“Tatuaje” in Spanish means “Tattoo”, which was one of Pete Johnson’s early hobbies, long before he got involved in the cigar industry. Pete was working in the Grand Havana Room in Miami, with the thought of creating his own brand of cigars always in his mind. It was in 2003, that Pete developed his first cigars along with Jose Pepin Garcia. Pete is a fan of Cuban Cigars and along with Don Pepin, they tried to replicate the characteristics of the world’s greatest cigars with Nicaraguan tobacco. The Tatuajes all maintain an old school rustic look, with full flavours and the Cuban construction standards. The tobacco used for all of the Tatuaje releases comes from Esteli in Nicaragua, and are rolled in El Rey del Los Habanos factory in Miami, Florida.
I don’t review non-Cuban cigars very often, but after hearing the praising these cigar receive, I decided to give them a try. They are the most sought after cigars in the states, with each new release becoming an instant best seller. Our man in the States, Rick, was kind enough to send me five of them, one from each of the brand’s lines. The bar is set on high standards for these and I am hopeful that in these I will find something missing from the majority of the cigars that come outside of Cuba; The refined flavours, balance and complexity.
The Black Tubos was released in 2009 and is one of the most popular cigars in the brand. It is a torpedo, measuring 6.1” long by 52 ring gauge and comes in a well presented black tube. It has an old, rustic look, with a dark, toothy wrapper and a shaggy foot. The cigar is packed well and the construction is good. The cigar starts off with an aggressive manner, strong and bold, with flavours of black pepper and spices dominating, with some acidic tones. After a few puffs the cigar calms down, with the pepper and spiciness dying down, with cedar and sweet vanilla taking over. The flavours are consistent throughout the first and second third, while the cigar draws and burns well. Towards the end, the cedary flavours become stronger, and the cigar turns again into full bodied. An enjoyable cigar overall, a little too strong and bold for me towards the end. 86/100
The Belicoso is one of the three cigars in the latest edition of the Cojonou range. The Cojonu is the full flavoured range of the brand, which is released every three years. The Belicoso is similar to a Cuban piramide, measuring 5.5” long by 52 ring gauge. It bears the Tatuaje brown label, as well a second label with the year of release. Have we seen this label anywhere before? The cigar has the typical rusty wrapper that I found in all Tatuaje, which is smoother than the rest and has some mild veins. The first impression is that of nuts and toast. The first third is smooth, with a medium body and flavours of earth, wood and pepper. In the middle third the cigar presents more flavours, with pepper and leather adding to the mix, while an acidic finish hits the back of the throat. On the last third, the flavours seem to cancel out eachother, as the cigar tastes very bland. The burn is even all the way through but it requires several touch-ups until the end. An uninteresting cigar, which I was expecting to be more powerful and complex. 81/100
The Sir Winston is the cigar we chose try from the Reserva range. The Sir Winston is a Churchill, measuring 7” in length by 47 ring gauge. The wrapper feels dry and loose to touch, maintaining the traditional rustic feel, but looks rougher than the rest of the Tatuajes and has a couple of cracks. The cigar starts with a woody and peppery flavour that has a somewhat “cool” feel on the palate. The body is medium and is amplified gradually while smoking towards the beginning of the second third. On the second third the pepper takes over, covering most of the other flavours. The pleasure doesn’t last too long though… The wrapper starts coming off and the cigar keeps going out. After 3-4 attempts to relight, I gave up; I won’t even get in the process of rating this cigar, but I will get back to it, hopefully with a better stick.
The Angeles is one of the 6 vitolas consisted in the Havana range, the mildest of all Tatuajes. It measures 4.6” long by 42 ring gauge, a similar size to a petit corona, and all its parts are made from Nicaraguan tobacco. The cigar is well rolled with a dark brown and oily wrapper, with a good cap and a solid bunch. The initial draw presents strong flavours of wood and a touch of spice. The draw is good and the cigar delivers ample smoke. In the second third flavours of nuts and dried fruit also appear and the body is medium. The flavours change very little throughout the second third and the burn problems begin… Finishing this cigar is a struggle, having to relight it every five minutes. Ah well, it tasted fine while it still burned! 77/100
The Tatuaje Cazadore is a cigar from the Cabinet series, which is the mainstream regular production of Tatuaje. The Cazadore is similar to a Lonsdale, measuring 6.3” long by 43 ring gauge. It is a well constructed cigar, with the typical chestnut brown, rustic wrapper, found in most Tatuajes. The bunch is firm, without any soft spots or knots. The Cazadore kicks off with a medium to full body and a strong flavour of black pepper and cedar. The draw is good, delivering ample smoke and the cigar burns well. In the second third, the cigar has a stronger flavour of wood and an acidic finish. On the last third the flavours are enhanced, with nuts and toasted tobacco added to the mix. The burn is effortless all the way through and it is only in the last inch that the cigar gets hot. An interesting cigar indeed, definitely the one I enjoyed more from the 5, with a decent complexity and a medium to full body. 90/100
As I mentioned in the opening, flavours and complexity was what I was concentrating on, thinking that these cigars won’t have any construction issues; but I was wrong… Three of them had severe burn issues that affected the overall experience, while the Sir Winston Reserva literally crumbled in my hands! This is an unpleasant surprise, considering that all Tatuajes are rolled under the supervision of Don Pepin Garcia, so I was either unlucky or the cigars never managed to rebound from their jet-lag. Two of the cigars though were quite enjoyable, with the Cazadore being the closest to what I had expected them all to be. I cannot say I was overly impressed by the cigars of the brand, but I will definitely give them another try. I am certain that a Sir Winston, smoked in Little Havana, will be a completely different experience!