28 Nov 2012
Back on October 19, after finishing my day job in the Loop, I made the short trek to Tesa, a Chicago shop and lounge that’s home to some of my favorite boutique cigars. But on this particular occasion I wasn’t looking for Tesa’s Series Gran Cru, Vintage Especial, or even the new Limited Edition. I instead came in search of the elusive Velvet Rat.
It was finally the long-awaited day when Drew Estate was to make available 40 pre-release bundles of 10 Dirty Rats, limiting purchases to a handful of smokes per customer. This was, after all, a soft release; the nationwide full release of the Dirty Rat won’t take place until mid-2013.
For this particular night, the cigars were only available at Tesa, a longtime supporter of Jonathan Drew. And enthusiasts from around the entire Chicagoland area came in droves get their hands on a few Dirty Rats, as well as peruse the selection of other Drew Estate and Tesa cigars. But the focus was understandably on the Velvet Rat, which was selling for $14 apiece for its single size (6.25 x 46).
The Velvet Rat is the ninth cigar from Drew Estate to be designated “Único Serie,” the others being Papas Fritas, UF-13, Feral Flying Pig, L40, UF-4, A, Ratzilla, and Dirty Rat. It sports a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, Brazilian mata fina binder, and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. This blend was only finalized at the end of the summer. It is intended to be a lighter, creamier experience than the Liga Privada No. 9.
The mottled cigar is dark and reddish with a handsome pigtail cap and very faint pre-light notes of caramel and nougat. Once lit, the profile is a little spicier than anticipated with black pepper on the finish. This quickly settles, however, into a sweeter, milder flavor that reminds me of coffee, syrup, and caramel. In other words, very nice and expertly balanced.
Even as the cigar progresses into its second and final thirds, the body remains decidedly sweeter and lighter than the Liga 9. The texture is chalky and a little syrupy as flavors of cocoa, nut, and cream come and go. The phrase “moist chocolate cake” comes to mind. All this is paired with the sort of physical properties I’ve come to expect from La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate: perfect burn line, solid white ash, and easy draws that produce large volumes of smoke. You can’t argue with that.
I’ll admit my expectations for this cigar were exceptionally high. But I’m happy to report those expectations were met. The Velvet Rat is a memorable, well-balanced smoke with interesting flavor and (I would argue) more nuance than the Liga 9 or any other Drew Estate cigar that comes to mind. For me, it’s worthy of a very rare rating of five stogies out of five.
photo credit: Stogie Guys