At the 2022 Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE) in Las Vegas Nevada, Villiger Cigars showed off yet another iteration of its La Libertad brand. While I don’t mean to be tongue and cheek here, if you have followed Villiger Cigars you probably are familiar with La Libertad. It’s a brand that has undergone factory changes, blend changes, and packaging changes over the years. For the latest (2021) iteration, Villiger has moved production to its own factory, Villiger de Nicaragua. Today we will take a closer look at the 2021 edition of the Villiger La Libertad brand in the Gran Toro size.
Originally La Libertad was a blend that was made at the Plasencia factory in Honduras. At that time, La Libertad was a Peruvian-forward blend that also included a Peruvian wrapper. Production for the brand moved to the Dominican Republic at the ABAM factory. That blend was highlighted by an Ecuadorian wrapper over Nicaraguan tobacco. During the time the cigar was at ABAM, the packaging was revamped to highlight the Villiger name. With the latest edition of La Libertad, the style of the packaging is more reminiscent of the original iteration. With the move to its Villiger de Nicaragua factory, the blend was revamped again – and we will get into that when we break down the cigar.
Without further ado, let’s break down the 2021 edition of La Libertad and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
The blend of the 2021 edition of the La Libertad features a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos. It’s a more Nicaraguan-forward blend with a Nicaraguan Criollo wrapper and an all-Nicaraguan filler.
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Criollo
Binder Dominican (Cibao Valley)
Filler: Nicaraguan: Jalapa (Seco), Estelí (Viso, Ligero)
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Villiger de Nicaragua
The 2021 iteration of the Villiger La Libertad is available in three sizes. Each is presented in 20-count boxes.
Corona: 5 3/4 x 43
Robusto: 5 x 52
Gran Toro: 6 x 54
The Nicaraguan Criollo wrapper of the 2021 edition of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro had a medium roast coffee bean color to it. Upon closer examination, there was some mottling on the surface of the wrapper. There also was some oil on the surface of the wrapper. There were some visible veins on the wrapper. As for the wrapper seams, the wrapper was dark enough to minimize the visibility of these seams.
Prior to lighting up the 2021 edition of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro, a straight cut was used to remove the cap. Once the cap was removed from the cigar, it was on to the pre-light draw experience. The dry draw delivered notes of coffee, cedar, and fruit sweetness. Overall this was a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to remove the footer band of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro, toast up the cigar, and head into the smoking phase.
The 2021 edition of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro opened up with more notes of coffee, cedar, and fruit. In addition, there also were some notes of earth present. Early on the coffee notes moved into the forefront. The cedar, fruit, and earth notes settled into the background. Meanwhile, the retro-hale delivered a combination of black pepper and cedar.
As the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro moved through the second third, the coffee notes remained the dominant note. The cedar, fruit, and earth remained in the background and were joined by some notes of dark chocolate and black pepper. As the cigar moved past the midway point, the pepper became more prominent on the tongue and retro-hale.
The coffee notes remained grounded during the final third. By this point, the pepper became the most prominent of the secondary notes. There still were notes of cedar, earth, fruit, and chocolate to round out the flavor profile. This is the way the 2021 edition of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
While the burn of the 2021 edition of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro maintained a relatively straight burn path and relatively straight burn line, this was a cigar that required frequent touch-ups to keep things on track. Overall there were more touch-ups required than I prefer. The resulting ash had a light to medium gray color. This wasn’t the firmest ash, but it was neither loose nor flaky. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both were ideal.
For each of the samples smoked, the draw of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro was on the snug side. It seemed on each sample smoked, the cigar came close to requiring a re-light. I normally like some resistance on the draw, but this one required a little more work than I prefer.
Strength and Body
The 2021 edition of the Villiger La Libertad Gran Toro delivered a medium strength and medium-bodied experience from start to finish. There wasn’t much variance in the intensity level and in the end, the strength and body remained medium. When looking at strength versus body, both attributes balanced each other nicely with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
As mentioned La Libertad has undergone many packaging and banding changes. In 2019, the banding was changed to be consistent with other Villiger-branded cigars. The 2021 release uses banding similar to what it was prior to 2019. While I liked what Villiger did in 2019, I think it looks better now that it returned closer to its original design. The problem is all of these changes to La Libertad have been quite confusing.
Two side notes that don’t play into the final rating or score. First, when we reported on the new Villiger La Libertad, one of the biggest questions I got was “since when does Villiger have a factory in Nicaragua?” It’s a fair question, and something that I feel has been plaguing Villiger as a company as a whole. While they have supported the media well with samples, when it comes to communications on new releases and what the company is doing, it seems to have fallen off the grid. I had no idea about the factory until I learned about the revamping of La Libertad. Villiger has had a lot of interesting things going on that aren’t much publicized- and the factory in Nicaragua is one of them.
Secondly, three iterations of the La Libertad are too many. I’ve always said if a blend significantly changes, the cigar should be rebranded with a new name. Add to the equation there have been multiple packaging changes over the years and it is more confusing.
As for the cigar, the 2021 Villiger La Libertad delivered a nice flavor experience. As I said, it was my favorite La Libertad blend to date. The cigar could have scored a little better on the draw, and perhaps this could have approached a Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence rating. It still garners a very respectable 88-point score. It has an approachable price point at $8.50. In the end, this is a cigar I would recommend trying a sample first. This is definitely a cigar I would give another smoke to in the near future.
Key Flavors: Coffee, Earth, Fruit, Chocolate, Cedar, Pepper
Burn: Very Good
Finish: Very Good
Value: Try a Sample
News: New Iteration of Villiger La Libertad Showcased at TPE 22
Source: Villiger and Purchased
Brand Reference: Villiger
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop