Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13 Dark

The Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13 Dark is the latest in Drew Estate’s Liga Privada Unico Serie line to be released.  According to a spec sheet provided by Drew Estate, the UF-13 Dark is “is the result of nearly three years of additional blend experimentation and is ultimately an amalgamation of our No.9,  T52 and Dirty Rats ligas with it’s own unique balance of materials.”  Back in June, 2012 we provided a pre-release review of the UF-13.  At that time, the UF-13 was primarily an event-only cigar – and was not a cigar for sale by retailers.  As we will see, the UF-13 Dark is a similar cigar to what was smoked back then.  Given there is more to the story than we knew back when the pre-release review was done, we’ve opted for a full in-depth assessment (as opposed to an Assessment Update) of this release. The pre-release UF-13 was an outstanding cigar, and the UF-13 Dark does not lose a step.

First up, a little background on the Liga Privada Unico Serie. The Unico Serie concept was introduced with the Liga Privada Unico Serie Dirty Rat. When that blend was released, Drew Estate President Steve Saka explained the Unico Serie as follows: “At this point, we have made 200 or more Liga Privada blends. There are probably 9 or 10 of them so far that are exceptional, however their blends differ from both the No. 9 and the T52 branded cigars. They’re cigars that work as a particular size, such as a lancero or corona, with the blend being unique to that particular vitola.”  

The journey to the release of the UF-13 Dark is an interesting one, and might be a little confusing at times.  Let’s take a closer look at how this cigar came to be:

Roots with T52

Back when we did the pre-release review of the UF-13, we discussed the origins of this blend.  It stems from the development of the original Liga Privada T52 (our 2009 Cigar of the Year).  There sometimes is some confusion with another Unico Serie blend, the Liga Privada UF-4 (currently being offered as a retail exclusive to Casa de Montecristo in Countryside, Illinois).  In this post from BOTL, Drew Estate CEO Steve Saka explains the origins of how they got to the UF-13 and its relationship with the UF-4

T52-4 was the final head to head blend that was competing internally with T52-3 to become the T52 final blend.

T52-4 was exceptional, in fact JD (Jonathan Drew) and I both liked it a slight bit better, but we were concerned that it tended to overpower some of the nuances in the liga and that we were sacrificing flavors for strength, so we ultimately decided that the T52-3 would be the final T52 blend.

JD for his own smoking pleasure kept having T52-4s made, but we banded them as JD4 so as to not cause confusion in the factory or with those he shared them with.

After he started handing them out, he decided that he didn’t like putting his personal name on the product, so we started ringing them with MF-4 – it stood for what you think it does.

In the factory we kept tinkering with the T52-4/JD4/MF-4 blend to try to improve it (in our opinion) – goal was to keep the octane, but restore the depth of flavors… so we made a variety of minor liga tweaks and vitola changes to try and get it “perfect”.

The result was the MF-13 – a robusto format. I think the MF-13 is better, not sure where JD stands on this – truth is the difference is so very minor between the two cigars I doubt most folks could even tell there was any difference unless they smoked them side by side… and maybe not even then, but we can tell… or so we tell ourselves. 

Pre-release Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13
(Photo from our June 2012 pre-release assessment)

We started sharing both MF-4s and MF-13s at events and out of our pockets and they started to get some buzz online.

JD came to me one day with a My Father cigar and pointed out that Pepin’s rings have an MF in the center of them. How both of us missed this is kinda crazy since we both smoke a lot of their cigars, but we did. So we decided to change the name to UF out of respect – we take pride in not knowingly copying others, so we rebanded all the MFs as UFs on our own accord.

UF stands for “Unico Fuerte.”

So MF-4 = UF-4 and MF-13 = UF-13. 

UF-13 to UF-13 Dark

As Saka noted in a comment on Halfwheel, the original UF-13s had the Stalk Cut Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper used on the T52.   Along the way, the wrapper was changed to a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.  Saka said that most of the UF-13 event only cigars that were distributed use the Broadleaf wrapper (and that there was very little distributed with the Habano wrapper).  We can infer that Broadleaf is what we smoked when we did the pre-release review.

As for the name “Dark”, the spec sheet refers to this as the designation of unique high Broadleaf Mediums we utilize on this particular Liga Privada.  Other than making a slightly longer vitola with a fan cap, there have been very little changes to blend profile of the UF-13 Dark from those pre-release UF-13s.  There is a slight change in the color of the wrapper, but this has been seen on many Liga Privadas.  Drew Estate Chairman Jonathan Drew told us once they strive for consistency in texture over color, so that could attribute a reason for the variance.

Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13 – Pre-Release (Top)
Liga Privada UF-13 Dark – Production (Bottom)

Let’s get into more of the specifics of the UF-13 Dark with our usual assessment notes and see what this cigar brings to the table.

Blend Profile

When we smoked the pre-release UF-13, we did not know the specifics of the blend architecture.   We now know the specifics.  From a tobacco architecture standpoint, this mirrors the Liga Privada No. 9, but this is a different blend – and one that will taste very different from the No. 9.

