About six months ago, there were sightings and mentions of a new preproduction blend that the guys over at Drew Estate were handing out to specific people. Dubbed the JDR, it is a 6 x 62 cigar that uses the same stalk-cut wrapper and shares quite a bit of the same characteristics as the much loved T52 blend.
I asked Steve Saka, president of Drew Estate, for a little more information about the blend, and he wrote me quite a bit more then I expected. He explained things wonderfully, so I am just going to quote what he wrote:
The “JD4” is a liga that was developed as part of the original T52 blending process utilizing the same stalk-cut CT Habano capa.
While it shares the same capa, capote and base as the blend finally chosen to be the T52, the blend of Viso and Ligero is more Esteli-centric resulting in an even spicier, stronger smoking experience. Ultimately it was a very tough decision for JD and myself to choose between the blend, internally just referred to casually in the factory as “muestra cuatro” that was to become branded as T52 as you know it and what was the “muestra” has now become known internally as the “JD4”.
Both blends in our opinions are excellent and either could have been the ultimate T52 blend, but one had to be chosen.
We chose the “3” because universally it was love by almost all the people we shared it with in the preproduction phase, whereas the “4” was rabidly loved by some, but too overwhelming for others. This left the “4” blend to be made in small batches, mostly for Jonathan hence the “JD4” moniker, as I personally OD’ing on the “Dirty Rat” at the time. Even now, Jon smokes the JD4 relentlessly and I remain a Dirty Rat fiend, so it is regarded more as “his” Liga Privada. That being said, I smoked a JD4 for breakfast today and loved it.
Now with the advent of the Único line, we are -considering- adding it to the portfolio, but we are unlikely to make that determination until early next spring. We right now have a plethora of really exceptional blends that have resulted for our developing the Liga Privada series, so it is difficult for us to pick and choose which to move forward with for full commercial production, but currently “JD4” is a potential candidate.
Worst case scenario, JD4 will remain an great cigar we continue to make in small personal batches to share with friends.I find the blending and selection process of new blends absolutely fascinating, and we are extremely happy to have some of these to review.
In fact, for those that missed it the first time, here is what a “bundle” of JD4s looks like.
And for your reference, here is the JD4 beside a T52.
- Cigars Reviewed: Liga Privada JD4
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: Connecticut Habano
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Toro
- Est. Price: n/a
- Number of Cigars to be Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 14
Brooks Whittington: This is a very nicely constructed cigar. The wrapper is a very dark brown and is quite rough to the touch. There is quite a bit of oil present, and it smells strongly of dark bitter chocolate and espresso. It is very firm when squeezed, but not quite what I would call rock hard. The cold draw brings sweet wood and pepper.
Steve Valle: Visually this cigar is very sturdy looking. The wrapper is a dark chocolate color with a red tint to it common with Liga Privadas. The wrapper is very smooth with very little tooth, however I have smoked some with a great amount of tooth so it varies a bit, and an oily sheen. It has a seamless wrap and is very firm to the touch. There are a few noticeable veins although you can’t feel them at all. The pre-light aroma is full of leather, chocolate and ah doughy bread like note. The pre-light draw is mild with tobacco and chocolate notes. I also get a touch of that bread character from the pre light aroma.
BW: The JD4 starts out with strong notes of espresso, pepper and a bit of leather. There is also quite a bit of pepper in the retrohale. But not overwhelming, power or pepper, and there is a bit of a floral note as well, at the end of the first third.
SV: Starting off in the first third the cigar ignites fast. It puts off massive amounts of smoke from the very beginning. This is common with Liga Privada but it’s even more prevalent with this cigar. The thick clouds of smoke give way to a solid cedar flavor as well as a bit of a pepper kick on my tongue. The finish is long but a bit on the dry side and I get a touch of leather towards the end.
BW: Flavors are pretty consistent with the first third. The profile does seem to turn a bit more earthy and the pepper from the start of the cigar is way down, to almost nothing. Still dark chocolate, leather and espresso, really not much change. However, I did notice the strength increasing at the end of the second third, if only a bit.
SV: Coming into the second third the cigars is producing billowing clouds of smoke, not only when I take a draw but as it sits it’s just pouring with smoke. The profile at this point is still full of cedar as well as leather, coffee and a touch of chocolate sweetness towards the end of the finish. The pepper has mellowed but the cigar is full of strength as I can already feel the nicotine hit me. The flavors are very mellow compared to the strength and I’m finding it a bit unbalanced however I am still enjoying it. The burn is great and the ash holds well.
BW: The cigar is definitely stronger throughout the last third. Flavors are pretty much the same for the entire cigar, just really not much change at all. It never got harsh at the end, but did seem to get a bit more bitter a the very end.
SV: Finishing up in the second third I can’t say I really detected any kind of change except for the coffee note has turned into more of a black coffee as there is a hint of bitterness on the finish. Cedar, leather, coffee and chocolate make up the profile and it’s a solid profile but the flavors don’t quite meld together like they should. The whole profile seems a bit unbalanced.
- This cigar produces smoke like a house on fire. I don’t know what Drew Estate does to its tobacco, but Drew Estate products consistently put off incredible amounts of smoke.
- I smoked eight JD4s for this review, and every one of them is amazingly consistent to each other, in flavors, profile, strength, draw and burn.
- As with almost every Liga Privada I have smoked, the burn and draw are amazing and effortless.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 55 minutes.
- Jonathan Drew has stated that this is a beefed up version of the T52. I can definitely sense that, it’s a very similar profile to the T52, however, I feel like the flavors have been compromised while the strength was kicked up. It is definitely stronger than the T52, but I found the flavors to be much more muted and less complex than the T52. In this case I would prefer to smoke the t 52 but I still found this to be a good cigar.
- The construction is everything you would expect from a Liga Privada. The burn, the draw and the smoke output were all top notch.
- Final smoking time was one hour 47 minutes.
BW: The problem with the Liga Privada JD4 comes not from the fact that it is a bad cigar—far from it, actually—but that it will constantly be compared to Drew Estate's earlier and much better blends. It is not as complex as what I have come to expect from the Liga Privada line, and the whole time I was smoking each of the JD4s for this review, I was constantly thinking to myself, "Wow, this is an ok cigar, but I really wish I had a Dirty Rat, or a Flying Pig, or a No. 9 or a T52 right about now.” In some ways this comparison is inevitable, as it is the newest blend, but honestly, it is a bit sad to me, the JD4 is good enough to stand on its own, but it falls far short of it's brothers in the line.
SV: I am really on the fence with this cigar. I have smoked roughly five or six of them and I have definitely enjoyed every one I have smoked. The problem is I would pick the T52 over this cigar. I don’t think it comes close to the complexity or flavor of the T52. That is not to say this isn’t a good cigar because it is. I think they could release these and have a great following and I think it would fall nicely into the lineup. I like the strength and I love the smoke output and the flavors aren’t bad at all, they just need to be less muted and more in your face. If they could just tweak the profile a touch to get the flavors to match up to the strength they would have a much better cigar. I can’t help but feel this is an unfinished cigar, you know, a blend in the works and perhaps we will see a JD6 next year and perhaps then it will be worthy of the Liga Privada name.