Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented by Drew Estate | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Kentucky Tapa Negra, Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Kentucky, Nicaraguan
Size: 5.25 x 52 Robusto
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $13.00
Humidor time: 4 weeks
Number of cigars smoked prior to review: 1



Photos courtesy of Drew Estate:



Today we take a look at the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented by Drew Estate.
Thanks to Larry Rogahn for the sticks.
As far as I can tell, the only place you can purchase these cigars is at the Pappy & Co. web site. And yes, you pay the full MSRP price points.

Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
Released: April, 2015
Regular production.
From the Pappy Van Winkle web site:
“Drew Estate announced in November their exclusive manufacturing agreement with Pappy & Company for the new “Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented” premium handmade cigar. This handmade premium cigar is produced at Drew Estate’s Estelí, Nicaragua factory and is being made in partnership with Pappy & Company. Pappy & Company is the family-owned merchandise division of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, producers of legendary whiskies including Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

“The Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigar is a 100% long-filler, premium cigar made totally by hand in very small batches at Drew Estate in Estelí, Nicaragua. This historic cigar features a “barrel fermented” “tapa negra”-style wrapper over a Mexican San Andres base wrapper, as well as aged Nicaraguan Filler tobaccos, personally selected by Drew Estate’s Founder, Jonathan Drew. It is the perfect choice for pairing with any of the Van Winkle bourbon and rye products.

“Founded in 2013, Pappy & Company is a family-owned business specializing in merchandise branded with logos from the legendary Pappy Van Winkle whiskey collection. Through Pappy & Company, they have found a fun and creative way to not only be a part of the Pappy legacy and heritage, but to offer it to their friends and fellow aficionados. To learn more and to purchase the new Pappy Van Winkle by Drew Estate cigar, visit”

“The Pappy Drew Limitada is presented in a barrel head 4 7/8 x 60 vitola packaged in 3 count soft packs that are only available as a gift from the Van Winkle Family when you purchase a box of the Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented Robusto, Toro, and Churchill together.”

SIZES AND PRICES (Boxes of 10):
Robusto 5.25 x 52 $13.00
Toro 6 x 54 $15.00
Churchill 7 x 48 $17.00

The cigar is a bit rustic. Seams are tight or non-existent but there are plenty of veins and lumps and bumps. Nice amount of tooth.
The natural wrapper extends 3-1/2” and leaves the Tapa Negra wrapper at 1-3/4”.
The Mexican San Andrés wraps the entire cigar. The Tapa Negra rests on top.

From the shaft, I smell rye whiskey, floral notes, spice, black cherries, sweetness, charred wood, strong cinnamon, cedar, vanilla, and smoked meat.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I smell very smoky cured meat (Smells like a good German deli), bourbon, floral notes, cinnamon, charred wood, vanilla.

The cold draw presents flavors of super strong smoky cured meat. It is so powerful, that any other flavors go by the wayside. It now reminds me of an ACID.

The draw is perfect as I’m surrounded by clouds of smoke.
A few puffs in, flavors exhibit a nice red pepper, charred smoky flavor, cinnamon toothpicks, sweetness from the bourbon barrels, vanilla bean, lots of creaminess, malts, graham cracker, and caraway seeds.

Strength is medium body. The char line is dead nuts perfect.
Immediately, complexity is noted. Great finish that has me smacking my lips.
I smoked my first one yesterday and I had a gorgeous char line. Unwavering in its approach for nirvana. Today? Not as military grade.


When Larry gifted me with three sticks, the bouquet was intoxicating. Plopping them into a humidor with non-infused cigars could spell disaster. Out came a small, cedar lined travel humidor. I put them away and then forgot about them…something I exceed at. A couple days ago, I had a moment of clarity and remembered I was in possession of these cigars. I opened the humidor and the sublime aromatics were released into my cavitas nasalis. So nice.

Then it hit me. Is this going to be a strongly flavored infused cigar like ACID? I went through my ACID stage in the early 2000’s when they were hard to find. I was an avid fan as they were new and possessed interesting flavors. But after 6 years of smoking my share of ACID blends, I realize that I overdid it. I burned out. So now they are an occasional treat.

The Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented is a different animal; the best of both worlds. It has the intoxicating flavors of bourbon and barrel smokiness but it is the non-infused flavors that dominate to make a perfect combo.

In fact, today’s second stick is better than the first one. Can’t explain. Just know it has a richer, deeper complexity this morning. Palates are a funny thing. Yeah, I’m digging the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented.

The sweetness and creaminess top the list of flavors. Everything else queues up behind these two dominant components.

Construction is top notch. The near perfect char line self-corrects and is back on the trail again. Perfect draw. Smoooth; with evenly distributed flavor elements. Complexity is kicking arse and taking names; and transitions do the 40 in 4.3. The finish finds its center.

20 years ago, I loved good scotch and good whiskey. Not a big drinker but I loved it in the evening with a good cigar after a grueling 12 hour work day. Problem is that because I’m not used to consuming liquor, I would get inebriated and start ordering all sorts of crap from QVC. So Charlotte blocked the home shopping networks. I bought a lot of knives thinking I might want to become a professional knife fighter. In the end, I managed to cut myself with every knife I owned. I especially liked the “Made in China” aspect to all of those blades.

As I near the end of the first third, strength inches forward. But oh the flavor. This is exactly what I expect from an expensive cigar. A three ring circus that has my head spinning in admiration. For some wonderful reason, my second Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented is better than my first.

Smoke time is 30 minutes.
The smokiness increases dramatically. Now it reminds me of the Drew Estate MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured.
The smokiness is nearly overwhelming…slightly diminishing other flavors. This reinforces that maybe I should have allowed the cigar another month or two of humi time to let the smokiness calm down.

