One the best things about attending an International convention like the IPCPR, is the relationships that we foster through the people we meet. Unlike regional cigar fests and events, we get to meet the owners and master blenders of the brand and sometimes have an opportunity to sit down for a short interview with them. Stogie Press had the opportunity to chat with Willy Herrera, the Master Blender of Drew Estate. Willy was brought over from El Titan de Bronze in Miami where he was the cigar blender of this small factory on Calle Ocho in “Little Havana”.
Drew Estate was Co-Founded by Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel in 1995. It was founded in New York City and has since reached every part of the world it seems. Drew estate has a near cult following around the iconic blends like ACID, Liga Privada, Undercrown, MUWAT, and now the Herrera Estili.
When we visited the Drew Estate booth we wanted to spend some quality time with Willy, as we know he is a very busy man. We assembled a few pointed questions for him and as you will read, he was upfront, congenial, and responsive. With his big smile and absolute passion for what he does we stood and chatted for the next few minutes. Willy is easy to talk to and down to earth and like a kid with a new toy when he describes his blends and position in Drew Estate. It is clear this is a man that loves what he does.
SIX QUESTIONS FOR
SP: How is working for Drew Estate different then El Titan de Bronze in Miami?
WH: Freedom, I have freedom of choice in what tobacco I choose to use. Drew Estate is the largest importer of tobacco into Nicaragua. So I can choose any flavor – It is like being a Chef with all new spices.
SP: What, if any, changes are you planning for Drew Estate?
WH: Lots of new things are going on in the traditional side of the business. I am involved in all the blends but drive the traditional ones, Liga, UZI, Undercrown..and also the new lines that we will be coming up with, such as Herrera Estelí and other limited sizes.
SP: Prior to joining Drew Estate what was your favorite Drew Estate Cigar?
WH: Well I liked the Ligas, but it is hard to define, you know it is not easy to say what my favorite is. I like medium to full body cigar.
SP: How do you like working with Johnathon Drew? You know; two great minds of this industry.
WH: It is awesome. No butting in.. He is the best at marketing and media management. He has a close eye on that. There is no pressure on me to create a blend faster. I have all the freedom to do what I feel is right. We do exchange ideas and share thoughts, we explore other tobaccos but there is no limitation on what I can create.
SP: Right after you started with Drew Estate, you introduced the Herrera Estelí brand and was contacted by Frank Herrera over trademark infringement. How did you feel about being stopped initially from using your surname on a new stick?
WH: No Comment – All is fine, Ironed it all out. This is a respectful business.
SP: What was your favorite creation?
WH: That is a very hard question. Wow (Long pause, Smiling and chuckling). I don’t really know how to answer that. I like the Estelí Norteño, and also the new Liga. The new Liga will have a different wrapper, it will be Brazilian or perhaps a new Connecticut wrapped Undercrown. I am constantly tinkering and finding new blends. I fly around, meet people, work the factory floor, smoke them and select what we feel is best.
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