If I were to do a Top 10 list simply based off of the amount of a particular cigar I smoked in the past year, finding number one would be easy. Over the course of the last 15 months, I have smoked through bundles of the newest Liga Privada, the Único Serie Papas Fritas.

A little known fact regarding Drew Estate is that many of the tobaccos used for the company’s popular Liga Privada brand can be found elsewhere in its portfolio. The largest difference between the tobacco in Liga Privada and the tobacco in other products is the grade, i.e. the quality. For example, for years Drew Estate used the smaller cuts produced from the cutting of leaves for the Liga Privada brands in La Vieja Habana, one of its least expensive cigars.

Eventually, there was some belief that Drew Estate could sell a smaller cigar with these cuts—which are produced as excess—made up of exclusively of Liga Privada-graded tobacco. For the company, this would presumably allow for a slightly higher profit on these cuts—which are of higher quality and thus more expensive than the tobacco that normally goes in La Vieja Habana—and provide consumers with another Liga Privada.

The Papas Fritas is a mixed-filler cigar, which uses the cuts as filler wrapped in a Brazilian binder underneath Connecticut Broadleaf #1 Darks, the same wrapper found on the Liga Privada No. 9.

Drew Estate’s Director of Tobaccos Nicholas Melillo—the same person behind the Dirty Rat—began working on the Papas Fritas well over a year ago. However, it wasn’t until about this time last year that the blend was finalized. This occurred after Drew Estate implemented a series of measures to make sure the mixture was precise.

The official Drew Estate sales sheet explains:

Although “tripa corta” means “short filler”, these coronas are unlike any “sandwich” cigar ever created. All of the tobacco trimmings are individually hand sorted back into their original leaf variety and thickness, hand cut to be uniform in size and then are hand blended cigar by cigar to ensure consistency in flavor and aroma.

Drew Estate CEO Steve Saka began publicly, including this dropping hints about the blend around a year ago and the cigar was first shown off at IPCPR 2012. While we covered most of this in a news story back in July and the Drew Estates sales sheet describes Papas Fritas:

Our latest addition to the Liga Privada Único Serie, the “Papas Fritas” are handcrafted entirely from only the chaveta cuts of our dark Broadleaf capa and the rare Grade 1 filler tobacco trimmings created by the production of all our other famed Liga Privada blends, these coronas are arguably the finest “tripa corta” cigars ever made. What they may lack in beauty they more than make up for in satisfying flavor. Spicy, rich and delicious, they are named in honor of one of El Jefe’s favorite foods: French Fries! If we didn’t openly disclose these were tripa corta, it is unlikely anyone would know as they draw, burn and taste like any well- crafted long filler corona. The typical “Papas Fritas” provides up to a full 40 minutes of smoking pleasure and they even hold a 1+” ash!

Papas Fritas is being sold in tins of four, with an MSRP of $23.95 a tin or $5.99 per cigar. Retailers are shipped seven tins in a wooden sleeve. Saka—a noted enthusiast of Cuban cigars—based the tins off of old airplane packaging that was used decades ago for a few cigars.

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Tin 1

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Tin 2

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Tin 3

And here’s what a sleeve of the Papas Fritas look like:

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Sleeve 1

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Sleeve 2 Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Sleeve 3 Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Sleeve 4

The Papas Fritas is the eighth of nine cigars to receive an official Único Serie band.

Liga Privada Unico Releases

*The production version of UF-13 will feature a different cap than prerelease samples. More info here.

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf #1 Darks
  • Binder: Plantation Grown Brazilian Mata Fina
  • Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
  • Size: 4 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 44
  • Vitola: Petit Corona
  • MSRP: $5.99 (Tins of 4, $23.95 & Sleeves of 28, $167.75)*
  • Release Date: December 12, 2012
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 100*

*See below.

There’s a big erect tail, significantly different than the Dirty Rat. However, you could otherwise confuse this with a mini Broadleaf Dirty Rat. Across the Papas Fritas I’ve smoked, there are times in which the wrapper has imperfections that are a bit out of character with Liga Privada, but in general it’s largely what you would expect. Overall aroma is a smooth, sweet and full Broadleaf cocoa. From the cold draw there’s a typical mixture of big cocoa, leathers and a mild pepper, but there’s also a bit of candy notes.

