Yes, some purists took time to catch up to the idea that Drew Estate could make boutique blends worth their attention. We remember visiting CI’s CigarFest years ago and being offered a choice between an Acid and the then-new Chateau Real, a very respectable Connecticut-shade wrapped traditional brand that is sadly discontinued. “I’ll take the cigar-flavored cigar,” deadpanned one member of our gang. He was in the minority that day.
Liga Privada was a breakthrough, a very rich and well-presented brand that’s neither inexpensive nor easy to find due to high demand. It really put Drew Estate on the map as a purveyor of serious boutique blends. The only reason we haven't reviewed it is because it has already received so much fanfare there simply isn’t much to add. However, the Velvet Rat is a different story.
Before we get to that, let's pause for a moment for this:
Depending on how you look at it, the elegant 6.5" x 46 format could be described as a skinny Churchill or a fat lonsdale. It’s as good looking and perfectly rolled as any other Liga Privada, with an alluring wrapper leaf and pigtail cap. It’s also not crazy expensive at $160 in boxes of 10, provided you actually come across a full box.
The first puffs deliver a blast of raw tobacco—not raw in the harsh or unfinished sense, but rather, elemental and pure, kind of like eating a thin sliver of gamey, mineral-rich beef carpaccio. Soon, a roasted nuttiness set in with cocoa (think Ovaltine, in a good way), leather and a touch of Autumn spice. Complex? Not remarkably, but in this case, it doesn’t have to be. The Velvet Rat is exactly what its name implies: a velvety, refined, mouth-filling smoke that hits all the right notes with just a touch of ragged mischievousness to keep shit real. It’s dense and lush, but not overpowering (for the experienced palate, anyway). And the finish is loooonnnnggg. This shouldn’t be your first cigar of the evening, it should be your only cigar of the evening. What would you possibly follow it up with? We also have to mention the burn and draw, which were flawless.
Now, if you can’t get your hands on these, not to worry. Many of the characteristics we described are available to varying degrees in the more common Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 lines. But this one is slightly special. If someone offers you one, buy it. They might get better with age but nothing stood out that would make us hold them.
Earlier this year, it was announced that DE co-founder Jonathan Drew would be returning to the helm as president following the company's acquisition by Swisher. We’re excited to see what he comes up with next…but making the Velvet Rat more widely available would be a darn good start.
6.5" x 46
W: CT Broadleaf Maduro
F: Nicaragua, Honduras
Lush, rich and mouth-filling with notes of cocoa, leather, spice and nuts. Elegant looking and smokes like a dream with a perfect burn and draw. Reeks of quality. Worth seeking out.