Earlier this year, Pete Johnson announced that his two cigar companies would be one, phasing out the younger L’Atelier Imports and folding its brands into Tatuaje. For all intents and purposes, the change has no effect for the people who smoke his cigars. While L’Atelier as a company might be no more, it doesn’t mean its brands are going anywhere.

Case in point, at last month’s IPCPR Convention & Trade Show there were two new cigars for the Surrogates brand, which once fell under the L’Atelier portfolio. One of those is Eight Baller, a family simple cigar to explain: take the Surrogates Crystal Baller and replace the Ecuadorian habano wrapper with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Surrogates Eight Baller
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: U.S.A (Connecticut Broadleaf)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 3/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 56
  • Vitola: Toro Gordo
  • MSRP: $9.50 (Boxes of 20, $190)
  • Release Date: July 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

While the intent might be a sharp rectangular press, it’s more of an irregular square shape, a bit similar to how Padrón’s cigars are pressed. Aroma off the broadleaf wrapper is pretty familiar: tons of barnyard, some leather and a bit of salt. Like the aroma off the wrapper, the foot is medium-full with a lot of sweetness, like Nesquick powder and a touch of sunflower seeds behind it. The cold draw has sweetness, but the flavors aren’t as commanding. There’s chocolate and vanilla, somewhat reminiscent of a Klondike bar in terms of proportion, and a bit of maraschino cherry if I take a very hard cold draw. There’s also some spiciness left on the lips; all said, it’s medium-plus.

The Eight Baller begins predictably with a big bready flavor over some peanuts, milder cocoa and some generic creaminess. There’s no real pepper, but there’s once again a lot of spice on the lips. Rather than completely changing, the Surrogates adds some flavors to the core profile. It means the creamy and nutty core has some natural cherry flavors, pistachios and pronounced cinnamon that lingers into the finish. The retrohale has some meatiness, lots of saltiness—which creeps into the tongue—and then a lot of leather. Oddly, the retrohale isn’t as intense as the full flavor I pick up in the mouth. Body is full and strength is medium-full. Construction is impeccable.

Pistachio emerges to take a commanding role in the mouth flavor over woodiness, white pepper and an Aperol-like sweetness. The retrohale has a big cherrywood note that dominates over potato chips and some lemon. Both of the dominant flavors—pistachio and cherrywood—remain heavy on the finish along with some mild white pepper. The finish is thick, like a heavy cream, though there’s no real creaminess in the profile. The flavor drops to medium-full, body remains full and the strength recedes to medium-plus. Construction remains great.

Unfortunately, the Eight Baller seems to have gotten too hot by the time I make it to the final third. This happens both when I smoke it in the blazing Texas sun, as well as the two times I smoke the cigar in the cooler night. As oftentimes is the case, smoke production begins to wane and I need to make a touch-up, which doesn’t help things. The flavor shifts to a less detailed earthy and toasty mixture before a nuttiness emerges on the finish. About a second after the smoke hits my mouth, there’s a ton of white pepper everywhere, putting an end to most other flavor development. The retrohale has a sharp nuttiness, almost like a mixture of nutmeg and tonic, along with some barbecue flavor and orange peels. However, I have to dig to find those flavors and basically ignore the large amounts of pepper. All three categories we measure in level—flavor, strength and body—are medium-full by the end.

Final Notes

  • An eight ball is obviously best known either for its unique role in the game of pool—or billiards as a collection of games—and then the Mattel toy that mimics the iconic black ball.

  • I am not good at pool, or billiards or snooker or any variation of a game that involves a cue ball. That being said, someone retweeted the above video in my Twitter feed a few weeks ago and I’ve probably watched it a half dozen times since.
  • At some point—and I imagine we have long passed it—one has to wonder how many different cigars Johnson and the My Father Cigars S.A. factory can make with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. Not all Connecticut broadleaf is the same, but I don’t think there’s a single company associated with any one wrapper more than Tatuaje and Connecticut broadleaf. I’m guessing that Johnson alone has released over 50 different cigars with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper over the years.
  • That being said, every halfwheel Top 25 list published since 2012, the first year of this website, has included a Connecticut broadleaf-wrapped cigar from Johnson.
  • Tatuaje advertises on halfwheel.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time is two hours and 20 minutes on average.
89 Overall Score

While the final third failed to live up to the first two portions of the cigar in just about every way, this is by no means a disappointment. The Eight Baller is neither the most complex nor flavorful cigar, but it is a cigar I’d gladly buy a box of and smoke out of regularly. It's probably not as good as the original Crystal Baller and it certainly is not some sort of everyday Tatuaje TAA clone, but it certainly would be a great everyday cigar. This is a cigar that will be completely overshadowed by Tatuaje’s massive portfolio, including the other flashier cigars the company has released in 2018 and like most of the L’Atelier brands, by just about anything that has a Tatuaje name; but for those that are willing to give it a shot, you will be pleasantly rewarded.

Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda 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.