It has been an eventful 24 hours for iconic cigar brand Drew Estate. Yesterday began with a letter to retailers informing them that over 100 products would no longer be available. It ended with the announcement of a new collaboration between Drew Estate, Metallica frontman James Hetfield, and Master Distiller Rob Dietrich. Blackened By Drew Estate is a project years in the making and the M81 was revealed as the “mystery cigar” distributed in DE’s most recent “Freestyle Live” cigar and accessory pack.
The promo video above was aired as part of the full 90 minute stream and drives home the fact that the The M81 is 100% Maduro. It consists of a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, Connecticut broadleaf binder, and broadleaf fillers from both Pennsylvania and Nicaragua. While the full show is a long one, there is a pretty great payoff if you stick with it – Dietrich details the 2 years long journey of how the M81 came to fruition with such enthusiasm that one can’t help but become interested in the cigar that now exists as a result. For those who were as unaware as I was, Blackened began as a collaborative effort between Metallica and Master Distiller & Blender Dave Pickerell. When Pickerell passed, Dietrich was selected as his successor. It is wild to see so many storied legacies converging. While no cigar will ever be for everyone, the story here and the players involved are guaranteed to draw more attention than a typical product launch. Within the company, it’s being compared to the Eminem collaboration in terms of cultural significance.
While nobody outside of DE can know with any certainty, the decision to announce the new cigar on the same day that so many products were discontinued seems pretty shrewd. Not unlike the popular “compliment sandwich” management technique, the louder and flashier news of the evening could very well serve to draw attention away from what the DE team referred to as “sunsetting” of so many items in the early morning hours. While many of the more than 100 “SKUs” or “stock keeping units” are select formats or specific box/bundle quantities within larger lines, some full lines are going to be going away completely. In total, 10 brands have been streamlined or eliminated completely. The impacted brands are Acid, Ambrosia, Herrera Esteli, Joya De Nicaragua, Kentucky Fire Cured, Liga Privada, La Vieja Habana, and Undercrown. LVH and the Sun Grown Undercrown offerings will no longer be made. DE plans to have a new page added to their site soon that lists alternatives for fans who will no longer be able to find their favorite cigars.
In a message to Drew Estate retailers, David Lazarus, Senior Vice-President of Sales, wrote that “the premium cigar Industry continues to face many challenges, including lingering supply chain disruptions and production difficulties across the board. Complications such as these have led us to perform a deep-dive study of our entire product portfolio to gain a deeper understanding of the performance of every one of the brands/SKUs we offer. Based on that assessment, we are discontinuing certain brands/SKUs to put more focus on providing you with the products that turn every day and so that we may continue to introduce new and exciting Innovative products that your customers will enjoy.”
Jonathan Drew was as transparent as someone that high up in a publicly traded company can be as he explained the SKU shake-up. The messaging was that sometimes a product needs to go because there aren’t enough raw materials to keep making them, and sometimes a product just doesn’t make enough profit to sustain its production. There is sure to be talk about what this all means for DE’s future and that of the industry, never a boring day in cigars!
Did you participate in Freestyle Live? What is your dream collaboration? I’d love to hear about it all in the comments below!