The Hoochly team spent some time with Pedro Gomez, also known as Drew Estate Pedro, and he told us about his childhood, his beginnings, some of his most memorable experiences and also some interesting stuff about what’s to come for Drew Estate!
Hoochly: Who is Pedro Gomez? Tell us about you and a little background
Pedro: Hello everybody my name is Pedro Gomez.
First of all, I would like to thank Hoochly.com for giving me the opportunity to share with the cigar world my story in the cigar industry.
I am from Esteli, Nicaragua AKA “The Tobacco Capital Of The World”. I was born and raised in Esteli. I came from humble beginnings with a lot of desires to succeed in Life. I am the middle one of two brothers and one sister.
When I was 12 years old, I started to work in a saddle shop and it was the hardest days from my childhood and adolescence because I was working as a man in order to put food on the table and help my family. Back in those days it was a lot of struggle because it was only my mom and four little ones. That’s why I decided to drop out of school after I graduated from Elementary School because my mother could not afford my school expenses and my future started to look hopeless.
I did not attend to school for 2 years but when I was 14 years old I realized that I did not want to spend my whole life making saddles for horses. So I decided to go back to Junior High School and keep my saddle job as a part time job. So I was going to school from 7 a.m to 12 pm and going to the saddle shop from 1 pm to 6 pm. And at night was studying for my test and doing my homework. At that time my goal in school was to be the best student in my classroom. Thank God I achieved that goal 5 years in a row. My ultimate goal was to graduate with honors from a public high school and get a scholarship in a public university due to the fact that my family and I did not have money to afford my university expenses.
When it comes to faith, I am a huge believer. So when I graduated from high school in 2003 I found out about a full scholarship for Business Administration in the United States paid by The US government. So I did not think twice and I applied knowing that 300 great students around the country were applying for the some education opportunity.
Long story, short: after 1 year of intensive selection only 2 students from Nicaragua got the scholarship and I was one of them. “God is good and He always has been.” The scholarship program sent me to Davenport, Iowa in 2004 so I started to attend to Scott Community College. When I got to the United States I did not know English so I was taking ESL classes (English class) in the morning and I was taking my career class with a translator in the afternoon. After 6 months, your English must be at college level because there was no more translator help. By August 2006 I graduated with honors and I was very happy to accomplish that goal. Now the next thing was facing reality because I had to come back to Nicaragua due to the fact that was part of the rules of the scholarship program. So I did that knowing that God will not let me down.
As soon as I arrived in Nicaragua I was very happy to see my family again after 2 long years. That day we went straight to Esteli and the next day I woke up and I went to every single cigar factory in Nicaragua looking for any job because I did not want to go back to the saddle shop.
Hoochly: How did you end up working at Drew Estate?
Pedro: When I went to Drew Estate factory, it was a little cigar factory in downtown Esteli. I went and asked for a job interview and Thank God I got it. They told me that the factory did not have any specific function for me but if I want to work, Drew Estate factory will give me a chance. So I started from the very very bottom at the factory.
My first year at the factory I was doing whatever they asked me to do, so I was “Pedro Coffee”, “Pedro Ice Cream”, “Pedro Driver” but while I was preforming all those duties I was learning everything from every department in the cigar factory.
On my second year, they gave me the opportunity to be the Operation Manager Assistant so I had the opportunity to learn more about how the factory operated back on those days. By the time Drew Estate factory went from a little house that Jonathan Drew was renting to 11 different houses all over Esteli.
Hoochly: What was your favorite part of working as JD’s assistant? Any cool story that you remember and can tell us?
Pedro: Everything that I have accomplished today I owe it to God and secondly to Jonathan Drew. Jonathan is a man with a huge heart. I was Jonathan’s assistant in Nicaragua before the company moved to the United States. Being Jonathan’s assistant is very challenge and interesting. You have to be at your fullest 24/7 because Jonathan is very creative and visionary. So you have to keep up with his rhythm but at the same time you are learning everything from his brilliant mind.
A crazy story from those days was when we were hosting the Second Nicaragua Cigar festival. The schedule from the festival was a visit to Jalapa which it is 4 hours away from Esteli. The point was to show the people the beautiful tobacco that is grown in Jalapa. So Jonathan, myself and some of our guests that were staying at Cigar Safari we all went to Jalapa. So I was helping coordinate the big group. However on the way to Esteli these crazy gringos were drinking Tona Beers and Ron Flor De Cana (Nicaragua rum) like fishes. So when we were getting close to Esteli it was a huge accident that stopped the whole traffic so we were stuck in the middle of the night when 3 buses full of gringos and they were drunk as F$#@. I was concerned because some of them were running in the highway and jumping on the top of the bus. At one point I had to run like Super Man and follow this people and asked them to calm the F$#@ down Lol!!! Thank God everything went good and we did not have any major inconveniences.
