At Cigar Coop, we have been afforded the opportunity to smoke many pre-release cigars.   When we smoke a pre-release cigar, we document our experience and thoughts on the cigar with a pre-review.  In a pre-review, we don’t provide a rating or score.  In most cases, we can usually get a good pulse for where the cigar is headed.   In this new year end category, we have decided to list the top five pre-release cigars that as of the end of the Cigar Coop cigar year (11/22/12) have still not been released.  The purpose of doing this is to try to identify some cigars that could be “Epic Encounters” during the 2013 cigar year.

Here is the criteria for the best Pre-Releases of 2012:
1) As of 11/22/12, the cigar on this list has not been made available to retailers.
2) The pre-release cigar was smoked during the 2012 cigar year.
3) There is no guarantee the cigar will ever be made for sale.  It could be also an unreleased cigar.

Note: We put together this list shortly after the close of the 11/22/12 Cigar Year deadline and since then two of the cigars have been released.

5. Liga Privada No. 9 Pequeno

Liga Privada No. 9 Pequeno

The Liga Privada No. 9 Pequeno is a 5 x 44 corona-size vitola that is basically the same size as the Liga Privada Dirty Rat.  In fact, it has been known under a code name “Black Rat”. The Pequeno has its roots with both the Dirty Rat and Liga Privada No. 9 lines.   Drew Estate is known for having lots of blend permutations of the Liga Privada blend floating around in-house.  Drew Estate CEO Steve Saka explained to me how the Pequeno came to be:

“As for the blend – it started as the DR blend as the base from which we then began tinkering with, when we got to the end of the various blending adjustments we realized we had made a blend that was really the No. 9 blend tobacco wise with the proportions tweaked for this corona.”

At the time of this listing, there have not been any plans to release the Liga Privada No. 9.  This is an outstanding cigar.  The flavor profile is coffee, exotic spice, cherry, and earth.  The cigar delivers a well-balanced medium to full strength, medium to full smoke.  The corona-size seems to be the perfect size for this blend.

Click here to read our pre-release assessment of the Liga Privada No. 9 Pequeno.

4.Tatuaje Apocalypse 
Tatuaje Apocalypse
The Tatuaje Apocalypse is the fifth release in South Florida retailer Smoke Inn’s Microblend Series.  The series was initially created to commemorate Smoke Inn’s 15th anniversary.  The concept involves Smoke Inn teaming up with some of the biggest names in the cigar industry to produce a one time limited run exclusive to its shop . Tatuaje collaborated on the first release of the Microblend Series – resulting in the Tatuaje Anarchy.  That cigar proved to be one of the best cigars of 2011 as we ranked it as our #3 Cigar of the Year.  The Apocalypse is billed as a sequel to the Anarchy.  This is a cigar that we knew was launching on December 14th 2012, but it was still eligible under our pre-release criteria.
The Apocalypse comes in a single vitola which I categorize as a “petit salomon”  of 5 1/4 x 48-52.  It features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler.  The flavors work really well together as they provide notes of pepper, nut, coffee, and dark chocolate.   Since smoking the first pre-release, the flavors seem to be really maturing.  We will provide an Assessment Update on 2013 with more details on this since its post-release.
Click here for our pre-release assessment of the Tatuaje Apocalypse.
3. Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13 by Drew Estate
Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13 by Drew Estate
The Liga Privada UF-13 had been floating around as an event only cigar.   Drew Estate CEO Steve Saka has mentioned there are plans for the UF-13 to be released in 2013
The UF-13 is a robusto-size offering in the Liga Privada Unico Serie offering (one size, one blend).  There wasn’t a lot known about the blend when we smoked it, but Saka has said on BOTL forum post that the cigar does contain a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.
The UF-13 has all of the characteristics of being another home run of the Unico Serie line.  This cigar has a lot of complexity in both its flavor profile and in flavor transitions.  Notes that can be detected include: coffee, leather, cedar, pepper, lemon citrus, and nut.  The cigar starts out medium to full in strength and body, and then progresses to full for both of these attributes.
Click here for our pre-release assessment of the Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13.
2. Herrera Esteli by Drew Estate
Herrera Esteli by Drew Estate
Drew Estate has certainly been dominating the pre-release list in 2012.  The cigar that we feel is the best of the Drew Estate releases is the upcoming Herrera Esteli.  It has already shown up at some events, but it is planned to be on retailer shelves in 2013. 
The Herrera Esteli is the first cigar blend that will be released by blender Willy Herrera for Drew Estate.  In 2011, Herrera came from El Titan de Bronze in Miami, Florida to join the Drew Estate team.  The first release was designed to fill a void in the Drew Estate cigar portfolio – namely a cigar that has a true Cubanesque flavor profile.
This past August, we were proud to deliver one of the first pre-release assessments anywhere of the Herrera Esteli.  We smoked the lonsdale vitola, one of five planned frontmarks for this blend.  The flavors delivered are toast, pepper, natural tobacco, and vanilla.  The cigar’s flavor profile (as well as its appearance) truly lives up to the Cubanesque billing.  The strength and body are both medium throughout the smoking experience.
Click here for our pre-release assessment of the Herrera Esteli.
1. Los Regalos Quetzal by Emilio Cigars
2012 Best Pre-Release Cigar:
Los Regalos Quetzal by Emilio Cigars
Our selection for the best pre-release smoke of 2012 is the Los Regalos Quetzal by Emilio Cigars.  While there were outstanding releases on this list, it is the Los Regalos Quetzal that wins by an comfortable margin.  This cigar has all of the makings of being the best Emilio release to date.
The Quetzal still qualified as a pre-release as it was not released before our deadline.  The cigar itself was announced for release right before the end of the 2012 calendar year.
We smoked a robusto vitola for this blend. This cigar features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Dominican and Nicaraguan tobacco.  The flavor profile consists of chocolate, orange citrus, pepper, and herb.  It is the herb notes that are the magical flavor in this cigar.  Emilio brand developer Gary Griffith has said more blends in the Quetzal line are forthcoming.  This first blend puts this line well positioned for the future.
Click here for our pre-release assessment of the Los Regalos Quetzal.