Bite Size Review: Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown
As we all duck for indoor warmth to escape Father Winter, here in Texas we always get a brief reprieve. Even so, we still dream of Spring and I was waxing nostalgic for a particular visit to Key West several years ago. So, braving the brief 70-degree weather, I thought how appropriate that our next review is Drew Estate’s Florida Sun Grown. Or just, FSG. Like the 1880 a few days ago, the FSG represents another first for 99 Cigars, but instead of an infusion of top-shelf hooch, the FSG is the first cigar we’ve smoked that carries tobacco from the Sunshine state…and it’s Corojo ’99!
So, how did this happen? Well, Jon Drew and his crew don’t do “by the book”. Florida is a vital and vibrant piece of the US cigar mosaic: the Cuba connection, legendary production facilities and no tobacco tax (one of 2 states – the other is Pennsylvania). But growing good tobacco? Nah, not since the 1970s. Enter ebullient cigar aficionado and legendary retailer, Jeff Borysiewicz (BORE-suh-wits), of Corona Cigar Company. Turns out, Jeff owns a tobacco farm in Clermont, Florida and when Drew Estate got wind of this, the FSG project was on. What began as an idea in 2011 became reality and in 2016, the limited FSG was unveiled, and later officially launched at the 2017 IPCPR show as a regular production smoke. Interestingly, industry icons J. C. Newman and Davidoff have followed suit, tapping Borysiewicz’s unique Florida-grown wares for some of their “project” cigars to be sold exclusively at his 4 Corona Cigar locations throughout Florida.
We chose the largest FSG vitola: the big belicoso (from some angles, it almost takes on the shape of a pyramid). And it is a beauty. From the acute taper of the head to the lush, marbled chestnut hue of the Mata Fina skin, the FSG is wonderful to behold. Near the base of the band you’ll notice a small icon enclosing the word “Authentic.” Perhaps an affirmation to the unique, sun-kissed Florida-grown Corojo inside? While the FSG feels hard and tight, the roll appears a tad haphazard as the seams are visibly raised. It’s also festooned with lumpy areas. The aromas from the wrapper and foot foretell organic overtones with a floral essence, grass and a light minerality. The draw, in a word, is effortless. I’d been cutting most of my cigars with a ‘V’ cutter, but for the FSG I chose a Xikar xi1 double guillotine as I didn’t want to chance weakening the diminutive cap.
On the initial draw, I’m greeted with a burst of candied nuts followed by a spicy mix of cream and black pepper. Chocolate and nougat intonations delight and the long finish is laced with sweet almonds. Cedar intonations become more abundant on the finish. The texture is very smooth and there is a noticeable perfumey quality to the draw and in the nose. The flavor palette is well-balanced and the complexity is excellent. Transitions feature woodier profiles in general, but what makes the FSG unique is both the distinct character within each transition and the subtle ‘bridges’ between them. A sweet timbre of dark berries on the first and a savory, spicy jolt on the last.
Combustion and char of our FSG is excellent and it holds a strong 1”+ salt and pepper ash. The blend of the FSG fires on all cylinders and the flavor palette is simply delicious. The big belicoso is well-mannered and has a lot to offer in terms of aesthetics, enjoyment and flavor. Weighing in at $14, it better. It feels good and solid in the hand. You can get the shorter (same ring gauge) robusto for a few pence over $11. In either case, you’re in for a treat. With the success of this line and those by Davidoff and others using Florida Sun Grown leaf from Casa Borysiewicz, there’s no question that the ever-improving cigar continuum will be flush with tasty new blends. Getcha a genuine box from the man himself – where it all started. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: Jeff Borysiewicz and Keith Park co-founded the cigar consumer organization, Cigar Rights of America (CRA).
- Profile: Full
- Vitola: Belicoso
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.5″x54
- Purchased: B&M
- Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina
- Binder: Honduran Habano
- Filler: US (FSG Corojo ’99), Nicaraguan
- Cutter: Xikar Xi1
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Humidor Age: 9 mo.
- Box: 20
- Other Vitolas: Robusto [5″x54], Toro [6″x52], Gordito [6″x54], Trunk Press [6″x54]
Smoke Time: 1:55
Build: Very lumpy; marbled chestnut-colored wrapper; seams are raised and visible; body is hard and tight; nice belicoso and cap treatment; strong, 1″+ ash.
- Wrapper – Floral essence, grassy, muted caramel
- Foot – Mineral, graham cracker
- Cold Draw – Lots of cocoa powder
- Initial: Burst of candied nuts on draw and in nose; tinge of spice accompanied by cream, black pepper; almond notes on long finish; chocolatey intonations with hints of nougat; cedar added to nutty finish; perfumey essence; gets woodier with a berry sweetness on draw.
- Transition: Woody profile with sweetness on draw; notes of coffee and creamy dark fruit; uptick in spice.
- Transition: Savory profile of wood and malt; incredible salted pistachio finish; lots of cedar notes with subtle hints of caramel on retro; fuller bodied with spicy hints of charred meat and pine;
Touch ups: N/A
Weaknesses: Barnyard aroma from smoke at times
Recommendation: 1. Boxworthy
- Go-to (boxworthy)
- 3rd stringer (keep 1 on hand)
- Smoke a banana instead