As you’ve likely noticed, celebrating the Lunar New Year has become a bit of a thing in the cigar industry in recent years. Numerous companies have released cigars in celebration of the holiday, generally coming out towards the end of the Gregorian calendar year or not long after the new year starts.

While Davidoff’s Zodiac Series is likely the most known and the longest-running, Drew Estate has been one of those companies releasing a steady stream of Lunar New Year-themed cigars, though the roots of their series trace back to ice hockey, and specifically, the Florida Panthers. The full background is here, but during the 1995-96 season, Panthers player Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the team’s locker room, then went on to use that same stick to score two goals, prompting goalie John Vanbiesbrouck to call it a “rat trick,” a play on the more common hockey term of hat trick, when a player scores three goals in a game.

For a time in the mid 2010s, Drew Estate had a branded cigar lounge at the BB&T Center, home of the Panthers, and sold a cigar exclusive to that lounge called the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Rat.

In January 2020, about three-and-a-half years after the debut of the Year of the Rat and following the closure of that cigar lounge at the arena, the cigar would return, but this time with wider distribution and with a new association: Lunar New Year. It would be the first of three releases to come out thus far in the series, being followed by the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Ox in 2021, and this cigar the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Tiger, released in January 2022. It also becomes the 17th cigar to be released under the Único Serie header.

However, you might be wondering why you haven’t seen this at your local cigar shop. That’s because of instead of getting a wide release in the U.S., the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Tiger was released to CoH Cigars, an online retailer that was previously known as Cigars of Habanos. While based in Hong Kong, the company does ship to the United States, so the cigar isn’t completely inaccessible to cigar smokers in the U.S., though it will require a bit of patience for delivery.

 

“Tigers are brave and forceful … the very symbol of power and command and they are usually associated in Chinese culture with emperors or kings,” said Jonathan Drew, co-founder and president of Drew Estate, in a press release. “To honor the Year of the Tiger, we created a cigar that is adventurous and ambitious, powerful and commanding. The taste both grabs your attention and demands your respect. All you Tiger Kings and Tiger Queens lurking in the concrete jungle, please take note … you’re going to want to hunt down this special smoke!”

It is a 6 x 48 grand corona that uses a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, a Brazilian mata fina binder, and fillers from Nicaragua. Pricing is set at $24.38 per cigar or $195 for a box of eight cigars.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Tiger
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fábrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf)
  • Binder: Brazil (Mata Fina)
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 48
  • Vitola: Grand Corona
  • MSRP: $24.38 (Box of 8, $195)
  • Release Date: January 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Having smoked a good number of the Year of the Rat, the Year of the Tiger is immediately familiar-looking, specifically in how it is banded and wrapped in the gold foil. While the Tiger is a bigger vitola than the Rat, it’s still a parejo and it’s not so much bigger that it looks like a completely different cigar. If you’re not particular about saving your bands, getting the Year of the Tiger undressed is fairly easy, but in the case of the first sample that I smoke, which I use for the photographs, it is a bit more difficult. The foot band is glued together pretty snugly, while the gold foil is held in place both with tape and by the primary band. It takes about a minute, but I’m finally able to remove the foil while leaving the primary band in place, which is intact but noticeably loose now. Ideally, the entire package slides off in one piece, which is what happened in the case of the second sample. Once the packaging has been removed, I see that the wrapper is a meaty brown, in some ways reminding me of the color of medium-rare steak in some spots. There are some small veins but what I’m most intrigued by is a series of small, almost black dots that appear on the wrapper. It’s also dry to the fingers and very firmly rolled, both of which are immediately noticeable as soon as I get my fingers on it. The foot has an aroma that I can’t quite place on the whole, but the individual components have aspects that remind me of dry kindling, raw almonds, a bit of dry earth, a light sprinkle of black pepper and then something that takes me back to cake donuts. The firmness of the cigar is again noticeable when clipping the cap, and I’m worried that too aggressive of a cut may damage the head, so I take what I can and then do a bit of trimming with my cigar scissors. Airflow is smooth and fairly easy despite a bit of noticeable firmness, with a woody flavor that has a bit of an oily finish. There’s a bit of that cake donut again, and a few more draws reveal a bit of a sweet and spicy sensation buried beneath that.

The first puffs of the Liga Privada Year of the Tiger are quite potent, offering a flavor that has the same oily, woody flavor of the cold draw but now with the addition of a dry earthiness and black pepper. As with pretty much every Liga Privada release, smoke billows off the Year of the Tiger with each puff, but that volume quickly reduces to pretty much nothing when the cigar is at rest. The introductory puffs of the three samples share common roots but are just different enough to be noticeable, making for what I’m wondering will be a bit of a Goldilocks experience. For my palate, the best is the one that gets the creaminess into the mix as quickly as possible, as it provides balance, depth and a textural sensation. As the cigar progresses, a profile that starts with creaminess and finishes with dry woods and a bit of pepper begins to settle in on my taste buds, while retrohales are much along those lines though they show the creaminess a bit better. That said, the one sample that had the creaminess in the mix the earliest is now the most pepper-forward through the nose, almost as if it’s working ahead on the blend progression plans. The cigar flirts with earthiness, approaching it and then backing away, with a few of those steps drawing in a chalkiness that doesn’t work for my palate, leading me to hope the flavor disappears quickly and doesn’t come back. That happens to varying degrees, and certainly, when it does, the results are noticeably better. The first third finishes on a somewhat dry flavor, going back to the woody favor with very subtle touches of the earth and pepper that have been part of this section. Flavor has settled down towards the medium mark, body feels like it is just holding onto the medium mark, while strength isn’t quite medium yet. Construction is good in all categories, though the ash’s durability isn’t as good as I would like.

