It’s been a long wait, but Drew Estate is finally ready for the national release of perhaps its most anticipated Liga Privada ever, the UF-13 Dark. Way back in early 2011, I smoked the first of what would end up being quite a few reiterations of a blend that Liga Privada was working on, dubbed the MF-13, a Robusto-sized cigar that was based on the much loved T52.
Drew Estate President Steve Saka had this to say about the progression of the blend:
T52-4 was the final head to head blend that was competing internally with T52-3 to become the T52 final blend. T52-4 was exceptional, in fact JD and I both liked it a slight bit better, but we were concerned that it tended to overpower some of the nuances in the liga and that we were sacrificing flavors for strength, so we ultimately decided that the T52-3 would be the final T52 blend.
JD for his own smoking pleasure kept having T52-4s made, but we banded them as JD4 so as to not cause confusion in the factory or with those he shared them with. After he started handing them out, he decided that he didn’t like putting his personal name on the product, so we started ringing them with MF-4 – it stood for what you think it does. In the factory we kept tinkering with the T52-4/JD4/MF-4 blend to try to improve it (in our opinion) – goal was to keep the octane, but restore the depth of flavors… so we made a variety of minor liga tweaks and vitola changes to try and get it “perfect”.
The result was the MF-13 – a robusto format. I think the MF-13 is better, not sure where JD stands on this – truth is the difference is so very minor between the two cigars I doubt most folks could even tell there was any difference unless they smoked them side by side… and maybe not even then, but we can tell… or so we tell ourselves.
We started sharing both MF-4s and MF-13s at events and out of our pockets and they started to get some buzz online.
So MF-4 = UF-4 and MF-13 = UF-13. Netiher (sic) blend is really in testing per se, both are finalized blends. It just that neither is being produced for retail at this point. We would like to release the cigar this year, but can’t commit to doing so until we are confident we can get T52, Dirty Rats and L40s delivered on a regular basis to our customers as the UF-13 shares the same Stalk Cut Habano capa.
The MF-13 has been through two name changes since 2011, first to UF-13, a change that came about due to confusion with My Father. (The UF stands for “Único Fuerte” ) There was also a wrapper change early on away from the T52 wrapper. And finally, a few sizes and caps have been used, Robustos anywhere from five to five and a half inches with a ring gauge around 52.
Saka explained the changes earlier this year:
This is a pretty simple explanation – until mid-last year the “13” blend was always just sample lots and small batches – never made steady day in day out – and one time the made them the wrong length… I didn’t really care at the time and I can’t even recall if it was too long or too short… been awhile, over a year or so… so cigar wise the only difference is the length by 1/2.
We broke the news that the UF-13 would be shipping in March in a news story last week:
The details for Drew Estate’s highly-anticipated Liga Privada Único Serie UF-13 Dark are now finalized. As we noted last September, the UF-13, a stronger Liga Privada previously reserved for events and other special purposes, is on track for a release this spring.
While the cigar itself hasn’t changed since that article, the name now reads, “UF-13 Dark”—a moniker Drew Estate CEO Steve Saka noted he liked last year while commenting on halfwheel’s article. The reason behind this is an ode to the specific “high Broadleaf Mediums” used for the cigar.The UF-13 is a three-year project for Drew Estate that has seen numerous iterations, vitolas and names, although Saka has noted that the prerelease versions for the last two years have been the same blend as the production UF-13 Dark, which features the aforementioned Connecticut-sourced wrapper, a Brazilian Mata Fina binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers.
Saka told halfwheel that the UF-13 Dark is currently expected to ship to all Liga Privada accounts in late March as part of a larger shipment and then will have limited availability thereafter, similar to Liga Privada Único Serie Feral Flying Pig.Officially, the size has changed to 5 1/2 x 52, although that change, up from 5 1/4 inches, is likely to due to the unique cap. Pricing is set at $13.95 per cigar with boxes of 12 retailing for a suggested $167.40. The configuration of the boxes is similar to Drew Estate’s Flying Pig boxes.
