Liga Privada #9

30 Apr

Maker: Drew Estate
Filler: Cuban-seed Nicaraguan and Honduran
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro/ Oscuro
Flavors: Cofee, Dark Chocolate, Roasted Meat, Umami
Draw/Volume/Strength: +1 / +3 / 4+
Rating: 9.5
Where to Buy: Famous Smoke Shop

Do you remember your first Liga Privada #9? I do.

I was in a small cigar shop in California with a friend and fellow member of the Cigar Sasquatch team, smoking cigars with a certain vendor rep who will remain nameless, but is quite well known in certain circles. It was a Tuesday morning in 2009, and no one else was in the place except me, my friend, the vendor, and the shop owner, whom I didn’t know well, but who was acquainted with my friend.

Photo of Liga Privada #9 cigars

Liga Privada #9

“What are you smoking these days,” said the shop owner.

“Oh, this and that,” I said. “I’m liking the heck out of Hemingway lately.”

“That’s fine,” said the owner, “if you want to smoke a piece of shit.”

I didn’t immediately get up and punch him in the face because it was his place, and well, I’m a lover, not a fighter. I smiled to myself, and said, “Okay, what should I be smoking?”

The vendor handed me a Liga Privada #9.

I understand the use of hyperbole in literature and in storytelling, but if you’re going to call one of the finest cigars on the planet, one of my top 5 cigars of all time, a “piece of shit,” you better be prepared to back it up. I knew who the vendor rep repped for, so I said, “I don’t really go for flavored cigars.”

“Don’t say the ‘F-word,’” the rep replied. “And this one isn’t infused.”

He went on to tell me the story of how this cigar was blended specifically for Steve Saka, then president of Drew Estate, and was only ever intended to be smoked by him, for his private stash. That’s what Liga Privada means: Private Blend. It was never meant to go into production.

The cigar world is full of this kind of story. “We were making something just for the boss—special tobaccos, limited crops—but it was so great, we just had to scale it up.” I generally take this sort of thing with a grain of salt. But I’ll smoke anything once, so I took the cigar and lit up.

Then I had to re-sort my top 5 cigars of all time.

In the years since, Liga Privada has become a modern classic. It’s one of the most highly sought-after cigars on the market. Its near-perpetual status on back-order has only enhanced the legend of this cigar, though they’re regularly available at Famous Smoke Shop. It’s a remarkable piece of marketing, but with Liga Privada #9, it’s not just hype. This cigar changed the game, putting Drew Estate on the mind of serious cigar smokers, not just fans of their massive selection of infused product. It sparked a veritable wildfire of ever-stronger, ever bolder cigars, and spawned series of follow-up releases, all limited, all special. And they are indeed special.

The blend features tobaccos from seven different farms, including Cuban-seed Nicaraguan and Honduran longfillers, with a Brazilian Mata Fina maduro binder and a US-grown Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro Oscuro wrapper. It’s the wrapper, they say, that makes this cigar so hard to come by. It’s expensive, and produces low yields. The wrapper is nearly black, and is dripping with oils.

For this review, I smoked the Belicoso (6×52). The roll is dense, with a chewy bite. The first tastes are an explosion of coffee and rich dark chocolate, with a round, roasted, earthy background. The flavors are meaty, caramelized, and robust, with a hint of spice and a hint of sweet dancing nearly imperceptibly behind heavy velvet curtains of umami.

The draw is open (+1) from a the smallest cut of the rounded Belicoso tip, producing a huge smoke volume (+3). In the first inch, the spice that was barely present at first slides away, leaving the subtle sweetness of the Connecticut Broadleaf to enhance the meaty, caramel, and coffee flavors that remain. The smoke is bold, with notable strength (4+), but with a silky smooth texture from the Brazilian Mata Fina which defies the richness and complexity of the flavors.

The burn is self-correcting for the duration, and the pure white ash is firm and nicely scaled, holding to about an inch. The flavors remain steady, with coffee and chocolate, and a layer of roasted meats, darkening slightly, but remaining buttery-smooth until the end. It smokes to an inch and a half nub in about 90 minutes. I rate it 9.5.

I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a few boxes of #9s, having sampled each of the 4 regularly available sizes, plus one or two of the now-legendary “Flying Pigs.” I’ve had a few of the special editions, as well, along with a large number of the follow-up to the #9, the T52. They’re all excellent, among the finest cigars on the market today.

Until next time, this is the Cigar Sasquatch saying, “Love what you smoke, and smoke what you love.”

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