In May 2013, Kristoff released the first vitola in a new limited edition that was initially sold exclusively to members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA.) Named 685 Woodlawn, the cigar debuted in a 6 1/2 x 60 perfecto vitola with the first 1,000 boxes sold to TAA retailers, while another 1,000 boxes were released at that summer’s IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
If you are unfamiliar with the particulars of what the TAA is, Charlie Minato described the organization:
The TAA is a fairly small group of some of the country’s top tobacconists, about 80 retailers as well as 40 or so manufacturers. The association gathers annually to discuss issues facing the industry and retailers, as well as to have its annual trade show, a unique event that works on a group buying format in order to secure exclusive deals for these generally high-volume merchants.
During the convention, the organization hosts two distinct selling events. One is known as the Dream Machine, an optional event where manufacturers offer the entire group of retailers tiered specials and discounts. The more the group collectively agrees to buy, the better the discounts and deals are for every retailer involved. In addition, the week includes a more traditional trade show which oftentimes sees some of the most aggressive discounts of the year.
For consumers, the TAA is most known for its Exclusive Series Program. Participating manufacturers produce exclusive cigars that are only sold to the group. A portion of sales is donated back to the TAA.
This year 13 companies have new TAA ESP releases:
- Crowned Heads
- E.P. Carrillo
- Forged Cigar Co.
- J.C. Newman
- Joya de Nicaragua
- La Flor Dominicana
- La Palina
- Rocky Patel
Earlier this year, Kristoff announced there would be a new vitola in the 685 Woodlawn line that would only be sold to TAA retail members, specifically a 6 1/4 x 54 box-pressed toro with an MSRP of $12 before taxes. Only 800 boxes 10 cigars were rolled at the Charles Fairmorn Factory in the Dominican Republic and the new cigar began shipping to retailers in April.
Blend-wise, the newest vitola in the 685 Woodlawn line is the same as the first release, specifically a Brazilian wrapper covering a binder from Nicaragua as well as filler tobaccos grown in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, with a portion originating from undisclosed locations.
- Cigar Reviewed: Kristoff 685 Woodlawn Box Press Toro TAA 2021
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Charles Fairmorn Factory
- Wrapper: Brazil
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Undisclosed
- Length: 6 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Toro Extra
- MSRP: $12 (Boxes of 10, $120)
- Release Date: April 2021
- Number of Cigars Released: 800 Boxes 10 Cigars (8,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Visually, the Kristoff 685 Woodlawn Box Press Toro TAA 2021 features a number of things that make it quite distinctive, including three bands—the foot band is printed with the TAA logo—a curled pigtail on the cap, and a covered foot. The mottled reddish-brown wrapper is sandpaper rough to the touch and features an abundance of oil, while all three cigars are almost alarmingly spongy when squeezed. The aroma from the wrapper is a combination of creamy oak, leather, earth and generic nuts, while the foot brings notes of espresso beans, cinnamon, creamy wood, peanuts and more earth. The cold draw features flavors of strong peanuts, leather, oak, sweet hay, dark chocolate sweetness and a bit of black pepper.
Staring out, the Kristoff quickly ramps up with main flavors of dried tea leaves and oak, followed closely by earthiness, salted peanuts, hay, ground coffee beans, cinnamon, and a touch of cocoa nibs. There is a nice amount of maple sweetness on the retrohale as well as some a slight spice on my tongue and a small amount of black pepper. Construction-wise, the burn is not exactly razor sharp so far—albeit not even close to bad enough to warrant being touched up—and the draw is excellent after a straight cut, while the smoke production is massive coming off of the foot. The body is medium while the strength seems to be climbing slowing from its start near the mild mark, hitting a point about halfway between mild and medium by the end of the first third.
Although the dried tea leaves note sticks around, it is replaced as a main flavor by a massive cocoa nib flavor combined with creamy oak as the second third of the 685 Woodlawn Box Press Toro begins. Secondary notes of bitter espresso, baker’s spices, earth, hay, cinnamon and peanuts flit in and out in various amounts. While the spice mixture on my tongue totally dissipates by that halfway point, the retrohale remains full of both black pepper and maple sweetness that only seem to be getting stronger. In terms of construction, the draw continues to impress and the smoke from the foot continues to be at a level that is well above average, but the burn becomes problematic enough to need some quick attention from my lighter just after the halfway point. Strength-wise, the Kristoff ends the second third just a bit below medium but is still increasing, albeit slowly.
The combination of cocoa nibs and creamy oak continues to take the top spot in the profile during the final third of the cigar, followed by flavors of espresso beans, gritty earth, anise, hay, peanuts and leather tack. The maple on the retrohale remains strong until the end, but the black pepper on the retrohale diminishes noticeably, almost totally disappearing by the time I put down the nub. Thankfully, the burn has evened up nicely and the draw remains impressive, but the smoke production has seemed to fall off of a cliff. Finally, the strength does feature an increase—albeit not as much as I thought it would—hitting a point just past the medium as I put the nub down with a little less than an inch remaining.
- The name of this cigar—685 Woodlawn—refers to the suburban Chicago house in which Kristoff owner Glen Case lived until he was 21-years-old.
- Last year, Kristoff released the same sized box-pressed toro vitola as a TAA exclusive in its San Andrés line.
- Interestingly, the Kristoff brand is named after Case’s son Christopher, and he has a line named Britannia Reserva after his daughter, Brittany.
- There was something funky going on with the burn in my first sample, basically where part of the filler did not seem to be burning at the same pace as the rest of the cigar. Interestingly, the flavor did not seem to deviate much from the other two samples—other than being a bit harsher and having a noticeable increase in spice and black pepper—but it needed quite a few touchups to keep it on track, which had a significant effect on the score for that specific cigar.
- Editor’s Note: The difference in scores between the two samples without burn issues and the one with it was 16 points. — CM.
- When I mentioned above that these cigars were spongy, I was not kidding, as you can see from the photo. After looking at our records, these cigars were in the office for a total of 26 days before I smoked the first sample for review and were kept in our humidors at 69 percent humidity.
- The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time for all three samples averaged two hours and three minutes.
- If you would like to purchase any of the Kristoff 685 Woodlawn Box Press Toro TAA 2021, site sponsor STOGIES World Class Cigars has them in stock now.
This is one of those rare reviews where the final score is incapable of telling the whole story. In this case, it's due to the massive point deductions taken off for constant relights on one sample that had major issues with some of the tobacco in it. Even with those construction problems, the flavor profile did not seem to suffer as much as I would have expected, and the other two cigars I smoked had none of the same issues. In fact, those other two samples were very, very good, with main flavors of cocoa nibs and dried tea leaves as well as a maple sweetness on the retrohale and extremely good balance. Although the one problematic sample was a frustrating experience leading to the score you see above, the Kristoff 685 Woodlawn Box Press Toro TAA 2021 at its best is a cigar that is well worth tracking down for yourself.