(You can read Steve Valle’s review of the L40 here.)
The narrative we tell today is one of two very different cigars, both born in the Drew Estate factory and both inspired by the Dirty Rat. While almost no one has heard of the Liga Privada EV-10, the L40 is a cigar that’s generated quite a bit of buzz. And unlike the EV-10, the L40 is bound for production and set to make an appearance at the IPCPR show in Las Vegas, two months from now.
(Picture Above: (L) Liga Privada L40 and (R) Liga Privada EV-10)
- Name: Liga Privada Único Serie L40
- Vitola: Lancero
- Size: 7 x 40
- Wrapper: Connecticut River Valley Stalk Cut & Cured Sun Grown Habano
- Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
- Filler: Honduran & Nicaragua
- Country: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- MSRP: n/a
- Source: Gift
- Time in Humidor: 1 Month
- Cut: Xikar XV
- Light: Xikar Ariza
- Beverage: Coke
- Smoking Time: 2 Hours
I first mentioned the L40 back in mid-February, when el niño diablo also mentioned something about a 6 x 60 Liga Privada, which has become known as the “Royale With Cheese.” Later that month, Steve Saka, president of Drew Estate, told CigarExplorer.com pretty much the entire story of the L40 in this interview:
We’ve been working for about a year on a Lancero. And I have to be honest with you we’ve pulled the trigger on the final Lancero blend. It was about three and a half, four months ago. We had two different blends kind of going on the Lancero. We had what I would consider a more normal path, it was a really spicy, kind of peppery Lancero experience. But for me, Lanceros are one of the formats that I don’t typically smoke. And the reason why I don’t typically smoke them is because they are mild or they’re strong and they tend to be one-noted.
So even though that Lancero I thought held up to other things in the marketplace. It wasn’t really truly a cigar I would smoke everyday… because I’m not a Lancero guy, because of that. So we went back to the drawing board and we took another turn and I ended up making a Lancero that is a lot more complex, a lot more nuances. It’s not mild by any stretch. On a ten point scale, I think would be a seven probably strength-wise. But it has a tremendous amount of complexity and nuance that I personally feel is very seldom in a Lancero blend.
And I’ll admit I had to cheat a little bit. The Lancero is a 40 ring gauge instead of a 38 ring gauge. I couldn’t accomplish the flavor profile that I wanted in 38. And that actually served as the inspiration for the name. We were just calling it L40, Lancero 40 Ring Gauge, in the factory. And that’s what we’ve decided we are going to sell it as and it’ll be part of the Único line. And that will be released sometime during the summer, the L40.
I don’t know how consumers are going to adopt. I’ve always told people with the Dirty Rat blend, it’s too strong for 99% of the consumers. It’s too expensive because it’s too difficult to make such a small cigar with so many different tobaccos. When I look at this Lancero I know that had I gone the spicy route, that was just super spicy and straight forward, it would have been a slam dunk win. I’m probably taking a risk this way. But I know in my heart it’s truly a Liga Privada in this way. I think like any other products, I think you’re going to find people that really love and I think you’re going to find other people that are going to say, “It’s not really for me.”
The Lancero won’t be a limited release. I don’t expect to sell a lot of them because it’s obviously for a very finite group of consumers who like Lanceros.
Since then the L40 prototype with the older Drew Estate “prototype” bands, as opposed to the MF-13, has been floating around, including making appearances at the rare Liga Privada event here and there. I suspect as we get closer to the show, more and more of the L40s will become available.
