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Cigar Review: Drew Estate Nica Rustica Belly

16 May 2016

Belly 2

Whether by design or coincidence, Nica Rustica feels like a discount version of the immensely popular Liga Privada No. 9. Both feature Connecticut Broadleaf wrappers (Liga uses “Broadleaf #1 Darks” while the Nica Rustica uses a “Broadleaf Medium”), and both debuted in just one size—a toro—before later growing to multiple vitolas.

BellyContinuing to follow in Liga’s footsteps, last year Drew Estate expanded Nica Rustica with two new sizes: the immense Belly (7.5 x 54) and the Short Robusto (4.5 x 50). They join the original El Brujito vitola (6 x 52), which is named for an ancient image found on a rock in Estelí. The image depicts a Pre-Columbian shaman—thought to be one of the earliest users of tobacco for “ceremonial and medicinal rituals,” according to the Drew Estate website.

In addition to the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, each Nica Rustica format includes a Mexican San Andrés Negro binder (which is also the wrapper on Undercrown) with Nicaraguan filler tobaccos from the Estelí and Jalapa growing regions. Intended to be “medium- to full-bodied,” “rustic,” and “un-polished and unrefined,” Jonathan Drew calls the blend a tribute to the people of Nicaragua.

With its dark, oily, toothy, slightly reddish wrapper and generous proportions, Belly is an intimidating cigar. Before the first puff, you can sense the flavors are going to be rich and heavy, and the pre-light notes of leather, cocoa, and earth seem to validate those expectations. The imperfect cap clips easily enough to reveal an ultra-easy cold draw.

After setting an even light to the closed foot, the first thing you’ll notice is the voluminous smoke production. The thick, dense smoke seems to ooze from the foot virtually effortlessly, which helps you dive head-first into the bold tastes of dark chocolate, roasted nuts, white pepper, and espresso. The texture is chalky. A fleeting vegetal note is particularly noticeable on the retrohale—a sensation that should be familiar to fans of both Liga Privada No. 9 and Undercrown.

There are few profile changes throughout, rendering the beginning, middle, and end of this huge cigar all very similar, save for an increase in intensity at the finale. If you’re a fan of how the Belly tastes at the outset, chances are you’ll be fine with the consistency; that said—especially for such a large cigar that takes at least two and a half hours to burn from light to nub—a shift in flavor or texture would have been welcome.

In terms of construction, the Nica Rustica Belly doesn’t live up to the high standards set by Drew Estate. While the ash is solid, the draw smooth, and the smoke output extremely high, the burn leaves much to be desired. Frequent touch-ups are necessary to keep the cigar burning evenly.

Even so, this is still a good bang-for-the-buck at around $8, especially considering the size and big flavors. Add this to your list if you’re looking for a large time-filler with bold, dense flavors. In my book, the Belly earns three stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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