Tatuaje’s Monster Series needs no introduction.
And yet, for the sixth consecutive year I will do just that for what is arguably the most anticipated release in the non-Cuban world. Ever year, since 2008, Tatuaje’s Pete Johnson has created a cigar and branding around a figure from a specific horror films. To date, cigars have been made inspired by classics like Frankenstein and Dracula, to more modern ones like Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. The pattern goes there are two “classic” monsters and then a modern monster. Given the Jason Voorhees selection from last year, that makes 2015 and 2016 “classic monsters.”
The series is famous for the hysteria that ensues, as well as the annual ritual Johnson labors over to ensure the details are correct. There are dress boxes of 13 cigars, carefully crafted to embody the monster’s persona. Only 666 of those boxes are sold with the bulk going to 13 retailers who receive 31 each. Why the fuss with the numbers? Johnson uses 13 because it’s considered unlucky, 31 is the inverse of that, and 666 is considered to be the number of the devil.
As for the cigar itself, the seventh iteration of the Monster Series is The Jekyll based on the character of Dr. Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It uses an Ecuadorian Sancti Spíritus over Nicaraguan binders and fillers. All Monster cigars are big and this year’s version comes in a 7 x 49 churchill size with a rounded cap found on the classic Cuban 109 vitolas.
Johnson has already confirmed that The Hyde will be the 2015 release, it’s offered in the same size and in many ways appears as the reverse of The Jekyll. The art on each of the two dress boxes will combine to form a unified depiction of the scientist Dr. Jekyll on the left and the monster Mr. Hyde on the right. The color schemes on the band are also switched.
- Tatuaje The Frank (7 5/8 x 49) — 2008 — Named after Frankenstein — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars (8,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Drac (6 3/4 x 52) — 2009 — Named after Dracula — 1,300 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars (16,900 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Face (6 3/8 x 56) — 2010 — Named after Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 1,300 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (21,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Wolfman (7 1/2 x 52) — 2011 — Based on the monster from The Wolf Man (1941) — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 1,300 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (21,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Mummy (7 3/4 x 47) — 2012 — Based on the Boris Karloff character — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 3,100 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (39,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The JV13 (7 1/2 x 52) — 2013 — Based on Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 4,500 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (53,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Jekyll (7 x 49) — 2014 — Based on Dr. Jekyll from Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 4,500 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (53,658 Total Cigars)[ref]There will be more cigars released Europe, at this time, Johnson does not have finalized numbers. The numbers here are for the U.S. only.[/ref]
It’s not just the numbers that have special meaning, the colors used are chosen for a reason. I emailed Johnson as to why he choose green and white. HIs responses for the series as a whole are as follows.
- The Frank — Green and black because of any old image you see of him.
- The Drac — Black clothing with a hint of red or blood.
- The Face — Human skin.
- The Wolfman — Brown because of fur but with a little red for blood.
- The Mummy — Gray because of old bandages and dust.
- The JV13 — Red because of blood spilled.
- The Jekyll — The green comes from the concoction that Jekyll whipped up and drank to turn him into Hyde. That’s why Jekyll has the more bone color with a hint of green on the band and Hyde is more green.
As has been the case for many years, 403 dress boxes are sent to the Unlucky 13 retailers who each receive 13 boxes. The remaining 263 boxes are split up between Tatuaje’s other accounts with most stores receive between one and three boxes. An additional 34 boxes are are also made as personal stock. Those boxes are marked with Xs instead of numbering and are reserved for Johnson’s friends, family and charitable endeavors.
The Unlucky 13 retailers are hand-picked by Johnson. To date the only three requirements seem to be: a. be a Tatuaje account, b. be in the U.S., c. have not been an Unlucky 13 retailer before.[ref]The now defunct Gloucester Street Cigar was selected for each of the first four years. Johnson publicly credited with the store’s owner with helping Johnson on the idea. It is the only store that was selected more than once.[/ref]
- Cigar King
- The Cigar Shoppe
- Corona Cigar Co .
- Finck Cigar Co.
