CCP Pedro Gomez | Herrera Esteli Norteno

Pedro Gomez, factory spokesperson for Drew Estate Cigar Co. in Esteli, Nicaragua, talks about their Cigar Safari factory tours. He started working at the factory doing anything that was needed and moved up the ranks and held a few different positions. He is now doing the factory tours six months out of the year and travel to the United States the other six months doing cigar events. One of their top cigars is the very limited and hard to find Herrera Esteli Norteno which was made by their master blender Willy Herrera. The Habano wrapper Herrera Esteli was the first release, followed by the Norteno which is a medium to full body with a box press shape.

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Cigar Cafe Radio Pedro Gomez Special Guest | Drew Estate | Norteno

I’m Lane with Sean and Harris. We’ve got a special guest. We’ve got Pedro Gomez from Drew Estate. Pedro, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. First of all, a shout out to all our audience of Cigar Café Radio. Thank you so much for hosting this. It’s great to be in contact with our people and the people that love the cigar industry in general. Basically, it is a true honor for me to be here.

Thanks, Pedro. I appreciate that. We’re glad to have you.

All of us are a little bit of a Drew Estate fan boys in one way or another. I feel like every show, something from Drew Estate comes up about three or four different times.

If it’s not a Java cigar, it’s Liga or something. We started talking to Drew Estate about getting somebody on the show. They were specific in directing us your way. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do for Drew Estate?

Thank you so much. We do Nicaragua. I do that for six months of the year. Then the other six months, I am in United States, around the country doing cigar events, visiting cigar stores and attending to national events and stuff like that. Everything related to cigars. I’ve been working for Drew Estate for nine years. I started off as an Operation Managing Assistant here in the factory. Two years after that, they promoted me to be the Director of Cigar Safari. Three years after that, they promoted me to be the Director of International Sales. In July 2013, that’s when they transfer me from Esteli, Nicaragua to work full-time for Drew Estate in the United States. I’m very grateful. God has been great. God is good and he is good all the time.

You’ve moved up the ranks in the last nine years. It’s been pretty exciting for you.

I have been blessed to claim the first place to this company. I came at the right time, at the right place and obviously with the right people. I’m born and raised in Esteli and having this opportunity, is a lifetime opportunity. Drew Estate has been very good to me.

You were born in Esteli. The cigar industry is pretty darn strong there in Esteli, was your family involved in the business? How did that work out for you?

When you look at the cigar industry inside, everything is a family business. You see companies that’s second generation, third generation. If you are part of the family, you can get some opportunity. None of my family members have ever worked in the cigar industry. With the exception of my older brother, he was a cigar roller for a company here in Esteli. How I got involved with it that was after I returned from the United States. In the first place, before I ever joined Drew Estate, I was a saddle maker. I was making saddles for horses here in Esteli and that’s how I was surviving.

Not earning the living, because making saddles for horses in third world countries is not a joke. That’s how I finished my high school. My beginnings are humble. I come from a very poor family. Basically, the only way out I could see in my life, it was not making saddles for horses. It was going to school and doing my best. I finished my high school here in Esteli and then I applied for a full scholarship that the United States has for third world countries like Nicaragua. In 2003, I applied for the opportunity.

In 2004, I gained the opportunity. 300 students around the country applied for the scholarship and only two got the opportunity. They’ve flown and sent me to Iowa. I went to Iowa and I didn’t know even one word of English. I took my ESL class, but my focus was Business Administration, focused in International Trade. It took me two years to graduate. I graduated with honors. I learned the language. Part of the rule is that you have to come back to your own country.

In the program I stand with the students from Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and he was my classmate here from Nicaragua. The group in Iowa was around eighteen students from all those countries. I came back to Nicaragua in 2006. I was looking for a job because I didn’t want to go back to the saddle shop. I was putting all my hopes and my faith in God, and I came to Drew Estate.

First of all, I went to all other cigar factories and they didn’t have an opportunity for me. I went to Drew Estate and they said, “We don’t have opportunity for you, but if you want to work, come tomorrow.” I went the next day to the factory. Before when I joined Drew Estate, we were in eleven different houses in order to operate as a cigar factory. It was a little factory. I joined Drew Estate and a lot of people from the factory, they thought, “This guy come from the United States. He is bilingual. He has a certificate from the United States. What the hell is this guy doing here? This guy’s going to quit.”