Here are all of the cigars in the Único Serie, from left to right:
- Liga Privada Único Serie Dirty Rat (5 x 44) — August 2010
- Liga Privada Único Serie Ratzilla (6 1/4 x 46) — June 2012
- Liga Privada Único Serie A (9 1/4 x 47) — July 2011
- Liga Privada Único Serie UF-4 (6 x 52) — October 2011
- Liga Privada Único Serie L40 (7 x 40) — December 2011
- Liga Privada Único Serie Feral Flying Pig (5 3/8 x 60) — December 2011
- Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas (4 1/2 x 44) — December 2012
- Liga Privada Único Velvet Rat (6 1/4 x 46) — October 2012
- Liga Privada Único Serie UF-13 Dark (5 1/2 x 52) — March 2013
As mentioned above, there have been many different versions of the MF/UF-13 over the years, with quite a few different bands as well. Below is a sampling of what I had laying around of the same blend. From top to bottom:
- 2011 UF-13 (5 x 52)
- 2012 UF-13 Dark (5 1/4 x 52)
- 2013 UF-13 Cigar.com (5 1/4 x 52)
- Production UF-13 (5 1/2 x 52)
The production boxes for the UF-13 Dark look like this:
- Cigar Reviewed: Liga Privada Único Serie UF-13 Dark
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate S.A.
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Dark Mediums
- Binder: Plantation Grown Brazilian Mata Fina
- Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua Cuban Seed
- Size: 5 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $13.95 (Boxes of 12, $167.40)
- Date to be Released: March 2013
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 11
The UF-13 is a gorgeous cigar with a very dark, almost blackish brown wrapper that glistens with oil up and down its length. The cabeza colita cap is a sight to behold, and the first time I saw it, I wondered how long and how much effort each one of them took to produce. The wrapper is chock full of veins, but is slick to the touch. It has the perfect give when squeezed and the aroma off the Broadleaf is a combination of barnyard, coffee, leather and black pepper.
The first third of the Liga Privada Único Serie UF-13 Dark starts out with strong flavors of espresso, oak, leather and a meatiness that is hard to describe accurately. There is a great chalky coca note in the background that is quite strong at points during the first third. In addition, a generic caramel-like sweetness comes and goes. While there is not much spice on the lips, there’s a strong black pepper. Both burn and draw are fabulous so far and the smoke production is absolutely insane: white, billowy and copious. Overall strength does not change much over the course of the first third, starts and ends at a solid medium.
A very sweet malted chocolate note takes over the cocoa flavor as the second third begin—it’s extremely obvious to the palate. Other notes of leather, peppery earth and even a slight nuttiness are evident at different points. There is still some very nice black pepper on the retrohale, as well as an interesting Worcestershire note. The overall strength is increasing noticeably and ends the second third, almost—but not quite—at the full mark. Construction remains excellent, as does the smoke production.
The final third of the Liga Privada Único Serie UF-13 Dark seems to combine all of the flavors from the prior two thirds together: dark chocolate, peppery earth, oak, leather, cocoa and nuts flit in and out a different points. While the malted chocolate sweetness from the second third has decreased a bit, is still a major player in the profile. Both the black pepper on the retrohale and the spice on the tongue remain at fairly constant levels. The UF-13 Dark continues to billow out smoke like a freight train while the burn and draw continue to be excellent to the nub. By the time the cigar is put down strength is solidly in the full category.
- Drew Estate was very protective of the cap, so much so that the first pictures of the cigar didn’t appear until a week ago. The company was afraid another manufacturer would use it before it sold the UF-13.
- Director of Tobaccos Nicholas Melillo came up with the cap, he explained it to us:
The idea for this cap came from combining the cap/heads of the DIRTY RAT and the FLYING PIG. When Saka asked me to come up with something that would impress him I immediately thought this style would be perfect for the UF-13. It is such a special blend and needed that something special to finish it off. I wanted to come up with something unique and different that I had never seen on a cigar before. I had the idea in my head for sometime but was waiting for the right cigar to use it on. I had a feeling Saka was going to like it and the team on the production floor executed perfectly.
The cap takes about two and a half minutes to complete. It is very labor intensive but well worth the work. The cigar is rolled first by finishing the head with the fish tail and then after this is complete the extra culita / tail is added around the fish tail… It’s a beautiful thing.
- As you may or not be aware, Cigar.com recently sold about 2,000 of the prerelease versions of the UF-13 sans the cabeza colita cap at $15.00 each. According to Steve Saka, the versions sold from Cigar.com were rolled between 18-24 months ago and the boxes for the upcoming release have about five months age on them.
- Drew Estate will release a large batch of the UF-13 Darks nationally for the launch and then the cigars will be regular production Único Serie releases, i.e., expect a few smaller shipments throughout the year.
- The MF moniker was changed to UF for all of the Único Serie cigars after it was realized that My Father cigars has the initials MF prominently displayed on some of their packaging. Says Steve Saka:
JD came to me one day with a My Father cigar and pointed out that Pepin’s rings have an MF in the center of them. How both of us missed this is kinda crazy since we both smoke a lot of their cigars, but we did. So we decided to change the name to UF out of respect – we take pride in not knowingly copying others, so we rebanded all the MFs as UFs on our own accord.
