One of Tatuaje’s most revered blends is the Private Reserve, otherwise known as the Black Label blend. Ever since the original release of the Corona Gordas vitola in ceramic jars back in 2008, it has become one of the hottest releases Pete Johnson has produced.
Word came down last year that Johnson was going to release the Black Label blend again, this time in his Old Man and the C boxes. The original Old Man and the C—which features both a Lancero and Culebra in the same coffin—was first seen in 2011 and used the El Triunfador blend. The individual coffins were packaged in master cases of ten coffins.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the blend, Pete Johnson explained the story behind it a few years ago:
On a recent trip to a famous island known for historic cigar making, I spent my time in a small town enjoying the simple life. Every day was peaceful and every night was festive, with both having cigars involved throughout. My favorite cigar was not a cigar bought at the local store or factory, but a cigar that was handed to me every morning.
Mornings, after taking a shower with a bucket of water warmed with what looked like a curling iron, I would walk to the front of the house and sit on the fence to get some sun and take in the fresh air. I also took in the fact that I was miles from home and no one knew where I was. My phone didn’t work and I had no cares in the world other than trying to decide what to smoke.
My first morning on the island an older gentleman came along on his bike. This was not a motorcycle but something like an old Schwinn that he had likely been riding for decades. This gentleman was well dressed, almost dapper, and I probably appeared to him to be a strange character. My usual outfit of jeans, t-shirt, loads of silver jewelry, and an arm full of tattoos didn’t seem to faze him. He saw I was enjoying myself so that morning, and every morning after that, he would stop and give me a cigar from his shirt pocket.
This cigar was far from being a ‘pretty’ cigar but that did not bother me a bit. It was a treasured and unexpected gift that I was thrilled to be given. After smoking this cigar I realized that this was one of the best cigars I smoked on the island. Later that day in speaking with my host on this trip I came to understand that these cigars were something special to every person who carried them. They were cigars that they made for themselves. Even the guys who worked hard in the cigar factories all day would return home at night and make their private cigars. Simple cigars with flavors they personally enjoyed. Over the course of the next few days my host and I visited his friends and asked for cigars that they made. Before I left I had cigars from a few locals who all used different tobaccos from the different growing regions. They were all great but there was one that really stood out for me as special.
I decided when traveling to Nicaragua to work with the Garcia family that I would try to recreate this special cigar for myself. Together we spent quite some time working on the blend and looking at different leaves for wrapper. The marbled toothy wrapper was perfect for this cigar, rustic looking but with tons of aroma. After smoking the first sample, I was immediately brought back to that island relaxing on a fence, enjoying life, smoking a great cigar. A great cigar that will always in my mind represent the place, the time, and the experience of the purity of the simple life. This cigar may be considered ugly by some but inside that surface roughness it contains such rich flavor and aroma.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. This is a tribute to that cigar.
I described the history of the initial release a few years ago:
In the beginning, there was only one size of the Black Label. The original release Corona Gorda first released in 24-pack bundles in November of 2007 to select Tatuaje dealers. This was followed by the Jar release in the second quarter of 2008, in which 1,000 limited release jars with 19 cigars per jar. In between this time, Pete was known to hand out a second vitola of the Black Label, a Robusto that had the same unfinished foot and pigtail cap. A three pack of these were also given out to customers who purchased a box of Tatuaje cigars when Pete was present.
- Tatuaje Black Label Corona Gorda (5 5/8 x 46) — 2007/2008 — Bundles of 24, 25 & 1,000 Jars of 19 Cigars (19,000+ Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Black Label Robusto (Robusto Three-Pack) (5 x 50) — 2008 — N/A of 3 Cigars (n/a)1
- Tatuaje Black Label CRA Toro (6 x 50) — Sept. 2009 — 5,000 Samplers of 1 Cigar (5,000 Total Cigars)2
- Tatuaje Black Label Tubo (6 1/8 x 52) — Nov. 2009 — 4,600 Boxes of 10 Cigars (46,000 Total Cigars)3
- Tatuaje Black Label Robusto (5 x 50) — 2010 — Event Three-Packs (n/a)1
- Tatuaje Black Label Petit Robusto (4 3/8 x 52) — 2010 — Event Three-Packs (n/a)
- Tatuaje Black Label Corona Gorda (5 5/8 x 46) — 2010 — Event Three Packs (n/a)
- Tatuaje Black Label Petite Lancero (Tobacco Grove) (6 x 38) — Jan. 2011 — 200 Boxes of 25 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)4
- Tatuaje Black Label Petite Lancero (6 x 38) — July 2011 — Regular Production4
- Tatuaje Black Label Lancero (The Old Man and the C) (7 1/2 x 38) — Aug. 2012 — Limited Production
- Tatuaje Black Label Culebra (The Old Man and the C) (7 1/2 x 38) — Aug. 2012 — Limited Production
1The original Tatuaje Black Label Robusto featured a closed-foot and nipple cap. The cigar was packaged in a three-pack sampler containing only the Robusto. Subsequent releases were packaged in a three-pack sampler featuring a round head and traditional open foot.
2There were only two shipments of the Tatuaje Black Label CRA Toro, but five samplers. Many cigar manufacturers, including Tatuaje, have shipped the CRA fewer batches than have been samplers.
3There was no exact number of Black Label Tubos released, it was estimated at around 46,000 cigars.