They didn’t know where my background was. For me, that was a decent and honorable job. Even though my first year at Drew Estate, I was the water boy. Whatever they need. “We need coffee, call Pedro. We need a driver, don’t call Pedro because he doesn’t know how to drive. Call the driver.” It was like that. Things were changing and I am a true believer that good things happen at the right time.

CCP Pedro Gomez | Herrera Esteli Norteno

Herrera Esteli Norteno: Things were changing and I am a true believer that good things happen at the right time and to good people too.

To good people too. I really love your story. It’s no surprise that Drew Estate guided you to us or us to you because truly, what a neat story. You come from the region. You’re trying to get yourself out of the region. You find a great company to work for and with an awesome lineup of products, and then you make your living out of it. I’ve got one question to ask you before we talk cigars. You went to Iowa. Did you go to the University of Iowa? The Hawkeyes?

No. I attend to a community college. It was in Iowa State. The community college school is Scott Community College. That one is in Quad Cities. It was interesting to see what it’s like to be in the Midwest, especially when you come from a country whatever you hear about the United States through movies and the sport. We do know where New York is, where Miami is, where Los Angeles is, Iowa? Where is Iowa? It’s good. There are many people in Iowa, great people, super kind, truly legit. Shout out to those people over there.

Believe it or not, we didn’t know you were going to be on the show, but you sent me a Norteño. I had an Esteli Norteño in the last three days. How weird is that? Awesome smoke, Harris. I loved it. My first Esteli by Drew Estate. I was pretty thrilled. Thank you for sending that. I appreciate it.

You just went all the way to the top, because that cigar right there is a very interesting cigar. Not just because of how the cigar tastes, but also the background of the project. This cigar was blended by Willy Herrera, who is our master blender. Willy Herrera joined Drew Estate in 2011. Willy had come up with a product like Herrera Esteli, which is a nice, medium body smoke with a beautiful Habano wrapper from Ecuador. Then he released the Norteño. Norteño means Northern.

Here in Nicaragua, if you are from Esteli, people call you, “You are the northerners,” from the north. That’s what the cigar represents. If you look at the band, it brings a little bird. That bird is the national bird of Nicaragua. That’s called Guardabarranco. That cigar has a nice Mexican wrapper on it. It has a good Honduras binder and the filler is from Nicaragua. If you are a medium to full body smoke, you’re going to enjoy that one because that one is medium plus. It is a batch for a good-looking Vitola.

Harris, I was going to tell you. I really loved it. It started out with a cinnamon spice to it. A pretty smoke. I thought it was a solid medium for me, but awesome smoke. In fact, I texted you when I was smoking it. It was a pretty cool. It’s nice to have you on to talk about it. That’s very cool.

That’s one of my favorites from Drew Estate. Interestingly enough, that is what Lane is smoking now.

I’m trying to figure out which size I’m smoking it. It looks like it’s the Coronita, so it’s 4×46. It’s about the same size as the Padron 1926 I sometimes smoke when I go to the beach. It’s a good lunch break type of cigar. I agree with you, it’s a very pleasant, medium-bodied, very Nicaraguan profile. Definitely giving some of that cinnamon and cocoa that you talked about a little bit, but I’m enjoying it.

At the last third, I’ve got some deep cocoa, dark chocolate type of tones that came to the forefront as the last third was starting. It was an awesome smoke. I’m glad you sent it. Pedro, what’s your favorite cigar that Drew Estate makes?

First of all, Drew Estate is hard to come up with that flavor profile to see the general picture of what Drew Estate is about. If you look at Drew Estate products, we’ve got cigars for everybody. From people that love few cigars like ACID and Tabak Especial to premium cigars like Liga Privada, Undercrown, Norteño Herrera Esteli. My favorite cigar from Drew Estate is El Brujito aka Nica Rustica.

I love that cigar.

That cigar is amazing. That cigar is the bomb.