San Antonio, Texas
- Fujioka’s Wine Times
- J Shepherd
- Neumann’s Cigars & More
- Nice Ash Cigars
- Rockys News & Cigar
- Smoke Inn
- Stogies World Class Cigars
- Tobacco Road
- Two Guys Smoke Shop
In addition to those retailers and dress boxes, Johnson has announced that two European markets will be getting a different colored version of the dress boxes. Johnson has not finalized production numbers for those, but he recently told halfwheel it could be as limited as 31 boxes for each country. Yesterday, the first Dutch Unlucky 13 list was published. Those boxes will be gray instead of white. According to The Longfiller Company/J. van Horssen BV, Tatuaje’s distributor in the Netherlands, the boxes should arrive at retailers on Oct. 31.
For those that want to just smoke the cigar, 4,500 boxes of 10 are made available to the U.S. market. They feature the same cigars, at the same price ($13 per cigar) with the only difference being the cigars in the dress boxes ship without cellophane, whereas cigars from the plain boxes are in cellophane.
As if that was not enough Monsters, Johnson has released two different samplers with smaller cigars based off the Monsters Series. In 2012, he release the Little Monsters, which were smaller cigar versions of the first five releases, earlier this year, he released Pudgy Monsters, which included still smaller—albeit larger than Little Monster—versions of the first six Monster Series releases, as well as two additional cigars.
In total, it brings the Monster Series family to 21 different cigars, including The Hyde, which is scheduled for 2015.[ref]Freddy Kruger is the frontrunner for Monster Series #9 in 2016. The series is supposed to be completed after 13, which seems likely given Johnson’s annual frustration regarding Monster hysteria.[/ref]
- Tatuaje The Frank (7 5/8 x 49) — October 2008 — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars (8,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Drac (6 3/4 x 52) — October 2009 — 1,300 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars (16,900 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Face (6 3/8 x 56) — October 2010 — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 1,300 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (21,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Wolfman (7 1/2 x 52) — October 2011 — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 1,300 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (21,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Frank Jr. (5 5/8 x 44) — June 2012 — 10,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Lil’ Drac (5 x 48) — June 2012 — 10,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Baby Face (4 3/8 x 50) — June 2012 — 10,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Wolfie (5 1/2 x 48) — June 2012 — 10,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Mini Mum (5 3/4 x 42) — June 2012 — 10,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Mummy (7 3/4 x 47) — October 2012 — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 3,100 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (39,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The JV13 (7 1/2 x 52) — October 2013 — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 4,500 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (53,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Frank (5 5/8 x 49) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 1 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Drac (5 x 52) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 1 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Face (4 3/8 x 56) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 1 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Wolf (5 1/2 x 52) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 1 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Mummy (5 3/4 x 47) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 1 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Jason (5 1/2 x 52) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 1 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Chuck (4 x 50) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (40,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje Tiff (4 x 50) — June 2014 — 20,000 Samplers of 2 Cigars (40,000 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Jekyll (7 x 49) — October 2014 — 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 4,500 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (53,658 Total Cigars)
- Tatuaje The Hyde (7 x 49) — October 2015 — TBA
- Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje Monster Series #7 The Jekyll
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sancti Spíritus
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 7 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 49
- Vitola: Churchill
- MSRP: $13 (Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars, $169 & Boxes of 10 Cigars, $130)
- Date Released: Oct. 7, 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: 666 Dress Boxes of 13 Cigars & 4,500 Plain Boxes of 10 Cigars (53,658 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 4[ref]Two of the samples I smoked for this review were given to halfwheel by Pete Johnson at the IPCPR Convention & Tradeshow, while the other two were from a box purchased by halfwheel.[/ref]
Like all of the full-sized Monster releases so far, The Jekyll is a large cigar, which is somewhat the point. It is covered in a nutty brown wrapper that is noticeably draped in both veins and oil. There is some slight tooth to the wrapper when it is felt and the cigar has quite a bit of give to it when squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of sweet cedar, sawdust, almonds and barnyard, while the cold draw brings notes of nuts, oak, leather and sweet cream along with a bit of pepper.
