Habana Leon Serie F No.2000 Monday, Jul 25 2011 

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Country: USA
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto

This is an old Pepin Garcia brand that is made in his Miami Shop. I found it buried in the humidor tonight. I don’t even know if this cigar is made anymore. It is an excellent smoke. Medium bodied with notes of pepper, earth and cedar complimented with a slightly sweet undertone and a smooth creamy texture. Makes me wish I had a few more of them.

Nestor Miranda Special Selection Lancero Monday, Jul 26 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan and Costa Rican
Size: Lancero 7.0″ x 38 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

The fact that this line of cigars was re-blended by Don Pepin Garcia should leave it as no surprise that a Lancero was eventually added to the card.  Pepin has a reputation for being partial the old-school Cuban way of doing things and he seems to have a love of the traditional connoisseur vitolas  like the Lancero.  Not only that, but he seems to have a special talent for masterfully blending for the Lancero as his Lanceros tend to be the best on the market in my opinion.  That said I have been looking forward to trying this cigar given how much I have enjoyed the other larger sizes in the line.

Like a lot of Lanceros it isn’t the prettiest cigar.  It is a bit bumpy and lumpy looking but the draw is excellent and the burn is razor sharp.   It starts off a little peppery before falling into a woody/nutty core complimented with leather and occasional subtly sweet caramel notes.  There weren’t any dramatic changes in flavors but rather shifts in intensity between the present flavors and a build up of black pepper near the end of the smoke.  Watchout for the ash on this one.  It is a little flaky and falls off easily.  If you don’t pay attention you’ll be wearing it.  All in all the Nestor Miranda Special Selection Lancero is an excellent cigar that I will smoke again.

My Father No.3 Cremas Friday, Jul 2 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Cremas 6.0″ x 49 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

So as the story goes, Pepin’s son Jamie had a secret project he was working on.  He was creating a cigar in tribute to his father and he was doing it behind Pepin’s back.  He managed to keep it a secret up until he was nearly finished with it and when Pepin found out about it he told his son to give him three cigars which he promptly smoked and loved.  That is the Birth Story of My Father Cigars.  The cigar is made up up of tobacco from the Garcia’s own farms for the binder and filler, and the wrapper is a lovely and oily Habano leaf grown in Ecuador by the Oliva Tobacco family.

The My Father line of cigars is available in four sizes:

  • No.1 Robusto 5.2″ x 52
  • No.2 Belicoso 5.2″ x 54
  • No.3 Cremas 6.0″ x 49
  • No.4 Lancero 7.5″ x 38

In addition to these cigars there have been a couple of line extensions added to the brand including the My Father Cedros Deluxe and Le Bijou 1922.  The original My Father is an beautiful looking cigar with a large ornate band and a smooth and oily colorado claro wrapper.   The No. 3 Cremas is an interesting vitola to be because of the unique style of the head of the cigar.  It comes to a very short taper, almost like it was going to be a belicoso and then someone just stopped the taper and completed the cap.  The result is reminiscent of the fumas style nipple but in truth this is quite different from that.  I found I really like this style from both a look and feel perspective.  The slight taper was comfortable when smoking and it thought it was unique and pleasant looking.

I found the cigar to be very pleasant and more mild than just about any other DPG smoke I’ve tried.  There was lots of coffee bean and dry wood on the palate and the flavors had a creamy texture to them.  The aroma produced by the smoke was elegant, and floral.  The last third of the cigar was more robust with a mild spice and some leather and occasional flashes of black pepper.  The burn was impeccable and the draw perfect.  The ash was a little loose and flaky so I had to ash often, but otherwise I had no complaints for this excellent cigar.

Tatuaje Verocu Tubos Monday, Jun 14 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Torpedo 61/8″ x 52 ring
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The Verocu extension of the Tatuaje Havana VI line was first introduced as a two vitola regional release. There was the West Coast version, the No. 1 Lado Occidental, and the East Coast’s No. 2 Zona del Este. Each was sold in cabinets of 50 cigars. They were a huge hit and remain a favorite of many Tatuaje fans. They were a limited release however, and much to the dismay of those fans, they are no longer made and extremely hard to find and generally unavailable. If you don’t already have some you aren’t likely to get any. But despair not, there have been subsequent releases of the Verocu blend like the No.9 which is a Holts exclusive. The most recent addition to the line is the Verocu Tubos, a tubed Torpedo measuring an ample six and one eighth inches in length and sporting a beefy 52 ring gauge. It comes armored in a very nice, bright red aluminum tube and is available in boxes of 10.