It gets looked over a little bit. It gets passed by a touch. How about you, Harris? Do you sell a ton of them?

We do sell a lot of those. I’d say it’s a middle for us. I agree, it maybe it gets overlooked a little bit. It’s always a pretty solid one. It’s one of my favorites too.

Until I saw the Norteño, I had a Nica Rustica in my hands.

That was your second choice.

Which one is your favorite cigar from Drew Estate? You say Norteño, I hear Nica Rustica. What else do you guys have got over there?

I’m going to go first. I would say my favorite everyday smoke by Drew Estate is the Undercrown. I would say that I love the Liga T52. For me that’s a special occasion cigar. If I could smoke one cigar everyday by Drew Estate, it’s going to be the Undercrown.

The Undercrown, that’s a very nice smoke. The story behind Undercrown was that when we released Liga, the thing here at Drew Estate factory is that people can smoke as many cigars they want, whatever day want. Before we were able to release Undercrown, people were smoking a lot of Ligas. That time, still now, the men of Liga is crazy and it’s one of the hottest cigar in the market. They sell so quick that you can only find Ligas in Drew Estate events.

With the Undercrown, that was a blend that was developed by the people that made the Liga. Basically, when Jonathan Drew and the guys that worked here at Drew Estate, they smoke the cigar, they saw the potential on it and they came out with the name Undercrown by giving the credit to the people here in the factory, that they were the people that blend that cigar. The cigar has a super story.

When I described the Undercrown to people, I’ve had so many people that smoked the Undercrown now because I’ve told them about it. If they ask me, “What’s the difference between the Liga Privada and the T52 and the Undercrown?” I say, “There are definitely similarities between the two, but I feel the Liga has got a lot of complexity. It changes throughout the smoke. There’s one point in the T52 that is almost the same flavor profile as in the Undercrown, but the Undercrown has that flavor profile throughout the entire cigar.” I don’t feel like it’s the same smoke from start to finish, in my opinion. It’s a very consistent smoke. Maybe you can shed some light on that for us.

That’s a nice description there, Lane. We would like to thank you guys for the support and for try our products. There is a lot of great brands up there, but just for the fact that you have tried our cigar, that’s awesome. The difference between Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 is this. Liga Privada No. 9, we used the wrapper that comes from Connecticut, that wrapper is called broadleaf. The T52, we use the Habano, T52 that comes from Connecticut as well. You have two different variety of tobacco and therefore they are going to give you a very different flavor profile.

If you go to a cigar store and people that smoke cigars in debate in all this stuff, they’re going to tell you, “My favorite is No. 9,” then the other guy will jump and he will say, “The one that I love is the T52.” At the end of the day, we use the same tobaccos in Ligas, but in No. 9, T52 we blend them differently. At the end of the day you are going to reach a whole deep flavor profile by putting less tobacco of this and more tobacco on that. The other one, more tobacco of this, and less tobacco on that. The other day is blending, juicing good tobacco and knowing what you’re going to do with it. Sometimes you can have good tobaccos and not all of the tobacco plays well if you put it together, not knowing the different characteristics.

CCP Pedro Gomez | Herrera Esteli Norteno

Herrera Esteli Norteno: Quality and the consistency go hand-in-hand.

An example will be a broadleaf wrapper might play very well with the Ligero from Esteli, maybe Viso from Jalapa and maybe Seco from Condega and it goes like that, but it doesn’t apply in every tobacco. At the end of the day, my point is when you’re blending cigars, you are trying to come out with the Dream Team. You guys remember the Dream Team from 1992? You’re talking about Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird. That was the greatest basketball team in the NBA history. When you have a cigar like that, and you can put together all those different elements, the filler, the binder are all together. All of them played very well. You accomplished something good there.

The question is if you are going to keep that consistency? That’s literally what the reality is. Quality and the consistency go hand-in-hand. That’s one of the things that you are going to see in our product. A lot of people have seen cigars that constantly market, great cigar brands and one year, two years and then they disappear. It happens to a lot of companies, including us. At the end of the day, nobody’s perfect. Everybody’s trying to do their best. Once you accomplish something good, the idea is to keep it the same. Being committed to the blend, being committed to the people that love that cigar and having the vision where that cigar is going to be in ten years from now.

