Review: Tatuaje Avion Limited
Tracing back the roots of the Avion line is like looking at a family tree; one pioneering cigar begot another, and then that line had multiple releases, including an offshoot that became what is known as Avion.
The history of the Avion 13 goes back to July 2009 and the Tatuaje T110, a store exclusive made for R. Field Wine Company in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to Brooks’ review of that cigar, it was a take on another Tatuaje creation that started out as somewhat of a joke cigar because of how strong it was, literally making people sick from its strength. That cigar? Thermonuclear. Because of its smaller size, the T110 was referred to as Thermo Jr.
From the T110 came from the Fausto line, which was released at the 2011 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show and was launched in four sizes, including the FT153 which Brooks also reviewed. You may remember the Fausto marketing campaign, with the tag line borrowing from the famous amplifier scene in Spinal Tap when it said that “This one goes to 11.”
Out of the Fausto line came Avion, an annual release in a single box-pressed Perfecto vitola. The Avion line is being limited to just three releases, which makes 2013 the final chapter in this particular line. However, this final chapter didn’t get written without an edit and the possibility of a postscript along the way.
In mid-May Pete Johnson decided to change wrappers on the Avion 13 from Ecuadorian Habano to Connecticut Broadleaf. This was shortly after what was going to be the regular release of the Avion 13 went into production, meaning that there would be some cigars that needed to find a home but wouldn’t be part of a regular release. Initially, he said there were some 7,500 of these cigars made, but at the 2013 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show, he said that the number was a bit higher, as workers at the factory found more in one of the aging rooms and brought the total number produced to somewhere around 9,700 cigars. Johnson and the Tatuaje team got the word out to retailers and the initial 7,500 were quickly allocated to retailers, arriving at stores in early July and in turn were snapped up by consumers. Johnson is making some 1,700 or so available to retailers who didn’t get any during the first shipment , with the remaining 500 or so being reserved for the Saints & Sinners club.
Why the switch? Johnson feared there might be confusion at the retail level between the Avion 11 and Avion 13 due to their similar size and color. To further distinguish the two versions, he is adding a secondary Reserva band to the Avion 13.
Looking ahead just a bit, the Avion series will soon get its regular release, which you can see a preview of from our visit to the Tatuaje booth at IPCPR. That cigar went into production on May 17, the same day that Johnson announced the change to the Avion and posted this picture to his numerous social media channels:
The bundles look like this:
With this additional release, the Tatuaje Avion line stands at four members:
Tatuaje Avion 11 (6 3/4x 48/52) – $9.95 (Boxes of 20, $199.00)
Tatuaje Avion 12 (5 5/8 x 42) – $6.66 (Samplers of 6 Cigars, $39.95)
Tatuaje Avion 12 (5 5/8 x 42) – $8.50 (Boxes of 20, $170.00)
Tatuaje Avion Limited (7 1/4 x 52) – $8.00 (Bundles of 10, $80.00)
Tatuaje Avion 13 Reserva (6 7/8 x 52) – $11.00 (Boxes of 20, $220.00)
That is in addition to the five cigars that comprise the Fausto line, whose names borrow from the T110 format, with the numbers corresponding to the cigar’s length in millimeters. When you bring in all the offshoots and store exclusives, you get up to a total of 21 cigars. Remember how I said it was like a family tree?
