Posts Tagged steve saka

Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas

Cigar Review by Matt Zaccheo (guest)
Cigar Photography by Jay L (

This week we are photographing and reviewing the Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas. This petit corona, made at the La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate factory in Nicaragua, is one of the latest innovations from the Drew Estate stable.

Cut: Not applicable.  A quick tug at the pigtail did the job. Not elegant….but efficient!
Drink: None
Palate: Fresh
# cigars smoked for review: Three

Prelight: At first glance, the pigtail cap on this cigar is rather unique and commands some attention. It is more reminiscent of the fuse on an M-80 firework or the stem of an apple. No coil: it stands at attention waiting to be torn off. There is no primary banding, just a simple and attractive boquilla band. The wrapper is dark and mottled with an ultrafine tooth and scant amount of oils. It’s resilient and thick. The seams are tight and the cigar feels uniform and well packed throughout its entire length. Nothing to suggest mixed filler here! The initial aromas off the foot are of sweet tobacco, mild cedar, and cocoa. The cold draw yields more sweet tobacco, cocoa, and leather with some raisin, zinfandel, and port notes.  Once the band is off the foot…it begs to be ignited. Let’s get it on!

Draw: Comfortable and fluent from start to finish

Flavors: Initial notes are of dark chocolate, leather, espresso, and sweet cedar. There is a quick burst of spice (cayenne/red pepper) that fades into the background after the first 5-6 draws….only to be acknowledged again on the retrohale. As the cigar gets going there is no doubt about it: it’s broadleaf baby….in all of its gritty glory! The smoke is dense, lush and creamy. It’s big on the palate. You can chew it! Production is not quite colossal, but it is definitely imposing and impressive for such a small stick. Classic Liga! As the cigar hits mid stride, the leather becomes more dominant. The generic sweetness is given a name: blackstrap molasses. From the dark chocolate and bitter espresso emerges a more dry dusty cocoa. The woody finish transitions from mild sweet cedar to more of a dark cherry and nutty toasted oak with some fleeting vanilla notes. Overall, the flavors are rich and intense. They come in waves and roll effortlessly over the palate. It’s game on and full Nica flavor from the get go! My palate interprets the strength to transition from a medium minus to a solid medium as I hit the end of the first third. Don’t worry….what it lacks in strength it more than makes up for with its vigor!

Burn: Excellent. All three samples were razor sharp. Only a few minor touch ups. Two ash drops and my first ash was 1 ½ inches long!

Construction: The excellent construction of this cigar is truly a tribute that must be paid to the rollers. This is no ordinary short filler……this is the result of passion meets performance. Total smoke time was 45 minutes – 1 hr. and 15 minutes.

Descriptive adjectives: “Little Big Man”. “Petite Power”.  “Liga #4.5”. This is ten pounds of Liga in a five pound sack!

Sleeve worthy: Absolutely

Overall: I have yet to meet a Liga I didn’t like. This was no exception. It is not just a commuter cigar! Take the extra 15-30 minutes…. and slow down….to savor and appreciate the gifts from the torcedors’ chaveta! 

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
Length: 4.5″
Ring: 44


- click on photographs (slideshow)-

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CigarPhoto at Cigar Safari 2012 (after)

In May of 2012, I was able to cross another item off the bucket list – a visit to a tobacco-growing country. Although there is obviously more than one, personally, Nicaragua is at the top of THE list. I was very fortunate to receive an invite from the Drew Estate ‘The Rebirth Of The Cigars’ company to join the famous Cigar Safari trip. I have heard nothing but positive feedback from fellow brothers of the leaf so the Drew Estate didn’t have to wait too long for my acceptance.

Few other fellow cigar enthusiasts have joined the same Cigar Safari trip so I encourage that you visit their websites or magazine, respectively.

- Casas Fumando
- Cigar Brief
- Cigar Explorer
- Cigar Press
- Half Wheel
- Nice Tight Ash
- Stogie Review

The Cigar Safari was not only filled with tons of knowledge sharing, exposure to nuts and bolts of the industry, blending seminars, tasting seminar but also plenty of camaraderie and laid-back conversations lasting through the night, literally. I could attempt to summarize the Cigar Safari play-by-play but I would most likely run out of adjectives so instead, I will highlight few points and let photographs do the rest of the talking.

The amount of knowledge, information, tips, tricks and passion that was pouring out of Jonathan Drew and Steve Saka throughout the trip, was simply mind blowing. If you know Jonathan, you know he can make your ears “bleed.” Well, between him and Steve, they made all of our ears bleed, and some … in a good way ! Just when you think you know a little bit about cigars and the industry, trust me, you don’t know much. Those guys are uber-cigar-geeks and will hypnotize you with the cigar knowledge.

Not only was I invited to the Nicaragua, today’s Mecca of cigar industry, to learn about the craft and the country itself ‘from the ground’, I was given an opportunity to see and absorb all of it from the bird’s-eye view, literally. Never I imagined that I will be flying over Lake Managua in the helicopter, learning about the country, learning about the cigar industry, learning about Joya de Nicaragua & Drew Estate collaboration, with one and only – Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca as the private guide. What are the chances ??? Seriously ! From cigar-geek’s and photographer’s perspective, this was simply – a bliss !