- While I am normally asking for smaller vitolas in any given release, I have to say that I think that the Robusto vitola is perfectly suited to this blend. Of course, that does not mean I would not love to see what it would taste like in, say, a Lonsdale.
- Along with the above, I asked Saka if he could roll me some UF-13s in a Lonsdale vitola for my Cigar Safari blend, and he told me in no uncertain terms what I could do with my Lonsdales.
- While the regular release version of the UF-13 is strong, and firmly in the full category, I honestly thought it was going to be stronger than what I ended up with. It is no lightweight, but it is not going to make you puke either.
- There are noticeable differences between a fresh release and the prereleases of the UF-13 from the Cigar.com sale. The fresh roll is stronger in just about every way: body, strength, distinctness of flavors, pepper on the retrohale and spice on the tongue. The Cigar.com prerelease is a bit more balanced, a bit more muted profile wise, and the sweetness in the blend is quite a bit more evident. It is extremely obvious when smoking these side by side which is the newer roll. Although both versions are extremely complex, if you like your Liga Privadas strong and earthy, pick up some new ones. If you like your Liga Privadas more nuanced and sweeter, track down some prereleases, or age the new ones for about 18 months.
- This is the second time in the past year Drew Estate has released a significant batch of aged cigars before the initial formal release of one of its products, the first was with the Ratzilla release last summer. I find it extremely interesting how we are able to accurately tell how these are going to age by smoking the Cigar.com release of the same blend. It is almost like being able to look 18 months into the future.
- Not that this will come as a surprise, but the amount of smoke that comes from this cigar is astounding. It does not matter if you are actively puffing, or if it is resting on its own, the smoke production is almost overwhelming. It is getting to the point where I don’t like smoking Liga Privadas inside if I have a choice, honestly.
- Having said the above, this is one of the best cigars to blow smoke rings with, bar none.
- I have smoked quite a few of the MF-13/UF-13 blends over the years and they have all been remarkably consistent in flavors and profile, other than obvious changes due to aging.
- Interestingly, the MSRP of a full box of UF-13 Darks ($167.40) is only $.35 less than a full sleeve of 28 Papas Fritas ($167.75).
- The box the UF-13 Darks come in is interesting, with notches cut out for the fan tail caps. The first time I can remember seeing this was in 2010 with the Dirty Rat, although the La Palina Goldie No.2 boxes also used a version. From looking at the box I received, the notches perfectly support and protect the caps, and I really don’t think that damage from shipping will be a problem.
- That being said, transporting singles should be done with some caution.
- The boxes are a very interesting configuration, and look great, but some people are going to have problems getting the somewhat extreme horizontal box into their humidors. Drew Estate used the same design for its Flying Pig releases.
- This is NOT a cigar you want to smoke too fast. The second I started puffing too fast, it got harsh very quickly. Take it slow with this blend.
- Although the official name of this cigar is “UF-13 Dark”, the bands on the cigars don’t say “Dark” anywhere on them. However, the boxes do say “UF-13 Dark” on the side. When asked about the discrepancy, Steve Saka had this to say:
Bands were printed like a year ago during a regular reorder of LP rings, when we made the UF-13 branding iron it just looked inconsequential on the box …When we did this I started calling them UF-13 Darks to make sure there was no internal confusion… after seeing how the plain “UF-13″ brand looked on the sample boxes, I decided to add this moniker to the box… we go through lots of iterations of things for example I have two other box designs sitting in my own humidor that I rejected.”
- The final smoking time for the UF-13 Darks averaged around one hour and 35 minutes.
- Site sponsor Drew Estate sent the cigars for this review.
- If you would like to purchase any of the Liga Privada UF-13 Darks, they will be available at all Liga Privada dealers at some point when they are released in March, albeit in very limited quantities at first. I would call up our sponsors and ask to get on a list, if they have one. Atlantic Cigar, Cigar King (1.800.669.7167) and Tobacco Grove (763.494.6688) are all site sponsors.
When I first smoked this blend, I knew it was something special, and begged anyone who would listen to make it more available. In my opinion, this is the quintessential Liga Privada blend: strong yet complex profile, excellent construction, full of flavor, and a perfect cigar to age. Fresh out of the gate, it is not the most balanced of profiles, but the Cigar.com prereleases prove how that can change over time. To me, the UF-13 Dark is a better blend than anything else that Drew Estate has released so far, better than the UF-4, better than the No. 9 and T52, better than the Feral Flying Pig, better than the Velvet Rat, and yes, even better than the Dirty Rat.