Cigar Aficionado

Jonathan Drew Debuts Spirits Brands

Jonathan Drew Debuts Spirits Brands
From left: John Drew Brands' Dove Tail Rum ($35, 90 proof), Brixton Mash Destroyer (about $35, 90 proof) and John Drew Collection Rye ($45, 90 proof).

With a nod to his history of "market disruption," Jonathan Drew is on to his next venture. The cofounder of the Drew Estate Cigar Company has created John Drew Brands, a spirits collection, which in one of its permutations melds Bourbon and rum together in the same bottle.

Drew, the cigar pioneer behind such creations as ACID and Kentucky Fire Cured Cigars, is also debuting a rum as well as a rye whiskey. While the brand's creation comes on the heels of the sale of Drew Estate to Swisher International a year and a half ago, Drew says his spirits company has been in the planning stages at least since he bought land in Orlando, Florida, four years ago as a production facility. His fascination with whiskey, though, predates that, starting with Bourbon years ago. "I'm a total psychotic fan of whiskey," he adds.

The Drew brands are all NDP (non-distiller producer) spirits, meaning the alcohol is sourced elsewhere before it is fine-tuned for bottling. He counts among the products that he esteems such brands as Angel's Envy, High West and Pappy Van Winkle, all of which operate in much the same fashion. However, speaking as someone who spent almost 20 years living in his cigar factory in Nicaragua, he notes, "It makes me very uncomfortable not to be a producer. That's why I chose my partners carefully." Drew now lives in the Wynwood section of Miami.

The president of Drew Estate, Michael Cellucci, likened the move into both spirits and cigar to Bo Jackson's simultaneous forays into major league football and baseball careers. "His passion and commitment for Drew Estate Cigar Company remains 100 percent intact with no plan to disengage. I have full confidence in his team's ability to develop a legacy in the spirits world as well."

The Brixton Mash Destroyer (about $35, 90 proof) is the most innovative of the trio, with its mixture of Kentucky Bourbon and rum made from sugarcane grown in the Florida Everglades. Drew refers to it as a "mashup" and explains that the name Brixton is borrowed from an area of London with a broad cultural base. "Brixton is the Brooklyn of England," says the native Brooklynite. Despite the name the mixing is not done at the mashbill level of fermentation, but later after the component spirits have been aged. Drew invites visitors to the product's website to either destroy or defend the mash.

Another Florida rum product is Dove Tail Rum ($35, 90 proof). Unlike the Mash Destroyer, it is not intended to be iconoclastic or palate challenging. In fact, the maker calls it his "friends and family" rum and describes the flavor notes among the popular spectrum of vanilla, nougat and caramel.

The John Drew Collection Rye (the creator is still toying with changing part of the name to "Collective") is made for him by a distiller in Alberta, Canada. That province has become an import supplier of quality whiskey, since the rye resurgence precipitated a shortage of U.S.-made rye in the last decade. Canadian producers use it as a component in their blended whiskies. While Drew is not at liberty to divulge the exact mashbill of the John Drew Rye ($45, 90 proof), he allows that it has a very high rye content.

Asked if he produced his spirits specifically with the intention that they be paired with cigars, Drew said, "Absolutely not. Everything was created to be what it is."

Drew said he would continue to be a part of the cigar company he founded in 1995 with Marvin Samel.

"I continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the full U.S. Drew Estate Team, as well as my second family at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. Nothing changes on that front for me on a personal level," he says. "While some of my daily duties have shifted throughout the years to the next round of leadership, such as Michael Cellucci, Willy Herrera and Manuel Rubio, I'm still the on the frontline with the team. I love Drew Estate and will never leave."

For more on Jonathan Drew, read Being Drew Estate