It’s a balmy North Carolina night—the kind of evening where I like to get together with my neighbor and fellow cigar lover, Pat, for single malt whiskey and cigar sampling. Another friend (I have more than one, OK?) had given me a cigar to try that was a little different: Drew Estate’s Kentucky Fire Cured Swamp Thang Robusto (5 x 54).
Drew Estate has staked a firm hold on the fire-cured cigar market and has been refining its product line to include more distinctive offerings, often paired with eye-catching graphics and innovative marketing. This cigar is no exception.
As I pick it up, what immediately grabs my attention is the visual impact of the cigar’s presentation. Clad in a sweet candela wrapper, Swamp Thang is green. Bright green. One could even call it comic-book green. It’s an aspect they certainly don’t try to downplay, as the display packaging features a creature rising from the murky swamp reminiscent of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing. The green candela wrapper covers most of the cigar, with the last inch or so covered by a section of fermented, fire-cured leaf, leaving a distinctive two-tone appearance.
I open the cellophane, and a rich, bold aroma of hardwood smoke greets my nose. It’s like walking past one of those old barbecue joints, where the smoke draws you in to tell you of the tasty treasures inside. But there’s another smell building behind it: It’s like deep, rich … manure. Yes, manure. The aroma is neither subtle nor overwhelming, but it is distinct. The aroma of this cigar is rich and familiar, giving me flashbacks to my grandfather’s farm—the smell of fresh hay and manure mixed with the oily smell of decades-old farm machinery. Man, I loved that farm.
I cut the cigar and notice a firm, yet not overly hard, feel. The cold draw feels right, with just a moderate resistance, and carries that smoky, oily taste. The double wrapper places the fire-cured leaf against the lips when smoking, enhancing the flavor and mouthfeel. The design seems intended to make the most of each element.
Once the cigar is lit, the initial puff is sweet and slightly floral, and it combines with the smokiness to produce something of an autumn leaves note. As the cigar warms, the initial aromas seem to mellow and level out, and my concern with the manure-like aroma proves completely wrong. Though the farm aromas remain as a subtle texture, both Pat and I find the smell pleasant and not overpowering.
On the draw, the smoke builds and becomes sweet and full. Initially, the retrohale is mild with no peppery bite, though a slightly spicy bite does build gradually as I smoke on. It reminds me of how the spiciness of barbecue ribs builds as you continue to eat. About 15 minutes into the cigar, I notice that during the pause between draws the aftertaste of hardwood smoke lingers in the back of my throat. I taste the sweet smoke every time I lick my lips. Is it weird that I’m getting hungry?
About halfway through the cigar, Pat points out that the burn line has become a bit ragged. This is easily managed with a touch-up from the torch, and it holds well through the remainder of the cigar. The ash remains well-formed and solid, hanging on nicely even with my somewhat animated movement—I’m drinking whiskey, after all. The ash finally breaks roughly two-thirds of the way through the cigar, about 30 minutes in, with no ill effect to the cigar.
The aroma and taste remained consistent throughout the smoke, but I wondered, would that change when I got to the fire-cured joint in the wrapper? As the burn line closes in, some of the original smells do return in a subtle undercurrent during inhale. At 45 minutes, I park the cigar for good.
So what’s my bottom line for the Swamp Thang? Well, in a world full of four-door sedan cigars, Swamp Thang stands out like a bright green Jeep Wrangler: a little rougher, perhaps, but a lot more adventurous. Will this be my every day, go-to cigar? Probably not. But I don’t think that was ever the point. This is not a cigar that’s trying to blend in. It’s out to flaunt its differences and rave about its uniqueness, put its counterculture attitude up front, and dare you to cowboy up, grab your torch, and enjoy a different type of smoking experience. You don’t shake hands with this cigar; you get a jovial punch in the arm that reminds you that one of the best parts of smoking a cigar is experiencing something new and expanding your taste horizons.
Recommended pairings: Barbecue, tailgating, cornhole tournaments, man-caves, and single malt whiskey.
Review by Daniel Hackman