Drew Estates’ Liga Privada No. 9 has received a fair amount of hype.  Know mostly for flavored and infused cigars, when Drew Estates ventures into more traditional lines of cigars it always raises some eyebrows and draws attention.  Their Liga Privada line of cigars seems to be their best received offering of traditional smokes.  The T-52 is a new cigar in the line that hasn’t even been released yet.  It is set to be released at this years IPCPRA convention.  T.G., a very generous brother at The Herf Hut Cigar Forum, offered to share one of these new cigars that he was lucky enough to get his hands on a little early.  Thanks T.G., I really appreciate it.

The really special thing about this new cigar is the wrapper.  It is a new, never used before and exclusive wrapper that the folks at Drew Estate has dubbed “Stalk Cut Habano”.  Rather that trying to tell the story myself I’ll just quote the information that T.G. sent me that he got from Jonathan Drew.  In this explanation the wrapper is referred to as American Habano, but apparently they have changed their minds a decided to refer to it as Stalk Cut Habano.  Read on…

The history of the “Liga Privada T-52” begins three and a half years
ago when Steve Saka joined Drew Estate. Just at that time, Nick
Melillo, Steve Saka and I were heading back and forth to Brazil and
Dominican Republic working with certain well known growers to obtain a
wrapper that was heavy and clean that could be grown excusively for
Drew Estate.

While we saw some amazing Brazillian Habano and Dominican Corojo
Wrappers, we had not yet made up our minds to move forward with the
purchase, as we were looking at a half million dollar investment, and
wanted a certain taste profile and dark brown, rich appearance. We
were, however, very impressed by both of these wrappers.

Then it happened …

On a regular farm trip to Connecticut for the purposes of purchasing a
barn of Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro with Universal Leaf Company
(Lancaster Leaf), we stumbled upon a farm that was growning a very
unique looking “Stalk Cut Tobacco” in addition to the Broadleaf. This
American farmer (whose name I will reveal once the brand is released
at the RTDA show this summer) called the wrapper leaf – “American
Habano.” After a few hours of inspection, we were impressed, but we
tried to keep our composure, as this beautiful leaf had the exact
color and thickness qualities that we had been flying all over the
damn world looking for. Over and over, I kept making hand motions to
Saka to stop smiling and looking so darn excited. It was difficult,
cause he’s just that kind of guy… Lucky for us, the farmer was
complaining that this experimental tobacco would be the last year of
crop unless he found a buyer who was willing to look past this one
crop and make a real committment. He said that other brokers had
loved the tobacco, but they didnt want to pay the high price which is
required to grow it the right way.

In any event, we took a break for lunch and he treated us to a
hamburger at a true American small town diner. During lunch, Saka and
I could barely eat (just imagine that), with our complete attention on
buring the hell out of that “American Habano” for combustion and
flavor. Needless to say, we made our first purchase by the next
morning and called the bank in Nicaragua preparing them for the good
or bad news, depending on which side you’re looking at. We spent a
pretty penny…!

We were excited and nervous, cause we still had to remove all the
tobacco from the barn, ship it to Nicaragua, and place it in Pilones
for curing. This wrapper is no joke. Thick and oily, and dark redish
brown – we had no idea where the bulk would take this stuff. Well,
almost three years later it finally, finally burned. Saka still had a
job (just jokin … well), and I still had a bank. And together, we
made one of the very finest investments in the history of Drew Estate.
Welcome “Liga Privada T-52.” Welcome “American Habano” Wrapper.

And please remember, there is more to the story – Filler and Binder –
which has a story of its own yet to come …

(When I asked for confirmation that stalk cutting was what I thought it meant)
Regular Tobacco Picking is when the tobacco is picked from the field,
starting at the bottom of the plant and then moving up (over a number
of weeks), then put into little hands of tobacco and hung in the barn.
Stalk Cutis when the entire stalk is cut and removed from the farm,
then hung to dry by the stalk in the barn. Broadleaf is the only
Stalk Cut tobacco that I beleive Drew Estate purchases. I do not know
of any other tobaccos that are stalk cut at all.