The first third begins with a sweet pepper and cedar aroma and a great bread note. It’s something that seems to be happening after a few months of age, but it quickly is met by a large peppery cedar note three or four puffs in. Eventually, the flavors work themselves out to cedar and leather over touches of cocoa with a great red pepper on the back of throat. On the retrohale, the bread is still there. Draw and smoke production are Liga Privada-like, easy and massive respectively.

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas 2 There’s a noticeable uptick in flavor from medium-full to full at the start of the second third. The core flavor profile of the Papas Fritas sees much more of the bread note, although the cedar and leather combination are still dominant with the pepper on the back. An interesting nuttiness develops on the finish, something that I don’t get in very many Liga Privadas and another characteristic of intermediate age. Throughout the initial two thirds, I’d put the strength at medium-full.

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas 3 The final third sees the pepper creep from the back of the front into the forefront of the cigar with the cedar and leather notes. Fortunately, the bread note is able to provide a contrast that really adds to the complexity. On the retrohale, a generic sweetness is present, but it’s nowhere to be found in the mouth. I’ve smoked to the finger burning levels plenty of times, but with an inch left, I generally find myself moving on, as I do here.

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas 4

Final Notes

  • First and foremost, as per Saka, some retailers should have these December 12, 2012.
  • But I’m not fooling around; I’ve smoked hundreds of these in the past 16 months. I’ve easily smoked more Papas Fritas than any single brand in the past year. A rough count of the bundles I’ve gone through says at least 200.
  • Given how many of these I’ve smoked and the amount of time which that has taken place, there’s a wide range of flavors. I based this off of samples from the IPCPR show, although I’ve got samples from as far back as pre-August 2011.

    Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Smoke 1
    Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Smoke 2

  • For photography’s sake, this should have been smoked at night. As the above proves, the smoke production and ash—the latter of which was destroyed by the wind—are capable of much better. As is often the case, Brooks is responsible for the non-smoking shots. Brooks is also is responsible for the wonderful art of La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate.
  • The picture above also proves more than an inch of ash is possible.
  • I believe this picture from August 2011 is the first evidence of Papas Fritas in the public record. That one was supremely sublime.
  • According to Saka, some of the Liga Privada clippings are still used in La Vieja Habana. Some part of me believe this will likely change with the presumed demand for Papas Fritas.
  • Liga Privada is the standard as far as smoke production goes. Publicly, the company—particularly Jonathan Drew—talks about its commitment to the draw. Whatever the case, Papas Fritas is solidly in the excellent category of both, easily meets the Liga Privada standard.
  • An old Drew Estate Liga Privada sales guide, distributed to its sales staff, once listed a project called “Segundo Corte.”It was described:

    This is a handmade 5 x 43 corona made exclusively from the table trimmings of the No. 9 and T52 Liga Privada production utilizing second cuts of T52 capa. These have also been banded as “Tripa Corte” at times.

