Gary Korb takes one more look at the Holidays with his list of top shelf cigars adorned with fancy white & gold bands. Whether it’s a last minute gift idea or a humidor-worthy primo to ring-in the New Year, you’ll find 12 of them all dressed-up and ready to smoke.
Liga Privada No. 9 Parejo
Liga Privada No. 9 Parejo Cigar
By Hayard Tenney
Word about Drew Estate’s Liga Privada No. 9 has spread like a virus, ascending the “must-try lists” of cigar smokers everywhere (including yours truly). So imagine my utter delight in being asked to review it.
Legend has it that Steve Saka was looking for a cigar to smoke daily and share with industry insiders (ironically, Drew Estate’s Presidente doesn’t like infused cigars). After 50-some blends, they finally achieved “Private Blend No. 9”. It features tobaccos grown from 7 different farms, or vegas, including one of the most stunning Maduro wrappers I’ve had the pleasure of putting flame to. Though originally envisioned as strictly an estate cigar, Liga Privada No. 9 is now for sale, thanks to word-of-mouth and skyrocketing demand.
The finely veined capa is almost jet-black, an impressive color considering its all-natural fermentation. A perfectly symmetrical cap adorns the head, and when pinched, the cigar’s length is firm, with considerable heft. As if to confirm the hype surrounding it, the cigar simply feels substantial.
I take a sniff and am immediately drawn back to my lunchbox: it’s not coffee or nutmeg or earth I detect, but (don’t laugh) a Fruit Roll-up. I can’t believe it myself, but the smell is sweet, round and citric. The cigar cuts beautifully, exposing firmly packed, well-aged tobaccos. The test draw is easy and earthy, with hints of bitter chocolate.
It takes a while to light, but once glowing, full-bodied Maduro madness ensues. A base of earthy, sweet flavors drenches my palate, accented with black pepper, rich leather and some spice. To add to the cigar’s remarkable complexity, I also notice char and some saltiness. After 1/4″ it rounds out, the pepper giving way to a more pronounced sweetness in the aroma.
1/2″ in, the smoke has formed a leathery core laced with earth and salt. The wisps of resting smoke are white and deliver a deeply satisfying aroma. The burn meanders a bit, though never more than 1/16″. I’m struck both by its balance and its power.
A column of light, matte gray ash begins to form which taps off neatly in 3/4″ nuggets. The smoke’s texture has turned creamier, shaking off the saltiness. I note intensified leather and earthy, citric notes at the 2/3 point, plus the reappearance of some spice.
By halfway through, the leathery character has intensified. The bitter chocolate redoubles as well, and through the final third, these flavors crescendo to a harmonious buffet of richness. After 1 hour. 45 minutes, I’m spent. This outstanding cigar has become, in my mind, a meter-stick: what full-bodied Maduro cigars should aspire to.