Aniversaries are a big deal in the cigar world and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Liga Privada brand, Drew Estate released the Liga Privada 10 Aniversario, one of a pair of cigars.

The first new cigar was the Liga Privada H-99, a 6 x 52 toro that incorporates a corojo-seed wrapper grown in the Connecticut River Valley covering a Mexican San Andrés negro binder and a blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The H-99 retails for $14.33 each or $343.92 per box of 24 and started shipping in small quantities in December 2018. 

However, it is the second blend that I am reviewing today, namely the Liga Privada 10 Year Aniversario. While it is being sold in the same size and vitola as the H-99—a 6 x 52 toro—and is rolled with an outwardly similar Mexican San Andrés negro binder and Nicaraguan and Pennsylvanian fillers, the latter a Green River One Sucker ligero, the 10 Year Aniversario is covered in a unique criollo-seed wrapper grown in the Connecticut River Valley. In addition, each of the 10 Year Aniversario features a cola de pescado cap and a closed foot, sold in boxes of 10 and retailers for $17.90 per cigar with only 1,000 boxes produced.

“The hard work began deep in the Valley, hunting for the dense lush leaf required to turn our dream cigar into a reality,” said Jonathan Drew, the company’s president and co-founder, in a press release. “This cigar symbolizes the bond of partnership between farmer and manufacturer to grow a Criollo Capa that is worthy of unmatched celebration. Exclusively grown for Drew Estate, I challenged Willy Herrera and the factory team at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate to create the cigar that could live up to the Broadleaf Bully that we have come to love, to celebrate the 10 years of Liga Privada.”

There is one more similarity between the two anniversary releases, namely the way they are being allocated. Instead of shipping boxes to stores in the normal way, Drew Estate has decided to release only 40 boxes a month of each cigar to Drew Diplomat retailers whose names are decided by a lottery with each winner allocated four boxes.

While many cigars over the years have had some sort of pigtail or fan on the cap, Drew Estate introduced an extremely unique design with the release of the production version of the UF-13 in early 2013. The 10 Year Aniversario features a cola de pescado cap that is similar in design, but not exactly the same. Then director of tobaccos Nicholas Melillo came up with the original design, and he explained to halfwheel at the time:

The idea for this cap came from combining the cap/heads of the DIRTY RAT and the FLYING PIG. When Saka asked me to come up with something that would impress him I immediately thought this style would be perfect for the UF-13. It is such a special blend and needed that something special to finish it off. I wanted to come up with something unique and different that I had never seen on a cigar before. I had the idea in my head for sometime but was waiting for the right cigar to use it on. I had a feeling Saka was going to like it and the team on the production floor executed perfectly.

The cap takes about two and a half minutes to complete. It is very labor-intensive but well worth the work. The cigar is rolled first by finishing the head with the fish tail and then after this is complete the extra culita / tail is added around the fish tail… It’s a beautiful thing.

While Drew Estate celebrated the 10th anniversary of Liga Privada last year, the Liga Privada blend was shown off to the public for the first time in 2006 and debuted for sale in 2007. Having said that, 2018 did mark a decade after Drew Estate added other sizes to the debut No. 9 and began selling the cigar in 24-count boxes.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Liga Privada 10 Year Aniversario
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Criollo)
  • Binder: Mexico (San Andrés Otapan Negro Último Corte)
  • Filler: Nicaragua & U.S.A. (Pennsylvania)
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $17.90 (Boxes of 10, $179)
  • Release Date: December 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Boxes of 10 (10,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

With a combination of the fan tail cap, a covered foot and a gorgeous espresso brown wrapper that has a distinct reddish hue to it, the adjective “distinctive” does not do the Liga Privada 10 Year Aniversario justice. In addition, the cigar is nicely firm when squeezed with very few veins visible and features a parchment-like feel to the touch. Aroma coming off of the wrapper and foot is a combination of strong sweet raisins, gritty earth, creamy cashews, cedar, hay, dark chocolate and black pepper while the cold draw is quite a bit less sweet than the aroma, with burnt wood, leather, barnyard, hay, anise, cloves and slight vanilla sweetness noticeable.