My hands smell like hickory smoked brisket. Can’t get a decent brisket sandwich in this town. Welcome to Milwaukee. Brats? On every corner.


Really impressed with the construction. Not one criticism. The beautiful char line proves that it isn’t me. Only 10% of the cigars I smoke have perfect burn lines like the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented.

Too many manufacturers go on the cheap by saving some dough by allowing less than great rollers to produce their cigars. There is no other explanation. Cigar after cigar, I find myself touching up burn lines. I question what I’m doing wrong because it happens so often. With this cigar, I realize I’m not doing anything wrong. It’s them. Not me.

The halfway point.
Smoke time is 45 minutes. The stick is so well rolled that it takes its ever lovin’ time. No rush. No cigarette burn.


The smokiness relents and allows those beautiful flavors to re-emerge x2. Now I’m beginning to re-think my theory that the blend needed more time. Don’t think so anymore. This is a spectacular cigar. Thank you Larry. I revel in bringing attention to great cigars.

I fully expect that when I get to the tapa Negra wrapper portion of the cigar, flavors will change a bit. Yeah, I know. Duh.
Strength reaches medium/full.

The spiciness lays back. It has transitioned from red to black pepper.

A slight touch of licorice shows up. The rye caraway seed character boosts its place in line.

The smokiness has found its place in the universe now. The sweet bourbon wood flavor takes over. It is as if transitions were blended by a mad scientist because the over under sideways down delivery of these elements makes this old coot a happy man.

Damn the torpedoes. Worth every cent. Of course, I didn’t pay for it. Larry did. May the Cosmic Muffin bless you, Larry, with a minimum of two cogent thoughts every day for the rest of your life.

I feel the smokiness was a bit too much for the middle part of the cigar experience. It cast a shadow over the accompanying flavors. But like a theater curtain opening, it pulled back and laid bare the cornucopia of gorgeous flavors.

The smoky, fire cured meat component is right where it should be in the scheme of things. Less MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured and more a sweet Liga Privada. Didn’t see that coming.
Spice breaks on through to the other side now. A nice combo of both black and red peppers.
A new bakery flavor appears. Crusty bread with bourbon honey butter.

Smoke time is one hour 5 minutes.
The power moves to the next level with a full bodied strength.

Now we have some traditional Liga Privada character. You take your Uncle Katman’s advice and snag some of these sticks. I can count on one hand the times I’ve fawned over an expensive stick. This is one of those times. This is true artistry from Drew Estate. I feel Jonathan has put his heart and soul into this one and his exceptionalism shows up in the final product.

If I were a rich man…I’d buy as many boxes of the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented that my platinum American Express card would allow.
I’m moving towards the hem of the Tapa Negra wrapper portion.


Charred wood transitions to charred steak. Smokiness moves to the middle of the flavor profile. The platform has morphed seeing a huge increase in its intensity. Anything I smoke for the rest of the day will pale considerably.

The spiciness continues on its path to make my eyes water.
A wallop of nicotine kicks in. The laptop screen begins to undulate as my eyesight narrows.

I reach the Tapa Negra portion. But it’s only 1-3/4”. I guess this will be the discovery portion of the program in which I will understand the reasoning for DE not choosing to make the wrappers 50/50.

Smokiness returns. The cleanness of the bourbon soaked wrapper is sweet like bourbon infused chocolate. As a kid, my parents liked those little chocolates shaped like booze bottles with a liquid center of real liquor. I would steal them and get buzzed. I eventually went into rehab at the age of 6.

A variety of roasted nuts appears for the first time. Then surprising flavors such as blackberry and yam climb to the surface.
The Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented is now extremely strong. Wow. My eyes water. My nose runs. And my sinuses light up.

The Tapa Negra wrapper brings back the heavy cream that started this experience.
I don’t know if it is the progressive character of the blend that perfectly planned this acceleration of strength…or if it is due to the new wrapper’s influence.
Either way, it is like smoking two different blends at once.

This is a cigar for special occasions. It is by no means a knock around cigar. I bet it improves exponentially with a glass of fine whiskey.

The last 1-3/4” is meant to be a surprise. That has to be the reason for not making the wrappers 50/50. A treat for the senses as the end approaches.
The Tapa Negra wrapper gives the blend a different balance. Stronger. Complexity broadens…exhibiting a couple of new flavors with an increased dose of intensity.


Besides the creaminess, there are flavors of heavy malts, cinnamon, sweetness, vanilla, graham cracker, caraway seeds, charred hickory/meat, butter, dried fruit, and smoky pancetta.

My head is spinning from the nicotine. I don my crash helmet. The cat doesn’t need his as he is sleeping peacefully on top of my jewelry work bench.

The final smoke time verges on 90 minutes. This is perfect. Once a cigar passes the 90 minute mark, I get bored. But I could never get bored with this blend.

Yes, I’ve rambled on too much…for a change. When I am confronted with an excellent blend, I have no control. My brain spews more and more words trying to depict how spectacular and elusive a blend affects my cigar experience. It doesn’t happen that often so I get carried away.

The Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented is a treat waiting to be purchased.
DO NOT let the wife know how much you spent; or expect a whippin’…or worse, no sex for a month. If you’ve been married for a while, you won’t notice the lack of sex. (This does not apply to single men).

The Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Barrel Fermented is an extraordinary cigar blend. Satisfying to the end.
Kudos to Jon Drew. For my tastes, this is his finest blend to date.

RATING: 95 Protection Status


Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed them I tried one last weekend and was in heaven I also had a nice glass of Pappy van winkle on the side great review

  2. Have a box of toros. Great aroma even before lighting. Intoxicating smell. I pun intended. And paired with a Pappy 23. Life is good. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s