Drew Estate, the maker of a host of Nicaraguan cigars, from Acid to Liga Privada, has named Willy Herrera as its master blender.
In this role Herrera, 41, will be in charge of creating new cigar blends as well as being the guardian of the company's established blends, reporting directly to company co-founder Jonathan Drew.
Herrera is a relative newcomer to Drew Estate, which was founded in New York City in 1995 by Drew and Marvin Samel. The company has since grown into one of the world's largest makers of cigars by hand. Herrera, the former cigar blender from Miami's tiny El Titan de Bronze factory on Calle Ocho, joined Drew Estate in 2011. Herrera was recruited by Drew Estate to make "a signature blend" utilizing the "Cubanesque blending style" he employed in his eight years at Titan de Bronze.
That signature blend turned out to be Herrera Esteli, a cigar named for Herrera that launched in early 2013. The brand received rave reviews, and the Herrera Esteli Piramide Fino scored 94 points and was named the No. 8 Cigar of 2013 by Cigar Aficionado magazine. It was the highest Cigar Aficionado score ever given to a cigar made by Drew Estate.
"Authenticity is the key factor that originally attracted the DE [Drew Estate] shareholders to Willy. I personally know the challenges and skillset necessary to lead a premium cigar factory at all stages of development, 15 employees to 1,500. Willy has the main ingredients, passion, humility and confidence to achieve great results," said Drew in a statement sent to Cigar Aficionado. He noted that Herrera will be in charge of blending, but not in charge of the factory. "Willy is not in charge of running La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate," said Drew. "His position is a newly created, specific role—built around his greatest talent."
Herrera was enthusiastic about the promotion. "My passion and love for Nicaragua has grown immensely over the past three years. I lived in Nicaragua while we blended our Herrera Esteli line, and during that time got to really know the people at the factory. I grew to love the country, especially Estelí. This is an incredible opportunity, and it's a dream come true for me to become Master Blender of a global company as well respected as Drew Estate. There are many people who have believed in me along this journey, especially my family."
Drew Estate makes a host of cigars in Nicaragua, and it recently expanded its operations by opening a massive pre-industry tobacco warehouse near its production facility. In addition to Acids, a line of infused cigars made separate from its traditional cigars, it makes Liga Privada, Undercrown, MUWAT and several other cigars.
In a change, Drew Estate also announced that the upcoming Norteño by Willy Herrera line is going to be rolled at Drew Estate, rather than at Joya de Nicaragua, as originally announced. The company said this change would allow the Joya factory to focus production on Drew Estate's MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured line, which is presently under back order. Norteño is scheduled to debut later this year at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show.
For more on Herrera and his new position, see Tuesday's Cigar Insider.