The profile of The Jekyll starts off immediately with creamy oak, leather, almonds and earth. There is a significant amount of white pepper on the retrohale from the first puff, and it does not seem to be dying down at all as the first third progresses. I do notice some slight heat on the finish that competes with the sweetness that is present in the blend, but it is far from overwhelming, and comes and goes. Construction-wise, the burn and draw are both excellent.[ref]I really like the 109 feel, it’s not a parejo and it’s not a belicoso.[/ref] The smoke production is well above average and while I can feel some strength, it is not going anywhere very fast.
An interesting cayenne pepper note starts to invade the finish around the start of the second third, blending nicely with the pepper on the retrohale and the nutty creaminess already present. Other notes of creamy oak, bread, leather, cocoa and earth flit in and out, while the sweetness I noticed is a tad bit stronger, but still far too light to identify. The bitterness from the first third is long gone and the white pepper on the retrohale shows no signs of decreasing. The strength is coming close to the medium mark, but fails to push over by the end of the second third, while the smoke production continues to be extremely copious. As for the draw, it’s a standout with just the right amount of resistance.
The final third of the newest Tatuaje Monster release has the same creamy oak that has permeated the profile up to this point, along with other flavors of leather, earth, dark cocoa, coffee and nuts. The cayenne pepper note on the finish is not as strong as it was around the halfway point, but it is easy a major component in the profile and continues that way until the end of the cigar, as does the pepper on the retrohale. Both the burn and draw continue to impress and remain that way until the end of the cigar, and the strength finally breaks through to the medium mark, although it stalls there. Unfortunately, the sweetness does not increase noticeably, but the nub is nice and cool when I put it down with a little less than an inch left.
- Johnson told halfwheel that the blend for next year’s release, The Hyde, is finalized, but he does not have to pull the trigger until February of next year in case he decides to change it. The Hyde will be a 7 x 49 cigar packaged in those boxes, it just may not be the same blend he has been giving out to people as prereleases.
- Sancti Spíritus—which translates to holy spirit in Latin—is actually the name of the and city and province in central Cuba.
- The ash is extremely flaky, and does not hold on for more than a half inch before small pieces start falling off, although not enough to really be a problem.
- The overall strength also falls squarely in the medium range, and never threatens to go any further than that.
- I am split on the design of the boxes this year. On one hand, I love the fact that they play off of each other despite the fact that they will be a year apart, and I really like the art on the boxes themselves. On the other hand, I appreciate earlier versions of the boxes that were more simplistic and rustic.
- For the past few years, S.T. Dupont has created a special lighter for each Monster Series release, there won’t be one this year. The Jekyll and The Hyde will get one lighter, due out next year, that will feature one monster on one side and the other on the back.
- The boxes are not cut straight, so the tops will flare at the top when you put them together.
- The stores chosen every year are called the “Unlucky 13″ for a reason: not only do they have to deal with an avalanche of calls asking about the dress boxes, but they are vilified no matter what they do in terms of whom they sell their allotment of dress boxes to, whether local or call in orders.
- The final smoking time for all four samples averaged one hour and 50 minutes.
- If you are looking to purchase any of The Jekyll, site sponsor Atlantic Cigar will have them in stock any day now.
I’ve smoked each Monster Series release plenty of times and I have to say, the blend of The Jekyll is unique enough that I am finding it difficult to compare the profile to any of Tatuaje's other releases. It’s not as simple as “if you like x, you’ll love this.” The interplay between the peppers—both on the retrohale and finish—and the sweet and creamy notes produces some of the best parts about the profile. Yes, a more dominant sweetness would have benefited the blend and made it more complex overall, but that is just nit-picking. The Monster Series has never been about breaking ground in terms of complexity compared to the rest of Johnson’s portfolio, and while The Jekyll is one of the more balanced and nuanced of the bunch, it’s still not the best Monster to date. As it always seems to be the case with Monsters in October, a good cigar, but not my favorite Tatuaje.