This torpedo is not a particularly pretty cigar but nor ugly or rustic either.  The wrapper is dark, mottled, and slightly veiny.  It is well filled with no soft spots and smells of cedar and leather.  The draw is a little on the loose side but not too much so.  The first draw has a predictable peppery bite to it before settling in to a spicy, earthy core with complimentary notes of cedar, leather, and tobacco which seem to come and go as I made my way through the smoke.  The last third brought lots of earth and black pepper that over powered everything else and was a bit over the top even for me but didn’t really detract much from the rest of the experience.  The Verocu Tubos is a fairly well-balanced, robust, and complex smoke with a sneaky bit of power to it.

There has been lots of talk about cracked and split wrappers with this cigar.  I didn’t have any of those problems but I did have several burn issues.  The cigar tunneled a bit at one point, then it started to canoe. It also went out on me three or four times.  These burn issues are very uncommon in my experiences with Tatuaje cigars.  Right now I am just going to chalk it all up to being a result of shipping conditions and I am hoping all that will work itself out with a few more months of rest in my humidor to acclimate and re-hydrate because the cigar did seem a touch dry to me.  Time will tell and I will probably wait another 6 months before I try another one to see where they are at.

Overall I’d say this was an excellent smoke with great body and good flavors.  If the burn issues do manage to work themselves out then I would rate this as an excellent cigar.

Tatuaje Cojonu 2009 Sunday, Jun 6 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo Ligero
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Torpedo 6.75″ x 48 ring

The Tatuaje Cojonu 2009 is part of the Cojonu extension of the Tatuje Brown Label line.  Also known as Tatuaje Miami, Tatuaje Classics, Tatuaje Cabinet series, and even more formally (and very rarely) as Tatuaje La Seleccion de Cazador.  The Cojonu extension is a series of very strong cigars that are released in a new shape every three years.  It started with the Cojonu 2003 which was a long toro, and that was followed by the Cojonu 2006; a belicoso.  So 2009 predictably brought us the next installment which happens to be a very long torpedo with a very short and rounded taper at the head.  As I have always understood it, each of these cigars is the same blend with the same binder and wrapper,  the difference with each edition being the vitola.  So it is good to note that the year on these cigars does not refer to what most cigar smokers normally associate a year with.  It doesn’t have to do with the crop, or the year it was made.  It is simply the name of the vitola.  Much like the Lonsdale in the classic Brown label line is called a Havana Cazadore, this torpedo is called 2009.  All three vitolas are regular production cigars and all three are still made and available today.

As I mentioned the Cojonu blend is much stronger in body and power than the already quite robust standard Brown Label blends.  The story goes that the name of the line, Cojonu, is a play on a slang Spanish term meaning “ballsy”.  An obvious reference to the strength of the blend.  The Cojonu wrapper is an aged ligero leaf so it had plenty of time in the sun while it was growing and the result is a very dark and very rustic looking wrapper.  The flash in my photo doesn’t do it justice as it sort of bleeds out the color making it appear a much lighter shade of brown than it appears in living color.  It is well filled, and a pre-light  test draw revealed a good but slightly lighter than expected draw.

It is commonly held that if you take what is essentially the same cigar and change the size, it changes the flavors and experience.  I subscribe to this with the following assumption.  When you change the size you are not merely changing the length but also the thickness, or ring gauge.  I think that goes to explain why, in my opinion,  there is virtually no difference at all between the Cojonu 2003 and the 2006.  Both cigars are a 52 ring but the 2003 has about an inch on the ’06 in length.  In that case there were no discernible differences in the two vitolas in my opinion.  To me, they tasted and smoked identically.  The 2009 stepped down a bit on the ring gauge to a 48 ring.  This time I noticed a difference.  A large one actually.

When a cigar gets smaller the blend has to change in some ways.  While the percentages of the different filler types used in the blend may remain consistent, the simple fact is you cannot cram the same amount of tobacco, in the same configuration into a thinner cigar.  So while you are smoking, the percentage of ligero to seco that is burning may be the same, in the thinner cigar there is simply less total ligero and less total seco burning at the same time than there is in the thicker cigar.  So it just goes to figure that there would be a difference in how the cigar tastes and behaves in general.

