Redux: Liga Privada T52 by Drew Estate Friday, Mar 19 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Stalk Cut Sungrown Habano
Binder: Brazilian
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran
Size: Toro 6.0″x52 Ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

Drew Estate has been making quite the splash as of late on the cigar world and especially in the online cigar community and it is not for a type of cigar you would typically associate with the brand.  Recently they have had two very successful and very well received lines of cigars and they are not flavored or infused in any way.  They are traditional cigars and they are sold under the name Liga Privada.  First came the No.9 and most recently the T52 which a lot of cigar smokers are raving about.  Not that long ago I was able to smoke and review a pre-production version of the T52.  Specifically “blend #3” which was supposedly selected as the final blend for what would become the production version of the T52.  Now I have heard second and third had, that Drew Estate actually tweaked that final blend a bit at the last minute using a hybrid of the pre-production blends #3 and #4.  I have no idea how accurate that is if at all but I heard it said often enough that I thought it worth mentioning.

Since I smoked that pre-production version of the T52 I have been looking forward to revisiting the smoke in its final off the shelf incarnation.  I was very surprised by that first T52 and thought it to be a stellar cigar.  You can read my review of it by clicking here.  One of the unique features of this cigar is it’s wrapper.   It is a one of kind wrapper leaf not used on any other cigar.  It is grown in Connecticut and it is harvested in a unique fashion.  You can read all about it in that review of the pre-production stick.

Visually this cigar is just as beautiful as the pre-production version.  Dark and oily, and virtually flawless.  This one was a little different in the flavor department though, and that is not a bad thing.  This T52 starts off with very full and robust meaty flavors.  You feel like you just sat down and began eating a four course meal.  It was wonderful, but I knew if it kept up for the entire smoke it would be too much.  Thankfully it calmed down a bit after the first inch or two.  The I was treated to rich and decadent notes of chocolate and espresso with the occasional flash of licorice.   I don’t recall ever smoking a cigar with such a distinct chocolaty flavor to it.  It would switch back and forth between the thick meaty flavors and the slightly lighter chocolate and espresso.  Towards the end it became very full and robust again with a bit of black pepper on the finish.  I smoked this one down to the nub.  Construction was absolute perfection .  Perfect burn, perfect draw, perfect ash.  I don’t think you could construct a cigar any better than this. I have to say I enjoyed the T52 immensely and found it to be even better than I remember the pre-production blend #3 to be.  This is a must try for any lover of stout, full bodied cigars.  It has earned a spot on my “Matt’s Favs” list.

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Davidoff Special ‘R’ Tuesday, Feb 9 2010 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: USA Connecticut Shade
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Size: Robusto 47/8x50 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

The name Davidoff is nearly synonymous with luxury.  The name also has a reputation for quality and excellence.  There is a lot of great information about the man and the company on their website Davidoff.com.  One other commonly held perception of Davidoff is mild cigars and there are many smokers in the cigar community that mistake “mild” to mean “flavorless”.  The Special <<R>> is the first Davidoff cigar I have had the pleasure of trying.  No matter what line of Davidoff Cigars you might be interested in, the fact is they are all pretty expensive, almost universally costing more than $10 a piece.  With my predisposition towards strong robust cigars, I admit that I allowed their mild reputation and lofty price tag keep me away up until now.

I have a friend who is a fan of Davidoff and more precisely their blender Henke Kelner.  I have listened to him rail against the the idea that Davidoff only makes mild cigars and one of the lines he liked to use as an example of a more robust offering is the “Special” line of Davidoff cigars.  So I was happy to receive this particular Davidoff from CigarsDirect.com for one of my February reviews.  The Special <<R>> is not a mild cigar.  I found it to be a solid medium bodied smoke with robust flavors balanced by excellent subtleties making for an engaging smoke.  A core of smooth and chewy flavors of espresso and earth were complemented by more subtle notes of oak and nuts and an almost buttery feel on the palate.  At times I picked up flashes of slightly sweet, almost caramel like notes on the finish.  The construction was exquisite with a prefect burn, nice ash, and a spot on draw.  I found the Davidoff Special <<R>> to be a very enjoyable, elegant smoke.

