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Staff Reviews

Liga Privada #9 Toro Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Today, I’m reviewing the vaunted Liga Privada No. 9 in a hearty 6 x 52 Toro. Liga Privada, Spanish for private blend, is made by Drew Estate at the company’s sprawling factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. The blend debuted in 2007 when company founder Jonathan Drew began building a portfolio of traditional, non-infused premium cigars to sit beside his wildly popular infused brand, Acid.

In 2014, Drew Estate was acquired by global tobacco conglomerate Swisher International, Inc., the maker of several mass-market machine-made cigars, most notably Swisher Sweets. In 2017, Jonathan Drew returned to Drew Estate to serve as the company’s president. His distinctive and provocative marketing style continues to define Drew Estate products in ways that resonate with consumers.

Branding is a strength Drew Estate flexes throughout its portfolio and Liga Privada underscores that focus. Liga Privada premiered with immense buzz. The small-batch brand was touted as a “private blend,” available only for Drew Estate employees to smoke. If the backstory sounds dubious or simply like smart marketing, it’s an effective strategy one could argue Drew Estate borrowed from other cigar-makers. Liga Privada quickly became a cult cigar for boutique enthusiasts who, today, clamor for hard-to-find sizes like the Flying Pig and Dirty Rat. Let’s see if the No. 9 lives up to the hype.

Liga Privada No. 9 is drawn from an intricate recipe of Honduran and Nicaraguan long-fillers inside a Brazilian Mata Fina binder finished in an oily Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The toothy cover leaf is clad in an off-white band intended to mirror what you might find on a factory prototype, were it not for the lion in the black-and-silver crest on the front. The cigar is meaty and dense to the touch.

The cold, unlit profile of Liga Privada No. 9 is muted. Hints of cocoa, earth, and wood can be detected but avoid creating a stir. Despite its dark and shimmering exterior, the cigar projects tame and creamy nuances. Once lit, trouble occurs. Liga Privada No. 9 ignites but fusses all the way. Undisciplined streams of smoke trail off the foot immediately, like out-of-control drivers on a rainy interstate. The foot smolders and is an indication something is amiss. I continue to hit it with my lighter hoping to produce an obedient burn.

The first few minutes convey notes of dark cocoa, coffee beans, and black cherries. Flavors of nougat, toast, and wood are present but don’t overwhelm. Eventually, Liga Privada No. 9 settles into a fair performance, but I hold it away from my face as I smoke to keep its excessive smoldering from my eyes. Despite this defect, the No. 9 maintains a firm and even ash.

Notes of dark chocolate, black pepper, and nougat carry into the middle portion of the cigar. No noticeable shifts in taste take place. Liga No. 9 is a dense cigar but it hasn’t got a lot of teeth. Its taste is smooth but plods along like an old Cadillac – a luxury cruiser with loose steering, not something for the race track. If it didn’t send so much smoke into my face, I could fall asleep smoking it.

As the final chapter unfolds, Liga Privada No. 9 rises with a creamy crescendo of coffee bean notes and spices. Its leathery and milky finish rescues the issues it displayed earlier. The end is silky and comfortable. I’m left with the impression that giving it another try is merited. It’s a simple matter of finding another to smoke.

While the scarcity of Liga Privada No. 9 adds to its mystique, its inconsistent availability is a source of dismay. To accommodate Liga fans, Drew Estate blended a readily accessible edition, Liga Privada Undercrown. Four blends include the original Undercrown, Dogma, Shade, and Sun Grown, which are also a few bucks cheaper than the No. 9. Consider taking a ride with an Undercrown when the No. 9 is hard to locate.

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