorente spent eleven-years as editor of the “Graf Flix” feature in The Source magazine which cemented his position as an important arbiter within the global graffiti community.
- DOC — A living, breathing legend and the very personification of Brooklyn. DOC worked the Moving Art Galleries (a.k.a. the NYC Transit System) at the dawn of street writing culture where his mission to ask “Who is Doc?” catapulted him to global recognition.
- KEO; TOP TC-5 X-MEN — a.k.a SCOTCH70 is a bonafide Brooklyn legend in the realm of NYC graffiti & hip hop. Weaving his charismatic “old school” aesthetic into the tapestry of urban art & pop culture, while redefining classic graffiti styles into fresh new work in fine art & design outlets.
- Queen Andrea — an NYC-based fine artist, graffiti artist, typographer and graphic designer & is a leader in the newer generation of early 1990’s graffiti writers. Queen Andrea finds her creative inspiration in the diversity & crazy energy of city life and especially graffiti. Out in the streets Queen Andrea has developed a reputation for her oversized typography murals, influenced by an endless appreciation of typography, as well as themes of urban life, hip hop lyrics & empowerment.
- VERS — Born and still based in Brooklyn, where for over 30 years with a spray-can in his hand, Vers has created unforgettable murals in his signature technical style full of energy and movement. His work is known around the globe from Iceland, Europe, Japan & even Mongolia! But NYC will always be home.
In terms of the actual cigar, the ACID Kuba Arte is a 5 13/16 x 54 torpedo incorporating a broadleaf maduro wrapper covering an Indonesian binder as well as filler tobaccos sourced from Nicaragua. Each cigar carries a retail price of $11.90 and they are packaged in one of the aforementioned seven limited edition water tower designs. Every water tower includes 20 of the Kuba Arte cigars, and only 1,750 of each water tower design are being released.
- Cigar Reviewed: ACID Kuba Arte
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: Undisclosed (Broadleaf)
- Binder: Indonesia
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 5 13/16 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Belicoso
- MSRP: $11.90 (Box of 20, $238)
- Release Date: July 29, 2019
- Number of Cigars Released: 12,250 Boxes of 20 Cigars (245,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
While it may look like a traditional cigar on the outside—even the double artsy bands could be considered tame by today’s standards—that changes once you take the ACID Kuba Arte out of the cellphone and are assaulted with a multitude of aromas, including sweet mocha coffee, sweet milk chocolate, earth, cream and a touch of oak. From a visual perspective, the cigar is extremely attractive, covered in a mottled dark espresso brown wrapper that is fairly smooth to the touch and featuring an abundance of oil. Interestingly, the cold draw is surprisingly restrained with notes of sweet tea, herbs, sweet coffee, creamy oak and a bit of hay and generic nuttiness.
The actual profile in the first third of the Kuba Arte is not restrained with flavors seemingly falling over themselves to be noticed on the palate. Sweet matcha green tea, mocha coffee, milk chocolate, sweetened cereal, cinnamon and aromatic wood are all present and accounted for, but there are so many flavors going in and out that nothing could be considered dominant at this point. In addition, the multitude of different notes leads to a profile that is extremely unbalanced: almost cloyingly sweet on one puff, while the next puff is full of woody notes an so on. There is very little in the way of pepper or spice to be had, making the retrohale extremely smooth, but there is an underlying bitterness on the finish and the sweetened cap is extremely obvious, almost to the point of being distracting. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent after a Dickman cut, while the burn gives me no issues whatsoever. Smoke production from the foot is copious as well as dense, while the strength level seems to be going nowhere fast, ending the first third easily around a slightly elevated mild.
Right after the start of the second third, the ACID Kuba Arte shifts in a number of major ways: first is the sweetened cap, which has diminished, though is still noticeable. The strength of the infused flavors also take a nosedive and are replaced rather quickly with more traditional tobacco flavors of roasted coffee beans, earth, peanuts, hay and cocoa nibs, all of which lead to a profile that has significantly more balance. By the halfway point there is still a bit of bitterness on the finish that comes and goes, but the sweetness on the retrohale has turned into more a natural flavor that reminds me strongly of malted milk balls, and a bit of black pepper has also begun to show up. Thankfully, the draw continues to impress, but the burn starts to waver enough that I touch it up as a preventive measure. Strength-wise, the ACID has increased—albeit slowly—enough to reach a point below the medium mark but seems content to stay there as the second third ends.
