In October of 2008, Pete Johnson released the first of what would become the most noted limited edition of the late 2000s, the Tatuaje Monster Series with the first release being The Frank. Jose Agosto of Gloucester Street Cigar Company, who the Tatuaje Porkchop was named after, is oftentimes credited with assisting Johnson in coming up with the concept of cigars based off of various famous monster characters from classic films.

The first in the series was The Frank, named after the popular Frankenstein character. As would become the norm, The Frank was big (7 5/8 x 49) and packaged in 666 boxes of 13 cigars released shortly before Halloween. Earlier this year, Johnson announced plans for Little Monsters, based off of the first four Monster Series release and the upcoming 2012 release.

The following is the fairly extensive halfwheel history of the Little Monsters, first appearing in the review of the Mini Mum.

Pete Johnson announced the Little Monsters on the Jan. 14 episode of Smoke Inn’s Kiss My Ash Radio show. We posted this news story in January:

Earlier this morning on Smoke Inn’s Kiss My Ash Radio show, Pete Johnson of Tatuaje announced that he would be releasing the Monster Series in smaller vitolas. The popular Monster Series has previously been regulated to larger sizes, hence the Monster moniker. During the show, which will be available online later this week, Pete said that he is working on thinner RGs and shorter sizes. Early reports indicate that it will be available in samplers. As of now, the only mention of a release date has been June. Update (January 14, 2011):The names for the cigars are:

  • Frank Jr.
  • Lil’ Drac
  • Baby Face
  • Wolfie
  • Mini Mum*

*Mini Mum is based off of The Mummy, the next Tatuaje Monster Series.

In March, Johnson confirmed the sizes, pricing and the reason behind the increase in production:

Pete Johnson of Havana Cellars/Tatuaje has confirmed the five dimensions for the much anticipated Tatuaje Little Monsters release slate for June. Tatuaje Little Monsters.jpgThe five sizes are (in order of appearance):

  • Tatuaje Mini Mum — 5 3/4 x 42
  • Tatuaje Wolfie — 5 1/2 x 48
  • Tatuaje Baby Face — 4 3/8 x 50
  • Tatuaje Lil’ Drac — 5 x 48
  • Tatuaje Frank Jr. — 5 5/8 x 44

Johnson has slowly leaked information about the release since announcing it in mid-January. The concept takes the four released Monster Series blends and the Mini Mum, the fifth in the series scheduled for later this year, replicated in smaller sizes. For Tatuaje fans, the names and distinct appearance makes them easy to coincide with their larger brother: Lil’ Drac based off of “The Drac,” Frank Jr. off of “The Frank,” etc. In the past month, Johnson has announced that he will make 10,000 orange boxes that will include two of each cigar, this is double the original 5,000 he originally planned. The Tatuaje brand owner also told halfwheel that he expects pricing for the boxes to be around $75.00. The Little Monsters sampler is expected in June. Johnson hopes that the increase in production numbers will keep them on retailers’ shelves a bit longer, as opposed to the normal Monster Series releases which often sell out before retailers receive their shipments.

And last week, the Little Monsters began shipping.

The Tatuaje Little Monsters, a limited edition project for Pete Johnson’s Havana Cellars, began arriving in stores Monday in what is expected to be one of many shipments over the course of the next few weeks. The Little Monsters, which constitute five smaller versions of Tatuaje’s Monster Series releases are a 10,000 box release Johnson hoped would stay on shelves, something the larger versions traditionally have failed to do.

However, a sample of a few retailers indicate the initial shipment seems unlikely to stay on shelves as retailers are reporting frantic purchasing.

Last week, Johnson tweeted the following, asking his fans for patience:

Pete Johnson Little Monster Tweet

To recap, the Little Monsters are based off of the four original Monster Series releases and the upcoming 2012 release, theTatuaje Mummy. Here’s a picture of the four original releases and their Little counterparts (left to right):

Tatuaje Monsters + Little Monsters

The cigars are smaller versions of their original counterparts with a slight change to the bands, which read “Little Monster”except for the Baby Face, which features a tobacco band like the original The Face.

We e-mailed Pete Johnson to ask him to explain his motives behind blending, specifically how he was approaching making smaller versions of blends that debuted a few years ago:

I used the same blends as the original, which was the best way to represent the original cigars. The tobacco varietals did not change. Only the crop years.  Of course the Mimi Mum and The Mummy will be from the same crop.

Tatuaje Little Monsters Box 1

Tatuaje Little Monsters Box 2

Tatuaje Little Monsters Box 3

The Little Monsters are packed in pairs from newest release (Mini Mum) on the left to oldest release (Frank Jr.):

Tatuaje Little Monsters Box 5

Interestingly enough, the boxes originally depicted the Little Monsters on the outside, however, due to concerns about marketing products to children, Johnson decided to place the artwork underneath the cigars and instead the outside of the boxes read “Little Monsters.” The original boxes looked like this:

Tatuaje Little Monsters Boxes.png(via Sean “Casper: Johnson)

On the production boxes, you will find this underneath the cigars:Tatuaje Little Monsters Box 4

Each box was supposed to contain a single trading card depicting one of the monsters. In addition to the five normal cards, there are two limited edition cards: one is a version of the Baby Face card that has a depiction of Pete Johnson’s face instead of the normal monster face and the other is reportedly a foil printed card. However, Pete Johnson has stated that there will only be 5,500 cards because of a printing issue. A little over 1,000 of each of the five regular cards were produced.

On top of that, the Mini Mum card that has been shipping in the first shipments contains a printing error. Under the Favorite TV Show section, it says, Unwarpped, which is obviously supposed to read Unwrapped.

