By now you should be somewhat familiar with the Tobacconist Association of America, a group just under 100 retailers who represent some of the biggest stores across the country and have been releasing limited edition versions of cigars for some time. We’ve reviewed a number of their cigars and they have been in the news more and more as of late as their size, influence and prevalence grows in the industry.

The organization was launched in 1968, and I would be fairly certain that most consumers weren’t terribly familiar with them when the cigar for today’s review came out, the Fonseca Signature Sereis TAA, unveiled at the group’s 2007 meeting.

Because cigar websites like this weren’t as prevalent six years ago, the amount of information about this cigar is fairly limited. Representatives from SAG Imports said that the cigar was blended by Raquel Quesada, who currently oversees the production floor at the Quesada Factory in the Dominican Republic and is the daughter of Manuel “Manolo” Quesada. To date she has been significantly involved in the blending of the MATASA 30th Anniversary, the Fonseca Cubano Viso Fuerte and the Fonseca Cubano Limitado, with her name appearing on the box of the latter cigar. In a 2009 article in Cigar Aficionado, Manolo Quesada said she was “second in command in the factory.”

One of the other key sources of information about this cigar was David Savona of Cigar Aficionado, who posted about the cigar in one of the CA forums, where he quoted Raquel Quesada on the cigar’s origins. Among the highlights of that post was the tobacco for the Fonseca Signature Series all comes from the Navarrete region of the Dominican Republic, located just northwest of Santiago.

There is some conflicting information about the cigar floating around. One site who recently reviewed it listed it as a 2008 release, while a representative from SAG Imports said it was shown at the 2007 TAA show. Production numbers also vary a bit, with Savona saying 650 boxes and the rep from SAG Imports saying it was closer to 1,000 boxes and the cigars were continued until 2011 or so.

The boxes for the cigar look like this:

Fonseca Signature Series TAA Box 1

Fonseca Signature Series TAA Box 2

Fonseca Signature Series TAA Box 3

Fonseca Signature Series TAA 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Fonseca Signature Series TAA
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: MATASA
  • Wrapper: Dominican Republic
  • Binder: Dominican Republic
  • Filler: Dominican Republic
  • Size: 5 1/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $6.50 (Boxes of 20, $130.00)
  • Date Released: May 2007
  • Number of Cigars Released: 650 Boxes of 20 Cigars (13,000 Total Cigars)*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

*According to David Savona of Cigar Aficionado. A representative from SAG Imports said the number was closer to 1,000 boxes.

The Fonseca Signature Series TAA has a rich brown wrapper that is oily and toothy with an average vein structure. It’s well rolled with just a bit of give and the cap on each is virtually seamless. The pre-light aroma is just ever so slightly sweet and tangy with a bit of spice, though I can’t help notice a bit of cocoa powder lingering in the background on the first two before having it be much more upfront on the third cigar smoked. The cold draw ranges from perfect to just a bit tight and offers a surprisingly spicy and tangy flavor profile.

The first third of the Fonseca Signature Series TAA is much fuller than I associate with Fonseca –  it’s much more Quesada-esque, and made me think of what SAG Imports said they were trying to do with the Fonseca Cubano Exclusivo, which we reviewed here. Notes of steak drippings dominate the first third, there’s an underlying backbone of black pepper that sets the tone for things and commands the palate from the first puffs. The ash is dark gray and just as toothy as the wrapper and appears almost of lumpy at times. About an inch in, the pepper backs off a bit but leaves the smoke medium to medium-minus and still fuller than I think of from Fonseca.

Fonseca Signature Series TAA 2

The second third of the Fonseca Signature Series keeps the flavor and body at a solid medium, and I’m wondering just how much effect the age has had on these cigars, given that they were released at the 2007 TAA meeting. By the time the burn line reaches the midway point, there hasn’t been an additional flavor transition, rather a settling in at a baseline that is still much fuller than I think most people would associate with Fonseca. If anything, the flavor stays fairly one-dimensional and medium-minus with some bright wheat toast notes standing out.

Fonseca Signature Series TAA 3

In the final third the flavor intensity picks up a bit and becomes a bit fuller and a bit spicier, though it seems that the heat of the burn is becoming an increasing factor in that. The draw stays perfect throughout and only some combustion issues hamper the Fonseca Signature Series from being taken down to the fingertips. With the  heat picking up a bit, it forces a slowing of the draw, which is fine as long as you can keep the cigar lit. A spicy, chalky note starts hitting the nose as well in the final puffs, adding to a significant rebuilding of flavor from where it was at the midpoint.

Fonseca Signature Series TAA 4

Final Notes:

  • For being the Fonseca Signature Series by Manuel Quesada, Manuel Quesada’s signature doesn’t appear on the band or the box.
  • Among other companies that have “signature series” are Kristoff with the Glen Case Signature Series, Altadis with the Jose Seijas Signature Series, Rocky Patel, and General Cigar with the Partagas 160th Anniversary Signature Series.
  • Drew Estate also produced a little-known about cigar called the Double Signature Reserve, though they didn’t blend it.
  • Fonseca, whether the Cuban or Dominican variety, has such a reputation of being a mild cigar that they just aren’t in my regular rotation. This would be one exception, assuming I could find more of them.
  • If you can find this, smoke this on a clean palate to get the most out of them. There are some flavors that you will really benefit from a receptive palate.
  • If I didn’t make it clear above, I still have a hard time believing this is a Fonseca. It’s like drinking a stout made under the Budweiser name.
  • Because of the date, this was made at the old MATASA factory.
  • Interestingly, Eladio Diaz, one of the men behind Davidoff’s blending, makes his own batch of personal cigars that are significantly stronger than just about any Davidoff you’d find.
  • Knowing that Raquel Quesada was at the helm for this cigar makes me that much more intrigued about both it and her; she’s quietly developing a solid catalog of cigars that she has blended or been involved with, which also includes the Tres Reynas project with her sister Patricia and Janny García from My Father Cigars.
  • The question has to be asked: if Raquel Quesada blended this, why does it say “by Manuel Quesada” on the band?
  • In addition to the lines that the TAA has made for them, they also own the Ocaso and Casa Antero trademarks, in case you see them at your local tobacconist.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel, SAG Imports/Quesada is a site sponsor.
  • Final smoking time is about one hour and 50 minutes.
89 Overall Score

Just to say it one more time, there is a real mind-game at work here, because I would never have considered a Fonseca to taste like this. In some ways, it's almost like the band was switched from another cigar – it's just that different from what I think about from that brand. The other thing is that it doesn't taste like a Dominican puro – it's richer, fuller, a bit spicier and more complex than I tend to associate with puros from that country. To say that I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement; I was downright impressed by this cigar. Now if only I could find a few more.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.