Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cigar Review: Kentucky Fire Cured by Drew Estate

Vitola: Chunky
Size: 4” x 46 ring gauge
Price: $6.99
Purchased at Burns Tobacconist

Last year, I was privileged to be included on the Drew Estate “Blogger” Cigar Safari tour in Nicaragua, which was the first time I was exposed to the KFC project they had been working on for quite some time. Kentucky Fire Cured tobaccos are nothing new, although they have never been used in premium cigars in such a way that was started in 2013. Besides Drew Estate, 2 other companies opted to use this or similar fire-cured leaf in their blends, although I think Drew Estate did the most to promote the usage of it by using “Kentucky Fire Cured” as part of the brand name. That first cigar was a revelation...something totally unique in my experience...a mix of smoky, woody flavor with other more traditional cigar notes...it was something I would not soon forget. Fast forward to November and the cigars finally started hitting the shelves. How did the final shipping product compare with that first tasting? We’ll get to that, but first a little background, courtesy of the Drew Estate website:

“I remember it as if it were yesterday” states JD. “Fritz Bossert (President of Universal Leaf), Steve Saka and I were smoking Liga Privada T52s in the fermentation area when I noticed a pilon of Kentucky Fired Cured tobacco. We took the wrapper off the T52 and placed a thick Kentucky Fire Cured leaf in its place. The taste and aroma were simply amazing, but there was just one huge problem – the cigar would not burn properly, and is one of the reasons of the lengthy process it took to get ‘KFC’ to market.”

Nicholas Melillo, Executive Vice President of International Operations, was tasked with working on a solution to the burn issue in conjunction with Fritz Bossert, experimenting with using the fire cured leaf in the wrapper leaf position as well as using limited amounts as part of the filler.

image from DrewEstate.com
“The My Uzi Weighs A Ton brand was the first true collaboration between Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua,” says Michael Cellucci, President of Drew Estate.
“The fact that JD wanted to bring the ”MUWAT” franchise under the flag of Subculture Studios is a reflection of his love of working with other talented cigar makers. Subculture Studios is more than just a graffiti factory in Nicaragua, it is a ‘mental space’ that JD and Jessi Flores have cultivated throughout the years and reveals innovation, raw talent and creativity that you find throughout all of Drew Estate at every level.”

There is a lot we have experimented with and all shall be revealed in short order, but for now here is a little quote from Nicholas Melillo, Chief of the Broadleafs, “First off, Kentucky Fire Cured is from a stalk-cut tobacco. The initial firing of KFC is done at low heat between 100 F to 115 F degrees and maintained until the color reaches solid brown. Once color is set temperatures increase to 120F- 130F to completely cure down the midrib of the leaf and darken. Once the midrib is dried the temperature will be reduced and the smoke maximized with saw dust to finish the leaf. When KFC hits your olfactory nerve you know it! ”

As noted, Kentucky Fire Cured (known colloquially as KFC...can’t tell me that’s not on purpose!) was made part of the MUWAT brand in the Drew Estate catalog. The boxes use Americana-inspired images and the bundles of cigars are wrapped in craft paper like MUWAT and Bait Fish. KFC is available in 3 sizes: Chunky (4” x 46), Fat Molly (5” x 56) and Just A Friend (6” x 52). Before this review, I bought and smoked at least one of every size from the initial release bundles we received at Burns Tobacconist, in addition to smoking a couple of pre-release sticks (I was informed that they were “final blend” samples, but they were also fairly fresh).