Speaking of knowledge and misconceptions, Jose Blanco dropped a significant load of knowledge during the Tasting Seminar. This is another one of those ‘must attend’ learning classes. Jose will take you through the basics, will challenge your knowledge, will address many misconceptions and most importantly, open your eyes and palate so going forward, you can elevate your appreciation for cigar smoking experience.

There are many other topics that could be covered in this post but I will leave you, the reader, with photographs and have you ponder over the cigar industry and Cigar Safari. No words can describe the amount of work that goes into the production of the product that you and I both enjoy – the premium cigar. One has to see this operation and the beautiful Nicaragua with his/her own eyes to appreciate what I have attempted to illustrate. If you ever decide to pack your bags, don’t think twice … The Cigar Safari is your ticket to the “Nica Paradise.”

At the end, I would like to send a special THANKS to:

- Drew Estate family for their generosity and hospitality – Jonathan Drew, Steve Saka, Pedro Gomez, Johnny Brooke, David Lafferty
– Joya de Nicaragua family – Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, Jose Blanco, Mario Perez
– Pete Johnson of Tatuaje, Jaime Garcia of My Father Cigars, Gary Griffith of Emilio Cigars
– Oliva Cigar Company
– and others (sorry if I forgot to call you out) who contributed to this amazing adventure !

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Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘Feral Flying Pig’ – prerelease

This week we are photographing and smoking the latest project out of the Drew Estate stable – a pre-release of Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘Feral Flying Pig’ (FFP). This is a follow-up, in my eyes, to the successful ‘Flying Pig’ (FP) project which was photographed and reviewed by as well (No9T52). Although both versions of the FP have received plenty of accolades, many, including yours truly, have expressed a constructive feedback regarding “ergonomics” and the size of the cigar. I’m not sure whether that feedback was considered or the follow-up project was already in motion, I am, however, pleased to see Drew Estate’s reaction and increase in the FFP’s length.

Let me be clear about the Feral Flying Pig (and any Flying Pig Family for that matter) in regard to aging. The Feral Flying Pig is the VERY BEST PIG we have ever done and quite possibly the very best cigar we have ever made (in my opinion of course). These will only get better with age, and might, just might, become an all time classic with a year or two on them. – Jonathan Drew

In my opinion this is by far and away the best Flying Pig blend – the taste and proportions are just perfect. They will be more expensive having just looked over the final cost, but I think those who are fans of this oddball will feel like they got a better value when they buy a box of these. The blend is so righteous we are right now working the tobacco schedule to see if there is anyway to make the FFP an ongoing vitola even if it is in a really limited capacity. First batch in late November – it will be released in waves of about 800 – 1000 boxes a month for the next 4 months or so as they age/taste right. We have decided to NOT make this a one-time batch release like the previous FP releases – rather we will continue to make it in small lots like we do Dirty Rats. – Steve Saka

Conceptually, the FFP looked very much like the FP: perfecto on steroids with a sexy pigtail. If you had a pleasure of enjoying the FP No9 and appreciated the wrapper and construction, you will definitely not be disappointed with the FFP. Work of art without seams and no visible veins ! In the FP T52 review I’ve noted extremely toothy wrapper and in the FP No9 review, “silky” smooth wrapper. Although Jonathan Drew had stated that FFP is wrapped in the No9 capa, I found its texture to be similar to the FP T52 – very toothy. After clipping the head, perfectly flowing draw. In flavor department, notes of wood / cedar at the beginning with a touch of chocolate / sweetness in the middle and increase in flavors toward the end. Definitely spicy / peppery finish on the palate, especially on retrohale. Although there was a decent amount of flavors in the FFP, in my personal opinion, most were muted compared to the FP No9. However, when it comes to the strength and the kick, the FFP shined like a glowing star ! This cigar had some kahunas. Full Stop !!! As mentioned in all previous Liga Privada reviews and as expected, the FPP produced an incredible amount of thick smoke. The burn line was top notch as depicted below. Ash, as with both FPs, could not have been any better.

Overall, another successful release from folks at the Drew Estate. If you are into big ring gauges, have enjoyed FPs (both flavor profile and shape) and appreciate an extra strength kick, I see FFP flying (* literally) off the shelf like its predecessors. After appreciating all three FPs, I’m still partial to the FP No9. I believe there is a bit more flavor and a bit less strength in the FP No9 and that combination agrees more with my palate.

** Thanks to Charlie Minato from for w/b/f confirmation.

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Nicaragua
Length: 5 3/8″
Ring: 60

Construction > Great
Burn > Great
Enjoy > Yes
Recommend > Yes
Buy > Yes

Please consider the following post:
* Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘L40′
* Liga Privada T52 ‘Flying Pig’
* Liga Privada No9 ‘Flying Pig’

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Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘L40′

This week we are photographing and smoking one of the latest projects out of the Drew Estate stable – Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘L40.’ This long time coming lancero has been dreamed and talked about in many cigar lounge circles. Looking horizontally and vertically across Liga Privada brand, including core as well as Unico Serie, a lancero was the next logical, in my opinion, project to be tackled by the creative minds of the Drew Estate. As per cigar spec sheet located on the Drew Estate blog, ‘L40′ refers to the slightly larger ring size than your typical lancero. The additional girth was necessary to accommodate the desired blend of 5 tobaccos. The ‘L40′ recipe was in development for 2+ years prior to release.