So how does all this come into play with the Cojonu 2009.  Well the first thing I noticed was that the 2009 is noticeably milder that it’s brothers.  That is not in any way to suggest it is a mild cigar.  It is still a full bodied smoke, but it doesn’t have the same “kick you in the head” effect that the other two seem to have.  One thing I have always been impressed with when smoking the Cojonu cigars is how smooth they are despite their ample power.  This is still true with the 2009, and the toned down power has another favorable side effect.  I believe it allows some more of the subtitles of the blend to come through.  The flavors are very similar to the previous two versions, they just come to play at different volumes now.  The peppery start is there, just less overwhelming.  The core of earth, hardwoods, and cocoa are there as well and seem to have a creamy texture to them.  The most notable change however is the cherry notes.  In the ’03 and ’06 I’d get fleeting hard to pin down flashes of cherry every once and a while as if it could only muster the strength to push past the other more robust flavors occasionally and only for a brief moment.  With the 2009, the cherry notes are less subtle and easier to detect, balancing out the less sweet core flavors very nicely.  I have smoked a couple of these cigars now and I can safely say the 2009 is my favorite Cojonu.

Nestor Miranda Special Selection Coffee Break Saturday, May 29 2010 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican
Size: Rothschild 4.5″ x 50 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

The Nestor Miranda Special Selection changed quite a bit from its original incarnation when Nestor Miranda of Miami Cigar & Co. asked Don Pepin Garcia to re-blend and make this cigar for him.  I don’t know much about this cigar before Pepin got his hands on it.  The coffee break is supposed to be a smaller more convenient format for the highly touted, and very large Danno which is Nestor’s 20th Anniversary cigar also blended and made by Pepin.  Surprisingly, there is absolutely no mention what so ever of the Special Selection cigars on the Miami Cigar & Co. website.  Why do so many cigar companies fail at the simple task of keeping their websites up to date?  It seems to be an annoying fact of life for cigar lovers who crave information.  Cigar companies seem loathe to part with it.

Dressed in a dark brown leather jacket of a wrapper leaf it looks grainy and has small veins spider-ing across its surface.  The band is simple and elegant, and after clipping the excellently applied cap a quick test of the draw reveals perfection and a rich preview of whats to come.  Although there is none of the infamous “Pepin Black Pepper”, the cigar is very Pepin-esque and leaves no doubt as to who blended this smoke.  The Nicaraguan tobacco seems to dominate at the start with lots of rich earth notes complimented by leather and coffee.  Once you get about half way in it starts to develop some Honduran spice and some nutty undertones of raw almond or maybe walnuts.  The last third is spicy and earthy with a slightly sweet finish.  I found this cigar to have an almost Tatuaje like nature to it which of course only makes me like it even more.  It is an excellent smoke and I enjoyed the size.  It is a convenient afternoon smoke and I plan to keep a handful of these in stock at all times.  I can see me reaching for one of these whenever I can’t make up my mind on what I want to smoke.  It will compete heavily with the Oliva V Belicoso in that role for me.

My Father Le Bijou 1922 Petite Robusto Wednesday, Apr 14 2010 

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Country: Nicaraguan
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Petite Robusto 4.5″ x 50 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

The My Father Le Bijou 1922 is an extension of the My Father line which was created by Jose Pepin Garcia’s Son Jamie to honor his father Pepin.  Well Pepin created the Le Bijou himself to honor his father, Jamie’s grand father.  Le Bijou means The Jewel and the 1922 is Pepin’s father’s birth year.  It is a good looking cigar.  The wrapper has a dry matte finish to it and it looks like a carved piece of dark wood.  This is another cigar that sports 2 cigar bands.  They are ornate, and beautiful, and large which is odd looking on this petite robusto as most of its length is covered up by the two bands.  Though dual bands have become a bit of an annoyance for me lately as they have become more commonplace; on a positive note the bands on the Le bijou always come off very easily and I have not had one yet that damaged the wrapper.  Because this vitola is so short and the bands are so large, you really need to remove one if not both of the bands before you smoke it.  Again, annoying but not too much so since they do come off easily.

All of the minor annoyances with the bands are quickly forgotten when you light this little “jewel” up.  It starts off with very full and robust, meaty flavors and a peppery kick. It then mellows out a bit and there are notes of wood and earth balanced nicely with a bit of mocha and subtle fruit notes.  There is a creamy characteristic to the flavors as well.  As the smoke progressed into the nub (flavor country) there is lots of spice and those rich meaty flavors return as well.  I literally burned my fingertips a little smoking this cigar down as far as I could before it just started to hurt a little too much.

