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In case you missed it at the end of last week, we posted a news story for Drew Estate’s only entirely new brand they are releasing at the show—the Nica Rustica. It is only being released in one size, a 6 x 52 Parejo, and is packaged in 50-count display boxes, each box including two bundles of 25. According to the cigar spec sheet, the Nica Rustica “is a medium to full bodied smoke – it is blended to be rustic – un-polished, un-refined, for hard core tobacco lovers.” Described by Jonathan Drew, the cigar is not as strong as a Liga Privada and the profiles are different enough to differentiate the two brands from each other.

The packaging of the cigar is quite interesting as well. The box is made to look like an old wooden crate, continuing with the rustic theme, and features an image of El Brujito on the lid. We went into this in a little more detail in the news story:

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The artwork for Nica Rustica is made to pay homage to Estelí by using the image of El Brujito, which is displayed prominently throughout the box. El Brujito, which translates into witch doctor or the shaman, is an image found on a rock that dates back to pre-Columbian times that shows a shaman, the earliest known users of tobacco in Estelí.

Here is what the box looks like:
Nica-Rustica-Box.jpg

Unlike the Undercrown which was somewhat of an alternative blend to the Liga Privada line, the Nica Rustica is a new creation with different tobaccos throughout. Having written about the different tobaccos used in the news story, Charlie had this to say:

For those thinking this is Liga Privada wrapper on a different filler, it’s not. The company primarily uses Connecticut Broadleaf Darks for Liga Privada, although the Feral Flying Pig uses mediums, but the difference is much further than the name. Because of the broadness in classification in Connecticut, broadleaf by the same name can be two very different leaves, something the company think will be evident with the diversity in color and roughness of the wrapper for Nica Rustica.

The news story goes into much more detail about the tobacco, so I highly suggest reading the rest of the article.

Speaking of tobacco, during this year’s Cigar Safari, Drew Estate was handing out test blends of the Nica Rustica that was the supposed finalized blend. Between the time the test blend was handed out and the actual production blend there were some changes made. Nicholas Melillo, Drew Estate’s executive director of tobaccos, wasn’t happy with the profile of the cigar, so he switched some of the Jalapa viso out for Estelí viso and arrived at the new finalized blend that has gone to production.

Here’s what the Cigar Safari test blend looks like next to the production release:

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Nica Rustica 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Nica Rustica
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Mediums
  • Binder: Mexican San Andrés Negro
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $6.95 (Box of 50, $347.50)
  • Release Date: August 2013
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 4

The Nica Rustica is visually exactly what the company was going for with a rustic feel. The almost yellow-aged looking band, a bit of a rough wrapper, the slightly imperfect pigtail cap and the covered foot all add to the rustic, aged look. As far as the wrapper, it is a deep, rich dark chocolate brown that has a slightly rough feel to it. It is so oily and rich though, that it almost overcomes the texture to make it feel soft. The wrapper’s aroma has a rich barnyard sweetness mixed with cocoa and some minor nuttiness. A singular note of dry cocoa bordering on milk chocolate is so strong it drowns out anything else on the cold draw.

The first third starts off immediately with billowing smoke enveloping everything around me. Rich notes of cocoa with an earthy nuttiness bring exactly the flavor profile I’m expecting at this point – rustic and bold. There is a sweetness to the profile as well, though nothing too cloying. The light grey ash has a brownish tint to it and holds on until about three quarters of an inch. The draw is good—loose, but not too loose—which allows for the Nicaraguan filler to billow smoke long after I’ve taken a draw from the cigar. Towards the end of this third a minor spice note has developed as well, which mixes well with the cocoa and nutty notes.

Nica Rustica 2

Continuing on to the second third we see more of the cocoa and nuttiness, though the spice has developed into a deeper, richer spice than before. In the background I’m starting to get a little bit of caramel and that continued sweetness in the profile as well. The overall burn has been excellent, and though not razor sharp all around, it has burned even and hasn’t required any touch ups despite smoking in some noticeable wind. The caramel continues to develop, while the nuttiness, cocoa and spice still being the dominant flavors in the lineup.

Nica Rustica 3

The final third of the Nica Rustica sees the caramel develop into more of a salted caramel flavor, while the overall profile is still a slightly sweet cocoa with some spice leading the mix. About halfway through the final third the cocoa starts shifting to more of a dark chocolate note. Burn, draw and ash all continue to be spot on, going to show the construction of the cigar is solid. Savory spice continues to enrich the entire profile, with the dark chocolate, nuttiness, and salted caramel making for a great bouquet of flavors.