4The Tobacco Grove release of the Petite Lancero featured a closed foot, the regular production version featured an open foot.
- Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje Old Man and the C
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun Grown Criollo Estelí
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 7 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 38
- Vitola: Culebra
- MSRP: $7.50 (Coffins of 4 Cigars, $30 & Master Cases of 10 Coffins, $300)
- Date Released: Aug. 10, 2012
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 2
As always when viewing a Culebra, I am immediately struck by the intricacy of the way they are presented, almost snakelike. The wrapper is a cinnamon brown color, rough to the touch and has quite a bit of oil on it. There’s almost no smell to it at all, slight tobacco and wood, while the prelight draw has a distinct sweet peppermint note along with cedar. All three parts are surprisingly spongy when squeezed, which makes it even more surprising when I actually tested the draw and found it to be perfect.
The Tatuaje Culebra starts off the first third instantly with strong notes of cinnamon, cedar, leather and even a bit of the aforementioned peppermint. The profile is creamy overall. There is a wonderful amount of spice on the retrohale and just a tiny amount of white pepper as well. The burn and draw are amazing from the start, and the ash is extremely well formed. Smoke production is above average, white and dense. Strength starts out at a solid medium and only seems to be getting stronger from there.
Coming into the second third of the Black Label Culebra and the profile shifts a bit, less creamy and to more of a spicy woodsy background. Some flavors from the first third remain, notably the cinnamon and cedar, but there is also some dark chocolate and a great floral note that creeps in from time to time that really bumps up the complexity in the blend. Construction of the Tatuaje remains astounding, with no issues whatsoever—and a burn line that is the epitome of perfection. Smoke production continues to impress me, and as expected, the strength continues to build, ending the second third at slightly stronger than medium.
The final third of the Tatuaje Old Man and the C has a somewhat sweeter profile overall, with a bit more cream—and flavors of earth, espresso, dark chocolate, cinnamon and leather. Construction continues to be amazing and the smoke production remains impressive until the end. The strength ends about halfway between the medium and full mark, and the cigar was easy to finish with the nub staying cool to the very end.
- Each individual coffin carries an MSRP of $30. There are a total of four cigars (one lancero and three parts to the Culebra), so the Lancero’s retail price ends up being $7.50—which looks a bit low on paper. The Tobacco Grove Petite Lancero was actually priced $1 higher despite being an inch and a half shorter.
- I am always amazed at the construction of a (well rolled) Culebra. Looking at one of the parts, it seems like they should not even be able to draw through them, but every one I have smoked (from different manufactures mind you) has been perfect.
- When looking at the individual pieces of the Culebra, the ring gauge seems to be larger than 38, but when I checked it in a chart, it was clearly a 38.
- For this review, I smoked two parts of the Culebra, a Tobacco Grove Black Petite Lancero and the Black Label Lancero to compare to it. In fact, I smoked all three different vitolas at the same time. Between the three, I honestly enjoyed the Culebra more. The Lancero had a more prevalent bitterness in the forefront of the profile compared to the Culebra, not as much cinnamon, not as much sweetness and just seemed less complex overall. Still a good cigar, but defiantly a notch down from its twisted roommate. The Petite Lancero was closer, but not as creamy as the Culebra. Having said that, the draw and the burn on the Lancero was just as amazing as the Culebra.
- The wrapper seems to be quite a bit more fragile than the other vitolas, easily cracking if you are not careful when taking it out of the box and paper. Just be careful when handling and smoking, and you should be fine.
- While the Lancero and the Culebra are the exact same blend, Pete told me that there is a little less filler in the Culebra than in the Lancero, which is necessary in order to get the cigars to actually twist.
- The first mention of the Culebra was way back in January of 2011.
- There is no set amount of Old Man and the Cs, currently 300 master cases have been made, but there could be more. According to Pete, last year 386 El Triunfador versions were produced.
- Pete has said publicly that he is planning on releasing the Black Label blend in the original Corona Gorda vitola in jars for his upcoming 10th year anniversary, which is in 2013.
- The construction was absolutely phenomenal in all respects. Burn and draw were perfect for the entire smoke on all samples, and you seriously could not ask for more.
- Ash is extremely well formed, light grey and almost seamless. However, as with all Culebras I have ever smoked, the ash does not stay on for more than about half inch before falling.
- I really love smoking a Culebra, but it is quite annoying to try and put in a ashtray.
- The cigars for this review were given to us by Pete Johnson at IPCPR.
- The final smoking time for the Culebras averaged about one hour and 35 minutes.
My first thought when I hear of any new Tatuaje Black Label release is, "Does it taste like the original Corona Gorda?" The Corona Gorda had a fairly distinct and quite strong cinnamon note that was hard to deny and various Black Label releases have had various amounts of that flavor in the profile. For example, the Black Label Tubo had very little, while the closed foot Petite Lancero was spot on. I am happy to say that the Culebra has what I consider to be the classic Black Label profile—and in spades. Strong cinnamon, spicy wood and even a bit of floral note. There are some high expectations when talking about a Tatuaje Black Label release, and the Culebra nails the flavors perfectly. Better than the Black Label Tubo? Easily. Better than the new Black Label Lancero? Without a doubt. Honestly, after tasting both the Lancero and the Culebra, I am very glad there is only one Lancero in the box.