Tatuaje Black Robusto

I would have loved to review a candela cigar this week in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, but sadly, I didn’t have much luck finding one in time. Call it luck of the Irish, Jerry saw to it that the need for a green cigar review was filled. Complete with a fiery red beard and a jolly green hat. And though it has absolutely nothing to do with this review, I recommend drinking in the pleasure that is Jerry’s review of the Camacho Candela if you haven’t already. If I had the power to do so, I’d make Jerry an honorary Irishman for that comic tribute.

Now down to business. I realize that I’ve approached the Tatuaje Black backwards. No, I didn’t light the cap and smoke it from the foot. Instead, as you might recall, I did a supplemental video review of the Tatuaje Black last year, something that usually follows a more formal review. There is a reason for that. I got my hands on that single stick only because of the generosity of a brother of the leaf and the indications at the time were that I wasn’t likely to find another. Well I did, it just took a while.

These Tatuaje Blacks are different than the one I smoked in the video. Before I finagled a sampler pack of these robusto sized smokes, I wasn’t aware there an alternative to the 5 5/8 x 46 sticks sold in the ceramic jar. And to be honest, I’m not sure if there will be more. (Though perhaps the existence of these sticks means we can expect a more vitola options in future releases.) A quick search of the net only shows hits for the robusto on cigar forums. The online shops that had the Tatuaje Black in stock around this time last year make no mention of it.

By now you’ve probably heard of this cigar, and have some idea of the back story. In case you don’t, the Tatuaje Black is said to be Pete Johnson’s personal blend of Nicaraguan-grown tobaccos. It was made available in small quantities last year, housed in ornamental ceramic jars of 19. The Tatuaje website lists these sticks as sold out, but does not mark them as discontinued. In theory, we should be seeing them on the shelves again some time this year. In preparation for that, let’s check ’em out.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$15

The Pre-Smoke
I was reading a review with Pete Johnson some time ago, and he mentioned that he’s less concerned with the cosmetic aspects of a cigar an more interested in how a cigar tastes. Accordingly, the Tatuaje Black won’t be winning any beauty contests. In fact, I heard a rumor that the wrapper is actually leaf that is used (or would be used) as binder for other cigars. It’s veiny, and a very mottled combination of reddish brown and black. The foot is uncut, but not obviously shaggy. The excess wrapper leaf is folded (or perhaps crushed) up against the foot of the cigar. At the opposite end, the cap comes to a point, but not like a torpedo. It looks like wrapper leaf was twisted, and then concealed under a finishing tobacco cap.

This cigar made me flinch when I tested the wrapper scent. It had the most pungent, tangy, B.O. and compost aroma I’ve come across in a long time. As the saying goes, the worse the cigar smells the better it tastes. So I was really looking forward to lighting up at this point. The cigars were very firm, but one cigar had a thumb sized depression in one side. It wasn’t exactly a soft spot, it was more like an irregular shaping of the stick.

The Burn
I’m not going to pull any punches. This cigar burned ugly. There, I said it. The ash was mottled like the wrapper and was often flaky, cracked or just irregular. The burn line would stay pretty even for a short period of time, before getting jagged and creating peninsulas of unburned wrapper leaf. Though I never had to relight the cigar, additional fire was required keep things from getting out of hand.

On the plus side, despite looking like it might topple into my lap every few minutes, the ash proved to be pretty sturdy. The draw was also great, and you couldn’t ask for a better volume of thick smoke. And again, I never had to relight.

The Flavor
I’ve smoked a number of cigars recently that didn’t require a lot of ink to describe the flavor. It’s nice to light something up that kept me occupied taking notes again. The most prominent flavor notes where dark and bitter chocolates, pepper and coffee. But the profile was in constant flux. Sometimes more coffee, other times more peppery, and even sweet at times.

The cigars stared off with some some sweet nutty chocolate, but quickly settled into a the power struggle between the coffee, chocolate and pepper. In the first third, I seemed to get all possible pair combination of those three. I also briefly tasted a little bit of copper mid way.

Just before the second third started, for a few puffs I got an intriguing combination of front of the mouth vanilla sweetness combined with pepper toward the back. (At numerous times throughout the smoke, I noticed interesting regional effects like this.) The second third introduced a cedar flavor that was often aromatic. The whirling combination of chocolate, pepper and coffee were still present and constantly evolving.

In the final third, coffee seemed to be willing the flavor battle. Sometimes it took the form of normal coffee, and other times it was stronger and darker like espresso. I had another episode of sweetness and pepper in this third, and even the chocolate seemed to get a little sweeter.

The Price
Since I didn’t buy these (not directly, anyway), and I wasn’t able to find them for sale online, it’s tough to get an idea of MSRP. They might be as little as $12 or as much as $15. But given their rarity, it’s very likely you’ll see the same markup on these as the Fuente rarities. All of this makes it hard to make a judgment on the price. If you’re a Tatuaje fan, there’s a good chance you’ll grin (or grimace) and bear the price to get your hands on them. If you’re not, they are just another over-priced limited edition cigar.

The Verdict
This cigar looks like it could win a bar fight, and smells like it’s been working construction in the hot sun near a ruptured sewer main. And that’s before you even light it. Once lit, it’s a tasty bruiser of a smoke, with a strong, but enjoyable medley of flavors that keep you interested. It’s not a smoke for the faint of heart. New and mild cigar smokers will invariably find this to be too much. But fans of full-bodied smokes like the El Cobre or the Camacho Triple Maduro should give this cigar shot when they have the opportunity.

The Tatuaje Black is a good cigar by itself, but I kept thinking about beverages I’d like to pair with it. The more I thought about it the more it became obvious to me that no matter what drink you throw at this cigar, it’d be able to handle it. Assuming the price isn’t significantly higher the next time we see them, I plan to pick up some more and explore the possibilities.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes, if I find more
Recommend It: Yes, but newbies approach with caution!

Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.