The cigar smoked well with a good draw and a nice even burn though I did need to make one small correction. After that the burn was problem free.  The ash held well but was a bit papery on the edges and it produced lots and lots of thick white smoke and a strong room bouquet that I found very pleasant.  This full bodied little cigar has earned a spot on my list of box purchase worthy smokes.

Here are a few more takes on this smoke from the blogsphere…

Cabaiguan Maduro RX Monday, Sep 28 2009 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Dark Natural Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.25″ x 50 ring

The Cabaiguan (kah-bei-gWAHN) is probably my absolute favorite Connecticut Shade cigar.  Not really mild, it is more of a medium bodied smoke with light yet assertive flavors.  I have been wanting to try the maduro version for a long while and I have finally got around to it.  Sometimes with the sheer volume of different cigars out there it is hard to get to everything you want to try.  Any way, from what I was able to find with some internet searches, it appears the Cabaiguan Maduro isn’t even really a maduro in the traditional sense.  According to Tatuaje’s site and I saw it again on a retailers site, the wrapper on this cigar is a naturally dark sun grown broadleaf wrapper.  If that sound familiar to you then you are probably familiar with the La Riqueza line of cigars from Tatuaje.  The wrapper for that cigar is described the exact same way.  So is it the same wrapper?  I have no idea, but I wasn’t able to find a wealth of information on the Cabaiguan maduro and what I did find wasn’t necessarily authoritative.  I suppose I could have dropped an email to Havana Cellars and get some details straight from the source but I didn’t.  Looking at the cigar I would guess that this wrapper is related at best but would not guess it is the same as those used on the La Riqueza.  This wrapper is much nicer looking.  The La Riquezas always look rough and lumpy and ugly.  This wrapper has a slight tooth and is generally smoother with an oily sheen.  If it is the same or related, the Cabaiguan got the pick of the litter.  it is still a rustic looking wrapper but it is much prettier than the La Riquezas I have seen.  One other item of note on the dressing if the Cabaiguan Maduro.  It has the same band used on the Cabaiguan Guapos which is a Nicaraguan natural sun grown wrapped cigar of a much lighter shade than these broadleaf maduros.

Right off the bat I could tell this isn’t really a Maduro.  Notes of dark chocolate and coffee bean are complimented by a tart sun grown twang that is one of my favorite things about a natural sun grown broadleaf wrapper.  The Tartness was the dominate flavor for the entire smoke.  I also picked up notes of cedar and a very subtle sweetness.  Overall not a terribly complex cigar but very robust and enjoyable.  If you are a fan of that sun grown twang then you’ll love this cigar because you get a lot of it.  Although I wouldn’t call this smoke a favorite, I definitely like it for an occasional change of pace especially when I am craving a sun grown.

Rating – B

Showdown: Tatuaje Reserva Noellas – 2006 vs 2009 Wednesday, Sep 9 2009 

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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… (more…)

Tatuaje Reserva Regios Tuesday, Jun 30 2009 

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Country: USA
Wrapper: Sun Grown Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.5″ x 50 ring

This year hasn’t been as prolific with the new cigars like last year was, but 2009 has brought a few new things from my favorite brand of cigars, Tatuaje.  This year there are two new additions to the Tatuaje Reserva line of cigars.  Two of my favorite Tatuaje Brown Label vitolas now have a Reserva version, the Noellas and the Regios.  The Regios will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first Tatuaje I had ever smoked, and it was the first vitola in the brand that I purchased an entire box of.  So when I heard that the Regios was being used for a new Reserva I was predictably excited.  The Reserva Noellas and the Reserva Regios use a different wrapper than the standard version.  The regulars have a Corojo wrapper, but the Reservas use a sun grown broadleaf wrapper.  If that sounds familiar it is because that is the wrapper used on the ultra-limited  Monster Series Tatuaje, “The Frank”.  In fact, these two new Reservas have been dubbed “mini monsters”.  You may also feel a tickle of deja vu hearing about the Reserva Noellas.  That is because there was a Reserva Noellas once before.  Back in 2006 a very few select retailers received without warning a one time run of Noellas that has a Reserva  label on the box.  There wasn’t a Reserva band on the cigars though.  These were the first incarnation of the Reserva Noellas and they were a one time run of 200 boxes or so (couldn’t find the exact number).  This original version was also referred to as a Noellas Oscuro, but I will talk more on that in the near future……

