Country: USA
2006 Wrapper: Aged Nicaraguan Corojo Ligero (Cojonu Wrapper)
2009 Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun Grown Broadleaf
Binder (both): Nicaraguan
Filler (both): Nicaraguan
Size: Corona 51/8” x 42 ring

2009 has seen an exciting expansion to the Tatuaje brand with lots of new cigars including some new additions to the Reserva line of the Brown Label Tatuajes.  Pete Johnson’s seemingly ever broadening use of the sun grown broadleaf wrapper found its way onto two new Tatuaje Reserva cigars.  The Reserva Regios and the Reserva Noellas.  The new Reserva Noellas are particularly intriguing to me because this is not the first time there has been a Reserva Noella.  Back in 2006 Tatuaje offered to a number of its best accounts boxes of  Noellas cigars with a Reserva label on the box.  This label was applied just as it has always been on the boxes other Reserva cigars like the J21 and SW.  There were only about 200 boxes made.  The cigar is the same size as the standard Noellas but it has a different wrapper.  Instead of the standard Corojo wrapper that is used on the regular Noellas, these cigars are wrapped in an aged oscuro ligero wrapper just like what is used on the Cojonu line of Tatuajes and the Reserva J21.  Unlike other Reserva cigars this incarnation of the Reserva Noellas did not sport the second black and gold Reserva band.  They only had the normal brown Tatuaje band on them.  The only way to know it was a Reserva is to have seen the box it came from, or if you put it side by side with one of the regular Noellas you would see that the wrapper is much darker in color (note: I have found this to be truer of older Noellas which seem to have gotten darker in more recent vintages).  The 2006 Reserva Noella was tagged with a nick name, often referred to as a Noella Oscuro in online forums and websites.  After that initial run in 2006, Tatuaje never made this cigar again.  That is still true today even though we once again have a cigar bearing the Reserva Noellas name…

Here we are in 2009 and we once again have the Reserva Noellas available at many Tatuaje retailers.  But this 2009 edition is not the same cigar that was made back in 2006.  It is still the same size and same blend, but the wrapper has changed again.  The 2009 edition sports a sun grown broadleaf wrapper just like the Tatuaje Monster Series released last October.  It also wears the black and gold Reserva band unlike its predecessor and this one, while somewhat limited, is not restricted to just a one time run of 200 boxes.    I believe that this cigar is meant to be a mainstay in the Reserva line.  It along with its cousin the Reserva Regios have been nick named by some as “little monsters” because they share a very similar makeup to “The Frank” with their broadleaf wrappers around the original blends for those vitolas.

I thought it would be fun, since I happen to have a few of those old Reserva Noellas from 2006 in my humidor, to go ahead and do a side by side comparison of the two different cigars which bear this name.  I started with the 2006 edition…

The 2006 Reserva Noellas have a very dark brown, leathery looking wrapper.  My specimens all have a puckered vein running down their sides just like I have seen on a many of the Cuban cigars I have sampled.  The triple cap is flawless, applied by a master of their craft.  A quick snip with my Palio and my first test draw reveals perfection.  The draw is spot on with just the right amount of resistance.  This cigar is nearing its third birthday and it shows its age.  Right from the start the flavors are smooth yet robust.  Amazingly rich flavors of toasted tobacco complemented by cocoa and spice rest heavy on the palate.  The finish is full and meaty, and though it lingers I find I wish it would hang around even longer.  Smoking this cigar was like sitting down to a three course dinner of steak and potatoes.  The flavors were so rich and so big it seemed almost impossible that they were coming from a cigar of such diminutive size.  The aroma produced by the cigar was decadent and could be described as rich and full on its own.  The cigar was dynamic and it was hard to keep track of all the different flavors I was experiencing.  It never really settled into any one thing for long as the tobacco, cocoa, coffee, cedar, and a myriad of spices kept swirling in only to fade out and come back again later.  This was the best Tatuaje I have ever smoked.  I have smoked a couple before and remember them to be amazing cigars, but this cigar on this day was just spectacular.  It was so smooth, so rich, and very heady.  I was in bliss the whole time I was smoking it. I only have a couple left in my humidor.  I hope they can at least come close to living up to this.

I waited a bit before smoking the new 2009 edition of the Reserva Noellas.  I did not want to have its experience influenced by being too close to the amazing event that was the Noellas Oscuro.  I waited until the memory of that smoke wasn’t so fresh in my mind, and then I fired up the new sun grown edition…

The sun grown wrapper is veiny, dark, oily, and toothy giving the cigar a very rustic look.  It too is crowned by an expertly applied triple cap and dual bands collar the neck of this corona.  Construction is predictably superb and the draw is almost perfect.  After a short peppery blast, the wrapper exhibits it’s influence over this smaller ring size.  The 2009 version of the Reserva Noellas is very much like the Reserva Regios.  Only the slightly sweet, sun-grown “twang” is much more prevalent here pushing the other flavors of cedar, earth, and spices further into the background.  It is a complex smoke with a nice little punch, but lacks some of the depth of flavor that the Reserva Regio had.  I know this is supposed to be a comparison to the other Noella, but this cigar is so very much like it’s bigger brother that I have to keep coming back to that.  I talked about how the Reserva Regio seemed to escalate as you smoked it in my review of that cigar.  You can read it by clicking here.   The Noellas didn’t do the same.  For that reason, I would rank the Reserva Regio ahead of this Noella.  As for how it compares to the original 2006 Reserva Noellas.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but it simply doesn’t.

Both versions of the Reserva Noellas are excellent cigars.  It may not sound like it here, but I really do like the 2009 edition very much, it just happens that it doesn’t stand up well to its name sake or its bigger brother the Reserva Regios.  That said, it is still an excellent smoke that would, in my opinion, stand up easily to most any other smoke you’d like to compare it to.  However, the final verdict of this showdown is that the 2006 edition of the Reserva Noellas is probably the best Tatuaje I have ever smoked and the 2009 version ranks among the top 6 or 7 Tatuajes.  I will say to be fair, that the 2006 Noella does have a considerable advantage in the age department being 3 years old, but I think the difference the wrapper makes on this size and blend would make the Oscuro version the winner even if they were closer in age.  I wish that when Pete brought back the Reserva Noellas he did so with that Oscuro wrapper.  Alas he did not, but what he did bring us is quite good in its own right.

Two excellent cigars and a win-win for me.

Rating ed. 2006 – A+
Rating ed. 2009 – A

I couldn’t find anything out there on the 2006, but here are some other takes on the 2009 Reserva Noellas: