Over the past several years, there’s been a steady stream of limited release cigars that all bear the same three letter abbreviation: TAA.
While the Tobacconists’ Association of America is a relatively small group of retailers who span the country from coast to coast, they represent some of the biggest, most prominent cigar stores in the US. Their collective buying power is impressive, which is why manufacturers participate in a mini-trade show just for them, offering them the chance to combine their buying power and be rewarded with steep discounts and exclusive cigars.
The purpose of the TAA, as they describe it, is:
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:
To establish a forum where members can exchange information and share solutions to mutual problems.
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.
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.
Pete Johnson has been no stranger to the selling tables of recent TAA conventions, offering exclusive cigars to the group each of the past two years. This made it no surprise when he announced that he would be making another exclusive cigar for them in 2013. News of the cigar that Johnson would be offering to Tobacconists’ Association of America members at their annual meeting first surfaced in March 2013, and it packed a bit of a surprise. After a pair of well-regarded releases blended for the organization, Johnson would instead prepare for them a special size of the Brown Label, a 6 3/8 x 54 parejo that would eventually be called the Grand Chasseur. There’s no inherently special meaning behind the name; Johnson picked it because this cigar is “just a big Bon Chasseur.”
News that 2013 would not hold a new vitola for the popular Tatuaje TAA blend may have come as a bit of disappointing news to those who had become fans of the previous two cigars that Johnson released for the TAA. Fear not though: that blend is slated to return in 2014. As has been mentioned before on halfwheel, the Tatuaje TAA is similar to the blends used for the Tatuaje Barclay Rex 100th Anniversary and Tatuaje Pork Tenderloin.
The vitola name of the cigar should immediately sound familiar, as one of the two vitolas released for the Brown Label’s 10th anniversary was the 5 3/8 x 52 Bon Chasseur, which is French for good hunter. This cigar’s name translates to great hunter, and if the bells aren’t going off now, allow me to explain.
Johnson had a dog named Hunter, and the Brown Label is properly known as the Seleccion de Cazador, or Hunter’s selection. When he came out with the Brown Label, he also named the initial six vitolas in honor of that canine:
- H – Havana Cazadores
- U – Unicos
- N – Noella
- T – Tainos
- E – Especiales
- R – Regios
This year Johnson is celebrating his tenth anniversary in the business and as such has put special bands, a closed foot and wet-packing on his Brown Label shipments this year. Outside of these changes, the cigar remains the same.
As mentioned earlier, this it the third release for TAA members, who had to be at the meeting to purchase the cigar. If that sounds familiar, L’Atelier Imports did the same thing with their Extension de la Racine ER13 line at the IPCPR Convention and Trade Show this year.
Here are the three Tatuaje TAA cigars side by side:
Tatuaje TAA 2011 (5 5/8 x 54) – $11.00 (Boxes of 20, $220.00) – 1,500 Boxes of 20 (30,000 Total Cigars)
Tatuaje TAA 2012 (6 1/4 x 50) – $11.00 (Boxes of 20, $220.00) – 2,500 Boxes of 20 (50,000 Total Cigars)
Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Grand Chasseur TAA 2013 (6 3/8 x 54) – $11.00 (Boxes of 20, $220.00) – 2,500 boxes of 20 (50,000 Total Cigars)
This is the biggest Tatuaje TAA release to date, an eighth of an inch longer than last year’s and the same ring gauge as 2011’s. Like the previous two releases, it features a closed foot, but don’t declare that a signature mark of the Tatuaje TAA releases just yet; Johnson says that while it’s become a theme, he’s not sure if it will return next year and is considering “changing it up.”
In addition to the different blend, the packaging is also notably different from the past two years, with a varnished wood box that looks like the other Tatuaje 10 boxes replacing the unvarnished sliding lid box of years past. It retains the gold foil packaging found in previous years as well as that used on the other Tatuaje 10 releases, as well as the gold ribbon that wraps the cigars inside. Other than a few markings on the box indicating this as a TAA release—albeit it no logo—this certainly feels much more like a Tatuaje 10th Anniversary release than it does like a TAA limited edition.
Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje 10 Grand Chasseur TAA 2013
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano
Size: 6 3/8 Inches
Ring Gauge: 54
Vitola: Toro Grande
MSRP: $11.00 (Boxes of 20, $220.00)
Date Released: September 23, 2013
Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 20 Cigars (50,000 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
I can’t help but notice that the band for this release is different from both the past two TAA releases as well as the rest of the 10th Anniversary cigars. Johnson said he did this “to give it its own look so people would know it was a special production.” The black background creates a more striking contrast not only against the gold and white also found on the band, but against the cigar’s rich chocolate brown wrapper. It’s smooth and oily with just a bit of texture and mainly small veins. A scrutinizing inspection might also show you a few spots of crystallization on the wrapper, which further adds to its visual appeal. The covered foot is generally tight against the foot of the cigar, though on one sample I had it was much looser and sort of dangled from the foot. The pre-light aromas have notes of coffee beans, flower bed soil a touch of creaminess and a faint bit of sweetness, which gives the cigar a very complex and engaging scent. The cold draw borders between just right slightly firm, with a bit of mint coming through along with a touch of sweet wood and the faintest touch of spice.
The first puffs of the Tatuaje TAA 2013 definitely have an added kick of pepper thanks to the closed foot. While I hesitate to call the flavor sharp, there is just the right amount of pepper to really tingle your throat and get your eyes a bit watery. Just as the pepper from the first few puffs has subsided, the cigar releases a beautiful aromatic smoke that signals a shift into a flavor and aroma driven stick as opposed to the upfront spice it greets you with. The smell is reminiscent of a warm campfire or a charcoal grill that’s been going for a while, and only comes out at that point when you fear the cigar must be on the verge of going out. The retrohale is pleasingly peppery and stops short of overwhelming the nose. The smoke is a bit thin at times but plentiful, and the burn line is sharp, the result of the fantastic construction that has become synonymous with My Father Cigars. Strength and body are pretty much a solid medium here, occasionally becoming medium-plus but never full.