Here’s what the family tree looks like:
- Tatuaje T110 (4 3/8 x 52) — 2009 — 200 Boxes of 25 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje T110 (4 3/8 x 52) — December 2009 — 190 Boxes of 25 Cigars (4,750 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje PJ40th (5 1/2 x 50) — April 2011 — N/A
- Tatuaje M80 (4 x 50) — June 2011 — 333 Boxes of 15 Cigars (4,995 Total Cigars)
- Fausto FT166 (6 1/2 x 48) (Prerelease Event) — June 2011 — N/A
- Fausto FT153 (6 x 50) (Prerelease Event) — June 2011 — N/A
- Fausto FT140 (5 1/2 x 52) (Prerelease Event) — June 2011 — N/A
- Fausto FT127 (5 x 54) (Prerelease Event) — June 2011 — N/A
- Fausto FT166 (6 1/2 x 48) — July 2011 — Regular Production
- Fausto FT153 (6 x 50) — July 2011 — Regular Production
- Fausto FT140 (5 1/2 x 52) — July 2011 — Regular Production
- Fausto FT127 (5 x 54) — July 2011 — Regular Production
- Avion 11 (6 3/4 x 48/52) — August 2011 — Regular Production
- Tatuaje Exclusive Series Tobacco Plaza DD (6 x 58) — March 2012 — 1,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Limited Series Fausto FT114 (4 1/2 x 52) — March 2012 — 1,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Exclusive Series Tobacco Plaza DD (Wet Pack) (6 x 58) — April 2012 — 500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Limited Series Avion 12 (5 5/8 x 48/52) — May 2012 — 1,500 Total Cigars
- Fausto FT114 (4 1/2 x 52) — August 2012 — Regular Production
- Avion 12 (5 5/8 x 48/52) — August 2012 — Regular Production
- Avion Limited (7 1/4 x 52) — July 2013 — 970 Bundles of 10 Cigars (9,700 Total Cigars)
- Avion 13 (6 7/8 x 52) — July 2013 — Regular Production
What about the postscript mentioned above? “I still might think about doing something in the line later on…no plans as of now,” Johnson said, leaving the door open to another Avion creation down the road.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s light this stick up.
Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje Avion Limited
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano
Size: 7 1/4 Inches
Ring Gauge: 52
Vitola: Straight Perfecto (Box-Pressed)
MSRP: $8.00 (Bundles of 10, $80.00)
Date Released: July 1, 2013
Number of Cigars Released: 970 Bundles of 10 Cigars (9,700 Total Cigars)*
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The Tatuaje Avion Limited is a dark, earthy brown with a fair amount of texture and tooth, but it retains a good bit of oil that adds to a smooth feel. It’s just about as big of a cigar where I would say it’s not intimidating, though it certainly is sizable. There’s just the slightest amount of give found when it’s squeezed. The pre-light aroma is rich and earthy, with notes of dry dark chocolate, a bit of spice, coffee grounds and tree bark. On the cold draw, the air moves fairly well and carries a decent bit of spice with some dark chocolate sweetness and a backing note of coffee that in turn echoes the cigar’s earthy base.
Big mouthfuls of earthy, peppery smoke come off the Tatuaje Avion Limited as it gets going; it’s medium to medium full early on, not much of a surprise if you’re familiar with the Fausto line and know what you’re getting into prior to lighting it up. An early retrohale proves to be fairly peppery as well. After about an inch of big earthy flavors with good heaps of pepper, the body backs off a bit and the smoke becomes just a bit softer and more rounded, though the pepper is still a big part of the offering. Progressing through the first third I found minor, fleeting notes of oatmeal, steak fat and chalk, all of which seemed to be specific manifestations of the overriding earth note that dominates the cigar.
In the second third, the smoke seems to lose just a touch more of the edge that it had at the start, though it stays flavorful and balanced. If anything, the Tatuaje Avion Limited has become more approachable and seems to have found its stride just ahead of the midpoint, seemingly getting dialed in for the second half. There are points in which it becomes so familiar that individual notes don’t really jump out, with the underlying earth and pepper carrying the cigar along nicely.
A woody tang picks up in the final third of the Tatuaje Avion Limited, as the pepper has remained a key player in the flavor almost the entire way. It’s not quite as big and strong as it was in the first third, and the nicotine levels seem to remain fairly solid, so it never comes around with a big gut punch. Instead it stays flavorful, rich and very enjoyable. While the final third doesn’t have a big flavor shift, there is a subtle one that brings back the up-front earth and spice from the first third and meshes it with the dry wood notes that came out at the start of this section. There’s just a bit of a combustion issue that comes up in the final third and necessitates a couple of relights to get it down to its natural conclusion, which includes a very interesting note of warm cola that hasn’t been tasted up to this point.