A. Fuente Hemingway Between the Lines Tuesday, Dec 8 2009 

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Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Barber Pole – Broadleaf Maduro/Connecticut Shade
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Size: Perfecto 41/4 x 54 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

The Hemingway line of Fuente cigars are hugely popular and like a lot of other Fuente cigars, very limited.  The Maduros are especially limited and are only released twice a year, one of those times being right around now, near the Holidays.  One of the more rare of the rare is the double wrapped, barber pole Hemingway “Between the Lines”.  Now plenty has been written about the background of the Hemingway cigars and I have written about them here before as well.  So if you are interested to learn a little more about them, check out my review of the Hemingway Best Seller and the Hemingway Signature Maduro.

The Hemingway BTL is an eye catcher.  The sharp contrast created by the light tan, shade grown wrapper and the dark, toothy broadleaf maduro wrapper intertwined like the stripes on a barber’s pole is a cool visual with a cigar.  They stand out among the cigars that surround them and I think the perfecto shape only enhances the beauty of this cigar.  Construction and burn characteristics are almost always a given with a Fuente cigar.  The quality of their products are superb but I wondered how this stick would fare in the burn department.  The shade grown and maduro wrappers are two very different beasts and have different burn characteristics.  I was curious to see how they would play together with this smoke.  Except for the normal oddities I experience with the burn at the beginning of a perfecto like this, the burn was even and without trouble for the duration of the smoke.  The draw was excellent and it produced thick clouds of white smoke.

Flavor is where the BTL falls a bit short of its straight maduro brothers.  I have always found the Hemingway Maduros to be delicious cigars, each one a treat to smoke.  The introduction of the shade grown wrapper on the Between the Lines has a less than desirable effect for me.  Some of the flavors I love about the Hemingway Maduros was still there.  The slightly sweet maduro flavor complimented by a damp earthiness and a subtle spice were all there but often times they were over powered by a dry grassiness and an acrid finish that I am certain was coming from the Connecticut Shade wrapper.  It really detracted from my enjoyment of the cigar.  Given that this is one of the most expensive of the “Holiday Hemingways” it is disappointing that it just isn’t as good a smoke as the others are.  It is a neat novelty, and the dual wrapper look makes it a visually appealing cigar, but flavor wise I just don’t think it lives up to the standard set by the rest of the Hemingway line.

Rating – C

Get your Hemingway & Hemingway Maduro cigars @ CigarsDirect.com

La Riqueza No. 1 Wednesday, Oct 7 2009 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Sun Grown USA Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Lonsdale 6.5″ x 42 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

La Riqueza; The Riches, or The Wealth. Interesting choice of names for what might be one of the ugliest cigars I’ve seen since a Padron. I kid a little, but it really isn’t a pretty cigar and that has solely to do with the wrapper. It is a sun grown USA Connecticut broadleaf wrapper that is rough, bumpy, toothy and rumpled looking. Not what you’d think would be a first choice for a cigar wrapper leaf. Another interesting thing about this cigar is that it represents the first time Pete Johnson stepped away from making a Nicaraguan Puro with a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper. The Tatuaje Brown Label, Havana VI, and P series all used Nicaraguan tobacco and all use Corojo wrappers. Of course since Pete released the La Riqueza he has gone on to use this naturally dark sun grown wrapper on a number of cigars like some additions to the Reserva line (Regio and Noella), The Frank from the Monster Series, and the Cabiaguan Maduro (which is a misnomer since the wrapper isn’t really a maduro in the traditional sense).

So the wrapper was a new thing, but the binder and filler are still composed of robust Nicaraguan tobacco. The cigar has a rather rough box press adding to its ugly duckling appearance and they come in traditional Cuban style dress boxes. At least originally they were in dress boxes. They still are, but now you can also get a slightly prettier version that isn’t box pressed referred to as the Cabinet Series which comes in, you guessed it, a slide top cabinet. They come 50 to a box and the band is slightly different.  It has some white space to the left and right of the main center logo.  The band on the box pressed version is red with white stripes as it wraps around the back.  Pete uses the Flor de Lis on the band tying it in to his now famous Tatuaje brand.  They come in five sizes and they are:

  • No. 1 — 6 1/2 x 42 (Lonsdale)
  • No. 2  — 5 1/2 x 52 (Torpedo)
  • No. 3  — 5 5/8 x 46 (Corona)
  • No. 4 — 5 x 48 (Robusto)
  • No. 5 — 4 3/8 x 42 (Petite Corona)