(When I inquired as to why the stalk cut:)
1. Stalk Cutting has been out of fashion and basically no one does it
anymore for many many years. This is because only the leaves at the
bottom hit their full potential and it makes the cost of the tobacco
go way up – less money for farmer.

2. Saka gave special instructions to this Farmer in Ct to Stalk Cut
the tobacco, so this is an incredibly rare process these days.

3. Why Stalk Cut – By Spear Stalking in the curing brand and hanging
the entire stalk, the tobacco retains its natural oils, sap and
nutrients and becomes a richer, more flavorful and oily leaf.

I wish I had more information about the filler and binder but like it says above, that information is “yet to come”.

A unique thing about this being a pre-release sample is the cigar band.  It is hand written on the back side of an old La Vieja Habana band that I have never seen before.  Click the pictures below to see enlarged views of the band.  I was not sure what the “_3” means after the T52, but below is the date of March 23rd, 2009.  Don’t know if that is the date it was rolled, or the date it was banded but either way it’s pretty cool.  A quick Google search revealed for me what that number 3 means.  I saw one of Jonathan Drew’s tweets in which he states “Smoking the 2 Different Final Blends for the new Liga Privada T52 Toro for August release. Very tasty – the #3 seems best.” I am assuming the number 3 blend is the final choice for this cigar since they seem to be handing them out to consumers, but I could not find confirmation of that.  I also have no idea that the actual band for this line will look like but it will probably be similar is some way to the Liga Privada No. 9 band if I had to guess, and that’s all that is… a guess.

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The Stalk-Cut Habano wrapper is very dark and very oily.  It almost feels slippery there is so much oil on this leaf.  There are several prominent veins running all over its surface and it looks a little leathery giving it an overall rustic look and feel.  It is topped with a large cap that clipped off a little sloppily.  It has an aroma that is slightly sweet and a little musty like a maduro cigar.  A test draw reveals a nice pull with just a little resistance.  Outwardly this appears to be a very nicely constructed cigar.

The first thing that jumps out at you upon lighting this cigar is the incredible amount of smoke it produces.  Thick billowing clouds of white smoke fill the air.  It starts off very smooth will full on cocoa and leathery notes with a slightly sweet finish.  The draw is absolutely flawless and I cannot stop staring at this wrapper.  It is absolutely gorgeous and is oily beyond belief.  The burn is slow and cool.  It is a little jagged but stays even and doesn’t require any attention.  The cigar fills the air with a rich and slightly sweet aroma that is wonderful and heady.  The T52 starts off amazingly well.

About a third of the way through it mellows out a bit.  Cocoa is still the dominate flavor and there is a little bit of pepper that starts to come through.  The cocoa dominates this smoke the entire way complimented but notes of leather, coffee bean, and pepper.  It picks up a bit towards the end becoming a bit more robust and the pepper notes get stronger.  It is a very good medium bodied smoke with excellent flavors, smooth from start to finish.

I have to admit whenever I have a cigar by Drew Estate I approach it with a bit of scepticism.  They are so strongly associated with infused and flavored cigars which are something I just don’t enjoy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect here; I never had a Liga Privada No.9.  Well I was very pleasantly surprised. The Liga Privada T52 is a strong entry into the relam of traditional cigars.  I really enjoyed this cigar and will definitely smoke this one again.  I look forward to its release.  One of the most striking things about this cigar is the wrapper.  It is an absolutely beautiful leaf and it makes an excellent and unique wrapper.  I recommend you give this one a try when you get the opportunity.  It is a great smoke from beginning to end.  I would love to see more cigars like this from Drew Estate.  i plan to try the no.9 very soon.

Rating – B+

See my Review of the final released version of the T52.  Redux: Liga Privada T52