Drew Estate is known for a lot of things, and depending on what section of the humidor you frequent, you might not be as familiar with one as the other.
While there’s Liga Privada, Undercrown, MUWAT, Herrera Estelí and others on the traditional, premium cigar side, the company is also quite well established in the flavored and infused side. You’ve likely heard of ACID, but there’s also Larutan—formerly known as Natural—as well as Tabak Especial, Ambrosia, the Yummy Bitches trio for Deadwood Tobacco Co. and Isla del Sol.
The original Isla del Sol is a sweetened-tip, coffee infused cigar that uses an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and filler. This summer, the company gave the line a maduro version, a Nicaraguan puro that is available in five sizes:
- Isla del Sol Maduro Robusto (5 x 52) — $5 (Boxes of 10, $50)
- Isla del Sol Maduro Toro (6 x 52) — $5.40 (Boxes of 10, $54)
- Isla del Sol Maduro Gran Corona (5 x 44) — $4.60 (Boxes of 10, $46)
- Isla del Sol Maduro Churchill (7 x 50) — $5.80 (Boxes of 10, $58)
- Isla del Sol Maduro Breve (4 x 32) — $1.30 (Tin of 10, $13; Sleeve of 50, $65)*
- Cigar Reviewed: Isla del Sol Maduro Gran Corona
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 44
- Vitola: Petit Corona
- MSRP: $4.60 (Boxes of 10, $46)
- Release Date: September 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Other than the plentiful tooth of the wrapper leaf, which I notice before taking the cigar out of its cellophane sleeve, the first thing I pick up from the Isla del Sol Maduro is how soft it is. Even with the fairly gentle touch required to slide the cigar out, it’s readily apparent that there is a bunch of give, something confirmed when I give it a more thorough squeeze. Otherwise, the cigar looks to be rolled well, as there are no bumps or inconsistencies other than from the veins, and the caps are applied straight and even. The aroma doesn’t quite jump off the foot of the cigar, but it is present, and a closer, more proper smell reveals a prelight aroma that has orange and tangerine notes as well as some peppercorns. Where it is most interesting is at the cap of the cigar, which has been sweetened and shows a rich, cool and thick sweet coffee drink. I’m led to say an iced latte or Frappuccino for comparison, and while neither are quite spot on, they should convey the idea. There’s even a bit of chocolate syrup in there for good measure. The cold draw skewed quite a bit on the three samples, firm in the first, spot on in the second and loose in the third, with flavors of cherry cola and thick dairy creaminess for the taste buds. Both are fairly mild, at least until I take the cigar out of my mouth. At that point I get a thick coating of sugary sweetness on my tongue and lips, revealing this cigar’s most well-known characteristic.
With the sweetness from the cap still on my tongue, it’s seemingly all I taste in the first puffs of the Isla del Sol Maduro Gran Corona, though I am certainly trying to get that sensation out of my head to see what else the cigar has to offer. When I’m able to do that, I get my first taste of coffee grounds, almost identical to what I smell when I open up my coffee maker after brewing a fresh pot. The sweetness on the lips has dialed down a bit before the first inch fully burns, something I’m assuming is a function of quantity rather than it being an inherent flavor in the tobacco. I knock the first bit of ash off just shy of an inch, with the flavor more or less holding steady with some damp coffee grounds and just a bit of pepper and wood on the tip of the tongue. The third sample has the most pepper of the three, and even that is fairly restrained though easily picked up on retrohales, with a bit of dry, almost charred wood following along. By the time the first third comes to a close, there is just a bit of sweetness to be found from the head of the cigar, while coffee grounds remain the most dominant note, complemented ever so slightly by some tree bark and leather. The draw is quite good, smoke production sufficient, and the burn line fairly even.