The boxes and paper packing of bundles definitely hit the right notes in the cigar being rustic and all-American (well, not literally all-American, but at least using some American leaf). The rough craft paper look continues with the banding, where it is enhanced with with embossing and simple black type. You’ll notice that the color of the wrapper is different above and below the band. I actually missed that on the first pre-release I smoked, until I removed the band, that is...and it became fairly obvious. The smaller upper portion near the head is finished in a bit of fire-cured leaf in order to enhance the flavor of that part of the cigar. After having this pointed out, I’m fairly convinced that this is why this blend has so much more fire-cured flavor than either of the other two that made their way to market last year. I don’t know what the bottom (lighter) wrapper leaf is...actually there is no mention made on DE’s website about where any of the specific leaves are from.

image from DrewEstate.com
Bringing the cigar up to my nose, all I could get was a strong smoky, hickory note on the wrapper. The foot had more hickory and a bit of oakiness, as well, but this cigar is almost as pungent as an ACID, though in a totally different way. The strength of the fire-cured leaf really overwhelms the prelight aromas of any other tobaccos. The prelight draw was good and most people will be able to tell if they will like this cigar or not at this point. The predominant flavor is smoky, burnt wood...the wood I’m picking up the most is hickory, so it becomes like a giant BBQ pit.

While other Drew Estate cigars may get a majority of their flavor through whatever secret “infusion” process they employ, this cigar is getting tons of flavor through an age-old curing process. Right off the bat, the KFC tastes like a campfire or a cabin fireplace. You can easily let your imagination run wild thinking of s’mores and hot dogs on sticks over the fire...or of a pit-smoke bar-be-cue, although without the sweetness of a good sauce (unless you’re in Texas, and they they don’t believe in sauce...or pork, for that matter...which is why I tend to believe in a real “Southern BBQ” rather than the Lone Star variety). On the palate, the MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured cigar was smoky, woody, and, yes, a little peaty, going along with a comment Jonathan Drew made to that effect. On the retrohale, the KFC was a little nutty with a very little bit of pepper spice. I found the body to be about medium, maybe medium-plus, definitely not a cigar that will be too powerful for most newer smokers or regular pipe smokers who decide to give this a try.

There really isn’t much point in breaking down this cigar by third, as it really does not change much in flavor. There’s smoke. There’s wood. There’s peatiness. There’s more smoke, wood, and peatiness...perhaps some earthiness and a bit of sweetness mixed in for balance. Bottom line is that this is not a terribly complex cigar, but it is unique and distinctive.

I found a solid construction in the KFC. The first third hung on for almost an inch, the ash was never flaky and the draw was just about right on every sample I smoked. It is a cigar you will need to puff on fairly frequently, in my experience; while the issue of consistent burn has been mostly figured out, if you let it sit for a couple minutes without puffing, it may well go out on you.

Keeping in line with the other MUWAT cigars, the value on the KFC is great. The prices are not “cheap” but definitely reasonable for a premium, handmade cigar that is unique in the marketplace.

This is a cigar you must try. Not a statement to be made lightly, but the fact is that my descriptions can only go so far. You will either like it or you won’t, and I think there won’t be much room for middle ground on this stick. Similar to DE’s infused lines, it tastes like what it is without pretension of anything more, but that’s not a bad thing. I enjoyed the KFC. In this small ring gauge vitola, the smoky, woody flavors are intense to a point where a longer cigar would cease to be enjoyable, so if you want a little less intensity in that area, opt for one of the large ring gauges. But you must give it a try.

Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4/5
Value: 1/1

Total: 9/10


  1. I smoked one and it gets my vote for worst cigar I've smoked. I love the Nica Rustica and Papas Fritas, but the KFC is a loser.

    1. From a standpoint of flavor, that's a valid viewpoint. Like I said, I don't suspect there will be much middle ground on this cigar…you'll either really like it or really dislike it.

  2. I have nothing to add I just wanted to be included in your review!!!

    1. Duly noted…I'm going to start randomly dropping references to you in the reviews themselves just to see if you're paying attention!

  3. you think I just troll and comment?

    1. Not at all. Just figured we should honor our most faithful reader and commenter! :)

  4. haha just send me a full box of Devils weeds and we can call it even! LOL

  5. I smoked one for the first time today, and I enjoyed it. Its by no means Drew Estates best but it was enjoyable. I think its best suited as a change of pace cigar or a cigar for a picnic where you will be too busy socializing to get bored with the flavor