For the second year in a row, Hong Kong-based CoH Cigars, formerly known as Cigars of Habanos, has been the exclusive seller of Drew Estate’s annual release in honor of the animal signs of the Chinese zodiac calendar.

The Year of the Rabbit began on Jan. 22, 2023 and will continue until Feb. 4, 2024. During the first week of the Gregorian calendar year, Drew Estate announced its Year of the Rabbit limited edition cigar in honor of the new year on the Chinese zodiac calendar.

The Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Rabbit is listed as a 4 1/2 x 54 parejo by the company, though more on that below, and has a blend that uses a Connecticut habano stalk-cut wrapper over a Mexican San Andrés binder and fillers from Brazil and Nicaragua.

“Rabbits are auspicious animals in the Chinese Zodiac,” said Jonathan Drew, president and co-founder of Drew Estate, in a press release. “They are quiet, elegant, kind and responsible … they’re gentle peacemakers that are associated with the moon goddess Chang’e, who according to legend had a rabbit for a pet. To honor the Year of the Rabbit, we created a deeply elegant cigar that’s commanding with subtle nuances and layers of smooth, bountiful smoke.”

This is the fifth time Drew Estate has made a Year of the cigar in honor of the Chinese Zodiac calendar symbol. Each release has been part of the Liga Privada Único Serie collection but are not the same blend.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Rabbit
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fábrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Habano)
  • Binder: Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Filler: Brazil & Nicaragua
  • Length: 4 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54*
  • Vitola: Robusto Gordo
  • MSRP: $27.50 (Box of 8, $220)
  • Release Date: January 2023
  • Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

*We measured three cigars to be, on average, 56.33 in ring gauge. More on this in the Final Notes section.

While far from visually perfect, the wrapper has a chocolate color with places where the color gets either lighter or darker. There’s a medium amount of oils, which I would say is below average compared to what I think of when I think of Liga Privada. While the cigars are well-rolled and the caps well-applied, I do find that the wrapper itself has some small divots that take away from the appearance on close visual inspection. The aroma from the wrapper is medium-plus with leather dominating over ketchup, mint, smokey barbecue smells and some brewing coffee. Smelling the foot makes it seem like it’s about time to put the meat on the smoker as hickory and other barbecue-like scents emerge, though there’s also some bubble gum aromas—imagine smelling a bucket of gum—and mint behind it. It’s a tad bit more intense and gets into the medium-full category. Cold draws have damp woods, leather, brownie-like chocolate and fruitiness. Towards the back, there’s some semi-sweet floral flavors, sharpness and mint. I’m trying to do a better job of being more precise with flavor intensities, so I’d say this is medium-plus though some might find it medium-full. What it is not is the full-on, overwhelming sensory experience that a lot of Liga Privadas can have at times.

I recommend you take an extra 10-15 seconds to light this cigar, especially if you are using a single-flame torch, as the foot seems to require just a bit more attention than a typical cigar. The Liga Privada Year of the Rabbit starts with dry earthiness, leather, crisp white pepper and some mild nuttiness. Truth be told, the flavors I taste in my mouth are not all that strong and the most noticeable thing is the spice that is on my lips. Even with more complete lighting, it takes about a half-inch before the room is filled with thick clouds of seemingly blue-tinted smoke, i.e. Liga-like. Flavor-wise, earthiness, leather and toastiness are leading the profile with accents of red pepper, black pepper, metallic sensations, bread, something that reminds me of a fried egg. The earthiness has some additional dimensions, though it never really shows the more unique earthy sensations like terroir or barnyard. Puffs finish slightly stronger than the main flavor with toastiness and barnyard competing with the leather, which eventually wins out in terms of how long it sticks around. There’s a mild black pepper, but it’s basically earth, leather and toastiness. Retrohales provide the only doses of woodiness to the profile, a welcome change to break things up. After a few seconds, earthiness and toastiness take over, though I can taste some traces of fruitiness as the woodiness gets drowned out. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full. After about an inch, one cigar’s combustion seems to go from 100 to 50 to zero in about five puffs. The other two cigars have great construction in the first third.

Earthiness, barnyard and leather lead the second third of the Liga Privada Year of the Rabbit. If that sounds familiar, barnyard has replaced toastiness in the trio. Toasitness is still around, though it’s a secondary flavor alongside some generic cracker flavors. Creaminess, black pepper and metallic flavors are very distant tertiary flavors, though the gap closes somewhat during the finish. Toastiness and leather lead the aforementioned tertiary flavors, which—at times—are joined by some pita bread. Retrohaling adds meatiness to the profile, though leather is the strongest flavor. It’s got peanut butter and barnyard as accents, but neither flavor can isolate itself from the leather. It’s more of the same on the finish, though black pepper replaces peanut butter. The overall effect of all of this is that the flavor tastes a bit flat, somewhat due to the comparison between the first two thirds, but also an indictment of how steady the main flavors are. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full. Two cigars need touch-ups in the final third to help mainly with combustion, though there are some minor tunneling issues. While the circumference of the burn line is pretty even, the middle part of the cigar isn’t on the same plane.

