Celebrity involvement in the industry is gathering some speed. We have pro sports players, movie stars, celebrity chefs, and so on who collaborate with existing brands or become brand owners themselves. We have also seen a fair share of whiskey collaborations. Well, back in September of 2022, during the Drew Estate Freestyle Live release event, Jonathan Drew announced he had done something extra special and introduced us to the M81, a collaboration with James Hetfield of the legendary Heavy Metal band Metallica and Blackened Whiskey’s Rob Dietrich.
“It is really a fun social thing for me, a fellowship, to have a few buddies sit around with a few sticks,” Hetfield said in a press release. “My buddy, Rob Dietrich, BLACKENED’s Master Distiller, and I frequently enjoy cigars together, and he introduced me to Jonathan from Drew Estate. The three of us connected and shared each other’s vision and story about where we’ve been, what we like to see, and what is important to us now, and we all came up with what a BLACKENED ‘M81’ Cigar would look and taste like. I love the Maduro leaf, and I’m super excited for everyone to try this.”
And try we shall. This cigar seems to be a hit from the initial introduction, where participants in the Freestyle Live release event could try it in 3 different sizes. What an ingenious way to introduce a special project like this to the masses and to have samples in the hands of your hard-core fans the moment it is introduced.
With a heavy metal band and a bold American whiskey as the collaboration, the cigar needs to be something special, so Drew Estate chose a triple maduro blend. This dark, bold beauty has a Mexican San Andrés wrapper over a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro binder. The fillers combine Nicaragua tobacco and Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro tobacco, which Drew Estate claims is “the boldest Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero in Drew Estate’s vast tobacco inventory.”
Now I am ready to get some Metallica playing, dive into this cigar, and see if it is as bold as the collaborators involved!
Under the Lid
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
- Filler: Nicaragua, Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro
- Vitola: 6 X 52 Toro $9.85 (Box of 20 $197)
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate (Nicaragua)
- Release Date: November 2022
- Number of cigars released: Regular production.
- Other vitolas available
- Corona: 5″ x 43 $9.15 (Box of 20 $183)
- Robusto: 5″ x 50 $9.45 (Box of 20 $189)
- Corona Doble: 7″ x 50 $10.35 (Box of 20 $207)
The cigars come packaged in a glossy black box with a bi-fold lid, with copper graphics showcasing the M81 logo, collaborators, and blend info. The cigars are in individual cello and feature a sizeable foot/main band with the M81 logo and a smaller black and white secondary band with the Blackened name in a font similar to what is on the whiskey bottle. The wrapper leaf is dark and oily, with a fair amount of tooth, some visible raised veins, and very well-done, almost invisible seams. The prelight aroma has hints of barnyard, sweet tobacco, and cocoa, while the cigar’s body has notes of barnyard and cedar. Prelight draw offers just the right amount of resistance and has notes of raisins, cocoa, and damp earth.
First Third The cigar starts with very well-mannered notes of barnyard, leather, coffee, and cocoa nibs, with the raisins from the prelight present as well. The finish has a mild pepperiness, but it is not overbearing. The retrohale has black pepper, black cherry, and an odd mineral note reminiscent of pencil lead. Overall, the profile has a creamy, spicy finish with almost no sweetness. Burn and draw start off well, with the strength of the cigar landing in the upper medium range, while body and complexity are medium-full.
Second Third Things get a little heavier and darker as the cigar burns into the middle section. Charred wood, burnt marshmallow, and espresso come to the front while the black pepper on the finish intensifies. The retrohale now has white pepper and black cherry, with hints of damp cedar pushing the pencil lead mineral note to the rear, but not out of the profile. Burn and draw continue to perform well here, with strength still medium and body and complexity remaining medium-full.
Final Third: Espresso is the primary note as the cigar transitions into the final section. The espresso, black pepper, charred wood, and barnyard all come to the front at once, making the cigar have a very dark transition. Strength kicks up abruptly and significantly right at the transition point, jumping right to the top of the medium-full range. Retrohale is primarily black pepper and cedar, with a slight earthiness to the finish. Burn and Draw continue to perform admirably here, with body and complexity landing in the full range at the end.
Core flavors throughout the smoking experience are coffee, black pepper, wood, earth, and black cherry.
- Strength: Medium-Full
- Body: Full
- Complexity: Full
This was an interesting smoking experience. I did get to smoke the Freestyle live pre-release version of this. While I did not do a deep dive into the pre-release, these are even better than they were back in September of 2022. My experience with these cigars has led me to the conclusion that the vitola significantly affects the smoking experience. I have had the opportunity to smoke all available sizes of this cigar. While they are all good, including the Toro smoked for this review, the Corona delivers a significantly different experience. Please don’t sleep on these, and you absolutely need to try them paired with the whiskey!
Purchase Recommendation: Try a few of each size then get a box of the ones you like. You can’t go wrong!
- Samples were sent to James Hetfield and Robert Dietrich to try and make flavor notes to help develop this blend
- Although this is a collaboration with a whiskey manufacturer, the tobacco was not aged or cured in whiskey barrels
- The name, M81, refers to the year that Metallica was formed
Cigars smoked for this review: 3
Smoking time: 2:10
Kevin Acuff – Senior Reviewer & Editor
Kevin Acuff was born and raised in Northeast Ohio. Growing up in a rural area, he was able to indulge in some very exciting life experiences at a young age. He acquired his private pilot license before he had a driver’s license, spent several years on the competitive bass fishing tournament trail, and even spent a couple of seasons racing motorcycles. In 2001, he relocated to Las Vegas, spending the better part of the past 20 years working in the sign industry. It was one of those industry trips, back in 2014 that changed his life for good. His boss handed him a Siglo V and an instantaneous bond was formed.