Pete Johnson loves wine.
He’s made that clear on countless occasions through his Tatuaje brand, with the most recent example coming only a few weeks ago with the release of the Tatuaje Le Vignoble. However, the newest line from L’Atelier Imports might be the most poignant example yet. The cigar is La Mission de L’Atelier, French for the mission of the workshop, and much of the details behind the concept of the brand draw inspiration from Château La Mission Haut-Brion, a French winery located southeast of Bordeaux in the Pessac-Léognan region.
If you are wondering about the blend, it’s a base of Nicaraguan fillers from the García family farms, including some of the Sancti Spiritus leaf L’Atelier has used in a variety of other cigars, with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper.
It launched in three vitolas—the same three as the original L’Atelier line—but this times the sizes are named after years in which Château La Mission Haut-Brion has been awarded a 100-point rating from noted wine critic Robert Parker.
- La Mission de L’Atelier 1959 (4 3/4 x 52) — $8 (Boxes of 18, $144)
- La Mission de L’Atelier 1989 (5 5/8 x 54) — $9 (Boxes of 18, $162)
- La Mission de L’Atelier 2009 (6 1/2 x 56) — $10 (Boxes of 18, $180)
Parker has awarded four other 100-point ratings to the winery with those taking place in 1955, 1982, 2000 and 2015. Johnson told halfwheel that there would be additional sizes made for each of those events.
Despite all the tie-ins to Château La Mission Haut-Brion, there’s no official partnership between the cigar company and the winery. Furthermore, the winery isn’t even the same one Johnson uses to make his own Tatouage wine.
La Mission de L’Atelier debuted at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show last month and began shipping to retailers a few weeks ago.
- Cigar Reviewed: La Mission de L’Atelier 1959
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 4 3/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $8 (Boxes of 18, $144)
- Date Released: July 30, 2015
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
It’s most certainly not the prettiest looking cigar I’ve seen from L’Atelier Imports and on a few examples, the wrapper shows a variety of different colors. That being said, it appears to be well-rolled and features a pigtail, which seems to have dipped in popularity in the last 18 months for whatever reason. There’s a lot of barnyard from the wrapper with just a touch of sweet cocoa. On the foot of the La Mission I find roasted garlic, some gyro meat and leather. It’s sweeter than the wrapper aroma, albeit where that sweetness is coming from isn’t as clear. The cold draw shows a completely different profile: chocolate ice cream with some red pepper, raw coffee beans and earth. I was expecting it to be a bit stronger than it was, but in the end I’d peg it just north of medium.
Things begin with flavors the wrapper is known for: a sweet and earthy chocolate, a touch of bitterness that contrasts the sweetness and just a touch of pepper towards the very end; flavors that serve as the base of the La Mission for the first two inches. There are others present as well: an isolated creaminess, burnt orange peel and some brisket towards the back end. The finish is somewhat chalky, definitely not as clean as when the smoke hits the palate, but it’s still quite sweet with a lot of raw cocoa all around the mouth in addition to the earth note. The big difference between the first puff to the 20th is the flavor intensity, which is now solidly full alongside a full body and medium plus to medium-full strength.
The gyro meat returns and becomes a lot more prominent along with an array of spices, including an amped up bittersweet cocoa. A very muted citrus flavor is there, but it’s quite secondary. The finish shows generic meatiness and some herbal flavors, although if you aren’t careful, it can seem as if the La Mission de L’Atelier hasn’t changed. The basic sensations are somewhat similar to the first third, albeit, with the details changing fairly significantly. The construction continues to impress with the smoke increasing in physical thickness.
As the last two inches of the 1959 size begin, there’s a clear shift towards an earthier profile. On the tongue, there’s just layers of different iterations of earthiness with sarsaparilla, creaminess and nuttiness on the finish. Through the nose, there’s some chocolate that helps to break through the earth’s dominance on the final third, but the La Mission won’t show a hint of it unless you retrohale.
- Pete Johnson is one of the partners in L’Atelier Imports, the others are K.C. Johnson, Sean “Casper” Johnson (no relation) and Dan Welsh.
- I have smoked two of the 1989 (toro) sizes and wasn’t impressed. I have not smoked the 6 1/2 x 56, but regardless, this is yet another example in the importance of understanding that vitolas will smoke differently.
- Construction was fantastic on all three samples, although the cold draws showed a slightly open draw.
- I think the bands might be just a bit too big. For a lot of reasons it makes sense to keep the band sizes the same regardless of the actual size of the cigar, but on this short of a cigar, it takes up a lot of room. What’s interesting is the nature of the band—particularly compared to some of the massive examples from Camacho and La Sirena—doesn’t make it appear to be all that large—at least until you are removing it before the halfway point of the cigar.
- While L’Atelier Imports gave halfwheel samples at the show, I’m pretty sure that all of the 1959s I smoked were purchased from a retailer, although there’s a chance one was not.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 30 minutes.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Cigar Hustler, JR Cigar, Lone Star State Cigar Co. (972.424.7272), Serious Cigars and STOGIES World Class Cigars (713.783.5100) carry the La Mission de L’Atelier 1959.
Update (Dec. 21, 2015) — L’Atelier Imports has changed the name from La Mission du L’Atelier to La Mission de L’Atelier.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the first La Mission I smoked, the slightly larger 1989 size. I knew ahead of time it would be the robusto version that I would review; and I’m much happier that I had to smoke three 1959s compared to the toro size. To me, the final third of the La Mission 1959 is the standard for how all San Andrés-wrapped cigars can be judged going forward. The last inch and a half is fairly one-dimensional, particularly without a retrohale, but together, it incapsulates the core flavors of what I’ve come to expect from San Andrés with a refinement I simply haven’t tasted before. Earthiness is most certainly not high up on the list of things I want dominating a cigar, but the La Mission does it with a cleanliness, precision and balance that is second to none. Not the most complex San Andrés-wrapped cigar I’ve had, not the most progressive, but to this point, the best.