As we wrote in March and again in August, the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA) held its annual convention, which took place March 25-29 in Los Cabos, Mexico. While that in of itself is not something to get overly excited about, this was also the time when Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars took orders for one of his most anticipated releases of the year, the TAA 2012.

The Tatuaje TAA 2011, which was offered only to TAA member stores to sell as a way to drive attendance, seemed to take people by surprise and quickly sold out just about everywhere it was offered. The original plan Pete Johnson mentioned was to have a release just for TAA members every year with each years subsequent release being a different blend and size. However, that plan changed a bit, and he decided to keep the same blend as last year, with a different vitola.

Says Johnson:

Retailers had to be present to order. There was no set structure but I took orders based on the retailers previous year order. The main rule I have is that you must attend the TAA show to order the product. It is not just about being a TAA member. I want to promote attendance and this is a way to hopefully drive that. The blend is the same as the 2011 but I think the smaller gauge changed it for the better. I decided to keep the same base from the response of last years but I think I am happier with this version more.

The discussion of the decision on a size was interesting, as Pete went to social media to ask people what they wanted. We detailed the progression in a news post:

Pete Johnson is preparing the second release of his popular exclusive release for the Tobacconists Association of America, the Tatuaje TAA 2012. Last year, Johnson released the TAA 2011 based off the popular Pork Tenderloin and subsequent Barclay Rex. Johnson took to Twitter to field questions about what size people wanted: Tatuaje TAA 2012 Tweet 1 And eventually settled on 6 1/4 x 50: Tatuaje TAA 2012 Tweet 2 Other than the size, the TAA 2012 is much like the original release. The cigar is box-pressed, the foot is closed, the blend is the same (Connecticut Broadleaf over Nicaraguan filler) and price is the same ($11.00 per cigar). While the boxes will once again be 20 count, there will be 2,500 boxes—1,000 more than last year—which is how many were ordered by the retailers this year.

For those unfamiliar with the TAA, here’s how the organization describes itself:

Our Mission Statement: To provide an open forum of ideas, strategies, and problem solving between retail tobacconist and vendors to the trade.
Our Organization’s Objectives: TAA exists to achieve three primary objectives:

  1. To establish a forum where members can exchange information and share solutions to mutual problems.
  2. To be represented by experienced tobacconists who promote professionalism in the industry through training and exercising fiscal responsibility. The representatives are full-line tobacco retailers who wholeheartedly comply with applicable state and local laws, are well established in the industry and the community.
  3. To function as a buying group that takes advantage of industry close outs and passes huge savings to members, and exclusively provides high-quality cigars and pipes manufactured by TAA associate members and under TAA-owned trademarks.

TAA retail members can buy directly from associate members (manufacturers and suppliers)­ at special offered prices. The support and cooperation of all members is what makes TAA so valuable. Taking advantage of networking opportunities benefits all members. Sharing knowledge and experience is mutually satisfying, and buying from associate members strengthens purchasing lines. All members are encouraged to attend the annual convention, which is not only educational but enjoyable.

The Tatuaje TAA 2011 (top) and the TAA 2012 (bottom) look roughly the same.

Tatuaje TAA 2011 2012 1 There are 2,500 boxes of 20 (50,000 total cigars) of the Tatuaje TAA 2012 for sale at various TAA retailers, and the cigars are wet packed in foil inside.

Tatuaje TAA 2012 Box 1

Tatuaje TAA 2012 Box 2

Tatuaje TAA 2012 Box 3

Tatuaje TAA 2012 Box 4

The Tatuaje TAA is one of seven limited edition cigars offered to TAA members for 2012, the full list includes:

Tatuaje TAA 2012 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje TAA 2012
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 1/4 inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $11.00 (Boxes of 20, $220.00)
  • Date Released: Sept. 19, 2012
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 20 Cigars (50,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 4

The Tatuaje TAA 2012 is striking to look at with a combination of a fairly low ring gauge, almost coal black wrapper and an extreme box-press that makes the cigar look exactly like a candy bar. It is a bit spongy when squeezed, but looks very well rolled with a perfect triple cap and a covered foot. The Broadleaf wrapper has some tooth to it when you rub your finger down it and the aroma emanating from it is strong barnyard, hay, leather and black pepper.