Hoochly: How was your experience with the Cigar Safari and is there a fun anecdote you will always remember?
Pedro: Cigar Safari is by far the best cigar experience in the industry. This tourism project brings people from all over the world to Nicaragua. They experience the best 4 days of their lives at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. We started this project back in October 2008 and since then we have hosted thousands of people that love cigars. It was Jonathan Drew’s idea to bring people to see Drew Estate factory because our factory is not just the biggest factory in Nicaragua but it is the most beautiful premium cigar factory in the world. We have 13 singles rooms with A/C, there is an amazing view, a nice Liga privada pool, we have a cozy lounge in the second floor, opened bar, all Drew Estate cigars you want to smoke, unforgettable Nicaraguan food and the best cigar tour from Seed to Smoke.
A crazy anecdote was when Marvin Samel (Co-Founder of Drew Estate) and I were hosting a group full of people from the Marine Corps. You know those people are very tough and unbreakable, oo I told them that they can smoke as many cigars they want and they said no worries we will smoke the $hit out of these Liga Privada. So I ask them if they are regular cigar smokers and they said, “No we love Acid cigars but this time we want Liga.” So I told them If I was you I will smoke just one Liga and they said, “Come on Pedro, you think we are wimps!?” and I said, “Alright; well, you are on your own.”
These guys were smoking and drinking like it was no tomorrow. Next day in the morning I got a call from Marvin Samel and he said, “Hey!! Pedro I think we have a huge problem,” and I said, “Oh shit!!” So Marvin goes like “the Marines are not feeling OK some of them can not even get up from bed because they have being throwing up and shitting the whole night. So you have to call the doctor. So I call the doctor and the doctor said that they were smoking too many cigars and their immune system got weak and his prescription was to ask them to drink a lot of bottle of water and rest. So the anecdote of this story, is that sometimes is better to be a wimp and not spend the whole night throwing up and shitting your brain off. Lol!!!!
Hoochly: Tell us about your role as DE factory spokesman and what can people expect when they go to one of your events?
Pedro: For me it is a honor being The Factory Spokesperson for Drew Estate because I am the Nicaragua ambassador in the cigar industry. I have been with Drew Estate for 11 years and I have come straight from factory and straight from Esteli to teach our end consumer and retailer about our beautiful culture in Nicaragua and the craftsmanship of our premium cigars. I travel all over the United States visiting cigar stores and doing Drew Estate events.
So let me tell you what people are going to expect at my events. What you guys are going to get is a full experience at the event, learning about tobacco and the factory. I would like to thank all the hard work from our retailers that give us the chance to be at their stores.
What I do on some of my events is tobacco presentation and everything relate to the factory. We bring all the goodies to the stores so people can buy their favorite smoke from us. We have a lot of swag, cool raffles and the opportunity to meet people from all over and of course the cool atmosphere at the event.
Hoochly: What can you tell us about the future of DE and is there any “secrets” you can share with us?
Pedro: Drew Estate has a great future ahead because Jonathan Drew is back as The President of the company. He was the man that built the entire company with his vision and philosophy. He created a cigar empire and he paved the road for many to follow his footsteps in this industry. Drew Estate has a strong presence in the market and our cigar brands are going to be stronger than ever because Jonathan Drew “The Man With The Master Plan” is back.
We continue to work on the innovative at Drew Estate factory to bring new cigars to the people who smoke them, and this year we are working hard. You’re gonna see the Florida Sungrown, Pappy Van Winkle Tradition, Undercrown Sungrown, and 4×32 little cigars. Whether you have smoked Drew Estate all your life or if you are new, there will be no question we will bring the best from Nicaragua.
Hoochly: What do you do on your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
Pedro: In life the key is to balance work and free time. Otherwise, you won’t enjoy what you have worked hard for. What I do on my free time, I like to cook, I like to watch documentaries, I love to watch sports such as NBA, soccer and boxing. I like to have a cigar at my balcony with a little bit of rum, I like to meet people, I like to keep in contact with my family and friends, I love going to the beach. I don’t say Travel because that’s what I do for a living, LOL!!!
Hoochly: Are you enjoying your new life in Miami? What is your favorite part of living in the US?
Pedro: Miami is a nice place to live for its multicultural nationalities and its great weather. There is always something going on so there are plenty of places to go and a lot of people to meet.
Hoochly: What do you miss the most from Nicaragua?
Pedro: I miss everything most importantly my family, the food, my friends and a lot people that I know in Esteli. I miss the people from factory. I miss hanging out at Cigar Safari.
Hoochly: T52>9 or T52<9 ?
Pedro: This is a tough question both of them are great and it will depend on the mood that I am in but I like to go for N9 most of the time.
Hoochly: And to close this great interview, here goes the million dollar question. How do you Hoochly?
Pedro: My way to Hoochly is to relax by smoking the cigar that I have been saving for many weeks.
