A few months after Royal Gold was announced, the new premium cigar division from Swisher International, the company announced—in a roundabout way—that it would be adding a fourth brand made by Drew Estate.

By the trade show, it was announced that the brand would be Nirvana Cameroon Selection and it would be released at some point later in the year. That time has almost come and Royal Gold expects to begin shipping the cigars some time after December 9.

Nirvana is an interesting project as it is the first time Drew Estate, which has consistently claimed to be at production capacity for well over a year, is taking on a new client. It’s also a foray into Cameroon wrapper, a wrapper the company generally is not known for working with.

The cigar will be offered in five sizes at the highest price points in the Royal Gold portfolio:

  • Nirvana Silencio (4 x 44) — $9.15 (Boxes of 20, $183)
  • Nirvana Corona Gorda (6 x 46) — $9.65 (Boxes of 20, $193)
  • Nirvana Robusto (5 x 52) — $10.35 (Boxes of 20, $207)
  • Nirvana Toro (6 x 52) — $10.85 (Boxes of 20, $217)
  • Nirvana Torpedo (6 x 54) — $10.85 (Boxes of 20, $217)
The cigar comes in boxes very similar to Drew Estate’s Natural line, they were shown off at the 2013 IPCPR trade show and convention.

Nirvana 1

Nirvana 2

The inscription on the box reads:

The story of NIRVANA by Drew Estate begins with rich plantation tobaccos from the most precious and fertile growing regions in the North of Nicaragua and Cameroon, Africa. The dark, rich, and heavy soil of the renowned Esteli district makes the filler leaves come to life in this distinct blend. Silky and voluptuous Cameroon wrapper completes this epic narrative in a blend that we can proudly describe as luxuriously full bodied, yet naturally sweet and spicy.  Nirvana is passionately made in Estelí, Nicaragua by “friends and family” cigar rollers who have been with Drew Estate for almost 10 years, ensuring a quality roll and consistency.

Nirvana Toro 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Nirvana Cameroon Selection Toro
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: Cameroon
  • Binder: Mexican San Andrés Negra
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Estelí & Jalapa)
  • Size:  6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $10.85 (Boxes of 20, $217)
  • Release Date: Dec. 9, 2013
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Cameroon comes in all different varietals, this wrapper does not compare to the better Meerapfel tobaccos, but then again, nothing compares to the Meerapfel’s Cameroon. This tobacco is fairly dull, with an almost cardboard-like appearance and very little oil, which isn’t out of the ordinary from Cameroon. There’s some dry nuttiness from the wrapper, but incense notes from the foot: roasted, sweet cinnamon and Worcestershire sauce. On the cold draw I get some sweet sunflower notes, plum and a soft coffee.

From the start, I get the sense the Nirvana is a far cry from Oliva Serie G or Hemingway as far as intensity goes, it’s also a lot drier. There’s a mixture of soft cedar, a familiar sunflower and Worcestershire pairing, cocoa and some more generic woodiness. The signature white pepper, or as David “Doc” Diaz once described to me as wasabi, that I normally can find in the retrohale isn’t there, instead there’s a black pepper on the back of the throat. The profile is dry, which is something some appreciate, but I do not. Towards the end of the first third I get a bit of a harsh bourbon note, it’s without the alcoholic component, but still remarkable similar. Construction doesn’t warrant complaints. As for the strength, it’s medium, while the body and flavor are both full.

Nirvana Toro 2

As the second third develops, the Cameroon-wrapped Drew Estate creation sees the burn go a bit crooked on two samples, but it manages to correct itself without me ever touching-up. The profile gets a lot cleaner and I can find some saltiness on the sunflower notes that was not present in the earlier parts of the cigar, the bourbon note is gone and there’s now a chalkiness in the nose. I still can’t pick up any white pepper on the retrohale, but there’s enough black pepper at the back of the throat to keep the contrast with the emerging mild sweetness. Smoke production continues to be great, not Undercrown or Nica Rustica levels, but still abnormally above average. Draw remains fine and I’m able to let the cigar rest for extended periods of time.

Nirvana Toro 3

The bourbon note returns for the final third, it’s the only real flavor change I can find on the Nirvana. It stays crisp, dry and full to the finish, but it’s not a decisive change like I got between the first two thirds. There is one disappointment: the smoke production, which declines and forces me to increase my puff rate to a more normal pace after getting to take my time through the earlier parts of the cigar.

Nirvana Toro 4

Final Notes

  • Releasing a Cameroon cigar in winter is risky, or maybe even beyond risky. The fragility of the tobacco during the cooler months is intense.
  • Drew Estate has largely said no to client brands. Their other notable client, Java for Rocky Patel.
  • Cameroon is expensive, generally considered to be the most expensive tobacco one can purchase. It’s one of the main reasons why you see few using African Cameroon. The price tag for this cigar is high, too high in my opinion. Is it Royal Gold being greedy? Nope. They are using expensive components and a top-notch factory, both of these things are going to drive the cost of producing the cigar up.
  • From start to finish: full flavor, full-bodied, medium in strength.
  • This is not Drew Estate’s first Cameroon cigar, although it’s not a wrapper the company normally works with.
  • I am not really a fan of this packaging. Drew Estate has set the bar high and Royal Gold’s other lines have packaging that is much cleaner.
  • It’s somewhat intriguing that the company named the small 4 x 44 size, but used traditional vitola names for the rest of the sizes.
  • I would have guessed this as Cameroon on appearance only. Taste-wise, it’s not a typical Cameroon.
  • Site sponsor Drew Estate sent the cigars for this review.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes on average.
  • Famous Smoke Shop is currently the only site sponsor with a product page up for Nirvana. I suspect this will change once the cigars begin to show up at retail.
85 Overall Score

I like Cameroon, I also like a lot, albeit not the majority, of cigars Drew Estate produces. As so oftentimes happens, when you take two things I should like: Don Carlos and Lancero, Oliva Serie V and Lancero or Drew Estate and Cameroon, the result is not as great as I hoped for. These are a solid offering, a much different Cameroon than the mainstays from Fuente, General and Altadis and different as well from those from Oliva, Perdomo and others. Slightly stronger than Casa Fuente, I’d venture to guess this is the strongest Cameroon cigar on the market, but with a price tag that is understandably too high.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.