In the summer of 2018, one day before the industry’s annual trade show, Drew Estate made a surprising announcement that they would be showcasing not one, but two new blends under their premier Liga Privada brand. Though technically debuting 11 years after the introduction of the now-legendary Liga Privada No. 9, the cigars marked the decade milestone for the brand. This included the Liga Privada H99 Connecticut Corojo and Liga Privada 10-Year Aniversario, with the former positioned to sit alongside the No. 9 and T52 cigars as a three-piece core lineup, and the latter being a more limited way to signify the anniversary.
But the high highs of such buzz-worthy news were followed by proportionately low lows, as both blends would be delayed for years to come. Technically, the cigars were first sold at the tail end of 2018, with such small availability that Drew Estate raffled the ability to sell the cigars to five retails across the country (each receiving two boxes). This has been the primary release strategy until recently, with small batches of the cigars making their way to lucky retailers as they become available. For 2021, the cigars are billed as event exclusives, but Drew Estate has not changed their position that the Liga Privada H99 Connecticut Corojo will eventually launch to a more mainstream audience.
This is actually to Drew Estate’s credit, showing a care for quality and a refusal to push out product before it meets their standards, even as we are now closer to Liga’s 15th anniversary than its 10th. The culprit for such delays is the cigar’s unique wrapper, using a hybrid variant of Corojo seed and growing it—like all Ligas before it—in the Connecticut River Valley. Even at the time of debut, Drew Estate did not try to hide the fact that leaf production was small, though they would be working to improve yields with time. Master Blender, Willy Herrera, noted, “Our job now is to continue working with the farmers to increase the wrapper yield with each harvest year over year. It’s been long hours preparing for the national release. This leaf is unique.”
Liga Privada H99 Connecticut Corojo Toro Breakdown
- Wrapper: H99 Connecticut Corojo (USA)
- Binder: San Andrés Otapan Negro Último Corte (Mexico)
- Filler: Nicaragua | Honduras
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch
- Vitola: 6″ × 52 (Toro)
- Price: $15.99 (MSRP)
Both the H99 Connecticut Corojo and 10-Year Aniversario cigars differ from their predecessors, swapping the standard Liga binder of Brazilian Mata Fina for a Mexican San Andrés leaf. The filler recipe follows the Nicaraguan and Honduran theme seen on all Liga cigars, but the wrappers most clearly define each cigar’s character (at least on paper), featuring a hybrid H99 Corojo or dark Criollo, respectively.
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Opening the Liga Privada H99 Connecticut Corojo box is a nostalgic experience, having the same cabinet-style boxes, lack of cello, and neatly ribboned bundle of cigars (surrounded by a cedar blanket) that enthusiasts know from the Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 cigars. The bands feel right at home as well, boasting the hand-written (which I always prefer to the serif-printed look seen on some of the Liga Privada Único Serie blends) “Liga Privada” name, now joined by the “H99” sub-classification. Further differentiating the blend from its predecessors, the H99 uses red ink and ribbons, compared to the black of the No. 9 and the brown of T52.
The cigar’s wrapper is thick and somewhat rustic in appearance, looking similar to other Cuban-seed hybrids that come out of Connecticut, which typically require years of heavy fermentation. The leaf is mottled in coloring and has reddish undertones, though this may be amplified from the brick-colored theme of the cigar’s bands. As the leaf is thick (and somewhat toothy), the seams are not perfect, appearing loose at certain portions of the cigar. The underlying tobacco bunch is firm, giving the toro a solid overall feel.
There are notes of cedar, musk, mineral, and peppercorn on the cigar’s wrapper. The foot is sweeter, with brown sugar, corn chips, and aromatic oregano-like characteristics. On the pre-light draw, the resistance seems virtually perfect, bringing out more oregano, sweet beef jerky, and grainy wheat wafers.
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The Liga H99 has a long toast time, eventually coming to life with a somewhat dry texture and a decent bite on the tongue and through the retrohale. Initial flavors are dark and rustic, with mineral and black peppercorns sitting heavy on the palate. Within five to ten minutes, a sweetness shows signs of building from beneath the surface. This begins as a nonspecific dried fruit taste, eventually being better identified as bittersweet cranberries. There is also a savory component and a decent amount of salt; combined, the aforementioned notes can come across as a sticky, cherry-glazed beef jerky.