James and Angela Brown spent some time with our team and shared their creative inspiration behind their brand and the upcoming projects for Black Label Trading Company
Hoochly: Tell us about your background. What did you use to do before cigars and how did you fall into the industry?
James: I think I’m one of the few people that didn’t have any experience in the cigar industry before starting my own company. I was in the wine industry for a few years working as a Sommelier and started smoking cigars many years ago. My wife and I went on to own several different businesses around the world, Mexico, Africa, Guatemala & finally Nicaragua. In Guatemala we had an adventure travel company that offered trips throughout Central America and in particular; Nicaragua. As an avid cigar smoker I started spending a lot of time in Esteli learning everything I could about tobacco and cigar making. Over a couple of years this grew into me blending cigars for our travel company clients. Everyone loved the cigars and that planted the seed that this could turn into a business. A couple of years later we launched BLTC.
Hoochly: Tell us about the creation of Oveja Negra and where the name comes from? Are you guys the black sheep of the family by any chance?
James: In my experience no body cares about what you do more than yourself. I didn’t feel like we could grow and develop our brand in the direction we wanted in someone else’s factory. I felt like, if my name is on it, it has to be 100% my cigar. I needed to own the process, from start to finish. This is what makes us so unique. With those goals in mind we started Oveja Negra two years ago.
I definitely feel like the Black Sheep in most things I do, especially cigars. We try to go against the grain with our cigars, keep things new, interesting and out of the norm. Being the only Gringo family living in Esteli doing what we do, the name just seems to make sense.
Hoochly: BLTC launched in 2013 with six blends and since then you guys seem to never stop, where do you get so much creative juice from?
James: I see cigars as an art form. I’m inspired by many different things that somehow find their way into a new cigar. Movies, music, art, I just never know where the next idea will come from and when it does come, we go for it! Being able to create all our artwork to reflect the personality of the cigar keeps me inspired.
Hoochly: Speaking of creativity, let’s talk about the marketing of your brand. What was the inspiration?
James: As a cigar consumer I felt like there just wasn’t a brand out there that spoke to me. There were some brands with semi-edgy packaging but the cigar was never edgy enough for me. I basically wanted to create a brand that reflected the things I wanted out of a cigar. The branding is a reflection of the many sides of my personality. BLTC is dark & gothic and BLK WKS is urban & raw. I think both brands do a great job reflecting the style of the cigars they represent. That is the most important thing with branding.
Hoochly: Tell us about your “Less is More” philosophy
James: Use the best materials, take your time, don’t complicate things that are not complicated. Let the tobacco tell you what works, don’t force anything and be patient. The cigars will speak for themselves.
Hoochly: Sindustry, Green Hornet, Boondock Saint, S&R, Morphine, Killer Bee, Deliverance, Lawless, Last Rites, Benediction, Bishops Blend, Catacomb, Rorschach… I’m sure we are missing a bunch others here. These names are so out of the box; How do you come up with them and which one has a cool backstory you can tell us?
James: You’re missing a few but that’s ok. Once again the inspiration comes from all over. Killer Bee grew out of my love for the Wu Tang Clan, NBK (Natural Born Killer) and Boondock from the movies. Rorschach is a mix of our off cut tobacco so each one is a touch different, and open for interpretation, like a Rorschach test.
For the BLTC lines, I just love the dark religious inspired art. Seeing it all over Central America for years gave me the inspiration.
Hoochly: Tell us about the Black Works Studio Project
James: When we started the factory I developed several blends that didn’t fit into the BLTC profile. I wanted to get these cigars to market and show the interesting things Oveja Negra was capable of, so we developed Black Works Studios. The name came about because we treat our factory as a studio. It’s my creative playground and nothing is too out of the box. Black Works is all about being creative and focuses on very unique cigars that are made in ultra small batches of 100 boxes. It has been described as the boutique inside the boutique.
Hoochly: Talk to us about the latest Governor and First Lady cigars. They seem to be a hit!
James: It’s a shop exclusive we did for Governors Cigars in Monroe, La. They were one of our first retailers so we were very excited to make there first shop exclusive. The Governor has a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper and the First Lady has a Connecticut. Given that a Conn. is it not typically our style we amped up the filler making it a very interesting blend. The first batch sold out in 24 hours but another batch is in the works. Having our own factory has allowed us the opportunity to work on some interesting projects with different people.
James: Well, with current FDA rules that makes it tough! We do have a couple of BLK WKS cigars and some private label projects that will be hitting the market later this year. 2017 Bishops Blend & Morphine from BLTC will be coming soon also.
Hoochly: What do you guys do on your off time? Any hobbies?
James: My wife and I are big Land Rover fans and spend our free time looking all over Central America for restoration projects. We rescue old Land Rovers, restore them and send them to new owners in the US.
Hoochly: And finally, the million dollar question; how do you Hoochly?
James: Anyway we can!