I have a question for you, Pedro. If you’re going to smoke a cigar that’s not made by Drew Estate, what would it be? Are there any other brands you’d like to try?

Nowadays, everything what is happening in the streets is what you see in social media. If you are a part of groups like CATS, Cigar Cartel, Cigar Dojo, you are in a page group where a lot of different people are posting pictures of different cigars. The cigar that you see most, you are going to be interested to try. I like non-Drew Estate, Joya de Nicaragua because we also distribute Joya de Nicaragua in the United States. Pepin Garcia’s My Father Cigars is very good. I like Jericho Hill and that’s how I found out about that cigar on social media. I saw a picture of that cigar many times and I was, “I’ve got to give it a try to that one.”

That’s one of my favorites.

Aging Room, shout out to Rafael. That guy is great. He has great tools. Padron cigar, that would be sample of quality and consistency here in Nicaragua. There are a lot of great brands. There are boutiques cigar brands that probably you only have the opportunity to smoke them once and then it will be hard to find it again. If you find a cigar that truly please you, you will never forget the name of that cigar and you will never forget where do you smoke that cigar? Who do you smoke that cigar with? What circumstance? What kind of mood did you smoke that cigar? If it was a good day because you just got married, or it was a bad day because you were going through a horrible divorce. One thing that has in general, in the good and the bad days, the cigars is always be good.

I just found you on Twitter, by the way. I’m following you now.

You can do me on Facebook too, on Instagram. My Instagram account is @DrewEstatePedro. Before, my Facebook name was Pedro Gomez Drew Estate, which if you do Pedro Gomez Drew Estate, I will pump up really quick, but Facebook changed my name because they saw that my profile in Facebook was a business page, but it’s still personal. They changed it to Pedro Jose Gomez Rodriguez, which is my full name. In Nicaragua, we’ve got ten names. Facebook, I’m very active. On Instagram, I’m very active.

In Twitter, not as much because when you’ve got three things going on, it‘s hard to pay attention to three at the same time. That’s how we are in contact and that’s how we build Drew Estate big time, huge, heavy on social media. Social media have closed the gap between cigar manufacturers and consumers, and that’s a good thing when people are getting comfortable with you very easily and very quick. For us, it’s very good because customer relationships are our number one priority in the company.

You guys seem to be really good at that. Engaging with people through social media, Facebook, Twitter, and you’ve got all these pretty videos. All kinds of cool things going. Not just at your level but the local reps and everybody are very interactive.

I’m not ashamed to tell you that my favorite Drew Estate cigar is probably the Privada. There might as well not be better cigars. Every time I stop in here, I’ll pick up a Nat Sherman and I’ll pick up Rocky Patel or something like that but I always come back to Drew Estate.

I do too, but my problem is I hoard them. I’ll buy them and then I don’t smoke them. I keep them to myself. I told you guys, I’m a cigar hoarder. Anytime I get something really good I go, “I can’t smoke it or I can’t smoke it until I have another one.”

I’ve got one in the humidor at home right now. I took it before I went on a cruise. I came home that night and one of my dogs had gotten into the cigars. She’s very sweet. She’s almost ten years old, special needs. She probably gnawed into my T52 and I was mad about it for a minute, but then I accepted that it was my fault because I’d left it on the kitchen table and why would a dog get up on the table?

Did you smoke it?

It’s in the humidor. I’m going to smoke it. I’m just going to have to travel further down.

I love the T52 also, probably my all-time favorite. I’m smoking the Kentucky Fire Cured Chunky. I’ve been smoking a lot of the Kentucky Fire Cured lately and that’s gotten to be one of my favorite everyday smoke.

I have not seen them yet. I have not tried them yet. Is it a barrel age type of thing going on?

When you first smell it, it smells like a campfire almost from the factory tobacco but, once you light it up, and you get into that. It’s a smooth, medium-bodied cigar with a lot of great flavors.

CCP Pedro Gomez | Herrera Esteli Norteno

Herrera Esteli Norteno: Social media have closed the gap between cigar manufacturers and consumers, and that’s a good thing.