Leaving little time to build in intensity, the H99 begins above the medium mark in body and doesn’t look back. Within an inch and a half, the cigar is nearly full in flavor, medium in strength, and medium-full in body. The cigar’s thick wrapper has a tendency to wave and occasionally canoe, requiring touchups every once in awhile. This produces a medium-dark and somewhat flakey ash that falls in one-inch chunks. The smoke is dense and chewy, though notably less in volume than expected from a Liga Privada cigar. The dryness of the texture is mostly gone at this point as well, hitting the tongue on the front, rear sides, and center taste buds.
There is a smooth and refreshing chocolate that begins taking over the profile around two inches in. With a cool temperature, this comes across like Albert’s Ice Cubes chocolates—velvety, cool, and heavy on the milk component of milk chocolate. Surprisingly, there isn’t a ton of spice coming through the retrohale. Instead, there is pepper on the tongue, as well as cinnamon, eventually combining with the chocolate to form a chocolate-covered cinnamon bear flavor that is one of the more memorable moments in the cigar’s performance thus far. It’s safe to say that the H99 is full in flavor, joined by a medium-plus strength and medium-full body.
The cigar intensifies through the second half, bringing out a darker chocolate that boarders on brownie batter. This is joined by earth and French press coffee. It’s dark and strong without being bitter or harsh through the final moments, briefly nearing full-strength territory, with flavor and body rounding out around medium-full.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely. This is the most significant addition to the Liga Privada collection, in my opinion, since the T52. Because of the added intensity, embellished design, and designation as the official 10th anniversary cigar, the Liga Privada 10-Year Aniversario has received the bulk of attention between these two cigars since being debuted. While I found both blends performed great, the H99 not only fits my tastes better, but feels better prepped for the long haul. Price point aside, this is a cigar that could easily make it into the regular rotation, sitting side by side with powerhouse brands Liga Privada No. 9 and T52, and that’s no small feat.
- Probably due to the cigar’s thick wrapper, I found this smoke took especially well to acclimation in the humidor. My first sample had some burn issues and burned a bit hotter than I’d like in its second half. With a month-plus acclimation, these issues were basically nonexistent. Of course, every cigar will perform better with some acclimation, but I found this one had a more dramatic effect.
- Drew Estate Master Blender, Willy Herrera, blended the H99 and 10-Year Aniversario in the same timeframe, with the two blends vying for the 10-Year designation. Reportedly, the Criollo-wrapped blend took the Aniversario title due to its more intense body, better fitting the anniversary theme with a more upfront, powerhouse performance.
- This Toro format is currently the only size released, though more formats will eventually be added, likely coinciding with the No. 9 and T52 lineups.
- The Cuban-seed hybrid wrapper aligns more closely with the T52 (than the No. 9), which uses another such Cuban-seed hybrid variant grown in Connecticut.
- I found it surprising that this cigar did not “smoke like a Liga,” bringing out a conventional amount of smoke. This is in comparison to virtually every other Liga (or even Undercrown or Nica Rustica, for that matter) I’ve ever smoked. Perhaps this also played a role in which blend was selected for the 10-Year Aniversario designation.
- Maybe it’s because this cigar is fresh in my mind, but I’d currently rank the four Liga Privada blends as: H99 > T52 > No. 9 > 10-Year Aniversario.
- While originally intended to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Liga Privada, delays have led to the Undercrown 10 (a celebratory blend to commemorate Undercrown’s 10th anniversary in 2021) seeing a more conventional release before the H99 or 10-Year Aniversario cigars.
- Flavor: Full
- Strength: Medium / Full
- Body: Medium / Full
- Candied beef jerky
- Black pepper
- Smooth chocolate
- Brownie batter
- French press coffee
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: 100 to 120-proof bourbon | Barleywine | Old fashioned | Chocolate cordial candies
- Purchase Recommendation: as many as you can find
- Chewy smoke that sticks to your ribs
- Full flavored from start to finish, with gradual transitions and more than one "it factor" flavor to keep you coming back
- Long smoke time
- Long acclimation time needed before lighting up
- Thick wrapper will need touchups from time to time