Review: Undercrown Flying Pig
Back in March we were tipped off via one of our Dutch readers about a new Undercrown, a Flying Pig. While in Holland visiting accounts, Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate agreed to make the unique size in Drew Estate’s newest blend for the region.
The Flying Pig was introduced in 2009 as a limited edition for the Liga Privada No. 9 blend. Drew Estate President Steve Saka provides this detailed explanation:
It was a cigar shape (vitola) I saw in an 1895 clear-havana Tampa-based factory’s cigar sample catalog that was printed to facilitate their salesmen in taking production orders from tobacconists, drugstores, restaurants, etc. Back then there weren’t brands so much as their were factories from which a retailer would order a thousand of this cigar and a thousand of that cigar to which would be affixed a privately banded ring.
I always was intrigued by the shape and how difficult it would be to make such an oddball fat perfecto, so its production was to satisfy my curiosity more than anything else. It is actually the least profitable of all the Liga Privadas because only one pair is trained to make these unique vitolas and between them they can only produce 125 of these cigars a day. They should be priced about $3 higher, but we wanted to make this cigar treat accessible to more people and since it was limited to just 2,000 production boxes we did not have to concern ourselves with the long term profitability of the cigar. It is intended to be a special “thank you” smoke for all those that have helped to support the Liga Privada brand.
Fwiw, I believe under the Dunhill marquee a very similar shape with the same name was made in Havana in the 1940’s, but they were not the first to make it. Given its amazing success, I expect others will copy it soon…
At the 2010 IPCPR show, Drew Estate introduced the second version of the Pig the T52 Flying Pig. And at last year’s show a new larger Pig was announced as the Feral Flying Pig became part of Drew Estate’s Único Serie. Also at the IPCPR was Drew Estate’s new Undercrown, a sort of cousin of Liga Privada.
Inside each box of Undercrown is an explanation of how the line came about:
In early 2009 was asked our torcedores to smoke less Liga Privada cigars because they were leaving too few to b exported. This request was met with the disappointment you would expect, but rather than being disgruntled they responded by blending their own signature liga.
Incorporation many of the same rare tobaccos, but of different vintages and primings, the cigar they created was no mere replacement. Rather it is an exceptional smoking experience of uncompromising quality and flavor that deserves to be smoked by all.
It is always the master makers who are heralded, but the reality is that great cigars are the product of many talented people, most of whom toil in factories with no publicity ever. They are the uncelebrated heroes who make all of our lives more pleasurable with the cigars they craft. And therefore, it is with great pleasure that we are now sharing their factory floor creation with you as Undercrown, borne of our worker’s ingenuity, resourcefulness and passion for a great cigar.
And then in March, as the world waited for the newest Undercrown, ¡Corona Viva!, we published the full details about the Undercrown Flying Pig:
Holland will be getting a new Undercrown. Drew Estate’s popular Flying Pig vitola will return as a limited version of their newest brand, Undercrown.
Jonathan Drew confirmed that it will be a limited regional release for the country he visited earlier this year.
Drew originally posted the following (in Dutch) on a Dutch forum a few weeks ago:
“Flying Pig” UNDER CROWN XLR:
People who know Drew Estate quite well, understand that we are a company that does not makes many cigars for other companies. In fact we only have one private label brand, and this is the “JAVA by Drew Estate” that we excusively for Rocky Patel.
But we are working on something very special for a group of retailers in the Netherlands I am very excited about – a Flying Pig in the UNDER CROWN blend. For now I’m calling this Limtied Edition “XLR” (Xtremely Limited Reserve). It is not limited by constraints on the tobacco. To be honest, the Flying Pig is an extremely difficult cigar to produce and that dramatically slows the production floor in the factory.
This special project is officially in motion. More information will be provided in the near future. I think we got the blend just right.
(Editor’s note: the above is translated the link above is the direct text.)
“The cigars are in production as we speak and should be ready to ship to Holland sometime in June,” said Drew to halfwheel. “Saw them today on the production floor.”
Undercrown Flying Pig, which will shed the XLR name, will be limited to the Compaenen stores, which operate locations throughout Holland. It will be the smaller Flying Pig vitola, as opposed to the Feral Flying Pig vitola that is currently being made for the Único Serie.
When asked if they were coming to the U.S., drew Didn’t seem optimistic.
“Well, I just don’t know as (the Flying Pigs) are a major pain in the ass to make.”
