Herrera Esteli Norteno
Last year’s Herrera Esteli was an instant success, being in high demand before it even hit the shelves. There was a ton of hype over it and I have to say it was warranted. The second offering from Mr. Herrera is the Norteno, which hit the shelves shortly after IPCPR this year. Much like it’s predecessor, once they hit the shelves, they don’t last long!
The name Norteno is a term referring to people from northern Nicaragua. This is the part of the country where Esteli is located. Esteli is where the Drew Estate factory is. See the correlation? Also, the bird featured on the band is the Guardabarranco, the national bird of Nicaragua.
The Norteno is available in six vitolas: Lonsdale, Toro, Robusto Grande, Belicoso Fino, Corona Extra, and Coronita. Prices range from $9-$12.50. They come in boxes of 10, a feature that I wish all cigar makers (that I like) would offer.
For the record, the cigar smoked for this review was purchased with my own money from a local retailer.
I have to say, I like the way the Norteno looks. The dark San Andres wrapper on a soft box-pressed cigar looks appetizing to me. There are a few veins that appear to have been flattened into the wrapper by the press. The seams are visible but not raised. The foot looks well packed. It looks like a delicious dark chocolate bar!
The band is simple yet attractive. There are only two colors, an olive green band with off white/cream colored border, print and graphic. The color scheme works well with the dark wrapper color.
Overall, the Norteno checked out just fine. It was well packed with no soft spots. The wrapper was slightly toothy but also powdery smooth. The aromas on the foot were mainly sweet pipe tobacco with a hint of earth. The barrel was more of the same but with a touch of cocoa. Very nice. After clipping the cap, I tested the draw. There is ample airflow on the draw. I pick up some notes of…you guessed it…earth and sweet tobacco.
Here is where we run into a slight issue. The Norteno was pretty difficult to get lit evenly. In fact, I wasn’t quite able to so. For that reason I did have to touch it up in the first third. After that, the burn was still a little wavy but not too bad. I did, however, have to relight it twice closer to the end. I think this may have had something to do with the temperature starting to drop while I smoked it so no strike against the cigar!
The draw was mostly really good throughout the smoke. There were times though where it seemed to tighten up. I would struggle to get enough smoke for a few puffs and then it would just go back to normal. After the first third, this problem was mostly gone.
The ash was mostly white with some gray. It held on for an inch at a time. It really looked nice against the dark wrapper.
Now for the meat and potatoes! How did the Norteno stack up in the flavor category? Glad you asked! Let me tell you. The first third starts off with a strong black pepper with lots of earth and wood to boot. The pepper starts to turn to white pepper but never fully gets there. There seem to be some cooking spices as well, maybe cayenne and nutmeg. They all blend into a tasty spice that fully coats the palate. It also throws some salt in there for good measure. The retrohale is very fragrant and peppery.
In the second third, the salt really stands out at first but fades as it goes. All the other notes are still present as well. Some caramel starts to surface to give it just a touch of rich sweetness.
The final third continues with a subdued salt mixed in with the other notes. The caramel stays in the background until the very end. The smoke also becomes quite savory in the last inch. Even with a couple of relights, I never pick up on any harshness.
The Norteno Robusto Grande is full flavored, medium full in strength. Though most of the notes appear in the first third, they do have varying levels of prominence throughout that give it a decent amount of complexity. It is definitely a palate coater! Total smoke time was a little fast, coming in right around 1 hour 15 minutes.
Would I Buy It Again?
Yes, even though I think it is a bit too expensive for me.
Is It An Everyday Smoke?
Not at this price, but otherwise, yes.
Would I Buy a Box?
Yes, especially since they come in 10 ct boxes.
It is easy to see why people get excited about Drew Estate releases, particularly Herrera Esteli products. They’re damn good! I see this as the yang to the yin that is the Herrera Esteli from last year. My only concern is the price. I would like to see this closer to $10 but that is my preference. Obviously, they are having no trouble selling them at the MSRP so my thoughts are only relevant to me. Despite that, I highly recommend getting one or more if you get the chance. I don’t think you will be disappointed!