So a quick recap of the current Tatuaje Reserva line.  We have the:

  • Reserva SW – Churchill with a Corojo Wrapper
  • Reserva “A” Uno – “A” size with a Corojo Wrapper
  • Reserva J21 – Robusto with a Ligero Corojo Wrapper
  • Reserva Noellas – Corona with a Sun Grown Broadleaf Wrapper
  • Reserva Regios – Robusto with a Sun Grown Broadleaf Wrapper

The moniker “little monster” seems appropriate if you hold the Reserva Regios side by side with a Frank.  The wrappers are identical and it really does look like a smaller version of the Frank in appearance.  It’s a dark, oily, and toothy wrapper  with just a couple prominent veins running it’s length.  It is topped with an expertly applied triple cap like all the Tatuaje cigars.  Construction is very rarely an issue with a Tatuaje and this cigar is superbly put together with a perfect draw and a nice heft.  It is dressed in the standard brown Tatujae label accompanied by a second black and gold Reserva band.

The Reserva Regios starts off a little different than the Frank or most any other Tatuaje.  it lacks that blast of black pepper I’ve come to expect every time I light up a Tatuaje.  Instead it  begins with a mellow spice and a slight sweetness that is common with a sun grown broadleaf wrapper.  It is very, very reminiscent of the Frank.  It starts to pick up quickly, its strong sun grown “twang” is accompanied by notes of leather and wood.  It has an amazingly slow cool burn that allows the flavors to have amazing depth and balance.  It gets more and more robust as I make my way through the length of the cigar.  The “twang” remains the core of the flavors ad it is complimented by strong notes of leather, wood, earth, and spices.   Each draw delivers a something a little different than the last.  This was an amazing smoke.  Delicious, complex, and an absolute joy to smoke.  It starts off medium bodied and a little mellow and it just escalates in body and power as you smoke it, finishing off as a robust, full bodied treat.  This cigar is an absolute “must try”.

Rating – A+

For another take on this cigar check out “A Cigar Smokers Journal”
Also, Ben has a Reserva Regio In Hand

Update: For the sake of completeness there are a few Tatuaje Reservas that i left out on the list above. The reason for doing so was because two of them were one-time special runs and the third I admit I didn’t know about at the time I wrote this review and I am not sure if it is a one-time run or not, but it is limited to one specific retailer. So the three missing Reservas are…

  • Reserva Noellas 2006 (Oscuro)
  • Reserva SW Maduro
  • Reserva Petite Tatuaje

The Noellas I mentioned above and will talk more on in a future review.  The SW Maduro was a special release sold by one shop out west.  Pete made the cigar as a kind of memorial for a fallen friend.  The proceeds or some portion of them went to benefit that friends family.  The Petite Reserva appears at the moment to be made for one specific online retailer.  I have no additional information on that one at this point.

La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial No.2 Tuesday, Jun 16 2009 

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Country:  Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuadorian
Binder:  Nicaraguan
Filler:  Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 4.8″ x 48 ring

La Aroma de Cuba is an Ashton owned brand.  The original is an excellent Honduran made cigar available in a wide range of sizes.  The artwork on the dress boxes and bands is beautiful and the presentation of the cigars is quite handsome.  That goes for both the original line and the Edicion Especial.  The true original La Aroma de Cuba was a Cuban made cigar and was reported to be one of Winston Churchills favorites which is what gives the brand name a bit of cache.  This special edition of the brand is a Nicaraguan made cigar, blended and made by the now famous and highly decorated Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia.  The Ecuadorian sun grown wrapper has a unique hue and oily sheen, and it covers rich Nicaraguan tobacco.

Not your typical “Pepin” smoke. That is the first thing that jumps out at me. From the beginning you notice his trademark black pepper start is missing. That is OK, because what you do get is fantastic. Rich notes of cinnamon and all-spice combined with flashes of cedar make for dramatic start in its own right. Balance isn’t the word I would use for this cigar. It has some serious peaks and valleys. After an amazing rich start the cigar mellowed a bit. Flavors were mainly cedar with a muddled earthiness. It picked back up again a little past the halfway mark with pronounced flavors of roasted nuts that swapped places back and forth with a sharp earthiness. There were some subtle undertones of dark chocolate or cocoa. Seeing it written out doesn’t do it justice. It was actually much better than it looks in print. It started to get muddled again near the nub but it was time to put it down anyway. This was a very interesting medium bodied smoke. One I would very much like to try again.