As the final third of the Kuba Arte begins, it is obvious that the more traditional cigar profile has taken over almost totally, with a dominant bitter dark chocolate note taking over, followed by lesser flavors of roasted coffee beans, earth, peanuts, cocoa nibs and a little floral. The black pepper on the retrohale increases a bit, which when combined with a stronger malted milk ball sweetness really increases both the complexity and the balance in the profile, while the sweetened cap has all but disappeared. The draw continues giving me no issues, and while the burn has evened up nicely, it is not sharp. Finally, the overall strength has gone almost nowhere, ending up just shy of the medium mark by the time I put the nub down with a little more than an inch to go.
- I was a bit surprised with just how much of a difference there was when comparing the first third to the second and final thirds, especially when talking about the number of infused flavors in the profile. Joe Gro, digital marketing manager at Drew Estate, explained to me that this was partly due to the fact that the Kuba Arte—as well as the ACID 20th—are releases that were blended specifically to try and make infused cigars “more approachable” to traditional cigar smokers.
- Speaking of the first third, I cannot stress enough how conflicting it was: on the one hand, the profile featured some flavors that I very rarely—and in the case of the sweet matcha green tea, never that I remember—taste in cigars; on the other hand, the impact those same assaulting flavors combined with the bitterness on the finish had on the balance of the profile was profound, and not in a good way.
- The packaging for this release is amazing. The art on each of the water towers is substantially different, and the towers themselves are well-made. Easily some of the most unique packaging for cigars I have seen this year, and I would not be surprised if it winds up on a number of year-end lists.
- As an experiment, I tried to wipe the cap off on a fourth sample—that I did not smoke—with distilled water just to see if I could get rid of the sweetened cap, and while the note was obviously less obvious, it was also still very much evident.
- Drew Estate actually had 150 Kuba Arte custom branded XIKAR Xi cutters made that were given out to Drew Estate employees and members of the media during the IPCPR Convention. Gro told me that while there are no plans to make more at the moment, the company did see “a large consumer response to the cutters.”
- As I was pulling out each of the water towers to photograph in the studio, I noticed that each different design included a small sticker that featured the same art as the water tower it was packaged with. According to Gro, these are included so that people “can put them wherever they like.”
- I actually covered the Drew Estate booth during the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, which included a special section dedicated to the ACID brand. You can see that coverage here.
- Drew Estate advertises on halfwheel.
- The cigars smoked for this review were sent to halfwheel by Drew Estate.
- Final smoking time averaged a relatively quick one hour and 21 minutes for all three samples.
- If you would like to purchase any of the ACID Kuba Arte, site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Corona Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop, JR Cigar and STOGIES World Class Cigars all have them in stock.
This is going to be one of those rare reviews where the final score that most people look at first does not come close to telling the whole story. While there is no doubt that the first third of the ACID Kuba Arte is full of interesting, unique and mostly enjoyable flavors, those same flavors come at the expense of both nuance and balance, the latter of which was absolutely atrocious. Interestingly, the final two thirds of the cigar turn an almost complete 180, ending up exhibiting flavors that belonged in more of a traditional cigar, which makes sense given how Drew Estate described the infusion above. Having said that, while the lack of balance in the first third affected the overall score in a negative way, the abrupt change over in the final two thirds did a great job of keeping me engaged and really added to my enjoyment of the blend, as I realized that I had no idea where the profile was headed at any given point. In the end, while I doubt that one review will change many minds—people who love infused cigars will most likely love this cigar regardless, and people who don’t smoke infused cigars will probably not run out and buy them regardless—if one of the purposes of Kuba Arte is to try and bridge the gap between traditional cigar smokers and infused cigar smokers, Drew Estate nailed it.