Pedro, I’ve got a question for you. I think I already know the answer to this but how are the Shades doing for you?

The Shade, first of all, before I tell you how he’s doing, I will tell you the reason why we released that cigar. First of all, before we ever released Undercrown Shade, we didn’t have a mild to medium cigar in our portfolio. Having Willy on board, we need to blend something, using Connecticut shade wrapper. Willy has a very broad experience and knowledge in working with different tobacco. He used the Connecticut shade wrapper. He used a Honduras binder and in the filler, he used tobacco from Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The cigar came out super good, to the point that it’s very smooth, it’s very creamy, but because of the Nicaraguan tobacco that Willy Herrera used, it gave that a nice kick. A little nice spice to it, but it’s still a mild to medium.

The cigar has been performing very good, to the point that we still have a lot of back orders. People from the store are calling. People are posting on social media. If you are a medium to full body smoke, probably is not going to be the cigar for you, especially if you smoke in the evening. If you smoke in the morning right after or before breakfast, that will set your day to be a beautiful day. The cigar has been doing very good. As I told you, Willy Herrera blend the cigar, based out of the umbrella of the Herrera Esteli family. It was in Herrera Esteli you have the regular Herrera Esteli. The Undercrown’s a whole different animal. That’s a good thing right there.

That was one of the ones that Pedro, I had the Shade probably three days after they were released. I’ve got them right away. I was slightly disappointed by it and I had people tell me, “Why don’t you let it sit in the humidor for a little bit?” I had three or four of them. Sure enough, about two months after I fired one up, the age, letting it sit for a minute in the humidor really made a huge difference. I absolutely loved it on the second smoke. I’m a big fan. Pedro doesn’t notice but Lane takes maybe eighteen or nineteen vacations a year. What happened to your foot?

I left here and went back to work. As I was leaving work, I was texting my wife or something. I was walking down the stairs. There’s a platform between third floor where my office is and getting back down to second floor where the building is. I wasn’t paying attention, I thought I had one more step to go before reaching that platform, and when I stepped down my ankle folded. I tripped and my arm was sore. Sunday, I hop on an airplane. I get on the cruise ship and everything’s fine. Monday goes by, Tuesday, I spent the whole day walking in the Key West then I started to limp a little bit. Wednesday, I spent all day, I was in my car and it’s mass off. It started to hurt a little more. I went to bed Wednesday night after drinking all day and I couldn’t stand up anymore.

I was laying down on the bed. Friday, I got back to Orlando and walked all the way to the end of the Southwest terminal up to the next to last gate. I got offered a wheelchair a couple of times and I passed it out. By the time I landed in Birmingham, the ladies of Southwest Jet Ways says, “It’s hurting me to watch. Do you want a wheelchair?” I said, “Yes.” My wife took me to the hospital and I’ve got a very stern talking to about facing severe. I put on the crutches then put on some heavy-duty Naproxen and I wish that I had a better cruise ship story about how I injured my foot, but really I was walking down to save my iPhone. May it rest in peace because I killed another and I tripped at work.

I was really hoping this was a drinking story.

They do not permit to drink at work.

Pedro, are you now in the US full-time or are you still in Nicaragua?

Right now, I have been in Nicaragua because we had to host three Cigar Safari tours. I’m flying straight from Nicaragua to San Antonio. We’re going to be doing a cigar event and heading back to Miami. That’s where I’m based out nowadays. My next will be to the Big Smoke in New York and then I will be coming back to Nicaragua to do another Cigar Safari tour. That’s about it. I usually spend one time with the rep once a year. I spent a whole week. I’m on the road between 20 to 22 days a month.

We talked about Cigar Safari. I know that there were still some spots available for Cigars and More. I had copied on my email again. It sounds like a great deal. How do you guys put that together and what should people expect they decide to go on?

The question is what is Cigar Safari about?

Yes.

Cigar Safari is the ultra, unforgettable cigar experience for anybody that loves cigars. Basically, a Cigar Safari tour is a tour that we do in Nicaragua. Briefing about tobacco, cigars, we have great accommodations, we’ve got great food, we have all inclusive transportation, meals, cigars, drinks, stay. We tour the Drew Estate factory. We take the people to tobacco farms, we take the people to Joya de Nicaragua factory. We lay down different type of filler, wrappers and binders. At the end of the day, the Cigar Tour is a tour from tobacco seed to smoke. For us, it’s a nice, interesting program.

