Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cigar Review: Tatuaje La Casita Criolla

HCB (Corona), 5.125" x 42 ring gauge / $6.50, Burns
A Connecticut Puro? Wait, a Connecticut Broadleaf Puro? Seriously? The leaf best known for its use as a wrapper on some of the best Maduro cigars on the market would be taken by Pete Johnson to his mad scientist laboratory in Esteli and turned into...well, something I've never heard of. I can't say that this has never been done before, but I don't remember ever hearing of something this...crazy. Yes, CAO produced an MX3 in small quantities over the years, and Camacho has had great success with its Triple Maduro. Even Altadis has gotten into the act with the A.Turrent Triple Play last year. All of these are good examples of all Maduro smokes, but to my knowledge not one of them has leaf from just a single tobacco varietal and growing location. So my first reaction was...there is a reason cigar makers blend tobaccos from several places. It adds character and complexity to what are otherwise single-dimensional tobaccos. My second thought was...c'mon, we're talking about Pete Johnson (and the geniuses at My Father) here! Even if you don't like some of his particular blends, he has never out out something that is dull and uninteresting. So when these became available, I picked up three...two of the size that I am smoking for this review, and a different size just to check out. As a side note, one of the great things about the La Casita Criolla is the fact that none of the vitolas is larger than 48 ring gauge; perhaps this large ring gauge fetish/trend is about finished.

To begin with...the look: this Maduro was a mostly even dark brown color with plentiful oils and no veins that were too large. The sample I kept for review had some light, almost bleached out spots near the foot, but since I saw nothing of the kind on the other two I smoked, I am not deducting appearance points...this stick seemed to be an anomaly. The name La Casita Criolla means, "the little native house," or something like that...we get a look at that house on the band, a band which is slightly more ornate than the regular Tatuaje bands, but still fairly understated. Putting the cigar to my nose,I picked up mildly sweet earth and leather aromas on the wrapper leaf, and more of the same on the foot. While this is uncommon, I guess it shouldn't be surprising since this is a single-varietal cigar. The Prelight draw was slightly tight on this cigar. I honestly don't recall if the first one of this size was as well, but I remember that it had no draw issues as I smoked, and the sample I smoked of a slightly larger ring gauge had no draw issues, either. The cold flavor was sweet, with hints of chocolate and graham cracker, and it left a mild peppery tingle on my lips.

Dark chocolate laced with cayenne pepper was what I was thinking of just a few puffs in. The richness of bittersweet chocolate, enhanced by a mild but striking spicy hit. There was a nice mix of Cuban coffee--dark, strong and sweet--and sweet tobacco on the finish. For the purposes of reviewing, though, here is here things started to get tricky. Broadleaf is a heavy, thick leaf that tends to retain a lot of moisture. This makes it great for turning into Maduro because it can stand up to the extra heat required, and it is also great for smoking in dry environments like California or Eastern U.S. winters because the leaf tends to be more pliable and less subject to cracking and splitting. I kept this one in my regular humidor before smoking, though, and the draw was much tighter than I would have preferred. Both of my other two samples had been dry-boxed to a degree before smoking so they did not have the same problem. So, even though I used my draw poker to open this one up, I am not downgrading it on Construction because this was just a result of wet Broadleaf...a natural occurrence that I should have planned for. The cigar continued to be sweet with loads of chocolate and coffee through the first third. I also got notes of leather and enough pepper spice building up on the back of my palate that it proved an interesting counterpoint.

In the second third the coffee notes rushed to the forefront and the spice got considerably stronger. Although this is a medium bodied smoke, it definitely has a great deal of character. On the nose it was more of a sweet breadiness with just a small amount of spice by this time. Opening up the draw did work, but the unfortunate result is that the cigar smoked hotter than it should.

The last third was still full of sweet flavors of chocolate mixed with some coffee bitterness, and the La Casita Criolla did not fail to please throughout. The only problem I encountered was one that I believe was of my own doing: I was doing it wrong. As I explained before, these probably should be kept at a slightly lower humidity than other cigars, especially in a corona vitola. While I did enjoy this one, I do wonder if I would have ended up liking the next size up a little better, so I have decided to extend this review a bit by adding that size to it...after the numerical ratings, read on...

Body: 6/10
Strength: 6/10
Complexity: 7/10

AFP Scale
Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4.5/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 9.5/10

HCBC (Corona Gorda), 5.625" x 46 ring gauge / approx. $7, Burns
It's been almost two weeks since I wrote the above section. I would have gotten back to this review sooner, but the Chattanooga Tweet Up got in the middle of everything. If you didn't make it, I sincerely hope you can next year. On this slightly larger cigar, the wrapper was pretty much perfect and had a earthy aroma with just a bit of cocoa powder. The foot was sweet smelling with tobacco and dark chocolate notes. Prelight draw was easy and had a little spiciness along with cocoa and leather.

After lighting up, I noticed the sweetness right up front...a mix of tobacco and chocolate, along with an underlying coffee note and some pepper spice on the finish. The retrohale was even sweeter, almost reminding me of milk chocolate but still retaining spiciness. The first third was a delightful mix of earthiness and chocolatey sweet notes, with a bit of a coffee finish and a little spice thrown in for good measure.

The second third continued to display earth and cocoa powder notes along with a smoky meatiness that was delicious. So far, I had zero issues with draw and needed just a couple minor touchups to keep the burn even.

A nice peppery burn was building up on my palate as the last third started and coffee flavors were now at the forefront. Do I need to say it? This is a great cigar! Possibly the best thing Pete Johnson has put out this year, although I want repeated samplings of thing and the Petite Lancero Black Label before saying for sure. Great great great cigar with lots of broadleaf Maduro sweetness and enough other flavor notes to keep the party interesting. Not to be missed!

Body: 7/10
Strength: 7/10
Complexity: 7/10

AFP Scale
Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 5/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 10/10


  1. I just tried this cigar last week myself. I am also a fan of Pete's products, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the sweetness and pricing of this line.
    I found it to be a little overly "wet" in the last third, but I enjoyed the heck out of it, just the same.
    I am looking forward to trying the Avion '11 very soon!
    Thanks for the review.

  2. I really! hope this large RG fetish/trend ends quickly. I cannot go to my local B&M and get anything less than 54 95% of the time. I am basically having to stop enjoying cigars so some putz who thinks he know about cigars can suck on a 60RG and say it destroys any thing smaller.