So last Friday, the folks at Empire Cigars in Raleigh, NC had a very special event. This was the worldwide release of the Nosotros cigar by Dion Giolito made in collaboration with Jonathan Drew and Drew Estate.
Dion and Jonathan were supposed to be there, but Jonathan ended up at another shop for a similar event (?). This was ok, because I was very interested in picking the brain of one of the cigar industry’s biggest up-and-comers, Dion Giolito. This guy is known for his palate and cigar flavor memory, and like me is a true cigar geek.
I walk in a little before 4 and Dion is already there chatting with Hal Rubin, the owner of Empire Cigars. I introduce myself and shake hands say a quick hello to some of my buddies before checking out the sticks. Four sizes were available that night – the Corona Larga, Robusto, Corona and Churchill. Dion told me the Toros and the 660s will be in by the end of the month.
I’m in line waiting to get a box (the Corona Largas) and Dion is standing near/above (he’s like 9 feet tall), so I start talking to him. He asks which size I picked, I show him the CLs, and he tells me that they are 60 days from the table and suggested I try one or two now and put the rest away for at least a month. You gotta love a guy that up front and open about his product.
I ask him if he is glad that the cigar is finally out and he agrees, but he was less concerned about the delay (they were initially going to be released in 2009) and more concerned about getting out a product that is ready to be smoked and it tastes like he wants it to taste.
I pay for my box and get me freebies (4 ~mk~‘s!) and sit up front with Dion. My buddy Matt joins me, and we start with the questions. I ask him about the blend and he tells me what makes this blend special is the Oliva ASP Viso tobacco in the filler. This has been a leaf he’s been trying to find for quite a while. He talks about having to use to ASP Viso leaves for the different sizes. The smaller sizes get the ASP Viso while the bigger ring gauge sizes needed a little extra punch of flavor so they get the ASP Viso Pequeno, which is actually a smaller leaf but a higher priming, so it gets more sun/time and therefore more flavor.
I light up a Corona Larga from my box and note right away, this is not like any Illusione, or Drew Estate cigar for the matter, I’ve ever had before. I’ll go in more depth in my review which will follow, so stay tuned!
I ask him about the move to Drew Estate rather than having Arsenio Ramos at the Raices Cubanas factory (Casa Fernandez) make the Nosotros. He delved into the reasons for having someone else make his product. He had always wanted to have more than one person make his cigars. He didn’t want the “same” taste in all of his cigars, and he also didn’t want to put all of his eggs in one basket. He originally was going to have the Cruzado made by Joya de Nicaragua, but when Drew Estate took over distribution of JdN, the were unable at that time to make a cigar for him. Dion understood and went back to Raices Cubanas. When the time was right, the folks at Drew Estate and Dion got together and Dion went through their inventory of tobacco and put together a blend based on the individual flavors of each leaf (pretty amazing when you think about it). More incredible, is that the first blend became the final blend used in the Nosotros!
Other regulars joined in, and Dion educated us on Nicaragua and its tobacco, how he creates his blends and also the scoop on his new project the yearly Limited Edition – the Singulare. Dion shared a lot of interesting stuff about this blend off the record, so all I can tell you is that each year will feature a different blend in one size. Based on what he shared with us, I cannot wait for this cigar to come out!
We talk about other cigars he likes. We discuss Pete Johnson and his cigars (Tatuaje), Don Pepin, the Fuentes, La Flor Dominicana, Davidoffs and even Habanos. Like me, Dion loves to smoke all different types of cigars, and not just his own!
Talk moves away from cigars and into music and movies. Matt breaks out an Illusione Culebra to share, the ~23~, and Dion notes that this is the only size made in Miami by one roller. It also features just one type of leaf from the blend. It really sets it apart from the other sizes in the line.
I ask Dion what is his dream leaf that he wanted to work with, and he says it’s the one in the Nosotros, the ASP Viso. I asked him if he planned on any new lines this year. He said no, he didn’t want to have a glut of lines and wanted to focus on making good cigars and his yearly Singulare LEs.
Through the night Dion smoked a Nosotros and a Cruzado Marios, which he said are really “on” right now. Another one of his favorites is the ~mk~. I had a Nosotros Corona Larga, an Epernay La Petite, an Illusione ~23~ and a ~mk~. Whew! One thing that’s great about Dion’s smokes is that though they pack tons of flavor, they’re not so strong to kill the palate, so I was able to enjoy multiple cigars that night (as well as a few glasses of home-brewed beer from our buddy Rich).
The night goes by quickly and I can tell you I learned more about the industry in a few hours with Dion than I have through all of my research prior. He is a great guy, a gracious host and really stands behind and is very proud of his product. It was a great night, and hopefully we can get him to stop in again!
I’d also like to thank Hal and Dave at Empire Cigars for throwing an awesome party!