The Magic of Kentucky Tobacco and Barrel Fermentation

The creation of Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Cigars by Drew Estate is complex and inspiring, steeped in traditions from two distinct continents. With aged filler and wrapper leaves born in the fertile soils of Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States, it is the Southern region of Kentucky that I wish to illustrate as a starting point on our journey together.

It is in the heart of Hopkinsville, Kentucky that we grow the Kentucky Seen Tobacco under the perfect climate and conditions. After the leaves have fully matured, we carefully hang them in the tobacco barns and smoke each leaf for 14 days, using hardwoods such as oak, maple, and hickory. This time honored process has been followed for over 200 years, but was only recently pioneered for premium cigars by Drew Estate.

The next step demonstrates the complexity of the blend, as we carefully transport the tobacco leaves to St. James Parish, Louisiana, and begin the “barrel fermentation” process using 53-gallon barrels. Pressure and time are the keys to this fermentation, so we place almost 500 pounds of high quality leaves in the charred oak barrels for over one year, only opening the barrels three times for their rotations and turns. It is a painstaking process, done by American labor in the USA.

The barrels are then sealed in a vault-like manner to keep oxygen out and intensify the barrel fermentation to the max, reaching utter perfection in taste, aroma, and definition.

The next step is shipping the smoky leaves from the United States to the Drew Estate factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. Never sparing any expense in our determination to do things perfectly, we even ship the entire barrel itself to Nicaragua so that the leaves remain virgin throughout the entire process.