From an intensity perspective, nuttiness is more or less as strong as the earthiness during the final third of the Liga Privada Year of the Rabbit. Unfortunately, the nuttiness leaves the profile rather quickly, which creates an effect where the earthiness is still very much the strongest flavor. The leather and toastiness are neither as strong nor consistent as before, though the trio is still the leading trio. Other flavors include popcorn, some sour cannabis, a jalapeño-like pepper, dry pasta and a very mild generic sugar. While that is enjoyable, the profile is getting drier, which isn’t something I find all that great. The finish has earthiness and leather over green pepper, toastiness and some bitterness.  Retrohales have earthiness and leather over sunflower seeds and a saltiness, though I’m not sure what’s causing the latter. The finish is more medium—whereas the rest of the profile is around full—and there’s toasty earthiness, barnyard flavors and red pepper, the latter solely in the throat. While there might be more flavors listed than the first or second thirds, I find the final third to be more pedestrian thanks to the dryness. Flavor is generally full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full. All three cigars need a touch-up to help with combustion.

Final Notes

  • Earlier this year, I suggested we start measuring and weighing the cigars we review so we could learn more about how accurate descriptions are from cigar companies. Additionally, it gives us as reviewers the weights of the cigars when a reviewer felt like a cigar was too heavy or light, or too tightly or loosely packed, had a poor draw, etc.
  • This was one of the first cigars we measured and weighed; it’s also the first one where we’ve found that the measurements of the cigars we purchased did not match the company’s descriptions. In this case, Drew Estate’s press release lists these cigars at 4 1/2 x 54. We measured the ring gauge of the three cigars for this review to be: 56, 56 and 57. The lengths appeared to be right around the 4 1/2-inch mark if I don’t include the decorative cap, which I believe is how most companies measure cigars.
  • I suspect incorrect cigar measurements are provided by companies more than you think—during 2023, we are going to get some data about how common this is—and it could be explained by any number of issues ranging from the press release being wrong to no one at Drew Estate’s office in Miami realizes that the factory in Nicaragua is making the “wrong” size cigars. This is mostly a curiosity of mine; I’m not testing a hypothesis, I am just trying to learn.
  • For those wondering, we use the following equipment to take these measurements: NEIKO 01409A calipersHERCIS Cigar Measuring Tape and AWS Series Digital Pocket Weight Scale 100g.
  • Like most Liga Privadas, I found this to be a good cigar. That’s not to say there aren’t issues. My largest gripe is that there were three homogenous flavors—earthiness, toastiness and leather—that dominated the other flavors. Most of the time when I make this comparison, it’s purely about the intensity of the flavors, i.e. how “strong” they are. Intensity is a relevant consideration here, but the other issue is that those flavors lasted longer than the other flavors, which created an even more lopsided experience.
  • Liga Privada is known for having massive amounts of smoke production. While I’ve had combustion issues with Liga Privadas, it’s generally not an issue. It was an issue—in varying degrees—during all three cigars I smoked for this review.
  • Drew Estate advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased on Jan. 10, 2023. In early March, a second box was sent to us by Drew Estate. The cigars used for this review—both to be smoked and photographed—were from the box we purchased.
  • Final smoking time was around one hour and 40 minutes.
87 Overall Score

I hope you like earthiness because if you don’t, you should have stopped reading this review a while ago. The Liga Privada Year of the Rabbit has more flavors than earthiness, but the earthiness combined with toastiness, leather and barnyard creates a profile that is rather homogenous. While there was more than just earthiness, the other three flavors point to earthiness. Unfortunately, the gap between that leading core and everything else was so dramatic that those others flavors were mostly irrelevant. There was no puff where that core was really challenged—the nuttiness did in a way, but I'd argue it never was a legitimate challenger—and the earthiness was present and dominant from start to finish. Most of the time when someone says a cigar is “unbalanced” they are referring to too much pepper or nicotine strength for the rest of the cigar. But because this isn’t about nicotine or pepper, this wasn't a cigar I initially thought of as unbalanced. It totally is though; it’s about as unbalanced as any cigar can be. It's not going to make you sick—I don't even think it's bad—so that may not be the term you think of first when smoking this cigar, but it's definitely how I will remember it.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.