The Undercrown Flying Pig is the seventh vitola of the Undercrown line, and the only limited version:
- Undercrown Robusto (5 x 54) — October 10, 2011
- Undercrown Gran Toro (6 x 52) — October 10, 2011
- Undercrown Belicoso (6 x 52) — October 10, 2011
- Undercrown Corona Doble (7 x 54) — October 10, 2011
- Undercrown Gordito (6 x 60) — October 10, 2011
- Undercrown Corona ¡Viva! (5 5/8 x 46) — May 8, 2012
- Undercrown Flying Pig (4 1/8 x 60) — June 22, 2012
At the end of June the cigars arrived in Holland. Instead of the 70-100 boxes originally planned, there were actually 205 boxes made. Only 195 boxes will go Holland, as Drew Estate is keeping ten boxes for internal use. The 195 are split up between three shipments of around 70 boxes.
The boxes of the Undercrown Flying Pig look like this:
Here’s a picture of all the production released Pig vitolas from Drew Estate:
- Liga Privada No. 9 Flying Pig (4 1/8 x 60) — 2,050 Boxes of 12 Cigars (24,600 Total Cigars) — September 2009
- Liga Privada T52 Flying Pig (4 1/8 x 60) — 3,000 Boxes of 12 Cigars (36,000 Total Cigars) — October 2010
- Liga Privada Único Serie Feral Flying Pig (5 3/8 x 60) — Regular Limited Production — December 2011
- Undercrown Flying Pig (4 1/8 x 60) — 205 Boxes of 12 Cigars (2,460 Total Cigars) — June 2012
And the particulars.
- Cigar Reviewed: Undercrown Flying Pig
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: San Andrés Negro
- Binder: Connecticut River Valley Stalk Cut & Cured Sun Grown Habano
- Filler: Brazilian Mata Fina & Nicaraguan Habano
- Size: 4 1/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 60
- Vitola: Flying Pig
- MSRP: $15.30 (Boxes of 12, $183.60)
- Release Date: June 22, 2012
- Number of Cigars Released: 205 Boxes of 12 Cigars (2,460 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 4
It’s what you’d expect. The matte bands on Drew Estate’s somewhat signature size. As you can see above, while the San Andrés wrapper is both dark and full of oils, it doesn’t stand a chance compared to Liga Privada. While the boxes of the Undercrown Flying Pigs smell good, the cigars themselves are pretty good as well. There’s some dark leather and earth aromas, it’s not an explosion like Liga—even with the cellophane. The cold draw is a bit open and shows a bit of youth, but the flavors are already pretty well-developed: roasted and dark nuts try to compete with the dominating cocoa note and a touch of cherry. For those wondering, the foot seemed entirely overwhelmed by the wrapper.
The first third begins with a great stark dark earth aroma, it’s really the first time I recall this happening with an Undercrown, particularly being this noticeable. As for the flavor, it’s a sweet cocoa, earth, nuts, a bit herbal and touches of coffee and vanilla. Sweet, but earthy. It takes a little while, but the black pepper develops on the finish of the Undercrown Flying Pig and shortly thereafter the flavor comes into its own. There’s sweet cocoa, earth, herbs, toastiness and touches of black pepper. Where the cigar shines is the finish a wonderful sweet earth and caramel. As is the norm with seemingly all things Liga Privada and Undercrown—smoke production is insane.
Into the second third and the most noticeable thing is the strength. It wasn’t really present in the first third and it’s now a medium-full rendition, still a bit away from the Corona ¡Viva! Flavor is much toastier with cocoa, sweet nuts and earth. It’s still easily described as an earthier and bittersweet rendition of the Undercrown profile, but there’s quite a bit going on. While the smoke production is legendary, the draw has gone from open to wide open and I don’t have any control. Also of note, root beer through the retrohale, which is a new one for me.
The final third is actually much like the first third, the cocoa returns in fuller force with the toastiness subsiding for a much more herbal earth. I won’t say the strength has picked up, but it’s definitely more noticeable. Smoke production and draw remain the same: one stellar, one frustrating. With about three quarters of an inch left the flavors begin to transform into one, it’s not bad, but it’s a good sign to end. Oh yeah—there’s the ash.
- According to Saka, his an average week goes as follows, “I smoke about 5 Liga Privadas a day… some days 7… on a really lousy day only 2… the mix varies, lately on the weekdays my rotation has been: (1) No.9 Toro, (1) T52 Toro, (2) Dirty Rats plus a No. 9 Corona Doble… in a typical week I will add somewhere in the rotation (1) Flying Pig and (1) MF4 – I find both of these cigars require my undivided attention.” I fully agree that the Flying Pig vitola forces more attention.