When you go to a cigar store and you are a cigar aficionado, you love cigars and stuff like that, but you haven’t had the opportunity to go to a cigar store and fully appreciate all the hard work, the passion, the love that goes through making cigars, fermenting tobacco, growing tobacco, curing tobacco, selecting tobacco seed, doing the quality control, the production, all the different aspects about how the business goes. How the industry works, how Drew Estate factory and Drew Estate Company operates. At the end of the day, when you guys come to Cigar Safari, you will have a full understanding what Drew Estate is about, but in the meantime, the experience of being in Nicaragua.

Which nowadays, has become very popular as a tourism destination, not just for people that are relating to Nicaraguan cigar, but people in the world in general. They come to Nicaragua because there is a lot of tourism attraction to do here. I’m proud to say that when people are telling me, “I can’t wait to go to Nicaragua,” that’s very deep. I truly respect that statement because if you remember Nicaragua from the breaking news in the 80s, this stuff right here, we were a living hell. There was a lot of shit going on.

The war was in his highest frame. There were a lot of murders, a lot of killing. It was a civil war. Thank God, the war stopped in 1990 and from there, things have been changing little by little. Still, people that came to Nicaragua in the 90s, the conflict was going through post wartime, which feels bad, but without violence. The conflict was devastating financially. The economy was bad. There were no job opportunities. There were two or three cigar factories. Nowadays, we have 35 cigar factories. You have a lot of brands that comes out of those factories and there are thousands of private labels that are handmade here in Esteli, Nicaragua.

CCP Pedro Gomez | Herrera Esteli Norteno

Herrera Esteli Norteno: I’m proud to say that when people are telling me, “I can’t wait to go to Nicaragua,” that’s very deep. I truly respect that statement.

When it goes to Cigar Safari, it encapsulates all that stuff. When people that come to Cigar Safari, the experience is unforgettable and super good that they want to come every single year. Last Cigar Safari tour, we had a guy that came from Orlando, his name is Bill. The first time that he came, he came from the Cigar store that is called Corona Cigars and that guy has been coming every single year. I don’t know how he does it to get the slot because Cigar Safari is sold out in less than fifteen minutes.

A lot of people want to come and all the cigar factories, they do tours. They do great tours. A lot of educational and it’s good. One thing that I can tell you is that every cigar factory operates different, not just to the point of how the factory looks, but also to the point of what they offer to the end consumer. If you get the best when you attend to a Drew Estate event, and just before the event, just by being there and maybe you know to support us by getting a couple of stogies and stuff like that. If you get the good stuff at the event, just ask yourself, “What are you going to get if you made a trip to Nicaragua and come and see Drew Estate and be part of Cigar Safari?” We go to all the way to fullest.

You guys really take care of people who come to this. I know Birmingham is a more expensive airport for, but it’s $679 or something like that? Is that for five days, six days? I like to travel, I like going out the country, I like tropical destinations and you can’t beat that. That’s airfare, you guys are feeding, drinks and everything.

Did you say it’s $700 to do that?

It’s less than $700. You need a $10 in US cash to pay for your entry visa.

What about airfare plus interstate charges?

There’s still room on this thing?

Barely. We have a couple slots reserved. I’m flying there, yes.

You may have to get me a seat on that. That is a sweet deal. It’s getting to that time where I have to run. Pedro, it’s cool to talk to you. Your story’s awesome. I hope a ton of people read this because you’re a mix of the American dream and what cigars are all about and hard work and perseverance and I love to hear stories like that. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure. It’s amazing what you guys have been doing in the industry, this regular show is so nice. You guys are true interesting cats. You truly know what you are doing and this thing going to get bigger than what is that right now. Thank you so much for everything. Thank you so much for thinking about Drew Estate and it has been great to be part of this incredible radio show.

Thanks, Pedro. We appreciate that.

God bless, everybody, and stay smoking.

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