Some other takes on this cigar:

Rating – B+

Ambos Mundos by Tatuaje Thursday, May 28 2009 

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Country: Nicaragua
Wrappers:  Ecuadorian Sumatran / Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.0″ x 50 Ring

Ambos Mundos, which means both worlds is the newest line of cigars from Pete Johnson and Tatuaje. Made, like all of Pete’s cigars, by Pepin Garcia this line of cigars is an economy cigar whose release is aptly timed given current economic conditions. Pete had this to say about it:

“My original idea for the Tatuaje brand was for it to be not as expensive as it turned out to be,” said Johnson, “but having it made in Miami kind of set that expensive precedent, so I made this cigar partly due to the economy and partly because this is where I originally wanted the cigar to be priced.”

I find that to be interesting. I am not sure how a cigar the quality of the original Tatuaje could ever be a cheap economy cigar regardless of where it was made so this doesn’t make much sense to me. It implies to me that if the Tatuajes were made in Nicaragua they would be $5.00 cigar. Boy I wish. I am sure that isn’t exactly what he meant but anyway… (edit: The more I read that quote from Pete the more I am convinced I just misread and misunderstood it.  He obviously wasn’t saying he originally intended the Tatuajes to be $5, but rather was pointing out that is where he wanted the Ambos Mundos to be.  He was just saying that he wanted the Tatuajes to be cheaper than they are, but the fact they are made in Miami precluded that.  So now I get what he was saying and my original comments look kind of stupid to me now…)
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The Ambos Mundos are long filler cigars that use tobacco from the same farms as the Tatuajes but instead of the Grade A tobacco used for the Tatuajes, these use grade B and C tobacco. It is tobacco that might have cosmetic differences or might need additional fermentation. That is the how and why the price points are where they are. They are available in two sizes and two wrapper types. All of them use Nicaraguan filler and binders, but one version uses a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper and the other an Ecuadorian grown Sumatran wrapper, hence the “both worlds”. The sizes you have to choose from are a bit boring in my opinion. They are the cliche 5×50 Robusto and 6×50 Toro. The Toro is $5 and the Robusto comes in a quarter cheaper. The Ambos Mundos were released this past February (2009). They suggest that you age these cigars a bit to allow the tobacco to finish fermentation due to the use of the lower quality tobacco. That might explain some things, but really, who wants to age an economy cigar?

I smoked the Habano wrapped version with the creme colored band first. Both of the samples I tried were Robustos. The Habano is a Nicaraguan Puro. I have to say, I found this cigar to be nearly unsmokable.  It was sour and bitter and very unpleasant.  I did my best to try and smoke the whole thing but a little more than halfway through I had to give up on it.  This is the first cigar I have tried that is made by Pepin Garcia that I thought was a bad cigar.  I find it hard to believe that anything about this smoke is at all related to the Tatuajes I love so much.  Maybe it really does need to be aged some but I am not sure how much help that would be to this cigar.  To truly age it in any meaningful way means you need to set them down for at least a year, closer to two years probably.  Anything less isn’t aging, it is merely acclimation to your humidor.  Plus, like I said, who wants to age a $5 economy smoke.  The humidor real estate is too valuable and better used aging a box of quality top shelf cigars.  As it is today, I have to give this cigar an F.

Next up is the Sumatran which sports the dark red band.  Wow what a difference a wrapper can make on a cigar.  This was a much better experience.  Still not what I would call a good smoke, at least this one was enjoyable enough to smoke the entire cigar.   I could see the potential for this one to become a fairly decent smoke if it were allowed to age.  It had a spicy bite with an earthy core complimented by notes of cedar and flashes of coffee.  There were still occasional hits of sour flavors but it was not nearly as harsh and bitter as the Habano.  Because of the potential I can see for this cigar to get at least a little better I can rate this version of the Ambos Mundos as a C.

