In 2013, Pete Johnson of Tatuaje posted a picture of an unusual gold and white band on Instagram with the comment “Musubi!”
By now, Tatuaje fans already know the story. It was a limited edition crafted for a friend’s wedding. Musubi is a Hawaiian snack, Spam and kimchi on rice wrapped in dried seaweed, essentially Spam sushi. Two years later, Pete Johnson released a Tatuaje Musubi as an exclusive for Hawaii.
Those cigars were made with the leftover bands. They were a different blend than the original, though the same 5 x 50 size with a closed foot.
Given the title, the fact that I’ve already reviewed the Musubi and that it’s holy grail week, you have probably guessed correctly that I am reviewing the cigar from the wedding.
Robin Chang is the friend whose wedding the cigar was created for and after reading the review of the 2015 release Musubi, he generously offered to send me some of the originals to try. They’ve been resting for over a year, waiting for a holy grail week to review them. And here we are.
- Tatuaje Musubi (2013) (5 x 50) — n/a
- Tatuaje Musubi (2015) (5 x 50) — 300 Boxes of 13 Cigars (3,900 Total Cigars)
When I asked Johnson about the Musubi in 2013, here’s what he wrote:
Just a cigar I made for my friends wedding. Not in production and not for release. It’s also not a regular Tatuaje but I won’t comment on the blend.
After the review was published, Johnson responded saying it used an Ecuadorian habano wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The 2015 released used a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers.
- Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje Musubi (2013)
- Country of Origin: n/a
- Factory: n/a
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: n/a
- Release Date: 2013
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The cigar looks a bit better than the ones I reviewed for the 2015 version, but it’s still not the prettiest cigar ever created. Comparing it to the 2015 version, the wedding cigar is a bit darker and has a lot more oils. Aroma is not much more than mild, which makes a bit of sense given these have been sitting in an open bag in a humidor for the better part of two years. There’s some leather and barnyard, but not much else. The foot, which is covered, isn’t much different though there’s a substantially stronger sweet chocolate flavor that seems to want to break through. The cold draw has lots of bubble gum, some sugar, damp earth and a bit of peppermint candy, joined by sharp ginger shortly after I take a dry puff.
The cigar starts with a controlled toastiness, peanuts and a semisweetness. The retrohale is incredible with absolutely no bite, just some subtle sweetness that is unbelievably smooth. The core of the Musubi has burnt sourdough pretzel, some soggy french fries, peanut shells, some saltine crackers and a hint of artificial cinnamon, which lingers on the middle of the tongue. The retrohale continues to be challenging to believe as it has absolutely no bite, providing just some subtle sweetness. At times the burn is uneven, but it corrects itself an inch or so in. Flavor and body are both medium-full with strength just a touch below.
That saltine cracker flavor becomes substantially stronger in the second third, though there aren’t many more changes until the midway point of the cigar. There it gets much sweeter thanks to a chocolate milk flavor in the middle of the mouth. At that point, the retrohale shows the first signs of providing any irritation. That might sound like a bad thing, but it’s challenging to describe how the retrohale performed in the first part; it provided zero irritation no matter how large of a retrohale I took. After the midway point, the retrohale is ridiculously smooth, plain and simple. Flavor-wise, there’s poppy seed bagel, green grapes, mild bubble gum and some sawdust towards the back of the mouth. Flavor is still medium-full, body is similar and the strength is now medium-full.
The Tatuaje Musubi makes a big change in the final third. There’s a sour cream-like creaminess, sunflower seeds and a lot of fresh herbs with parsley standing out. Through the retrohale, there’s some lemon candy and redwoods. With an inch left, I pick up some harshness in the middle of the tongue. It’s concentrated, but noticeable, though I actually appreciate it as it provides a lot of contrast. Surprisingly, the bubble gum returns right around the one-inch mark. It’s not able to outdo the creaminess or sunflower seeds, but it does provide a nice underlying flavor.
- Chang’s Instagram account is great food porn. He is the founder of the pop-up dining series, Little Meats LA.
- I cannot stress how unique the retrohale was for the first third. Even on a smooth cigar, the retrohale will provide a bit of irritation in the nose, but this didn’t. Regardless of how many retrohales I took or how much smoke I exhaled through my nose in the first half, there were zero hints of irritation.
- There also wasn’t a ton of flavor on the retrohale, just a mild sweetness like a Smarties candy that had been saturating water.
- Here’s a video of how to make musubi.
- Strength was medium-plus to medium-full.
- Cigars for this review were sent to halfwheel by Robin Chang. Please don’t ask him for cigars.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 15 minutes.
Tatuaje is certainly not the brand I think of when wondering what ages really well. I was not at the wedding and as such, I have no clue what these tasted like in 2013, but they’ve aged gracefully—to say the least. The retrohale in the first half, while not extremely flavorful, was special, something I’ve really never experienced. It's beyond the limits of just smooth and enters the territory of evanescent. Construction was excellent and the flavors were detailed. If for some reason you were given the option to choose between the 2013 and 2015 versions of the Tatuaje Musibi, choose the earlier one. Both cigars are very good, but only one is excellent.