The Liga Privada 10 Year Aniversario starts off with a bang immediately after being lit with both black pepper on the retrohale and spice on my tongue easily dominating the first few puffs before receding quickly. That allows a combination of dark, bitter chocolate and cloves to become dominant in the profile, with notes of gritty earth, leather, salted peanuts, hay, cedar, popcorn and freshly roasted espresso beans bringing up the rear along with some distinct vanilla bean sweetness on the retrohale. Smoke production is the most I have seen in a cigar in quite some time, so much so that I feel bad for the people next to me. The draw is excellent after I pull the fan tail off of the cap—see below for details—and although the burn is a bit wavy out of the gate, it is not bad enough to correct as of yet. While the strength shows signs of ramping up early, it actually is quite mild as the first third closes, ending up a bit closer to the medium mark than the mild mark.

A brand new flavor of dried tea leaves quickly replaces the cloves in the dominant spot with dark chocolate as the second third of the Liga Privada begins, followed closely behind by flavors of freshly ground coffee, sawdust, creamy cedar, peanuts, barnyard and a touch of floral. Both the spice on my tongue and black pepper on the retrohale have eased up quite a bit, resulting in quite a bit more of the vanilla bean sweetness on the retrohale to shine through and make a positive impact on the profile. Construction-wise, the draw continues down its excellent path, but the burn has become problematic enough to need touching up a couple of times and the smoke production remains quite copious. The overall strength has also increased noticeably, and easily hits a solid medium by the time the second third comes to an end.

The profile of the 10 Year Aniversario shifts again in the final third, with a combination of charred meat and cedar easily becoming dominant, relegating flavors of espresso beans, cocoa nibs, peanuts, leather, floral and cloves to the background. Although the spice that had been present in the first two thirds is gone by this point, the black pepper on the retrohale remains, playing nicely with the strong vanilla bean sweetness that is sticking around as well. In terms of construction, the draw is as excellent as ever and the burn evens up nicely after the touch-ups in the second third, while the smoke production shows no signs of lessening anytime soon. Finally, although the overall strength showed signs early of increasing drastically, it actually was fairly calm, ending up just north of the medium mark by the time I put the nub down with about an inch left.

Final Notes

  • You don’t even need a cutter to get a great draw on the 10 Year Aniversario. Just pull gently on the fan cap while twisting slightly, and enough of the cap will easily come off just about every time as you can see here.
  • While the 6 x 52 toro is the only vitola in the 10 Aniversario line at the moment, Drew Estate is on record as confirming it is planning on producing Corona Doble, Robusto and Torpedo sizes at some point in the future.
  • I am not sure what to make of the way these and the H-99 cigars are being distributed: on the one hand, I understand that Drew Estate wants to make it a very big deal when retailers get these cigars; on the other hand, giving them only 40 cigars of any limited release puts said retailers in a bit of a bind with their best customers who may be wanting them. It also means we aren’t even halfway through the distribution timeline.
  • Along with the above, these cigars were some of the more difficult to procure of any I remember in recent memory.
  • Drew Estate advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time averaged one hour and 51 minutes across the three samples.
91 Overall Score

In the past 10 years, Drew Estate has produced some of my favorite cigars of all time through its Liga Privada line, a list that includes the UF-13, Dirty Rat and Velvet Rat. Having said that, I have just not enjoyed as many Liga Privada cigars nearly as much as I have in the past, so I was extremely interested to see how the 10 Aniversario would perform. After smoking three samples, I am very happy to say that the 10 Aniversario is a return to the Liga Privda that I remember: earthy and meaty on the palate but sweet on the retrohale, powerful but balanced with some nice spice and black pepper, flavorful but distinct. There are many cigars on the market today that you have to spend time and effort to search for that may end up being duds, but the Liga Privada 10 Year Aniversario is one of those rare cigars that is well worth the time to expend that effort.

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.