In the case of the second sample, as the sharp, chalky taste persists and turns more biting and metallic I’m forced to inspect the head of the cigar, and I find the cause of the problem: tar. It’s a lighter brown color than I’m used to seeing, but it’s still unmistakable, looking almost like a small drop of motor oil has been squeezed out of the cigar. I clip the cap and get a much more agreeable profile, one that is still dry but has brought in a bit of peanut, rejuvenate the pepper, and lightened the body up a few ticks. Thankfully the experience is limited to that one sample. Otherwise, as the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Tiger gets into its second third, it’s still being driven by the woods and pepper combination from the first third, with creaminess fading away but hanging on as best it can, and to the benefit of the overall profile. There is still some earthiness in the profile, yet it continues to lack the gravitas I would assume from Connecticut broadleaf or a generic Nicaraguan filler, and if anything tastes a bit more Honduran, even though the blend doesn’t contain any tobacco from that country, at least not on paper. Past the midpoint, it is a profile that is hitting both my palate and nose with a bright and clean combination of firewood and white pepper, while retrohales show a bit more readily identifiable creaminess while the pepper still zings the nostrils. Also, once the burn line passes the midway point, the pepper begins turning more into a charred chili pepper sensation, an interesting development and a flavor I can’t remember experiencing recently. Construction-wise, I notice a bit of tunneling from the first sample as I need to relight it after having my attention, and while the ash continues to frustrate me, the draw, smoke production and burn line are all very good. Flavor is now medium-plus, body is medium, and strength is medium at its strongest.

The final third of the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Tiger doesn’t see much change in terms of where the flavor is; it’s still driven by dry wood, white pepper and a bit of creaminess, but the profile continues to get brighter and more vibrant on my senses, a process it began around the midway point of the second third. It’s still an enjoyable profile, though one that is increasingly in need to a beverage to balance out the sensations, or to do what I wish the cigar would just do itself, which is add a bit more complexity and balance. It’s the woodiness of the profile that seems most vocal when it comes to that beverage and balance, as it steps into the lead role of the profile for several puffs. As the burn line progresses, the flavor begins to soften just a bit, bringing back in some of the cake donut texture I picked up earlier, though here it is much more of a textural change than a flavor change. There is still an appreciable tingle from the pepper and dry wood, and the profile doesn’t seem like it’s going to be making a move to bringing in any earth before it’s time to wrap things up. Construction remains very good and problem-free, as all that is needed is regular puffs and the cigar is able to do its thing. Flavor finishes around medium-plus, body is medium, and strength is medium.

Final Notes

  • I really like the design of the foot band, including that it includes the year of its release. I have way too many cigars in my humidors that I have no idea how old they are, yet with this, I will always know when it came out.
  • It’s not often you see cigars come in boxes of eight, but that is a nod to the fact that the number eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture. Several other Zodiac-themed releases from multiple companies have also come in boxes of eight or some configuration that uses the number eight.
  • I generally think of Liga Privada cigars having pretty good ash construction, but that wasn’t always the case here. One sample, in particular, was fragile, dropping clumps of ash randomly and seemingly without provocation.
  • The differences between the Year of the Tiger and the 2020 release of the Year of the Rat are fairly stark, something I have to attribute more to the difference in tobacco crops than the size difference. I knew that the two vitolas were similar, but it was only in getting the details about the cigar written down did I realize the Year of the Tiger was only two ring gauges thicker and half-an-inch longer.
  • I felt almost no strength from the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Tiger, at least not enough to be even remotely appreciable. I don’t want to say this is the mildest Liga Privada that I have smoked, but it’s certainly one of the mildest.
  • Drew Estate advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was right around two hours on average.
  • COHCigars.com is the exclusive retailer of the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Tiger, and as of press time, they still list it as being in stock.
86 Overall Score

Having really enjoyed the Liga Privada Único Serie Year of the Rat in both its original form and the 2020 re-release, I was excited to see what this slightly longer and thicker vitola would offer. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to the high bar set by the Year of the Rat, and at times failed to clear the bar set by the Liga Privada brand. There certainly are some good points to be found, particularly when the creaminess in the blend gets plenty of room to contribute. Not only do I find creamy cigars generally enjoyable, in this case, the creaminess provides a much-needed balance to the other flavors in the profile. So between the flavor, the price—which we don’t factor into the score—and the need to have these shipped from almost the other side of the globe, this is one I’m going to pass on recommending as there are simply too many other very good Liga Privada options likely waiting for me either in my humidor or the humidor of any number of local retailers.

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 the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.