While I know what the Isla del Sol line is billed as, I’m still not quite sure what I’m getting at the start of the second third, though I can say it’s not coffee or at least not what I think of when it comes to coffee. There is still a good amount of sweetness on the lips, and while the smoke has a solid body, I find it lacking in discernible flavors. There’s some earth, a bit of chocolate and just suggestions at pepper, and maybe I was simply expecting more of an outright coffee profile given its billing, but this is a hard cigar for me to wrap my head around. For the most part it’s very palatable, showing little if any harshness or roughness, but even by the third sample I’m still struggling to formulate a conclusion as to just what exactly this is. Just ahead of the midway point, I’m still getting a bit of sweetness on the lips, which I find a bit surprising given the trajectory it was on in the first third, while the rest of the flavor hasn’t changed that much. It’s a bit less forward with the coffee grounds, and while I don’t get much in the way of outright coffee, there is some of that Starbucks char starting to come out. The sweetened tip is still affecting the flavor, particularly in the second sample, and its thick, syrupy nature pours it on pretty hard. The section closes out with a bit of chocolate syrup starting to emerge, while the draw and burn are both fantastic.
While I don’t drink a lot of Starbucks’ Pike Place Roast, I do drink it fairly regularly thanks to its seeming omnipresence and the convenience of drive-thru windows; I mention that because the Isla del Sol Maduro Gran Corona continues to remind me of it as the burn line makes its way into the final third. It’s really not an overt coffee note, or at least not an overt coffee-related drink flavor such as a mocha, latte or other such creation, but it’s about the best comparison. There’s some increasing damp earthiness and soil, while I’m beginning to get a bit more pepper on the front of the tongue. The sweetness from the tip is varied from sample to sample, with the second cigar holding onto quite a bit of it as the burn line progresses. There’s a bit of roughness from the cigar in the final inches, as I get a mixture of earth and black pepper that agitates more than anything.
- There’s a point in the Isla del Sol Maduro Gran Corona where it goes from being a sweetened tip, coffee-flavored cigar to being an unsweetened cigar with a coffee characteristic to it, and it’s there that I’m forced to reckon with just what the cigar actually is. After the first sample, I was really left uncertain of just what I was tasting, as it didn’t taste like a typical cigar, yet it didn’t taste infused, flavored or whatever you want to call it.
- It feels odd to call this a gran corona, so I referenced CubanCigarWebsite.com’s chart of traditional Cuban common names, and it seems this would fall into the petit corona category.
- There really is something unique and interesting about smoking a cigar with a sweetened tip; it skews so much of the flavor of the first third that I’m still not quite sure exactly what the cigar tasted like.
- If you’ve been on a tour of Drew Estate’s factory, you likely know that the portion of the factory where the infusing of tobacco takes place is not on said tour. It’s not something the company shows off to visitors no matter how many VIP badges you have on.
- There’s hardly any nicotine buzz from the Isla del Sol Maduro Gran Corona, something I think makes sense given its target audience.
- Drew Estate advertises on halfwheel.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 20 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Cigars.com, Famous Smoke Shop, JR Cigar and Serious Cigars carry the Isla del Sol Maduro Gran Corona.
First things first: I don't smoke many flavored or infused cigars, let alone review them. I also know that no matter what score this gets, a good number of people reading this still wouldn't even consider smoking it. That said, the Isla del Sol Maduro Corona Gorda deserves a fair review both for what it is and where it sits in the market. While it gets the sweetened tip part down pat, for a cigar being billed as coffee-infused, it fell quite short in my book, again, for what I think coffee tastes like. If anything, the cigar sold me more on chocolate syrup than coffee, and at a stretch it could pass for some mutant coffee-related drink sold at any drive-thru window. As a cigar in the premium space, it's not likely to win converts, though without the sweetened tip it would certainly have a better chance, as that part is too pervasive to overlook. One thing that did not disappoint was the construction and smoke production, the latter of which Drew Estate has definitely mastered. While I'm not incredibly impressed by this cigar or likely to pick up some more for my own humidor, it's certainly more than passable, and in the right situation could be enjoyable for someone who goes back and forth between the flavored and unflavored segments.