Cigar Review: Blackened M81 by Drew Estate

What do you get when a famous rock star, a big name in cigars, and a master distiller get together and collaborate on a new cigar? We will see! I’m a big fan of James Hetfield and Metallica, a big fan of Jonathan Drew and Drew Estate, and a big fan of Rob Dietrich (not so much the Blackened whiskey, it is not bad, just not my favorite) and Stranahan’s Single Malt. I also want to mention the Rob is a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division and has two tours to Somalia, Climb to Glory! With these big names behind the Blackened “M81” cigar it is easy to get excited about it, I know I was. It is also good to keep in mind that these huge names are a great way to market this product. I can appreciate the amount of collaboration that went into this cigar and matching up the name with a whiskey implies that it could pair well the cigar. We will keep this review to just the cigar and all of its Maduro glory.  Metallica was founded in 1981, hence the name, M81.


VITOLA:   Corona
SIZE:   5″ x 43

ORIGIN:   Nicaragua
FACTORY:   La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate

WRAPPER:   Mexican San Andres
BINDER:   Connecticut Broadleaf
FILLER:   Nicaraguan and Pennsylvania Broadleaf


SOURCE:   Retailer


Outside on the porch

25 January 2023, 1200


Warm and sunny



RELEASE TYPE  Regular Production


Typical Box Size:     Boxes of 20
Production Totals:  Unknown

o  Corona  (5″ x 43)
 Robusto  (5″ x 50)
 Toro (6″ x 52)
 Corona Doble (7″ x 50)


The band is simple and matches the whiskey that came out about a year ago. The foot band is actually way more intricate than the body band. The big bold letters in a goldish copper color with some embossment in the black area and the drew estate logo on the back really catches the eye. Since the design of the band is identical to the whiskey bottle, I assume the copper lettering is meant to match the color of the whiskey. I like the simplicity in the band design but I wish that the body band had a little more to it like what is found in the foot band.


The cigar matches the color of a Hershey’s chocolate bar. It has a tight pack with just a couple soft spots throughout the body of the cigar but it is a  mostly consistent throughout. The seams are tight and the wrapper has a slight tooth to it. Veins are present in this cigar but they are uniform and there aren’t any that are incredibly noticeable.

A very strong dark earth and barnyard small comes off the wrapper and that amplifies when smelling the foot. There is an underlying scent of chocolate orange while the foot gives off some very peppery notes with some sweetness.


The draw is open with just a little resistance, and the flavors are incredibly strong. Barnyard on the front end, then prunes mixed with cinnamon. There is a hint of leather and a little bit of pepper on the backend but that disappears once I do a couple draws. I really like how strong the cold draw flavors are. I also admire how open the draw is when the pack is so tight.


Cut:  Straight
Fire:  Torch

The draw has a little more resistance than I expected, judging from the cold draw. Right at light up, I get a strong ashy taste, most of the time this happens because I am torching the cigar. After the ash taste subsides, you can get a little bit of sweet tobacco mixed with oak. The retro has a strong black pepper sting that stays in the nostrils. It finishes out with some strong cedar.


I’m getting a lot of smoke output, but not what you would expect from other Drew Estate cigars. While smoke pours off the foot of some of the other Drew Estate lines, this one is pretty tame and I wonder if it is because of all of the Maduro  leaf used in the blend. 

>> Dirt, Black Pepper, Bitter Chocolate

I really appreciate the draw on this cigar, it isn’t too tight and it’s not wide open. I will say that in the first third, I feel like the cigar was smoking a little hot, it felt hot to touch and in the draw. I did not experience this with the other two samples. The ash is semi compact, and there are no real flakes and even after burning down an inch, there are no signs of it falling. The flavors are underwhelming in the first third with a gritty dirt mixed with oak taking the lead. The retro is still peppery, but ends with a blip of bitter chocolate. The finish leaves my mouth dry, and still reminds me of dusty gritty dirt. The finish lasts about five seconds, and then drops off.

>> Espresso, Cream, Oak

The draw remains perfect in the second third and it still has great smoke output. The burn is a little wavy at times but corrects itself. Notes of cream and espresso morph out of what  was once a gritty dirt during the second third. A slight sweet tobacco is still present. The retro is still peppery as ever, but includes a little bit more oak and cream. There is an interesting blip of caramel on the finish but the gritty dirt note experienced in the first third makes an appearance again towards the end. I did not get this less desirable note in the first sample of this cigar.

>> Savory Chocolate, Earth, Potpourri

The room note of the cigar is pleasant, it reminds me of my first time smoking the Undercrown Maduro in a lounge and the joy I experienced smelling the huge plumes of smoke filling the air with sweet maduro notes. The burn continues to correct itself and the smoke is still thick. The hotness of the smoke that I experienced in the first third went away slowly in the second third and is completely gone now. There is a different note that dominates the pallet in the last third, and it reminds me of potpourri. It is not a note that I would expect from this cigar so I was surprised. The absence of sweetness kind of bothers me and it could be the reason for pairing it with a sweet whiskey that is aged to the vibrations of Metallica songs. Behind that potpourri note, there is a foundation of earth, it was always there but morphed from dirt to espresso and then to more earthy note. The retro is very interesting if you can get past the peppery beginning. There is a savory caramel cream note mix with chocolate and baking spice. The finish also gets better in the last third with the earth being turned a notch and more chocolate and cream with a sweet tobacco moving in. You will also find some meaty notes throughout this cigar. It isn’t incredibly noticeable while smoking the cigar but once you have that note on your palate you realize it was there all along.



The first third was flat on flavor but more interesting flavors built in the second and last thirds, which is to be expected as the oils build. When I smoke a maduro cigar, I expect something just a little sweeter, but I did not get this in the M81. That is not to say that the flavors of this stick were bad, the second and last third opened up and made room for some more interesting flavors and at around $9 for the smallest vitola in the line it is definitely a stick worth trying.


I experienced very little issues with the burn in this cigar. The burn always self corrected and the ash held on for about an inch before falling off under its own weight.

0.79 / 0.80 … Craft & Aesthetic
0.50 / 0.50 … Pre-Light Characteristics
0.50 / 0.50 … Lighting Process
6.68 / 7.70 … Smoking Experience
0.40 / 0.50 … Personal Enjoyment



That is the quote that comes to mind when I imagine James, Drew, and Rob coming up with this blend and drinking Blackened whiskey at the same time. I am curious, is the absence of sweetness in the cigar an intentional decision in pairing with the whiskey. I would imagine that the whiskey would balance out or add to the notes of this stick. If you are into full, bold, and savory cigars this is the stick for you. If you can find the Blackened and Willett collaboration whiskey, send me a bottle!


2 comments on “Cigar Review: Blackened M81 by Drew Estate

  1. Jackie Morton says:

    I love this Cigar! To me it starts strong and then it milds out. This is my to go stick, the draw is perfect and the burn is incredible.

    1. Ryan Nehus says:

      I picked one up at the shop the other day, it it a good looking stick. It’s kind of growing on me now!

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