The first third starts with strong notes of gritty earth, barnyard, bitter espresso and a slight sweetness that I can’t place just yet. There is a great amount of black pepper on the retrohale, almost too strong for the first few puffs, and a little spice on the lips that comes and goes. There is a slight maple sweetness that I can taste, but it is not strong enough to really impact the profile. Burn and draw are perfect for the first third, never giving me any problems whatsoever. Smoke production is way above average, slightly blue and billowy. The TAA 2012 starts out at a solid medium and only seems to be getting stronger from there. Tatuaje TAA 2012 2 Coming into the second third of the Tatuaje TAA 2012 and the gritty earthiness is definitely becoming dominant note, but there are other flavors fighting for control including bitter espresso, hay, dark chocolate and coca powder. The hint of sweetness from the first third has morphed into a slight sweet floral note that seems to be getting stronger, but it is still a background note at the moment. Construction remains wonderful, and as expected, the strength has increased to a high medium by the end of the second third. Tatuaje TAA 2012 3 The final third of the TAA 2012 stays the course for the most part: gritty earth, dark chocolate, espresso, oak and hay are the main flavors, but that sweetness from the first two thirds is getting a bit stronger and has shifted back to a maple note stronger than it was in the first third, but is still not a major player in the profile. The pepper has returned to the retrohale, but the spice from the first third has totally disappeared from the lips. The construction remains consistently great, and the strength ends the cigar at just under the full mark. The cigar is easy to nub, never getting harsh at the end and cool to the touch. Tatuaje TAA 2012 4Final Notes

  • We asked for a list of retailers for the 2012 release, Pete said he is still finalizing it. In the mean time, there is a good chance the 2011 retailers will have the 2012 version, the full list of the 2011 retailers can be found here. Once the 2012 list is available we will post in the review.
  • The extreme box-press on the TAA 2012 is quite a bit more pronounced compared to the TAA 2011, mostly because of the smaller ring gauge. The TAA 2011 was box-pressed, but it was honestly more of a soft box-press, and the 2012 version looks more like a Cojonu 2012 than the TAA 2011 press-wise, although the wrapper on the TAA 2012 is noticeably darker.”The 50 ring will show a thinner press but I also wanted to go for more of an extreme press. Again it is mostly due to the ring gauge and the way we press in the factory,” Johnson told halfwheel. Here is a photo showing the differences of the two from the side: Tatuaje TAA 2011 2012 2
  • Like the 2011 version, the TAA 2012 cigars are wet packed in foil and it features a closed foot.
  • On every sample I smoked, and on every stick I looked at, there are what look to be very small shiny specks on the wrapper. This has been evident before in some of Pete’s releases and according to Johnson:

    That’s the heavy mineral content from the farm where we get our Broadleaf. Many people think it comes from the bands but it is from the rich soil on the farm. You can actually see these specks on the leaf during process. If you were to walk the farm, your pants will look like you got a lap dance from an overly bronzed up dancer.

    This is totally different from some of the gold specks that are seen due to the gold of specific bands rubbing off a bit. You can see an extreme example of it here, on a La Riqueza.

  • The TAA actually owns a few different cigar brands that are offered exclusively to TAA shops. Ocaso has been offered in a few different variants including: Dominican, Havana and Honduran. Quesada actually makes Ocaso Dominican. Casa Antero is also made by Quesada and offered solely to TAA shops.
  • With 2,500 boxes spread over 40 stores, these are not going to be selling out immediately, although some of the bigger stores with more of an online presence might run out quicker than others. So, unlike some of Pete’s blends, you will probably have a little bit of time to order a five pack to try before you buy a box or more.
  • The TAA blend is supposedly based on the blend for the Barclay Rex & the Pork Tenderloin, and there are definite similarities between them, especially in the gritty earthiness note that is present.
  • The band on these cigars are the same Tatuaje Limited bands as last year. The one noticeable difference between the TAA and the other Tatuaje Limited releases other than the obvious logo difference is that the bands on the TAA have the words “TAA Exclusive” typed in the blue line, while other releases have the words “Exclusive Release.” I do love the look of the TAA logo in this band, it looks like it belongs there.
  • The construction was excellent on all of the samples I smoked with a great burn line and wonderful draw.
  • The overall strength was noticeably increased over the 2011 version, ending the cigar at just under the full mark.
  • The final smoking time for the Tatuaje TAA 2012 averaged about one hour and 35 minutes for all of the samples smoked.
92 Overall Score

If you read my review of the Tatuaje TAA 2011, you might notice that the tasting notes are almost identical. This is because the cigars are almost identical, which makes sense, considering the fact that they are the exact same blend. However, the two TAA releases are also a perfect example of how a change in ring gauge and a slightly different press can really increase the distinctness of a blend. (The other obvious variable is the tobacco vintage.) Compared to the 2011 version, the TAA 2012 is noticeably stronger, has more pepper on the retrohale and just has a profile whose flavors are much more well defined. The overall profile is dark, rich and gritty, but is still not overly complex. Having said that, if you love the classic Broadleaf flavors, this is going to be a cigar you will want buy by the box.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.