I somehow managed to get my hands on two of these, one of them from Steve Valle of SmokingStogie.com and the other from another friend of the site. The tobaccos are essentially the same as what’s used in the Dirty Rat, although the blend propoportions are not the same. Color-wise, the Connecticut Sungrown Habano wrapper is a consistent dark chocolate with decent reds, although nowhere near that of the EV-10. There are a few mild veins that seem to intersect the direction of the roll that add to the aesthetics of the overall profile. Aroma is sweet nuts, bit of dark cocoa, caramel and a hint of real concetrated cola on the finish; complex and medium-full. Packing is beautiful and if you sit back and look, you begin to appreciate just how much tobacco is present, although it’s not on Dirty Rat levels. Both cigars I smoked had a medium firmness and relatively consistent roll patterns, but this is expected from Drew Estate, who in their Liga Privada line continues to produce cigars with some of the fewest reported construction issues, a feat that has gone relatively unnoticed. From the foot I get dark baker’s chocolate, a generic sweetness and dry woods; medium-full and not as appetizing as the wrapper itself, but not exactly a huge sticking point for me.
Given the cap on the Dirty Rat, I’m a bit unsure why this has zero attempt at any sort of creativity here, but I don’t roll them. After the V-Cut takes out its chunk, I get one of the most complex aromas you’ll find. It’s full mixture of earth, nuts, that generic sweetness, spices and coffee; with vanilla wafer on the finish. If I could pick a place for a cold draw to be in terms of tightness, it would be this, ever-so-slightly tight, just enough to allow the flavor to really break through. The dry flavors are earth, a melting cocoa, bitter earth and that same vanilla wafer; full, complex and lengthy. Two butane flames light the L40 pretty quickly producing notes of toasty fruits and dry earth. The initial puff delivers a bitter cocoa that transitions into a toasty earth and deep cocoa, ultimately finishing with a predominantly cedar note accompanied by cocoa; full and lengthy, again.
At times citrus breaks into the Liga profile, but the core is cocoa and earth. Secondary notes are toastiness, herbs and a touch of spice; once again full. Finish is cocoa, toasty with oak and herbs accompanying the lengthy and full flavor profile of Saka’s Lancero. Draw remains in nirvana stages of tightness, somehow surpassed by the smoke, which is heavy, plentiful and a work of art. Two inches of relatively light ash hold on until meeting the ashtray, quite good.
Coffee and herbs. In someway those are Liga Privada flavor profiles, but the herbal note is more prominent than I can ever remember. In addition, tobacco, earth, hints of nut and an underlying sweetness making up the flavor profile. Finish is tobacco and herbs over a deep earth, still full and still long. I’m not really sure what happened, but I was forced to bring out the draw tool on one of the two I smoked, although the other was fine. Adding to the confusing was the L40’s smoke production, which remained outstanding despite the closing draw. Strength takes a notable increase from medium-full to full, although not on the levels of the Dirty Rat. The North Carolina air changes from a toasty cedar aroma to herbs.
Smoothness increases as the Liga Lancero begins to calm a bit in flavor. The L40 changes to herbs, tobacco, sweetness and earth with touches of coffee bean, once again full. Coffee bean becomes much more prominent with herbs and tobacco finishing out the once again full and lengthy. Draw on both sticks is looser than the first third, but they both are still relatively in the medium area of things. Smoke production, strength and the burn all remains in their earlier places. With a bit less than an inch, the Liga Privada interpretation of the Lancero gets put down.
For the Novice
In the End
Guillermo León of La Aurora gets upset when I ever I compare one cigar to another. I understand where he comes from, and while these reviews are independent, this is the portion of the reviews when that comparing seems appropriate. The L40 (and the Ratzilla) will always be compared directly to the Dirt Rat, and for that Drew Estate has a massive challenge ahead of them. The Dirty Rat was one of the best cigars released last year (it was #2 on my list) and trying to surpass, let alone replicate it is something that is not going to be easy. The Liga Privada L40 is a good cigar, but it’s missing something. Flavor is complex and active with a smoothness that Saka always provides, but there’s no spiciness. At one point there was a bit of spices, but never the pepper that one comes to expect with Liga Privadas, and it’s missed. This is a good, nearing great cigar, but without the pepper, it seems difficult to call this a great “Liga.”
87. It’s not what I expected, and I’d like a bit more, but let’s not overlook a good cigar.