Master Blender for Drew Estate Cigar Co.: Willy Herrera
This Liga Privada H99 line kind of came out of nowhere. We’re always in communication with the Drew Estate team and for planning purposes they usually give us a heads up on stuff that’s coming down the line but that wasn’t the case with the H99. It was more like from one day to the next they said, “Hey we’re sending you a new blend we think you’re really going to enjoy.” A few days later we received it and they were right, we loved it but how did it come about so strangely?
In all honesty the H99 was born without it really having a plan. It’s an interesting story and it’s probably one of the cooler stories about this cigar. So one day management tells me “Okay, it’s about to be the 10-year anniversary of Liga Privada and we need you to plan something special.” So I start to work on the blend for it and about a year goes by and I still don’t have anything to show. Nothing was making me happy. Nothing I tasted was good enough, nothing was deserving of the Liga name. And right around that point we get a new batch of tobacco samples delivered to the factory. One of the wrappers in the batch is a criollo hybrid and one is a corojo hybrid. Both of these tobaccos are hybrid samples that were being grown by the same farmer we get the Connecticut broadleaf and the Connecticut stalk-cut habano that goes on the T52 from. So I try these two tobaccos and I was like “Whoa, this is really different.” Immediately I knew we had something special. It was unlike anything I had ever worked with before. So at that point I started incorporating those two wrappers on different blends and I basically started from scratch again. Ultimately I created five new blends and told myself “Okay, of these five I’m sure one will definitely live up to the Liga name.” And so I brought the five blends to the team in Nicaragua and we started to smoke away. We smoked them all and it was unanimous, everyone agreed, the blends were really, really good – all five of them. So then I sent the five blends to the team back in Miami and it gets the same response – they loved all of them. They couldn’t pick just one so in the end they ended up with two. Two of the five were beyond exceptional, and for very different reasons. And so what ended up happening was, for whatever reason, they chose the stronger one with the criollo hybrid wrapper for the Liga 10 Year Anniversary. Then the other had the corojo hybrid wrapper, which ended up being the Liga Privada H99. It was a much more refined blend. It was as intense and as spicy and as bold as the Liga 10 blend, but sweeter. It’s funny; my intentions were never to work on two different cigars at once. It was never our intention to release two different brands. The idea was to release one cigar/one blend for the 10-year anniversary. And we ended up coming away with two because we couldn’t just ignore that great blend we had. That’s how this baby was born, which is my favorite by the way.
If we’re being honest, it’s our favorite Liga as well. What makes it your favorite?
I joke around and I tell people I blended the H99 with this particular wrapper specifically for my palate. The truth is I’m not a real heavy smoke guy. I’m not big on the “ass kicker” cigars where you just smoke one cigar a day. I smoke multiple cigars a day. So I want to be able to enjoy every single one. And so this kind of blend was more for my palate. And you know, I’m really happy with how it came out. It’s a beautiful cigar.