In 2022, Drew Estate announced a three-way collaboration project that was done between Metallica’s James Hetfield, Distiller Rob Dietrich of Sweet Amber Distilling, and Jonathan Drew known as Blackened M81. Blackened is the name of a whiskey collaboration of Metallica and Dietrich and Dietrich and Drew have been friends for a while. It was Dietrich who introduced Metallica lead singer James Hetfield to Drew. The idea was floated about creating a cigar brand. From there, the wheels were put in motion to create a cigar that shared the vision of the Blackened Brand. Drew provided cigars from the Drew Estate portfolio to sample and Hetfield and Dietrich kept cigar journals to critique the cigars and identify what they liked and disliked about each one. Eventually, they were able to settle on the flavor profile which was the Blackened M81. As for the name M81, it stands for Metallica 1981 – the year Metallica was formed. Today we take a closer look at the Blackened M81 in the Toro size.
As Drew Estate has done with several of its releases, Blackened M81 had a soft launch as an unbanded “Mystery Cigar.” It was packaged with some swag as a part of a Freestyle Live Event Kit made available before one of the company’s Freestyle Live broadcasts. On the September 28, 2022, Freestyle Live broadcast, it was revealed the mystery cigar was the Blackened M81. If you are keeping score at home, the following Drew Estate lines have been unveiled through Freestyle Live.
Without further ado, let’s turn our attention back to the Blackened M81 Toro and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
Over the years, Drew Estate has established a good amount of maduro offerings across its different brands. One thing that is different about the Blackened M81 is that it is an all-maduro offering featuring maduro tobaccos with the wrapper, binder, and filler. The wrapper is a San Andres Mexican wrapper over a Connecticut Broadleaf binder. A combination of Pennsylvania Broadleaf and Nicaraguan tobaccos make up the filler. Production comes from La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate in Estelí, Nicaragua.
Wrapper: San Andres Mexican
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Pennsylvania Broadleaf, Nicaraguan
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
The Blackened M81 is offered in four sizes. Each is presented in 20-count boxes. This is a regular production offering from Drew Estate.
Corona: 5 x 43
Corona Doble: 7 x 50
Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 6 x 52
The San Andres Maduro wrapper of the Blackened M81 Toro had a classic chocolate bar look to it. There were some oils on the surface of the wrapper. The wrapper itself was slightly toothy. There were some visible veins and some thin wrapper seams present on the surface as well.
A straight cut was used to remove the cap of the Blackened M81 Toro. Once the cap was removed, it was time to commence with the pre-light draw ritual. The dry draw wasn’t overly sweet or spicy. At the same time, it was enough to keep me interested. The notes from the dry draw included earth, leather, and baker’s cocoa. Overall, this was a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to remove the footer band, toast up the footer of the Blackened M81 Toro and await what the smoking phase would have in store.
The Blackened M81 Toro opened up with notes of baker’s cocoa, earth, cedar, black pepper, and some fruit. As the cigar moved through the first third the cocoa notes moved to the forefront with the earth, cedar, pepper, and fruit settling in the background. The pepper notes could be felt at the back of the throat. During the first third, the baker’s cocoa became rich and developed a slight sweetness. By the end of the first third, the cocoa notes started to take on some coffee qualities beginning a transition to mocha (a fusion of coffee and chocolate). Meanwhile on the retro-hale were additional layers of black pepper and cedar.
During the second third of the Blackened M81 Toro, the chocolate notes transitioned to a mocha. By the midway point, the mocha now exhibited more classic black coffee notes. Around this point, the earth notes joined the coffee-dominated mocha notes in the forefront. Toward the end of the second third, the pepper notes increased in intensity. Meanwhile, there were still notes of cedar and fruit present. The sweetness component, which was never dominant, reduced somewhat. There were residual chocolate notes present with the mocha, as well as a subtle amount of fruit sweetness.
The final third saw the coffee notes go back into control in the forefront. There was more of a bitter component to the coffee notes by this time. The pepper and earth notes were the most prominent secondary notes. The cedar and fruit notes were somewhat more distant. This is the way the Blackened M81 Toro came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
Overall, the burn of the Blackened M81 Toro did require touch-ups to keep on a straight burn path. The burn line seemed to be jagged throughout the smoking experience. The resulting ash was silver-gray with some dark spots. This wasn’t the firmest of ashes. At the same time, the cigar maintained an ideal burn rate and had an ideal burn temperature.
The draw to the Blackened M81 Toro scored very nicely. This had what The Smoking Syndicate’s Ben Lee terms a “milkshake draw” – one with a slight amount of resistance. This draw provided a touch of resistance – something that I consider to be a positive on a draw.
Strength and Body
For the most part, the Blackened M81 delivered a cigar on the upper end of medium strength and medium body. There was a slight increase in the intensity of both attributes along the way. By the final third, the strength took a slight advantage over the body notes with the strength moving to the medium to full range. When comparing strength versus body with the Blackened M81, the strength had a slight edge.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
Overall the design team at Drew Estate did a fantastic job with the packaging. On the cigar, there are two bands and what is interesting about this is the footer band is actually larger than the primary band. The flip-top box works quite well. I like how there are specifications about the cigar on the outer part of the box.
It is fair to say when it comes to the Blackened M81, the cigar can complement the Blackened-branded whiskeys. In the case of this assessment, it was assessed by smoking the cigar alone, but I’ve also paired the cigar with the whiskey and it made for an excellent pairing. I should also mention we pair cigars with music on Prime Time Jukebox, and you can’t go wrong having the whiskey and the cigar listening to some Metallica!
My experience will all-Maduro cigars has been hit or miss, but I’m happy to report the Blackened M81 Toro falls on the side of a hit. The flavors shine with this cigar – particularly in the first third with some of the richer, more chocolate-like notes. Of the sizes smoked, I think the Toro size was the best of the four. It’s a cigar I would recommend to a more seasoned cigar enthusiast, but I wouldn’t discourage a novice from picking up this cigar. This is a cigar I certainly would buy and smoke again. Coming in at 90 points, it reaches what is a difficult threshold these days to earn – a Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence designation.
Key Flavors: Mocha (Coffee, Chocolate), Earth, Cedar, Fruit, Pepper
Burn: Very Good
Complexity: Medium Plus
Strength: Medium (1st 2/3), Medium to Full
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy One
Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence
News: Drew Estate Collaborates with Metallica for Blackened
Source: Drew Estate
Brand Reference: Drew Estate
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted
Originally posted on June 10, 2023 @ 10:18 am