I wish they didn’t associate this brand so closely with the Tatuaje brand.  These are not Tatuajes, and they don’t taste like even a distant cousin to the Tatuaje brand.  It hurts me to say it because I am such a huge fan of everything else Pete and Pepin have done, but these cigars just don’t live up the standards they have set with their other lines.  Truth is, I find the mixed filler Tatuaje P Series to be a far superior cigar and they cost about the same amount, cheaper in some cases as they are available in a better choice of sizes.  I think the concept for these cigars was a nice idea, but I also think it is really hard to make a good cigar at this price point.  Fact is, nobody I have come across does a better job at a $5 cigar than Oliva.  That is probably because they have a huge advantage given the large quantity of tobacco they have at their disposal (and yes I mean the Oliva Cigar Family and am not referring to the other Oliva tobacco famliy).

Rating – F (for the Habano)
Rating – C (for the Sumatran)

Tatuaje Reserva J21 Friday, Feb 27 2009 

Country: USA
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo (Aged Ligero)
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Robusto 5.0″ x 50 ring
Courtesy of CigarsDirect.com

By now most avid cigar fans are very aware of Pete Johnson, Pepin Garcia, and the Tatuaje brand of cigars.  The Tatuaje brand is the marca responsible for Pepin Garcia’s big breakout to fame in the cigar industry.  Now the man makes an impressive number of cigar lines for an array of different cigar marcas.  Most every cigar he puts out is received with praise and excitement, but the original Brown Label Tatuajes and their premium extension the Reservas are still the best cigars Pepin makes in my opinion.  I have talked before about the meaning behind the names that Pete Johnson gives to his cigars.  The meaning behind the J21 on this cigar seems to be a bit more cryptic.  I have seen a number of explanations for this moniker, from 21 being Pete’s favorite number or 21 being the number of people in his family.  Whatever the 21 stands for it seem that most agree the “J” is for Johnson.

The Tatuaje Reserva J21 looks very different in comparison to the other cigars in the Reserva line of Tatuajes.  The wrapper on the J21 is much darker and rougher in appearance than the wrapper on the Reserva SW or the “A” Uno.  The wrapper is much lighter, smoother looking on those other Tatuaje Reservas.  This is because the other two Reservas use a lower priming (visio)for the wrapper where the J21 uses the highest priming (ligero).  The extra exposure to sun and elements makes for a darker rougher leaf.  It also produces a more robusto and potent leaf.  Pete uses a ligero wrapper on the Tatuaje Cojonu cigars too which are the strongest and most robust cigars in the Tatuaje line.  This is intriguing because the Cojonu is blended to be a very strong cigar where the Reserva line, in the case of the SW and the “A” Uno, tend to be the mildest (but by no means mild) of the Tatuaje lines.  So here with the J21 you have what I am assuming is the refined and elegant blend of the Reservas with the wrapper of the brash, robust Cojonus.  I imagine the two must meld together for a very unique experience for a Tatuaje.  I can hardly wait, so it’s time to spark this robusto up.  I’m using the “Three Match Method” on this one.

The first third smoked just like a Cojonu.  Lots of black pepper and strong wood.  It was very robust and brash.  The second third was a bit more dynamic changing as the smoke progressed.  It mellowed out a bit like the cigar was trying to let me know it was a Reserva.  It was still much more full bodied that the other two sizes in the Reserva line.  The flavors were still predominately woody with a slight sweetness that was unlike anything I’ve tasted in a Tatuaje.  As I passed the halfway mark the flavors became more dry with notes of leather and toasted tobacco and a slightly earthy finish.  In the last third it began to pick up again and the black pepper returned.

The J21 is an excellent smoke that to me resembled a Cojonu more than it did a Reserva only it didn’t have as strong a nicotine buzz as the Cojonus tend to have.  It is a full bodied and robust smoke with decent complexity and excellent flavors.  The burn was a bit odd on this smoke.  It meandered a lot never really burning straight but always managing to even itself out before requiring a flame to touch it up.  As thin and delicate as the corojo wrapper leaf is, you’d think it wouldn’t have a problem burning straight, but odd burns seem to be fairly common with corojo wrapped cigars in my experience.  I’d recommend this cigar to any Tatuaje fan.  You won’t be disappointed.  If you like the bold in your face flavor of a Cojonu but would like it in a smaller format, the Reserva J21 will satisfy your craving.