The Vitola names in parentheses are not official, but just what I have chosen to identify the sizes as.  Some times those names give people a better idea of what the cigar is than just a number or measurement so that is why I added them.  The La Riqueza is made in Pepin’s Nicaragua factory.  I am smoking the no.1 this time, so onto the review…

I say it all the time, but I love Lonsdales.  For me it is the perfect size.  I really like how the wrapper comes into play with the flavors of the blend.  The sun grown wrapper on this cigar imparts a nice robust sun grown twang with a slightly sweet undertone.  This compliments the chocolate and earthy notes that are rich and smooth.  these flavors alternate with blasts of leather and wood and an occasional spiciness That makes for an interesting and complex smoke.  I have smoked a few Torpedos in this line that I wasn’t impressed with.  I found them to be more full bodied than the no.1 but not as complex.  The no.1 is a smooth, flavorful, and complex medium bodied smoke.  In the last third some black pepper joins the party giving the cigar a bit more bite and it develops a slightly nutty finish.

I have smoked three different sizes of this cigar, and guess it is not much of a surprise that the Lonsdale is by far my favorite in the line.  The construction is perfect with a nice draw and a sharp even burn.  The ash is a little loose and flaky but I can live with that given how good this cigar is.

Rating – A

You can get your La Riquezas @ CigarsDirect.com

Other takes on the La Riqueza:

Liga Privada No.9 Parejo Oscuro Wednesday, Sep 16 2009 

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…by Drew Estate
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Honduran and Nicaraguan
Size: Toro 6.0 x 52 ring

I want to start off on this review by thanking a very generous BOTL over at SocialCigar.com for giving me this cigar.  JohnLongIsland is a first class brother of the leaf and a 1st class individual as well.  John is a big supporter of my fundraising efforts for the Ride for Kids and his generosity is always very much appreciated.  He sent me a little gift a short while back that included this fine cigar.  Thanks John.

It seems to be a trend that has developed over the last year or so.  A cigar comes out and it is proclaimed as a private blend created just for the owner of the brand, or as a “personal blend” made for someone high ranking officer in the company, and now for the first time it is going to be made available to the public.  The Tatuaje Black Label is probably the highest profile example of one of these “private cigars made public”.  This one was supposedly made for Steve Saka of Drew Estate and was intended to be a strictly private stock cigar .  The “no.9” supposedly denotes that this cigar was the 9th blend in a series of prototypes made when creating this cigar.  I have no idea how or why it became available for public sale.  Truth or hype, I leave it to you to decide if you care to do so.  Truth is, it is kind of irrelevant in the end.  What matter is… Is it any good?

If nothing else, this cigar is beautiful to behold much like it’s newer brother, the soon to be release Liga Privada T52.  The wrapper has a naturally dark brown appearance with a silky, oily sheen.  It is toothy,  a little bumpy, and veiny, but the wrapper is so perfectly applied and the cigar is so handsome you cannot call it rustic.  Say what you will about Drew Estate and their reputation among cigar purists, but they make some of the most visually beautiful cigars you can buy.  Speaking of their reputation, although known primarily for flavored and infused cigars, the Liga Privada is a traditional offering from Drew Estate.  It is not flavored or infused, and it doesn’t use any non traditional tobacco like pipe tobaccos in its blend.  This is a straight-up stogie and an excellently constructed one at that.

The Liga Privada No.9 starts off smooth and rich with a nice meaty flavor.  It mellows a little once you get past the first inch or so.  At first I though this cigar was going to be a full bodied smoke, but as it turns out it isn’t quite that robust.  It is a solid medium bodied cigar that delivers nice flavors of chocolate and espresso with a little black pepper on the finish.  The construction could not be better with a perfect draw and a razor sharp burn.  The salt and pepper ash is a very well formed and holds firm for more than an inch before needing to be tapped.

Overall this is a really enjoyable smoke with some great, easily discernable flavors.  However, there isn’t much complexity here.  Once it settles in after that first inch, the cigar never really changes again so it ends up being a bit of a one dimensional smoke.  Still, what it does deliver is quite good.  I think this cigar makes for an excellent social smoke when you are looking for a tasty smoke that you may not be giving your full attention, but when you want that smoke to be  better than some yard ‘gar.

Rating – B

Some other takes:

Drew Estate Liga Privada T52 Tuesday, Jul 21 2009 

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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… (more…)

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