There’s a steady decrease in strength and flavor heading into the second third, with the smoke softening a good bit and a thinner, almost metallic note starting to develop. There is a touch of creaminess that sets the base, with the flavor and strength retreating back to a medium-minus or mild-plus level at times. The second third of the Tatuaje TAA 2013 seems to bring a substantial lull in flavor until the burn line crosses the midway point and the aromas are the first thing that start to come back, though I will say that in one cigar, the drop in flavor was much less pronounced than in the other two. It’s also in this portion of the cigar where the biggest inconsistencies were found; sometimes the drop is pronounced, other times it’s simply a slight reduction in flavor. The latter is certainly preferable in either case. The pepper rejoins the flavor via a very slow, gradual reestablishment, with many of the same flavors following along at an almost equal rate of return. The cigar is back to a medium strength with a subdued flavor set that asks you to pay attention to it in order to pick out the specifics it offers. There’s little if any nicotine kick up to this point.
Continuing the building return of pepper and flavor that started in the second third, the final third of the Tatuaje TAA 2013, and the heat of the cigar seems to be accelerating the flavor’s return. What was creamy has turned to a cookie dough note and the flavor quickly becomes fuller and more robust, almost a bit charred at point with a decent amount of pepper bringing the cigar into its home stretch. As the smoke production goes way up, the finish becomes a bit hot and strong, a drastic difference from where the cigar was at its midpoint, and is reminiscent of how the cigar started with the hit of pepper caused by the covered foot.
- I’d be remiss not to mention that the band prominently features the word Tattoo, which is what Tatuaje means in Spanish. Seeing it reminds me of when Johnson released a line of cigars in 2011 called the Tatuaje Tattoo as part of an effort to secure that name while he was battling Nicaraguan Imports (aka Cuban Crafters) for it. Both Brooks Whittington and Charlie Minato reviewed that cigar and they both talk about the legal issue associated with it. Charlie also has more on it here.
- I’m sort of indifferent on the bands; I liked the TAA logo appearing on the previous two years’ releases, but I’m also fine with these celebrating Tatuaje’s 10th anniversary. I do appreciate the year being included on each release.
- Since we got into the connection with Hunter, it bears mentioning that Tatuaje’s Havana VI line was named for another of Johnson’s dogs, Havana. The first six vitolas, Hermosos, Angeles, Victorias, Aristas, Nobles and Almirantes, spell out her name.
- If you can force yourself to slow down with this cigar, you’ll be rewarded with some great aromatics that seem to come out when the cigar has cooled considerably.
- This year’s TAA convention was held April 7–11, 2013 at Casa de Campo in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
- 2013 was a very quiet year for TAA Exclusives, with just three offered. Last year, there were eight releases. Also released at this year’s TAA meeting were the La Flor Dominicana Double Press Maduro and the Avo Movement, which is slated for an October release.
- That said, so far this seems to be a very good year for TAA releases, as I found the La Flor Dominicana Double Press Maduro to be a solid release.
- You may be thinking to yourself, didn’t Kristoff release a cigar at TAA? Sort of. The Kristoff 685 Woodlawn was released at TAA, but it wasn’t a TAA exclusive. Retailers there had the opportunity to buy the first 1,000 boxes and take delivery ahead of retailers who bought them at the trade show.
- Word is that there is a Seleccion de Cazador culebra in the works.
- As you may have noticed from Johnson’s comments above, looks like we can count on a Tatuaje TAA 2014 release.
- The fact that the Tatuaje TAA release has retained the same price in its third year and in its biggest vitola is a pleasant surprise. I do wonder if the change in blends played a role, however.
- Johnson has frequently said he hears people translating the name of the line as “selection of the hunter” or “a hunter’s selection,” when in fact the correct translation is “Hunter’s selection,” again in reference to his dog.
- Each of the bands were secured very well, though there were no traces of excess goma. One band took a bit of wrapper with it when it came off, though it didn’t affect the integrity of the cigar. If it doesn’t come off right away, you’re best to wait and let the heat from the burn loosen up the glue.
- I was amazed how many organizations are called TAA, including the Texas Auctioneers Association, Transportation Administrators of Arizona, the Texas Apartment Association, and many others. Incidentally, the largest organization of tattoo artists in the US is the National Tattoo Association.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time averaged just over two hours.
To say that the last two editions of the Tatuaje TAA releases have been outstanding would be a severe understatement; the 2011 version flew off the shelves at retailers in the Phoenix area and to this day I wish I had purchased more. The 2012 edition earned similar accolades, and while it can still be found, which is seemingly due to a significant increase in production and possibly some over-purchasing of the previous year's, it has always impressed me. Which brings us to the 2013 Tatuaje TAA release: yes, it is different from years past, and for some, that will be a disappointment. However, it is also a very good expression of the Tatuaje 10 blend, which is based on the very popular Seleccion de Cazadores line. If you find yourself wanting more of the flavors that the Tatuaje TAA 2011 and 2012 offered, your best bet is to check your humidor or hope to find a store or private seller with more and bide your time until next summer. However, if you like the Tatuaje Seleccion de Cazador line, and have found the 10th anniversary sticks to be to your liking, it's worth picking a few of these up. The flavors and strength are consistent and dialed in, with my only gripe being the rapid drop off in flavor and strength heading into the second third. Consider this another winner for the Tatuaje TAA series, and consider me eagerly anticipating the Tatuaje TAA 2014 release.