His father is one of the cigar industry’s legendary master blenders; Avo was his adopted uncle, he knows the cigar business inside and out. He’s also just a really nice guy: Klaas Pieter Kelner, Davidoff Cigars Brand Ambassador, who talks with us about growing up at the heart of the business, the appreciation of a fine cigar, and more
Willy Herrera Joins Drew Estate
Herrera is best known for overseeing and directing daily operations and production at Little Havana’s El Titan de Bronze (ETB) located on Miami’s famed Calle Ocho for the last 6 years. Established in 1995, this family owned and operated “fabriquita” hand rolls cigars utilizing Cuban entubado techniques and manufacturers premium handmades for wholesale and retail sale. Also, ETB is the manufacturer for Miami Cigar’s new Casa Miranda brand and the reblended Padilla “8&11” to be reintroduced at this year’s IPCPR tradeshow. ETB will continue to be operated successfully as an independent factory under the watchful eye of its owner, Sandy Cobas.
“I have decided to join Drew Estate for many reasons,” says 38-year old Herrera, “first and most importantly, I’ve known Jonathan for a number of years and separate of business, we have become good friends. I have long admired his approach and innovative style and I feel that we can combine Drew Estate’s sense of style and fresh new ideas with my old school, traditional Cuban way of making cigars. Their factory is amazing and more so their production team is top flight. Plus, DE has deep inventories of exceptional tobacco and great relationships with all the top growers which will afford me the opportunity to have at-will access to amazing leaf. I am very anxious to get started and know I will be able to create fantastic cigars for consumers to enjoy.”
Jonathan Drew, Drew Estate’s Co-Founder and Master Cigar Maker, states, “What I respect most about Willy is that he’s authentic. Let me explain further. When I moved to Nicaragua to manufacture cigars in 1998, I only knew how to blend. I knew nothing about the inherent characteristics of heavy leaf, how to determine good crops from bad, how to ferment tobacco through pre-industry, or how to make the entire process functional in a factory setting. It took my young team and I many years to become what we have and we learned through the school of hard-knocks. Nothing came easy.” Drew continues, “Watching Willy make magic in his small factory in Miami was inspirational to me and a major reason why I pursued the new relationship. Willy ran his factory for over six years, including the purchasing of tobacco, curing, blending and quality control – he has earned his rank as a real manufacturer, plus he’s humble, honest, and cool as hell. He’s a real Don.”
“Our goal is to give Willy the freedom to create his own unique style of cigars within our operation,” explains Marvin Samel, DE’s Co-Founder and Executive VP. “Almost a factory within a factory, so as to allow him to succeed on his own merit. Ultimately the intent is for there to be brands that are not only ‘Willy Hererra’ by name, but are ones that are truly those of his creation and efforts, not just some marketing gimmick.”
According to Steve Saka, Drew Estate’s President, “We are very excited to be adding Willy to the team. Six years ago when I joined Drew Estate many thought I was crazy, but I saw something in JD, Marvin and the company that many didn’t. I knew they could become world-class, master cigar makers and that they were capable of doing much more, they just needed to be directed and nurtured. Today we are known for not only making great infused cigars, but also some of the very best traditional cigars in the world, in what is arguably the best handmade premium cigar factory in Nicaragua. I see the same spark in Willy, he has the talent to become far greater than he already is, he just needs the environment and resources to blossom. We can provide both.”
“Although Willy is very anxious to get started, we are going to make him take a deep breath,” adds Saka. “We are going to afford him the opportunity to spend the upcoming year in Nicaragua, to work with our team, to feel, to smoke and to blend with our and other new tobaccos. We also want to afford him the chance to spend some time on the road visiting cigar smokers around the country not only to introduce himself, but to listen and learn. There is no rush or timetable, what is important to us is that Willy become part of the team and for him to focus solely on creating the great cigars we know he is capable of.”
Herrera will be joining Drew Estate at this year’s annual International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada this July 17th thru 21st, 2011.
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