Cigar Review – Blackened “M81” by Drew Estate

Maduro Up Your Ass!!!

BLACKENED Cigars “M81” by Drew Estate is a passion project that brings together three immensely talented and vastly experienced cigar enthusiasts — Jonathan Drew, Founder and President of Drew Estate; James Hetfield, Metallica co-founder, singer and guitarist; and Rob Dietrich, the Master Distiller and Blender of BLACKENED American Whiskey. The collaboration began with Hetfield and Dietrich, who frequently enjoy cigars together.

“It is really a fun social thing for me, a fellowship, to have a few buddies sit around with a few sticks,” Hetfield says. “My buddy, Rob Dietrich, BLACKENED’s Master Distiller, and I frequently enjoy cigars together and he introduced me to Jonathan from Drew Estate. The three of us connected and shared each other’s vision and story about where we’ve been, what we like to see and what is important to us now, and we all came up with what a BLACKENED ‘M81’ Cigar would look and taste like. I love the Maduro leaf and I’m super excited for everyone to try this.”

Having been friends for well over a decade, Dietrich and Drew always wanted to combine their talents to collaborate on something special, and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Samples from the Drew Estate portfolio were sent to Hetfield and Dietrich who kept cigar journals to critique the cigars and identify what they liked and disliked about each one. After two years of enjoying and sampling cigars together, the group decided on the exact flavor profile that would become BLACKENED Cigars “M81” by Drew Estate.

“This was a project that was purely born from passion …for music, for fellowship, for life, and all the in-between moments within,” says Dietrich. “James, Jonathan and I worked together to create what we feel like is the perfect cigar. The result is truly a monster of flavor—all-maduro, designed with definitive depth for darker and bolder palates.”

BLACKENED Cigars “M81” by Drew Estate presents a journey through different Maduro leaves, starting with a thick and oily Maduro wrapper that’s grown in the rich volcanic soil of Mexico’s San Andres Valley. The blend includes a thick and meaty Connecticut River Valley Broadleaf Maduro binder and a filler blend of Nicaraguan and Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro tobaccos, including the boldest Pennsylvania Broadleaf ligero in Drew Estate’s vast tobacco inventory.

“Hetfield, Dietrich, and the DE team have dedicated an immense amount of time into this historic brand,” adds Drew. “BLACKENED Cigars ‘M81’ by Drew Estate reveals layer-after-layer of Maduro’s deepest, darkest, most magical, and mysterious character that narrates a defining story of just one thing … passion!!!”



Size: 6 x 52 (toro)
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Connecticut River Valley broadleaf
Filler: Nicaragua & Pennsylvania Green River One Sucker
Price: $9.85 (while these cigars were submitted to the TNCC for review, you can head over to Famous Smoke Shop right now and get $20 off your $100 order of Blackened cigars by using promo code TNCC20)

The Blackened “M81” toro features a dark brown wrapper leaf that is slightly oily to the touch. There is an aroma of dark earth combined with leather and, when sniffing the foot of the cigar directly, there’s a distinct natural sweetness found as well. The preflight cold draw reveals more sweetness reminiscent of a handful of raisins.

Upon ignition, first impressions are of a medium-strength black pepper through the nose and equal doses of leather and dark roasted coffee via the draw. The initial draw is slightly tighter than I prefer but I’m going to give it a while before I give the head a second clip if necessary. An inch in to the smoking experience, the black pepper has dialed down a notch and it is playing nicely with the leather and coffee notes.

The retrohale’s peppery profile is joined by a muted vegetal note and a hint of both salt and must. Construction here in the first half is very good, the draw has opened up without any human intervention required and the burn line is relatively straight. James may need to change the lyrics to Hit the Lights from “No life ’til leather!” to “There’s life after leather!” as the Blackened “M81” has kicked the early leather note to the curb giving the black(ened) coffee flavor full reign of the draw’s profile.

The draw’s coffee-forward flavor is vibing very well with the retro’s reduced pepper spice, salt, and must. There is an impressive balance on display here with the Blackened “M81” that’s hard not to appreciate given the dark varietals of tobacco used in this blend. Don’t be afraid of the maduro tobacco, my fellow headbangers, she aint nearly as scary as she sounds. While I do not have any Blackened whiskey in the cabinet to sip with this cigar, I could easily imagine the “M81” pairing very well with a sweeter bourbon or even a cappuccino. And, yes, I realize that there’s nothing “metal” about sipping a cappuccino but one could argue (correctly) that there’s nothing “metal” about Nothing Else Matters either. With cigars and with our favorite metal bands, there simply are no rules goddamnit as their enjoyment is solely in the Eye of the Beholder. So Metal Up Your Ass! And Maduro Up Your Ass as well! Okay, okay, that’s enough about stuff up your ass.

Hold up… there is, in fact, life to this leather! The leather sensation makes a bold return in the second half and the overall strength of the Blackened M81 increases slightly to medium-full territory around the same time. The cigar’s body remains medium from start to finish. I wish my body was still classified as a “medium” like it was back in the late 1980s when, as a preteen, I first discovered Metallica’s music but sadly there’s no denying that I’m now a “full” and then some. I’ve transitioned somehow from Harvester of Sorrow to the Harvester of Mozzarella Sticks over the years… but I digress. It’s also worth mentioning that smoke production has been copious and the resulting aroma is fantastic.

Much like the bass guitar on the …And Justice for All album, the muted black pepper remains present through the nose but you really have to hunt for it. The salt and must are far more easily detected and that flavor combo continues to go very well with the draw’s leather and coffee profile. The bell tolls right around the 90 minute mark and it’s sadly time to say goodbye to the Blackened “M81” as it fades to black…




Some would, incorrectly, say that an all maduro cigar is The Thing That Should Not Be but those ignorant minds would be wrong. The Blackened “M81” is a well-balanced cigar featuring excellent construction and a consistent flavor profile that defies its heavy metal roots. Unlike 1991’s Black Album, there’s nothing remotely frightening or scary about the Blackened “M81”.

Yes, I’m well aware that I’ve given that particular album a lot of grief on the podcast over the years BUT I remain a Metallica fan and to prove it here’s a handful of post-Black Album Metallica tracks that kick fucking ass:

The Memory Remains
All Nightmare Long
Spit Out the Bone
Lux Æterna

The lesson here is that you can be a Drew Estate fan without digging their Acid line of cigars and you can certainly be a Metallica fan while choosing to ignore Enter Sandman and its Black Album musical siblings.

Beyond The Pod

Brother of the Leaf, Filmmaker, Prophet, former Mr. South Dakota 1996. I was a bouncer on the child beauty pageant circuit until one too many juice boxes went missing and somebody had to take the fall. I was set up. Ok, I was thirsty. All that hairspray in the air dries out your throat like a motherfu... I apologize to no man. Now I host the Tuesday Night Cigar Club podcast.