Rating – A

Tatuaje (Black Label) Private Reserve Thursday, Jan 1 2009 

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Country: USA
Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder:  Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Corona Gorda 55/8” x 46 ring
*My 100th Cigar Review*

The mystical, almost mythical Tatuaje Private Reserve, or as it is more commonly referred to the Tatuaje Black Label. Arguably the most sought after cigar of 2008, this cigar was originally made as Pete Johnson’s private cigar. It just seemed natural to me (after much internal debate) that I mark my 100th cigar review here at Matt’s Cigar Journal with a review of a rare and highly coveted Tatuaje.   After all, it is my favorite brand of cigar, and I did obsess and dream of the Black Label and it’s beautiful Jar for 6 months before I finally got my hands on it.   By the way, you all were very helpful in assisting me with my decision on what cigar to smoke for my 100th review, as evident from the poll results.   So here it is, my 100th cigar review… The Tatuaje Black Label Private Reserve.

The Black Label was rumored to be available only if you met Pete Johnson and he gave you one. When the announcement that the Black Label would be sold to the public in a limited release, packaged in a collectible ceramic jar, the frenzy began. First we were given a teaser, a little taste of what was to come. Many of the Tatuaje vendors received one or two cabinets of 24 Black Label cigars. These were quickly sold off and they served to heighten the anticipation of the release of the Jar. Finally in early 2008 the Jar hit the shelves and I was one of the lucky ones who managed to purchase one. It comes with 19 of the cigars inside, secured with a yellow ribbon and then wrapped in foil. The Jar is a work of art. Just click here to see photos of my jar from just about every conceivable angle. Yeah, I was/am a little obsessed with the Jar. The Black Labels are still hard to find, but not impossible if you search hard enough. They are even available in a second size now. Black Label Robustos can be purchased in packs of three if you attend a Tatuaje event.

It is immediately apparent that this cigar was not designed to be “pretty”.  It was made to look tough.  The wrapper is rustic and bumpy, spider-webbed with small veins.  The color is a dark mottled brown.  It has a rough fuma style head that comes to a slight nipple and the foot is closed with a shaggy bit of wrapper covering it up.    And then there is the band.  Simple, black, classic.  It just adds to the toughness of this cigar.  It’s overall appearance seems to compliment the look of its creator, Tattoo Pete.    The Black Label may look a little rough around the edges, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is anything less than a top shelf cigar.  It is very well put together.  It burned straight with a firm ash that just did not want to fall off.  The draw was perfect as was most everything about this cigar. Putting the foot to flame you a hit with an initial burst of black pepper that quickly subsides.  Initially the flavors were mild spice and leather with a subtle sweetness on the lips.  This cigar is constantly changing as you smoke it.  I picked up notes of  ginger, oak, earth, nuts, cocoa and an occasional flash of hay early on… all weaving in and out around a spicy, leathery core. It was a medium to full bodied smoke with a rich tobacco aroma boasting some decent strength, but it isn’t a cigar that will knock you down.  The dichotomy of the cigar is amusing.  It looks rough and rustic but it smokes like a refined and elegant cigar, rich and complex.  The cigar was always changing, always doing something that demanded my undivided attention.

This was the third Black Label I have smoked and each one has been better than the last.  I can definitely say this cigar is a favorite of mine and it probably deserves a spot in my Top 5 the next time I update that list.

Rating – A+

Tatuaje “The Frank” Wednesday, Dec 10 2008 

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Country: USA
Wrapper: Sun-Grown Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: Double Corona 75/8″ x 49 ring

Plucked from its blood splattered coffin, it is time to put this green banded monster to flame. OK, the truth is I couldn’t bring myself to break into the coffin yet so this one is an extra single I picked up but it came from a coffin too, just not mine.  The Frank is a special ultra-limited release from Pete Johnson and his Tatuaje brand.  Using the blend for the Tatuaje Taino, the corojo wrapper is replaced with a sun-grown broadfleaf wrapper and in place of the brown band is a ghoulish green band adorned with the Tatuaje name and trademark flor de lys.  They were released as a first in a series of 13 special Halloween cigars from Tatuaje.  Only 666 boxes were made and they were release to just 13 retailers selected by lottery throughout the States.  In the coffin shaped box are 13 monstrous cigars.  I was lucky enough to have my local cigar shop, Empire Cigars, selected as one of the 13 retailers to get The Frank.  What makes me even luckier is that I was able to get myself a box of these rare and special treats.  Since Empire was one of the 13 to get The Frank, they will not be eligible for next years release which will be “The Drac”.  The Drac is reported to be a torpedo that is banded at the foot and placed into their coffins upside down just like the way Dracula was reported to like sleeping in his coffin.  We’ll have to wait and see how lucky I am next year at trying to get my hands of a box of those.  For now, it is time to get back to The Frank… (more…)

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