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Dark Mediums
Binder: Plantation-Grown Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Select Honduran and Nicaraguan Cuban Seed

Vitolas Available

As with all Liga Privada Unico Serie cigars, there is only only vitola for the blend.  The UF-13 Dark is a 5 1/2 x 52 robusto-sized vitola.  As mentioned above this is slightly longer vitola than the pre-release UF-13 we assessed.  The UF-13 Dark is packed in boxes of 12.  As with most of the Unico Serie, the UF-13 will be limited production.


Liga Privada UF-13 Dark Packaging
(Photo courtesy of Drew Estate)
Closed box of Liga Privada UF-13
(Photo courtesy of Drew Estate)


The wrapper to the UF-13 Dark is a coffee bean color with some colorado red to it.  As noted above,  the Broadleaf wrapper to the UF-13 Dark is slightly darker than the pre-release UF-13.  I also noticed a little more oil to this wrapper than the pre-release.   The darker shade does a good job at hiding both the wrapper seams and any veins.

The band to the UF-13 Dark is a standard Liga Privada Unico Band with black and gold Unico lion logo.  On the band, UF-13 is in a large “handwritten style” text on gray dotted field.  Over the UF-13 text it says “HECHO EXCLUSIVAMENTE PARA EL JEFE… UNICO SERIE”  (which means made exclusively for “El Hefe” – a.k.a. Steve Saka) along top row.  On the bottom row in a larger gray font it says “LA GRAN FABRICA DREW ESTATE S.A”.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For my smoke of the UF-13 Dark, I opted to use a straight cut instead of pulling the fan-tail cap off.  This is a typical approach I use when dealing with pig-tail styled caps.   Once the cap was clipped, I moved on to the pre-light draw.

The dry draw notes were very similar to what I smoked on the pre-release UF-13.  On the UF-13 Dark,  I detected notes of coffee, leather, cedar spice, and some cherry.  The cherry notes were really the only difference from the pre-release on the pre-light.  At this point, I was ready to light up the UF-13 Dark and see what the cigar experience would bring to the table.

Flavor Profile

With the overall flavor profile, there weren’t major changes to what I got out of the UF-13 Dark when compared to the pre-release UF-13.  While there are some variances, the two releases have similar flavor profiles.

One difference I got was that there was much more of a pepper blast with start of the UF-13 Dark. Once the pepper settled, I detected notes of lemon, coffee, leather, and nut.   The flavor profile soon settled with the coffee, leather, and pepper notes as the primary flavors while the lemon and nut flavors were secondary.  The pepper spice could definitely be detected through the nostrils and the UF-13 Dark produced abundant smoke.

Later in the first third the pepper and the lemon notes both diminished.  The coffee, leather, and nut flavors remained primary.  From time to time there was some chocolate that could also be detected in the forefront.  By the end of the first third, the lemon notes had dissipated, while the pepper was still a background note.

In the second third, the flavor profile held, but there was a gradual increase of the pepper spice. The spice increased until the final third where it became a primary flavor – joining the nut flavors.   It was in the last third where the coffee and leather notes became secondary.  The final stages of the UF-13 Dark were spicy, but not harsh.   The resulting nub was ideal – cool in temperature and firm to the touch.

Burn and Draw

The construction was top-notch on the UF-13 Dark and this was reflected very nicely with the burn and draw attributes.  Both attributes scored very high with the UF-13 Dark.

The burn remained razor-sharp from start to finish.  It was a low maintenance burn and required minimal touch-ups to keep it burning straight.  The resulting ash was very tight – and white.  Meanwhile both the burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.


Burn of the Liga Privada UF-13 Dark

The draw did start out a little tighter than I would have liked, but after a couple of minutes the draw opened up.  For the remainder of the cigar experience, the draw then had a touch of resistance to it – something that I like.  So with the exception of those opening puffs, the UF-13 Dark had an excellent draw.

Strength and Body

The UF-13 Dark was a cigar I considered to be a powerhouse.  This cigar delivers a strong punch from a strength perspective as I assessed it to be full strength from start to finish.   As for the flavors, they have quite a bit of depth.  I also assessed the UF-13 Dark to be a full-bodied smoke from start to finish.

The interesting thing about the UF-13 Dark was it seemed to be stronger than the pre-release UF-13 in the early stages.  The pre-release UF-13 started out medium to full in terms of strength and body – before progressing to full.   It is possible I had more age on my pre-release UF-13 than the UF-13 Dark that I smoked. That statement is just a guess I am making, so I can’t say for sure. Time could tell if we see some mellowing of the UF-13 Dark.

Final Thoughts

The recipe for the Liga Privada seems to be a real effective one and for the most part the concoctions that have been derived from the core lines of No. 9 and T52 seem to work well. The UF-13 Dark is no exception. As for the vitola, I mentioned in the pre-release assessment that Saka and his team got it right by picking the robusto-sized vitola for this blend – and this still holds true with the UF-13 Dark.

Finally, this is definitely a cigar that is not for the novice. The strength and body of this cigar make the UF-13 Dark geared toward the experienced cigar enthusiast. As for myself, this is certainly a box-worthy cigar to purchase – and one that I would smoke again.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: High
Strength: Full
Body: Full
Finish: Excellent
Assessment: Memorable
Score: 95

Source: The cigar for this assessment was purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.