In top brands of the past decade, I’d find it hard to leave Drew Estate’s Liga Privada out of the top 10, if not top five. It’s a brand I still remember finding in a Phoenix cigar shop during a spring training trip, and since that time it has grown into a line that seemingly dominated social media, events, retail and beyond.

While Liga Privada has a strong core of vitolas that have become increasingly available in recent years, their previous scarcity only added their appeal. Add a number of even more limited edition sizes with interesting names such as Dirty Rat, Feral Flying Pig, L40 and Papas Fritas, and the excitement to get the latest release in your hands and humidor might have reached fever pitch.

For the latest installment of the Liga Privada line, Drew Estate went small. Not small in production, but small in the size of the cigars released. Just ahead of the 2017 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Drew Estate announced it was releasing 15 lines in a 4 x 32 vitola that would come packed in 10-count tins. ACID. Kentucky Fire Cured. MUWAT. Undercrown. Herrera Estelí. Liga Privada. All getting tins.

In the case of Liga Privada, both the No. 9 and T52 would add the vitola, dubbed the Coronet in that line as well as the Undercrown Maduro and Undercrown Shade. Each tin of 10 cigars would be priced at $25, or $125 for a sleeve of five tins totaling 50 cigars.

The 15 new additions were shown off at the industry’s annual gathering, displayed in an eye-catching retail display designed to look like that water towers that Jonathan Drew, company co-founder and president, said he remembers seeing as part of the skyline when the company was based out of Brookyln’s DUMBO neighborhood.

“I presented to the Drew Estate Marketing Team the concept of creating today’s modern day wooden indian to disrupt the typical tin racks behind the counter and provide the brick & mortar retailer an additional point of visibility for a high velocity product,” said Drew in a press release.

The first batch of tins, including the Undercrown lines, began shipping in August, while the second batch, which included the Liga Privada and Herrera Estelí lines, would go out in November.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Liga Privada No. 9 Coronet
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
  • Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
  • Length: 4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 32
  • Vitola: Small Panetela
  • MSRP: $2.50 (Tins of 10, $25)
  • Release Date: November 2017
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

This cigar is so small that it’s a challenge to process it in comparison to more standard sized cigars. At a certain level it certainly looks like a Liga Privada No. 9 in terms of the wrapper’s color and vein structure, with a scale-size band affixed bearing the familiar lion and seemingly hand-written wordmark. The roll is good, the caps are decent if not as perfect as what you’d find on bigger sizes and the cigar has just a bit of give. The cap is of particular interest because of how small it is; instead of being cut with the typical instrument which is about the size of a tube of lipstick, this looks like it could have been produced using a hole punch so you could put the rest of the leaf in a binder. Tobacco is best smelled in quantity, and with such a small amount used here, it’s harder to get a full aroma from the foot. What I do get is a bit of cake donut that is soft and chewy to the nose, with little if any pepper and varying amounts and expressions of sweetness that range from apples to a floral arrangement. The cold draw on the first sample is a bit loose while the other two are fine, with the flavors fairly muted here as well. A bit of corn flakes and sugary sweetness stands out on one sample, and more cake donut on the others.

The cigar lights almost immediately after the single flame torch gets near the foot, turning the dark brown tobacco into bright white ash and putting out a smoke that is surprisingly sharp and a bit bitter. There’s some pepper to be found, but it feels overshadowed by the cigar’s flavor imperfections, which includes a bit of sour chalkiness early on as well. There’s no shortage of smoke from the Liga Privada No. 9 Coronet, matching that of much bigger vitolas. That said though, the smoke production is quick to remind you to give this cigar an occasional puff, as like any small ring gauge it is prone to going out if neglected. The first bit of ash is on the flaky side and far from dense and tidy, getting knocked off just shy of an inch along

The outright roughness of the Liga Privada No. 9 Coronet’s flavors settles down a bit by its second third, though the chalkiness remains and persists. It’s also a much drier profile than I would expect from the blend, as a bit of very dry wood enters just past the midway point and seems to suck moisture from the front half of my tongue.

There’s little in the way of change in the cigar in the final third, which seems to be the shortest of the three thirds. While some of the samples mellow a bit, I’m still left with a dry, chalky, and slightly sour flavor profile that has yet to endear itself to my palate or sensibilities. While the technical performance is great and the cigar never bad enough to outright put down, I can’t say I enjoyed what the Liga Privada No. 9 Coronet has offered.

Final Notes

  • There’s definitely a balance and pace that needs to be achieved when it comes to how fast this cigar gets smoked, as heat is far from beneficial.
  • I don’t know if it’s completely size related, but this cigar never seemed to show much in the way of true flavors. Yes, I tasted things, but it never really felt like it was what I imagine the blender had in mind.
  • I also ran into some issues with the caps; while they were cut seemingly fine, each one caused a bit of the wrapper to unravel. That being said, all three samples scored perfectly in the construction category which measures draw, burn, smoke production and appearance.
  • The writing on the band feels a bit off, almost as if a thinner font should have been selected.
  • There’s little in the way of nicotine strength to the Liga Privada No. 9 Coronet.
  • Prior to being assigned this review, I picked up tins of both the Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 and found a similar flavor experience with both cigars in terms of offering a sharp, dry, and certainly not Liga-esque profile.
  • The retailer who I bought them from doesn’t have the water tower display, instead of displaying them alongside similar offerings from other companies such as Ashton and Arturo Fuente.
  • I’ve only seen the water tower in a few stores, and it does take up a decently sized footprint.
  • Final smoking time was 40 minutes on average.
  • Drew Estate advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Corona Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop, JR Cigar, Serious Cigars and Thompson Cigar all carry the Liga Privada No. 9 Coronet.
76 Overall Score

The tins said Liga Privada, the bands said Liga Privada and it even looked like a Liga Privada, but what I smoked was the least Liga Privada-like cigar I can recall having. There was such a dominant flavor of chalk, minerals and sourness that getting any taste of what the No. 9 blend actually tastes like was next to impossible. Granted, I haven't smoked an off-the-shelf Liga Privada No. 9 in some time, but this is certainly not the cigar I remember from recent years, and hardly a blend which I would use to represent the company's flagship, most premium line. I had high hopes for this release as being a little Liga that could be smoked on a quick car trip or when time was just otherwise limited; unfortunately I doubt these will see much but the inside of a humidor in hopes that time can turn them into a cigar worthy of the Liga Privada name.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.