Here’s a picture of the boxes being packed at My Father Cigars S.A. with the card inside and various cards on the table:

Tatuaje Little Monsters Frank Jr 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje Frank Jr.
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 5 5/8 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 44
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: $7.50 (Boxes of 10, $75.55)
  • Date Released: June 11, 2012
  • Number of Cigars Released: 10,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 2

It’s a fairly dark wrapper with a great amount of moisture and a rather sharp rectangular box-press. Quite frankly, if you took the band off, this could be the Cojonu 2012 Reserva Jr., because it truly does look like a smaller Cojonu 2012 Reserva. While the aroma smells of a strong sweet cocoa, the foot adds a bit of caramel and wine, although it’s still dominated by the cocoa. I find myself taking a bit more off each time I smoke an additional Frank Jr. As always, the cold draw delivers a heavy Nicaraguan cocoa and pepper mixture, i.e., a classic Brooks profile.

The Frank Jr. begins the first third very chewy with some dense nuts and a pepper in the back before an earthy note engulfs the profile turning moist and eventually getting more cedar-like. It’s rich and developed, just not what you are expecting given the notable absence of chocolate. Eventually the Tatuaje settles with a smooth restrained cocoa, some spicy herbal and grassy notes, but the core is still earth with a touch of cedar. Initially, the Frank Jr. starts with very quick moving smoke, almost to the point of concern, after a few minutes however it is significantly normal.

Tatuaje Little Monsters Frank Jr 2

Into the second third and the cocoa is finally becoming a major factory. It’s still not the sweet Nicaraguan cocoa of the cold draws, but it’s definitely on par with the strength of the earth. Also missing from the mouth flavors is the pepper note from the cold draw, although some spices remain. There’s some nuttiness, about where the grass was in the Frank Jr.’s first third, but the star of the show is the retrohale which features an odd combination of lemon, bread and pepper. It’s not bad, just not what you are expecting. Strength is a soft medium-plus, it makes itself known, but barely.

Tatuaje Little Monsters Frank Jr 3

The final third eventually sees the cocoa take over, unfortunately, the detail of the Frank Jr. is hardly what it was when the cigar began. While the chocolate is full, it’s mushy and far less detailed, acute or refined as the cold draw, or even the flavors through the 40% of the cigar. As the final inch and a half begins to burn, there’s a phenomenal creamy note that enters into play, very detailed and very enjoyable. Draw remains pretty center, a touch tight if I was forced to pick between the two, and the rest of the construction is unchanged.

Tatuaje Little Monsters Frank Jr 4Final Notes:

  • The notes above are based off the two most recent samples of Frank Jr. I’ve smoked. The cigars have changed a lot since they first shipped, something that is pretty prevalent amongst the halfwheel thoughts on the Little Monsters as a whole.
  • The broadleaf on the Frank Jr. is quite a bit darker than The Frank. You can see it in the picture above, perhaps it’s time. However, Steve’s review of The Frank would suggest time has little to do with it.
  • The Frank Jr. has a sharp box press, hence the mini Cojonu 2012 Reserva comments, The Frank never had this sort of press to it. It was obvious, but much softer.
  • I’ll say it again — you have to remember that Little Monster is an oxymoron. The reality is these aren’t that little. The smallest size is a traditional Robusto and the rest are Coronas and Corona Gordas.
  • Given The Frank was the first Monster, and it’s been three and a half years since it came out, it’s not surprising the Frank Jr. doesn’t taste much like The Frank’s current state.
  • I said it a few times during the Mini Mum review, Brooks Whittington alluded to it during the review of the Baby Face, Brian mentioned it while reviewing the Lil’ Drac and Patrick reiterated it in the Wolfie review — slow down, slow down, slow down. If you want  to ruin any shot at having a good experience with the Frank Jr., smoke it in forty-five minutes. If you don’t go slowly, the flavors lose complexity, the smoke gets hot and the burn goes all over the place.
  • Strength is medium-plus for most of the cigar, getting to medium-full towards the end.
  • I would have loved to see some of the flavors from the initial cold draw, sadly they were never present.
  • For those wondering about The Boris, Pete has long talked about doing a Little Boris as an exclusive for Jeff Borysiewicz’s Corona Cigar Co. The Boris was never part of The Monster Series and as such it wasn’t included in the Little Monsters. The Little Boris has now shipped from Corona Cigar Co. MSRP is $9.00 per cigar for the 5 x 48 Robusto with $1.00 per box being donated to Cigar Rights of America. It features an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and fillers. The initial run is set as 5,000 cigars. Borysiewicz has requested an additional run, but wrapper supply has prevented Johnson from confirming anything beyond the first batch. You can read more about the Little Boris at the bottom of this post.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and forty minutes on average.
87 Overall Score

For me, going into the Little Monsters, the one that stuck out as being most likely to be controversial was the Lil' Drac, solely because of the paint issue with The Drac and its performance compared to at least one person's thoughts on a cigar that was never infected with paint. After having all five, all but the Baby Face multiple times, I'm convinced that won't be the case, at the very least there will be an additional cigar up for discussion, the Frank Jr. Like the rest of the Little Monsters, the Frank Jr. has definitely improved with time, but it still seems a bit all over the place. Even at its best, the flavors, while developed, didn't really seem to work, at least for me. I think the Frank Jr. is somewhere between a decent and good cigar, but like so many of Pete Johnson's creations, that's a disappointment. Inevitably many are going to try the best and the worst in the orange boxes, for me — the Frank Jr. is the latter, at least at the early stages.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.