  • Fun fact: if you roll the Papas Fritas on a flat surface like dough—which I’m not sure why you would—the bottom of the filler starts to fall out.
  • The Papas Fritas is a great cigar for someone like me, who oftentimes struggles to find a full hour to smoke and generally smokes slow. I get a quality cigar, big flavors and consistently phenomenal construction.
     Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Band
  • The combination of the mixed filler, foot band and cellophane means it’s not uncommon to find the above, bits of tobacco on the band.
  • According to Saka, retailers will currently receive a new wooden sleeve with each reorder. However, this is not expected to remain due to the costs with the wooden sleeves. Drew Estate does not ship new trays for any of its MUWAT products, which are also displayed in wooden sleeves.
  • This does raise the question of whether Drew Estate will change the wooden packaging, as it probably isn’t best suited for permanent display in the shelves. It also means, if you want for your personal collection, you might want to buy one from the first shipment.
  • The use of blue is an interesting note, it’s the first time it’s been this prominent in any Liga Privada packaging.
  • This is the least expensive Liga Privada by a pretty wide margin. It’s also the first Liga Privada since the T52 was introduced in 2010 to have an MSRP below $10.00. It’s also the only current Liga Privada priced below $10.00.
  • I can’t help but think how much cheaper these would be if they were packaged like Bait Fish. Drew Estate struggled over pricing these, I was honestly a bit shocked they didn’t reach for a bit higher. Supply and demand with the tins factored in would have led me to believe these would have been a dollar more expensive.
  • That being said, $6.00 for a mixed filler cigar, despite the tobacco’s quality is a bit difficult to swallow. For the price of eight Papas Fritas, you can buy a box of 20 La Vieja Habana Corona Gordas.
  • Drew Estate is right—outside of the random bits of tobacco that might fall out in the cellophane, rolling the cigar or taking it apart—few would realize these were mixed filler. Furthermore, there will be many who don’t realize it despite this.
  • If you are looking for chocolate, go buy a Velvet Rat, the Papas Fritas is not the right place to look.
  • Outside of the 60, 70 and 80 RG craze, I can’t recall other manufacturers being more skeptical about the reception of a product than Papas Fritas. The price and format are definitely the cause, but no doubt many are wondering if Drew Estate is pushing its success with Liga Privada too far.
  • Here’s what happens when you open up a Papas Fritas (filler, binder, wrapper): Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas Filling
  • I’ve smoked a box-pressed version of Papas Fritas, the regular version is the way to go in my opinion. As far as I know, the box-pressed was just Nicholas Melillo fooling around at the factory.
  • I sort of wonder what kind of discount retailers would be willing to give for a customer buying a sleeve. I get the sense it won’t be any, particularly for the immediate future where retailers are not going to struggle to sell these.
  • Drew Estate’s Liga Privada/Undercrown packaging/branding is normally above average to good. Clean and bold, but never really pushing barriers. Papas Fritas is different, the airplane case is awesome and the sleeve is a masterfully well done. That being said, Drew Estate’s history has some pretty crazy packaging.
  • The cigars are packed in cellophane inside each tins.
  • The back of each tin reads:

    Handcrafted entirely from only the chaveta cuts of our extra dark Broadleaf capa and the rare, Grade A1 filler tobacco trimmings created by the production of our famed Liga Privada blends, these coronas are arguably the finest “tripa corta” cigars ever made. What they may lack in beauty they more than make up for in satisfying flavor and aroma. Spicy, rich and delicious, they are named in honor of one of El Jefe’s favorite foods: French Fries!

  • I wish more manufacturers would take this approach to a cigar, something that is likely a lot more difficult to achieve if you don’t own your own factory. This format at this price point could be a big market for cigars that compete against Liga Privada. Unfortunately, SCHIP makes the economics of the cigar a lot more difficult.
  • I’ve always loved J. Fuego’s Originals size, this is no different. Good, less expensive Petit Coronas are great.
  • As someone who is smoked through quite a few sleeves, I do kind of wonder about the unintentional waste. While the tobacco in many ways gets recycled, I have no clue what to do with all these empty tins.
  • This is the second year in a row where arguably Drew Estate’s most anticipated release amongst its Liga Privada/Undercrown audience is released in the later stages of December. Last year both the Único Serie L40 and Feral Flying Pig were released in the later part of December.
  • Strength is medium-full to the lightest ends of full.
  • Site sponsor Drew Estate provided samples for the review.
  • Final smoking time averages 45 minutes, for me at least.
92 Overall Score

This is not the most complex, flavorful, elegant or balanced Liga Privada. Subsequently, this is not the highest scoring Liga Privada, not even close. However, we don't really have a way to score functionality—and when it comes to that—Papas Fritas is the best. The price point—which we don't score—and the time it takes to smoke—which we also don't score—combine for what is functionally, the best Liga Privada. The reason why I've smoked hundreds is simple: Papas Fritas is quick, cheap and easy. If I get halfway through and need to toss one, I don't think about it. Absent an attempt at a Velvet Rat in this format, I can't see myself ever smoking more of a single Drew Estate product.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.