Every spring, the acronym TAA starts popping up on halfwheel as cigar companies begin to announce the limited editions they will be producing for an exclusive group of retailers who meet every spring.
The Tobacconists’ Association of America is a group of approximately 80 retailers—though many with multiple store locations—who represent some of the biggest and most influential shops in the country. They are seen as the core group of influencers in the retail sector of the cigar industry, and as such many manufacturers want to ensure as good of a relationship as possible with them.
In addition to offering the group steep discounts on existing product, many manufacturers have begun creating cigars just for them, sometimes a new size to an existing line, other times a new blend altogether. In the case of Drew Estate this year, master blender Willy Herrera created a new variant of his Herrera Estelí blend that uses a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, the first time he has done so in his time with the company.
The Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 is a single vitola, 6 x 52 toro with the aforementioned wrapper over Brazilian mata fina binders and Nicaraguan fillers, a new blend entirely.
“This is my first blend since joining Drew Estate that utilizes Connecticut Broadleaf tobacco,” said Willy Herrera, Drew Estate’s master blender, in a press release issued in early March when the cigar was announced. “Drew Estate fans know that we’re famous for our use of Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos, especially in our Liga Privada No. 9 and Nica Rustica lines. I’ve been experimenting with blends that incorporate this incredible wrapper since coming on board and finally have a blend I’m really excited about.”
When it shipped in April, shortly after the group’s meeting it became the third widely released cigar to wear the Herrera Estelí name, joining the original line and the Herrera Estelí Norteño. It also shares the same primary band as the Tienda Exclusiva by Willy Herrera series, which so far has two releases.
It also joined a number of other new releases for the TAA this year, including the CLE Azabache, Crowned Heads’ The Angel’s Anvil 2016, La Flor Dominicana’s TAA 48, Bill’s Blend from La Palina, the My Father El Centurion H∙2K∙CT, Padron 1926 Serie #48 TAA Exclusive, Quesada Reserva Privada Oscuro and Tatuaje TAA 2016.
- Cigar Reviewed: Herrera Estelí TAA 2016
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
- Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $12 (Boxes of 12, $144)
- Release Date: April 13, 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 comes in the all-too-familiar 6 x 52 toro vitola, a perfectly fine size on its own but one that has overrun the world of limited edition cigars in recent years and now feels so common that it erodes some of what makes an LE special. The wrapper is a dark brown but with a slightly reddish hue and a bit of mottled, lighter spots that keep the leaf from gobbling up light. Certain samples show more veins than others, with both secondary veins and smaller feeder veins very much visible. The roll on the cigar is firm and even yet there is a bit of give to be found, and knowing Willy Herrera’s particular penchant for ensuring properly rolled cigars, I’m not too concerned about these. I can’t say that either the cold draw or pre-light aroma offers me much to go on in guessing this cigar’s future; the prelight aroma gives off a bit of a fresh fruit aroma, blending green apple and mandarin orange while a touch of soil tries to make its presence in the background known. The cold draw repeats a bit of the light fruit note but has turned it into more of a sauce, less bright and more concentrated than the aroma. A bit of cedar and soil come out as well, with no pepper immediately noticeable.
The Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 offers a fair amount to process in the first half-an-inch, introducing components that quickly come together to form a s’more like flavor but with just a touch of pepper. The cigar starts with a dry smoke, slightly depleting the saliva in my mouth and necessitating a few sips of water to help replenish it. There isn’t the outright sweetness that the idea of a s’more might convey, but rather a cocoa powder flavor that does the job. The smoke stays relatively soft on the palate while retrohales are much more peppery, engaging but not overpowering. The first clump of ash holds on past an inch in length, while the burn line has been fairly even and as would be expected with a Drew Estate product, smoke production is more than abundant.
While the Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 isn’t shy in terms of the body of the smoke, there is a fair amount going on the subtleties of the flavor, something that can be a challenge to pick out at times but is certainly worth the effort. When the cigar is most forthcoming with its full flavor offerings—and my palate is at its most receptive—there is a subtle but decadent orange jam sweetness that can be detected early on in this section, standing out best when the pepper takes a brief break and leaves behind a soft smoke that has just a bit of subtle chalk to it. The mouth-drying texture of the smoke begins to return as the burn line crosses the midpoint, with dry earth, coffee beans and a light sprinkling of pepper driving most of the flavor, and a retrohale that is almost perfectly balanced in terms of pepper, strength and aroma. A bit of jerk sauce starts to emerge from the ambient smoke, providing a sweet and tangy beckoning back to the cigar.
The final third of the Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 begins without much fanfare, coasting out of the previous section and into this one without much in the way of transitional notes or events. It’s a medium to medium-plus cigar in terms of strength and flavor, though there are points where it regresses back into a very smooth smoke that doesn’t reach out to the palate nearly as much. With the bands needing to be removed, pepper comes back into the equation but with more of a chili pepper leaning, a bit more biting and pointed on the tongue, while dry earth and coffee beans begin to show up shortly thereafter. Despite what appeared to be some attempts to cross over into the full-bodied spectrum, the Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 never did, staying medium to medium-plus from start to finish.
- The draw and construction of the Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 were fantastic, and as mentioned above, smoke production was never an issue, though it’s not as much of a smoke machine like the Undercrown.
- Production numbers have still not been disclosed on this, so it’s not known just how many boxes have been produced. One would assume it is limited, however, based on the fact that the name includes the year it was released.
- That could also bode well for a 2017 version. The 49th Annual TAA Convention and Tradeshow will be held March 12-16, 2017 in Cabo San Lucas.
- In December 2013, it was announced that the Herrera Estelí would be getting revised bands, replacing “Imported From Nicaragua” with “By Drew Estate.” at the bottom.
- Brooks Whittington reviewed the original Herrera Estelí Toro Especial and Herrera Estelí Norteño Edición Limitada, Charlie Minato reviewed the Herrera Estelí Lancero and I reviewed the Herrera Estelí Norteño Robusto Grande.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.
- Some cigars smoked for this review were provided by Drew Estate while others were purchased by halfwheel.
- Site sponsors Corona Cigar Co. and STOGIES World Class Cigars (713.783.5100) are both TAA members.
Both the original Herrera Estelí and Herrera Estelí Norteño are personal favorites, and while there are moments that the Herrera Estelí TAA 2016 seemed destined to join that group, there were a few that kept it from doing so. It’s not so much that there were spots where I didn’t enjoy the cigar, rather ones that didn’t quite align with my palate and preferences, as well as when the flavors didn’t shine quite as brightly as I had hoped. There is a lot to like with this cigar right now, and I have no doubt that this cigar will continue to improve in the coming months.