Drew Estate – Liga Privada Unico Serie Velvet Rat
We are about to receive our first rain in a long time here in the desert. While the storms are brewing I snuck outside to enjoy the weather with one of Drew Estate’s Liga Privada Unico Serie Velvet Rats.
The Good Stuff: This is only the second Velvet Rat that I have had the pleasure of smoking. I wish I had more, but the extremely limited pre-release of the cigar went so quickly that most of us were left in the dark. Even Liga-Whores like myself. The Pre-Release I speak of went down last October over at Tesa Cigar Shop in Chicago. Drew Estate released only 40 bundles containing 10 Velvet Rats into the wild. Since then, they have been in hiding. I picked this one up while I was in Nicaragua last month taking a Cigar Safari trip. I spoke with John Brooke over at Drew Estate and they do still plan on releasing this cigar depending on production availability at the factory. Let’s just hope they manage to free some room, and hands up to create more of these beauties.
The Velvet Rat is basically a bigger, milder version of the Dirty Ray. It was created to mimic the Dirty Rat and No. 9 profile while staying smoother, and milder. When I look at the blend make-up, it seems like a No.9 and Dirty Rat mash up making it a blend in it’s own category. We’ll see how the experience adds up.
Size: 6.25 x 46
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Pairing: N’Ice Chouffe (Belgian Strong Ale 10% ABV)
Prelight: Gotta love the wrapper on the Velvet Rat. It looks almost identical to some of the more recent Liga Privada No. 9’s that I have in stock. VERY dark brown and black in most areas with a orangish tint in the lighter areas. The wrapper is very toothy and showcases only a few, seamless veins. The Velvet Rat, much like most other Liga Privada lines carries an insane amount of oils on the wrapper. The cigar feels very firm, and the wrapper is dense, and hard as a rock. The long body leads up to a round cap with the lovely rat tail we have all grown to love.
The wrapper gives off lots of spice and an insane amount of mocha while the foot of the cigar lets looks tons of spice and cedar. The cap sliced like butter under my double bladed Palio cutter. The cold draw produces are very chocolaty, very spicy flavor. There is a lot of spice going on there but I pick up lots of nutmeg and cinnamon.
First Smoke: I’m used to the standard Liga Privada Pepper introduction but was caught off guard with the Velvet Rat as the black pepper greeting was very mild. While the pepper was mild, the body was not starting out with lots of chocolate, espresso, spice, and cedar right off the bat. Each puff is a little flavor bomb. The draw is spot-on as every little puff I take fills my mouth with insane amounts of very thick, white smoke. Much like other cigars in the Liga Privada line the Velvet Rat releases a ton of stationary smoke as the oils burn off the wrapper as the cigar lays in my ashtray. The burnline is dead-even and razor sharp as I close in on the first third of the cigar. The ash left behind is a bright white and tightly compacted holding on for about an inch before falling.
Halfway There: The flavors began to settle down in the second third of the Velvet Rat. The flavor profile is now a rich, dark chocolate, bits of espresso, soft spice, and a very musky flavor. While the flavors took a step back, the experience is still pretty full while the strength department is still rather mild. Gotta love when a cigar is able to produce that much flavor without pouring on the strength. The retrohale does however have a bite to eat coating my nasal passage with a strong spice and light cedar. The burnline is still perfect and burning dead even.
Finish: The flavors in the Velvet Rat have been continuing to smooth out and blend in with one another. The cigar started out packed with flavor, and finished incredibly smooth and creamy. The main flavor now is just tons of chocolate backed by soft spice, and cedar with a bit of sweetness. The cigar only took a little over an hour to take down to the nub which was a bit unexpected. I didn’t encounter any nicotine at all which is another departure from what we expect from cigars in the Liga Privada line and the burnline was dead even and needed absolutely no attention from my lighter the entire experience.
Overview: As I stated before, the Velvet Rat seemed to be a different blend all on it’s own and I stand by that. While the format is similar to a larger Dirty Rat, the experience is far different. The Dirty Rat is very strong, very complex, and very sweet. While the complexity is still there the Velvet Rat is much smoother, creamier, and milder. If anything, the blend reminded me more of the No. 9 than the Dirty Rat. Either way, it’s a winner. I’m not just saying that cause I dig the Liga Privada lines, it’s a great cigar. Would I rate I higher than the No. 9 or Dirty Rat? Not in a long shot. I do however think that cigar smokers who tend to stay away from the Liga Privada lines due to strength finally have a cigar that will fit their needs and fill a void in the Liga Privada portfolio.
To Sum it Up: The Velvet Rat is a great, complex, medium/full strength cigar. I think it appeals strongly to both seasoned, and novice cigar smokers. While the price point is pretty steep, it’s in line with the rest of the Liga Privada line and with that, you get exactly what you pay for. I personally think this is a box worthy purchase (should it get released) and I can say it will definitely find it’s way into my regular rotation.
Pairing: I have had this beer awaiting it’s time in my beer cabinet. Since it’s summer in the desert it’s pretty hard to create a craving for a deep, dark beer. I’ve been waiting for an overcast/stormy day like today to bring this baby out of the shadows. N’Ice Chouffe is Chouffe’s winter seasonal released every year around Christmas time. It’s a Belgian Strong ale brewed at the Brasserie d’Achouffe in Belgium. This Thyme and Curacao Peel infused ale comes in at a whopping 10% ABV and is sure to leave you feeling happy. N’Ice Chouffe starts off smooth with some nice fruity, caramel apple flavors with a nice spice while it finishes complex with a perfect bitterness. The sweetness and fruit made a nice compliment to the chocolate and spice in the Velvet Rat while the bitterness added a bit more complexity to an already complex experience.