- Drew Estate decided to start packaging the Feral Flying Pigs in cellophane in the first half of 2012 after numerous consumers and retailers reported having issues with the cigars losing their caps in shipping. The Undercrown Flying Pigs are packed in cellophane as well, which Brooks removed when he shot the box photographs, but I still had three Pigs that lost their tails. This is the sixth box of Pigs I’ve received and this is the first time I recall it happening. According to Drew Estate, this doesn’t seem to be an issue in the Netherlands.
- The flavor is easily described, earthier and more detailed version of Undercrown.
- According to Jonathan Drew, this cigar has a blend that is unique to the vitola, which isn’t shocking all things considered. Why the company opted to drop the “tweaked” marketing, as they did with Undercrown Corona ¡Viva!—I have no answer.
- Officially the XLR name was dropped, although Jonathan Drew claims it’s still being used in Holland.
- The draw was bad, really bad, even after massive dryboxing. Being open is one thing, not really having control is another. It didn’t prevent me from enjoying it, but for a company that prides itself in being able to make cigars that draw properly, this was by its most embarrassing moment in my experience.
- I love the fact that Drew Estate precuts its Liga Privada and Undercrown boxes. It’s frustrating when shop owners destroy the boxes while opening them up.
- I smoked four cigars: one nearly straight off the truck, two that developed these notes and the one I photographed. While the flavor doesn’t get destroyed by turning it into the long ash contest—unless that’s your goal, ash the cigar. First of all, it forces awkward smoking. Secondly, neither the draw nor flavor were served well by the three inches of ash. Interestingly enough, the ash had actually started to break off, I could feel it crack and decided the photograph was going to happen then.
- Smoke production is ridiculous.
- For those upset about the 10 boxes Drew Estate is holding, this is normal. The company made 50 boxes of No. 9 Pigs for internal use. All of the No. 9 Flying Pig boxes were individually marked, so those 50 boxes were marked “DE Only.” The boxes were accidentally shipped out to retailers, which Drew Estate chronicled here. So there were actually 2,050 boxes of Liga Privada No. 9 Flying Pigs, making it exactly ten times larger than the Undercrown release; not that it makes you feel any better.
- I find the Flying Pig vitola has never made any blend taste better, i.e. I’d rather smoke a regular No. 9 or T52 any day of the week, and is also awkward to smoke. The Feral Flying Pig seems to have fixed this problem with the added length.
- Strength is medium-full, getting close to full, but never there. It’s a bit fuller than the regular Undercrowns, but it’s not as edgy as Corona ¡Viva!
- Inevitably, the resale on these on the American forums is going to get ridiculous, particularly given the second batch of UF4 make this the smallest Drew Estate release to date.
- While the pepper is around in the first third, it seems to get lost shortly thereafter.
- There are numerous other Pig prototypes, including the Piglet—which Drew Estate still claims to have no intentions of releasing.
- All the Undercrown Flying Pigs were rolled around the same time, back in March. So despite there being three shipments, the cigars are actually the same age. The next batch is at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate waiting to be shipped soon.
- Saka was right, the cigar was copied by others. Gurkha’s Cellar Reserve, introduced at last year’s IPCPR, featured a similar-looking Perfecto and the tail.
- Random side-bar: the Corona ¡Viva! has gotten noticeably more complex in the past month.
- The MSRP is €12.50, which is a bit over $15.00 a current exchange rates. The Netherlands has a cigar tax around 5%, but shipping tends to be the big cost. A box split on one cigar forum put the cost with shipping at €400 for two boxes, or about $245.00 per box. My understanding is these are not being sold online via Dutch retailers for the most part.
- These cigars were sent from site sponsor Drew Estate for review.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 35 minutes.
The Bottom Line: Because it’s what everyone is wondering, let’s get it out of the way. Better than the No. 9 Pig? Nope. Better than the T52 Pig? I liked it more. Better than Feral Flying Pig? Two different cigars—push. Better than Corona ¡Viva!? No. Better than a regular Undercrown? Yes. Perhaps most interesting—better than I expected. Despite the youth, the vitola was earthier and more detailed than most of the other Undercrowns I recalled smoking and unlike the No. 9 or T52 renditions, I wasn’t frustrated that the flavor of the vitola had to be ruined by the shape itself. There is no doubt that a month in the humidor, where the cigars can dry out a bit more and the flavors can settle a bit more, will improve the Undercrown Flying Pig. But most importantly, unlike the No. 9 or T52 versions, I’m going to have to stop myself from reaching for these versus a regular Undercrown, something that just doesn’t happen now. Is it worth the hoops and stress you are inevitably going to have to go through in order to pay $20+ for one? Probably not. But, if you get a chance to get some without the hoops, shipping costs and language barriers, like say in the comments below, I wouldn’t waste the opportunity.
Final Score: 90
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