Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cigar Review: TAA 2013 by Tatuaje

Vitola: Gran Chasseur
Size: 6.375 x 54 ring gauge
Price: about $12
Purchased at Burns Tobacconist

Background
2013 was Tatuaje’s 10th Anniversary year and I’m just now getting around to reviewing one of the important pieces of the puzzle that made up the celebration of those 10 year...so I guess I was a little late to this party. There’s a combination of circumstances that went into the delay. First, late last year ended up quite busy for me; that’s just how life is sometimes. Second, I smoked one of these when they came out and I liked it...but I wondered if I would like it more with a little extra resting time. A few weeks turned into 3 months and here we are.

Earlier on in 2013, Pete Johnson released the original 6 vitolas of his original “Brown Label” (properly known as Seleccion de Cazadores) with 10th Anniversary packaging (special bands, wet packed, better boxes), then released 2 new vitolas of the same blend. From what I can remember, the original vitolas will go back to the original packaging in 2014, while the new sizes will continue to display the 10th anniversary packaging. Finally, a third new vitola was commissioned and destined only for stores in the Tobacconists Association of America organization (TAA). My home store is owned by one of the founding fathers of that organization so...we got lots of TAA Tats in stock (we have 2012s still around, too, if you need them).

So...TAA 2013 Tatuaje is...Seleccion de Cazadores blend in the “Gran Chasseur” (Great Hunter) size, with a varnished box, gold foil wet-packing, and an elaborate black band that is similar to the 10th anniversary bands, except that it has “TAA Exclusive” below the word Tatuaje instead of “10 Miami” (and it’s black instead of brown...but I mentioned that). There has been lots of speculation around the office ashtray about the 10th anniversary cigars being “tweaked” but from everything I’ve read...No...at least no more than necessary to make new vitolas...they are just original Brown Label cigars in new sizes (seriously, though...isn’t that enough?). As such they are composed of Nicaraguan filler and binder, along with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper leaf.

Prelight
Is this the best-looking band to ever adorn a Tatuaje? Yes, I think so. The original brown Seleccion de Cazadores bands are classic and subdued...but were also extraordinarily easy to overlook in a crowded humidor. I know because I overlooked them several times when they first came out, until someone else told me about them. These are unlikely to be ignored quite so easily...not that Tatuaje brands are in danger of being ignored anymore. The wrapper leaf under the band was dark brown...a milk chocolate hue toward the head, gradually darkening to a dark chocolate tone near the foot. The closed foot (what I like to call a “fold-over foot”...sorta like a “comb-over hairdo”) was as neat and tidy as that kind of thing comes and the cap and seams all looked expertly finished. The only thing wrong was a crack that started at the foot and extended upwards about an inch. Being near the foot, I figured it probably wouldn’t affect burn a huge amount and flavor even less, so I elected to let it go instead of waiting until I could buy a new sample.

The Ecuadorian wrapper had a rich earthy and leather aroma, along with just a touch of sweetness. With the fold-over, there was no difference in the aroma from the foot this time around. The cold draw was tight...although that’s to be expected with a closed foot. The prelight flavor was earthy and peppery.

Flavor
The draw opened up once a bit of the closed foot had burned off and suddenly it was free-flowing, delivering up flavors of earth and cedar, as well as touches of anise and leather on the palate. Remember how everyone always used to talk about how Pepin blends began with a “blast of pepper spice”? This blend was one of the originals to do that...and it still does. I got a healthy nasal burn on the retrohale and a bit of black pepper on the palate, as well.

In the second third, the pepper diminished somewhat and I got a tart note of citrus to go along with the earthiness. There was still some cedar, but it had ebbed a bit, too.

Construction
As expected, I was able to get past the crack in the wrapper with no problem, hinting at the great quality construction that My Father Cigars is capable of. Not sure if it’s a “construction” concern or not, but I also noted a massive amount of smoke almost every time I took a puff...lots of smolder in that Nicaraguan leaf!

The draw was slightly tighter than I would like, but it never impeded smoke production or causing other issues. In looking at the burnt end, it was apparent that there was simply a lot of tobacco rolled up in the filler bunch. The burn line got wonky where the crack was, but once past that it burned fairly even. As solid as the filler was, it made for an ash that held on for up to an inch with no flakiness whatsoever.

As I cruised into the final third, the creamy smoothness of the second third gave way to a sudden increase in cedar and a resurgence of pepper spice. On a side note, one thing I rather like about the 10th Anniversary bands is how much easier they are to remove than the regular brown labels which tend to have too much glue and shred upon removal.

Value
Tatuaje Brown Label cigars have never been known for being inexpensive, but they are known for delivering great flavor, so I have to conclude that this cigar is worth the asking price.

Conclusions
This is a cigar that starts off medium in body and ramps up to full by the end and it is no slouch in the nicotine strength department, either, so newbies beware. For fans of the Tatuaje Seleccion de Cazadores, though, this is a no-brainer. It’s a great cigar with lots of flavor to go along with its strength. Get ‘em while you can...they are probably a great candidate for long-term aging.

By-The-Numbers
Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4.5/5
Value: 1/1

Total: 9.5/10

2 comments:

  1. Ok question what is the purpose of Closed foot sticks? Does it actually serve a purpose or is it purely aesthetic? Also I have seen in the past what is the purpose of a Wet Pack? Is it for long term storage? I assume it means they sticks have a higher humidity then the normal shipment... if they are higher in humidity do you dry box them before you smoke them? Geeze a lot of questions today?

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    Replies
    1. RE: Closed foot (feet?)…I believe that's an aesthetic choice more than anything else. I have found a few that have actually lit better because of the closed foot…then I've found some that the closed foot made harder to get lit evenly. I think that may mostly be dependent upon the type of leaf and level of moisture in it.

      As far as "wet packs" go…yes, I believe they have a slightly higher humidity when they ship, but by the time they get to the store and (presumably) sit in the humidor there for a few weeks, you purchase them, then they sit in your own humidor for a week or two (yes, I know…they don't always last that long, but some do)…anyway, by that time, the humidity should have regulated itself to at least a certain degree, so dry-boxing shouldn't be necessary. At least not in all cases. For leaf that retains a higher moisture level, you might still consider dry-boxing, whether or not they are wet-packed to begin with. For instance, smaller ring gauge versions of La Casita Criolla and La Duena (both with high Broadleaf content) are prime for dry-boxing if you regularly keep your humidor over 70%.

      Finally, I will say this: the above is my opinion about these practices, and while I think my beliefs are sound, there may be more to the story than that. If I get a chance to ask someone who "really" knows, I will do so. Might be a good topic for a future educational article. :)

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