Nica Rustica 4

Final Notes:

  • The Nica Rustica is supposed to be a medium to full-bodied smoke with a strength that is lighter than the Liga Privada line. I would agree completely with this statement, placing the cigar at a near-full body and a mild to medium strength.
  • Six years ago at the 2007 RTDA, Drew Estate launched Liga Privada in much the same way: One size and sold in cabs of 48. The following year saw more sizes added to the line, making it easy to speculate that there is a strong possibility for Nica Rustica to end up with more than one size choice in the future.
  • Just to be clear, this is a review of the production version. The ones given out prior to IPCPR were a different blend. Unless you are in Vegas right now or work for DE, you probably haven’t smoked this Nica Rustica.
  • The other major traditional release for Drew Estate at IPCPR 2013 is the MUWAT KFC.
  • The type of Connecticut Broadleaf used on the Nica Rustica is also used on the Feral Flying Pig. Having said that, the Connecticut Broadleaf Mediums used on the Nica Rustica and Feral Flying Pig are not interchangeable, as they are different grades of the same type of tobacco.
  • Melillo thinks the cigar will actually get a spicier over the course of the next two months because of the aging of the heavy leaf in the blend.
  • For this cigar, Drew Estate not only buys the entire tobacco plant, but buys entire farms of the tobacco too. Because of this reason, it allows Drew Estate to have a major say in how these farmers raise the tobacco.
  • The prerelease we have is a bit thicker than the production version. As for the wrapper color variation, that’s something you are going to see within boxes as the company believes it adds to the rustic feel.
  • This is the third consecutive year that Drew Estate has had a major release tied to Estelí. 2011 saw Undercrown, 2012 Herrera Estelí.
  • Drew Estate somewhat has a history of announcing new cigars earlier in the year, with the “hopes” of having them at the trade show, but never any concrete commitment. Examples of this being the Dirty Rat, L40, Herrera Esteli, and to some extent Undercrown. This has certainly also applied to the Nica Rustica. The largest reason behind this is that the extreme length of time between when these cigars are announced and the trade show, it allows for a myriad of potential issues to could crop up.
  • When you talk to people about Nica Rustica before the show, many people have assumed that this will be a limited release. This will be a cigar that should be easily and readily available at stores that carry Drew Estate products.
  • And I ask you, what’s the last bad cigar Drew Estate made?
  • This will be the first cigar that Nicholas Melillo had a hand in designing the packaging. The main reason for this being that he lives in Nicaragua full time.
  • While I have not smoked a Cigar Safari blend, Charlie has. He told me the production version performed rather different.
  • Of the over 2,200 articles posted on halfwheel, the Nica Rustica news story is currently sitting at the second highest commented article on the site. I’d take a guess and say that’s because we’re giving away five 10 packs and a full box of 50 to some lucky commenters. My suggestion would be to go enter if you haven’t already!
  • This cigar was provided to halfwheel by Drew Estate, who is also a site sponsor.
  • Final smoking time was just under two hours.
94 Overall Score

You can’t call this cigar boring by any means. The flavors continue to develop from the first draw all the way until the nub. The flavors all mesh nicely as well, coming together to form a complex, but not messy profile. Construction is spot on and is not something I would have noticed if I wasn't paying attention—which is exactly how it should be in my opinion. Having a cigar that is completely free of any construction issues allows you to focus on the flavors and just enjoying the cigar. Not only is this cigar something I will, without question, be adding to my weekly rotation, but it is a very reasonably priced-cigar too. If you remember, price isn't factored into our review scores, but it sure does factor into how much of a certain cigar I will smoke regularly. I can easily recommend seeking these out as soon as they’re available and you can be assured that I’ll be doing exactly that.

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Brian Burt
About the author

I have been smoking cigars since 2005 and reviewing them as a hobby since 2010. Initially I started out small with a 50-count humidor and only smoking one or two cigars a month. Not knowing anybody else that smoked cigars, it was only an occasional hobby that I took part in. In March of 2010 I joined Nublive and Cigar Asylum, connecting me with many people who also shared an interest in cigars. Reading what they had to say about brands I had never heard of, I quickly immersed myself in the boutique brands of the industry and it was then that cigars transformed from a hobby into a passion. Besides my cigar hobby and job in the IT industry, my wife and I love traveling, trying new restaurants and relaxing at home with our two dogs.

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