By Gregory L. Pease, Associate Editor
Villiger’s La Libertad series has been known to European cigar smokers for some time, and the European market Honduran cigar has been amassing impressive reviews and strong ratings "over there," but what about us on this side of the puddle? At last, La Libertad is coming to America. Sort of. While we’re getting the name, and hopefully, the quality, it’s a different blend, made in different shapes from different tobaccos. And, by the way, it’s made in a different factory in a different country. So, what, exactly, are we getting? Let’s have a look.
Made in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. market version of this cigar wears a beautiful Peru-grown Havana seed wrapper over a Nicaraguan seed binder, also Peruvian, and a filler of Santo Domingo and Nicaraguan ligero tobaccos. I smoked the Robusto, at 5" x52, a slightly chubbier version of the classic vitola, and the delightfully proportioned Torpedo at 5-1/2" x52.
These cigars are described as having a natural wrapper, and I’d agree, but in my samples, the Torpedo’s was somewhat darker than that of the Robusto, pushing up against maduro-colorado. Both are smooth, slightly dappled, delicately veined, and sport a slightly oily sheen. The construction appears excellent, and the cigars are evenly dense and weighty, without being hard. The cap is finished well, and extends far enough along the head to allow a deep cut, if that’s your preference. They present an earthy aroma, with a hint of sharpness, and a subtle smoky, slightly floral note.
For the Robusto, I chose my favored crossed V-cut, and the draught was perfect; a single cat’s eye would have been too restricted, though a punch or guillotine cut would have worked well. Because of the density of the ligero filler, it took a thorough toasting with two long matches before a good light was established, but once going, the cigar smoldered without effort, requiring a only a single touch-up light a third of the way through. The burn was fairly even, but a little roller-coastery around the circumference.
The smoke opens with a delightful, subtle sweetness, and quickly develops a subdued black-peppery spice with undertones similar to dark-fired Kentucky leaf, which I think may be the contribution of the Peruvian binder and wrapper leaf. At times, the flavor would be reminiscent of an exquisite cigarette (that’s really not a bad thing), then, would develop into something richer, with hints of crème brulee, nutmeg, and bright, lightly roasted Central American coffee. At about the 1/3 point, I found traces of cedar and a more earthy character developing.
The complexity of the smoke never called attention to itself, but it was far from monotonous, remaining interesting throughout, while never threatening to fatigue. The finish isn’t lingering, but it’s refreshing, inviting the next puff at the perfect instant.
The Torpedo was, surprisingly, quite a different animal. The construction was, again, excellent, and the sharply tapered head perfectly finished. This one is lightly box-pressed; squared, with gracefully rounded corners. Considering the similarity in the blend and dimension, I expected a very similar smoke. I cut this one at an angle with a guillotine to expose roughly the same area as I had with the double-V on the Robusto, and the draw was, again, perfect. The cigar took to the flame in the same way (this is not a cigar for the impatient), and burned equally slowly and fairly evenly, but the flavor, overall, was notably thinner. Where the Robusto delivered its flavor in full fidelity, the Torpedo tasted like the bass had been turned down. Many of the same notes were present, but in different balance, and with less force. I like subtlety, but this might swing too far in that direction.
Because of the 100% ligero filler, with the corresponding implication of strength, I expected these would be much more powerful cigars than they are. The Libertad is not a breakfast smoke, by any means, but it’s not a Charlie Sheen, melt your face sledgehammer, either. On my scale of zero to lethal, I’d rate it as satisfying, medium-bodied, and ideal for after lunch.
Despite their relatively short length, these are far from short smokes; I was about 2/3 of the way through at the 50 minute mark. The combination of the ligero filler and dense bunching found each of these cigars smoldering slowly, and they hung onto the ash tenaciously, like there was a toothpick stuck in them. But, rushing these cigars would be a mistake. look elsewhere if you’re in a hurry.
Overall, a really pleasant smoke. The Libertad won’t stand up to strong drinks, but a nice cup of not too malty tea is ideal, or for a stronger accompaniment, a good pilsner, or fino sherry. There are some wonderful flavors along the way, and the profile is unique and interesting. As for the shapes, as pretty as the Torpedo is, and it really is pretty, I preferred the Robusto for its deeper taste, hence the difference in ratings. If you’re looking for big, beefy flavors, this isn’t for you, but if you enjoy a reasonably priced, very well made cigar that won’t pound your palate or render you unconscious after the first dozen puffs, give the La Libertad a try. Highly recommended.
[Editor's Note: Subsequent samples received of both vitolas were much more consistent in wrapper color, and more towards the lighter shade shown in the robusto photo above.]
Read our panelistsratings of La Libertad Robusto here.
|Gregory L. Pease Associate Editor.
Greg joins us for regular cigar reviews, his monthly editorial column, "Up in Smoke," and the occasional feature article, bringing over 30 years of deep passion for the leaf to our team. Prior to becoming the founder and principal alchemist behind the pipe blends of G.L. Pease Artisanal Tobaccos (est. 1999), he’d been a pipe and cigar aficionado since his college days, and spent time working at the legendary Drucquer & Sons Tobacconist in Berkeley, California to support his affliction. He is widely educated on tobacco and all things epicurean, is an excellent writer, and has quite a refined palate. He is also a wine and spirits geek, and a gourmet cook. Though he doesn’t have a pet anaconda, we’re glad to have him aboard.