- While the air flow on the first cigar was just fine, I would have liked the second one to be just a bit looser. Some chewing on the end helped things enough to avoid resorting to a draw poker.
- I was a bit surprised by how flaky and delicate the ash on the second cigar I smoked was, as the first one seemed to hold its ash much better.
- My first recollection of the Tatuaje Limited band was on the Tatuaje Mexican Experiment, which I reviewed here and reduxed here.
- Other cigars to use the Limited band are the Fausto FT114 and the pre-release version of the Avion 12, which was reviewed here as a prerelease and reduxed here.
- This isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed a Tatuaje product that was pulled from regular production. In April 2012, I reviewed the Tatuaje Miami Tan FF, which if you didn’t know, stands for Factory F***up. It’s a Selección de Cazadores Tainos that ended up being a few ring gauges too big, so it wasn’t able to be boxed up and sold via regular retail channels.
- Typically FFs have been sold exclusively through New Havana Cigars, who lists the Avion Limited as Avion FF. Pete Johnson told halfwheel it’s just a nickname.
- If you’re curious, the bulk of the filler tobaccos for the Fausto blend on which the Avion is based come from the Estelí and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua.
- Incidentally, the Fausto line uses an Ecuadoran Habano Maduro wrapper.
- The Avion 11 and Avion 12 both used an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, though not a maduro.
- The addition of the Reserva band to the Avion 13 might seem a bit odd, but a conversation that Brooks and I had with Pete Johnson at IPCPR shed a bit of light on Johnson’s perspective on such things. He talked about needing to change the bands on the Black Label Corona Gordas that will be coming out later this year or early in 2014 as a way to keep people from passing the new ones off as the old ones, or vice versa as the case may have it. The same theory might apply here – a preventative measure to keep Avion 11s from being mixed up or offered as Avion 13s, or vice versa.
- To clear up any questions, the Avion Limited is indeed limited. Just the 9,700 or so cigars exist. The Avion 13 will be regular production, as the previous two releases have been.
- There have been reports that the Avion 11 and the other Avion releases were capped at 30,000 cigars; this is incorrect and Johnson thinks that figure came from the approximate number of cigars he was making in 2011, not from the total production. Again, these are regular production cigars.
- Also, as a point of clarity, the Tatuaje Limited Series is different from the Tatuaje Exclusive Series. The former deals strictly with production numbers; the latter is reserved for store exclusives.
Johnson said that the additional bundles that were found in the factory should be arriving to his office next week, which could mean some more entering the market. (Update: some retailers have mentioned receiving bundles of the cigar as of July 31.)
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time is about two hours and 5 minutes.
- Currently, Cigar King is the only site sponsor with the Avion Limiteds in stock. Other site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Best Cigar Prices and Tobacco Grove all have other versions of the Avion in stock. Don’t forget to tell them halfwheel sent you.
The Bottom Line: Had Pete Johnson stuck with the original Ecuadoran Habano wrapper for the Avion 13 release, I would likely have said that this was a fine cigar with an up-front yet approachable flavor profile that shows off the earth and spice of the wrapper and offers a fine final chapter to the Avion series, etc., etc., etc. However, I can’t help but look forward to trying the Connecticut Broadleaf release of the Avion 13. While the Avion Limited was plenty good on its own, it almost felt overshadowed by the news that Johnson was changing the blend for what would end up as the actual Avion 13 release. The comparisons between the two seem to be the real story of this third and final installment of the Tatuaje Avion series. That said, the Avion Limited is an enjoyable expression of the blend that at the discounted price that Johnson offered them for, is a pretty darn good value that is worth picking up if you happen to come across them.
Final Score: 88
Update (July 31, 2013) — An earlier version of this review stated that of the 2,200 additional Avion 13 Limiteds that were found in the factory, 1,700 were going to Saints & Sinners and 500 were being reserved by Johnson. This has been corrected to note that 1,700 cigars are being made available to retailers who didn’t get any in the first shipment, with 500 being allocated to Saints & Sinners. Also, there was an incorrect reference to the length of this cigar; it is 7 1/4 inches long.