One has to appreciate the look of the full box of Liga Privada. The ‘L40′ lancero is not any different. Fifteen well rolled, shiny, oily, veinless, full of aroma cigars are gracing the Unico Serie box. The selected specimen had few visible seams but overall excellent construction and well applied cap. After clipping it, excellent draw. There is nothing more annoying than plugged and excessively soft lancero, fortunately ‘L40′ had scored highly against those two requirements. In flavor department, a spice bomb out of the gate on the first few puffs. Definitely black pepperish lingering in the back of the throat. Mixed with the spice were hints of coffee, chocolate and clearly noticeable (periodically) sweetness. That intense spice level had cooled off in the second / third part of the cigar. Toward the end, coffee / chocolaty / sweet flavors were replaced with wood and cedar. Burn line was relatively acceptable, considering it was lancero. It was wavy but no manual intervention was required. Ash – surprisingly flake-less but DIRTY and when I say dirty, I mean exactly that. The color of the ash looked like someone dipped the tip of the cigar in the mud. Having said that, who cares ! One can not complete a review of the Liga Privada without talking about the smoke, the cloud, the atomic bomb mushroom cloud ! Like the rest of the Liga Privada, especially No9, ‘L40′ produced a ton of smoke which made photography session that much more enjoyable.

Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘L40′ was definitely an enjoyable experience. I have not had a chance to sample the pre-release so I can’t comment on improvements, if any (* check Tony Casa’s thoughts on the pre-release at
casasfumando). If you enjoy lancero vitola, I would recommend searching them out and experiencing it for yourself. I understand both Jonathan Drew & Steve Saka of Drew Estate have stated that Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘L40′ is a unique blend, differing from other Liga Privada blends. I can appreciate that statement but I can not look at the Liga Privada brand and not compare Unico Serie ‘L40′ to my favorites: Unico Serie ‘Dirty Rat’ or LP No9. I think we, the mainstream cigar smokers, often fall in the trap of forcing already excellent projects into other vitolas. Many of us love corona gordas, coronas, lanceros without fully appreciating the existing work. In my humble opinion, Liga Privada Unico Serie ‘L40′ is another well executed project but when it comes to the Liga Privada brand, my go-to will continue to be No9 toro and Unico Serie ‘Dirty Rat.’ In that order.

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut River Valley Stalk Cut & Cured Habano Leaf
Binder: Plantation-Grown Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: 3 Extra-Choice Nicaraguan Cuban Seed
Length: 7″
Ring: 40

Construction > Great
Burn > Good
Enjoy > Yes
Recommend > Yes
Buy > Yes

Please consider the following post:
* Liga Privada T52 ‘Flying Pig’
* Liga Privada No9 ‘Flying Pig’

- click on photographs (slideshow / EXIF)- 

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Liga Privada No9 ‘Flying Pig’

- click on photographs (slideshow / EXIF)- 

In march of 2011 we have reviewed Liga Privada T52 ‘Flying Pig’ and now it is time to photograph and smoke its “twin brother” – Liga Privada No9 ‘Flying Pig.’ Although both T52 and No9 are quality products, for some reason folks subscribe to one or the other, not necessarily both. Personally, my preference goes toward the latter. I have tried T52 in different vitolas but I do find myself reaching for No9 99% of the time. My “poison” is No9 toro and I can smoke those back to back, and some. Let’s get back to the ‘piggy‘, shall we ?

Visually, there was not much difference between No9 and T52. Same size, same format, same super fancy pigtail, tightly packed. Wrapper’s texture however was very different. T52 was known to be very toothy where No9 felt and looked “silky smooth.” Lots of oils with no visible veins nor seams. After clipping the pigtail and lighting the cigar, excellent draw. Considering large ring gauge and tightly packed tobacco, I’m always amazed at how good of a draw one can experience while smoking Flying Pig. In flavor department, notes of wood / cedar at the beginning with touch of chocolate / sweetness in the middle and toward the end. Very small amount of spice, almost undetectable, in my personal experience. Burn, ash, amount of smoke … nearly perfection. Liga Privada No9, flying pig or parejo, is The “Chu Chu Train” of the cigar industry. This cigar produces so much smoke that sometimes it is overwhelming. From photography perspective, as you can see below, this is the ultimate “model.

If you enjoy Liga Privada No9, the ‘Flying Pig’ should be up your alley as well. The unique format should add that extra excitement to the overall experience. Personally, I will continue to enjoy both No9 and T52 piggys in my rotation but my disposable cash will most likely go toward parejo vitolas.

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras
Length: 4 1/8″
Ring: 60

Construction > Great
Burn > Great
Enjoy > Yes
Recommend > Yes
Buy > Yes

Please consider the following post:
* Liga Privada T52 ‘Flying Pig’

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