The third annual Florida Barn Smoker by Drew Estate commenced on the 19th of May and the Tuesday Night Cigar Club descended into the Sunshine State to capture the proceedings for posterity. After landing at Orlando International Airport – the less said about that place, the better – we made our way to the fine accommodations of the Springhill Suites by Marriott, where the courteous staff welcomed us with a couple bottles of Oak Leaf red wine. Sure, it’s what my mother would call “panther piss” but after a day of air travel it certainly went down easy, especially into the cast-iron stomachs of the TNCC.
The good folks at Drew Estate hosted a dinner the night before the Barn Smoker at Pig Floyd Urban Barbakoa, an excellent eatery in Orlando that also catered the Saturday festivities. Should the opportunity afford itself for you to visit Pig Floyd in the future, The Doctor wholeheartedly recommends a pair of the shrimp and sausage tacos with a side of the dragon green beans. After turning in early, which admittedly is not our forte, it was Barn Smoker time!
The Barn Smoker itself was held in Clermont, Florida, about thirty miles outside of Orlando at Florida Sun Grown Farms. Jeff Borysiewicz is the owner and proprietor of the farm as well as the owner of the legendary Corona Cigar Company. The TNCC rolled onto the farm with our filming equipment shortly after eight a.m. and began our survey of the scenery. The topography of Jeff’s land is definitely picturesque, with long stretches of cultivated and plowed rows ready for the planting of tobacco leaves.
A makeshift pavilion had been constructed underneath a large tent where most of the paying customers would be fed and entertained. The day was overcast with the possibility of rain, but the morning of the Barn Smoker dawned breezy and pleasant. In addition to the cigars on hand, various vendors had setup stations to ply the smokers with booze, including John Drew Brands, Diplomatico Rum, and such heavy hitters as Macallan (one of The Doctor’s favorite tipples) and Jim Beam.
By nine-thirty the first waves of cigar lovers were arriving en masse and that wonderful, singular aroma began to permeate the air as the stogies were lit. The event began with an opening speech by Mr. Jonathan Drew himself, the founder and president of Drew Estate. The Doctor has had the pleasure of meeting JD previously at CATS Fest in San Antonio and for those who have had the chance to meet Jonathan you know that the man doesn’t disappoint. A legitimate son of Brooklyn and a true lover of cigars and the people who smoke them, JD knows how to ingratiate himself to a crowd and get everybody fired up for a day of fun, even those of us who were working!
Ultimately this is the essence of a Drew Estate Barn Smoker. It is a gathering of like-minded people – spread across any and all socioeconomic and demographic characteristics – who come together on a Saturday to not only learn about cigars but to share their respective passions for the leaf with one another and maybe make a new friend or three in the process. Cigar smoking represents different things to different people – by its very nature, it is a subjective experience – but there remains a general consensus about the activity. For The Doctor, it is a Zen-like exercise in relaxation and, dare I say it, spirituality. Cigar smoking can definitely be enjoyed alone, but enjoying it with others, be they old friends or strangers, only heightens the experience. A Drew Estate Barn Smoker offers one the opportunity to smoke with old friends and friendly strangers in spades.
The attendees of the Florida Barn Smoker were divided into three groups so that they could each be educated at three different stations in succession before lunch. The groups were named F, S, and G (for Florida Sun Grown, naturally) and the Tuesday Night Cigar Club shadowed the F group through its three stations with our cameras and microphones rolling. The first station was “Seed to Field” with the aforementioned farm owner Jeff Borysiewicz and the engaging Pedro Gomez, one of the top Drew Estate sales representatives and a native of the cigar nirvana of Nicaragua. Jeff and Pedro hosted a very informative and interactive Q&A session where they discussed the inherent difficulties of tobacco farming, as well as the myriad differences in types of tobacco leaves. Jeff then graciously invited everyone in the group to plant a freshly budding leaf in his fields, a literal hands-on exercise that all seemed to enjoy.
The second station was the “Barn Station” with Jonathan Drew holding court. Due to a variety of reasons the crop had not been fruitful this season, so the barn was more or less devoid of leaves but an appearance by JD still packs them in to the barn. Mr. Drew is a natural public speaker possessed of an authentic charisma and sense of humor, and his “barn side” chats are nothing if not informative and fun. Of particular interest and amusement was JD’s riff on the circumstances that cause a batch of cigars to become “Number 2s” and how people still end up wanting to smoke the shit out of them.
The third and final station for the F Group that the TNCC was shadowing was the “Blending and Long Ash Competition” featuring Drew Estate master blender Willy Herrera (smoke a Norteno if you haven’t and thank us later). Cigars were passed out and lit to see who could maintain the longest burning ash while Willy discussed the fascinating blending process and hosted his own Q&A session.
The stations thusly completed, the F Group headed back to the main tent to partake of some Pig Floyd… but not your beloved TNCC! We continued to pound each blade of grass while filming all the action, visiting with the various booze vendors (unfortunately we were working, dammit!), and mingling with the crowds of smokers. The one major characteristic that your good Doctor cannot overemphasize about a Barn Smoker is how much of a pure great time it seemed to be for everyone in attendance. There were no overbearing egos or disagreeability from anyone present; the patrons were enjoying cigars and each other’s company and, with enthusiastic personalities like Drew Estate’s Pedro Gomez and Fabien Ziegler working the crowd, the entertainment never stopped (even when the Clermont skies opened up with a rain deluge around two o’clock). TNCC chairman Matthew Cade and myself have had our dalliances in the world of independent filmmaking, and we both wholeheartedly agree that we much prefer the world of cigar people as opposed to the hipsters and wannabes of the movie business seven days out of seven.
Speaking of personalities, Cade (the lucky bastard) engaged in a couple of pairing experiments with both Pedro and Fabien to see how some of the liquors on hand would match up with the Florida Sun Grown cigars and a Liga Privada. I won’t even hold it against Fabien that he is a Yankees fan, since I am a Texas Rangers fan and I can only sit quietly and say nothing (I hope all you Yankees fans are enjoying the season thus far, and yes, I am jealous of you sons of bitches and your winning ways).
After JD and Fabien hosted the raffle prize giveaways, bringing further enjoyment to the masses and raising a ton of money for our favorite charity Cigars For Warriors, the Barn Smoker finally broke up around four o’clock. It was time for the TNCC to load up or tonnage and head back towards Orlando and the comfortable refuge of Jeff’s Corona Cigar lounge. We purchased a handful of box-pressed Liga 9s (the only place you can get them, I’m told) and sat outside to enjoy our stogies with some mojito cocktails. A deserving reward for a job well done.
The Doctor can’t stress it enough, people, get thee to a Drew Estate Barn Smoker! Tickets sell out for these things fast, so as my middle school gym coach always said, “don’t be tardy to my party fellas!” Here is a list of the remaining events for 2018, and rest assured that any travel expenditures are well worth it for true lovers of the leaf.
As the pics below capture beautifully, these events literally have it all. And, as always good friends, The Doctor wishes you all a clean bill of health.