It’s been a while since I smoked a J21. In fact, I had to be reminded what the exact size of the J21 was when we purchased Tatuaje’s Reserva Broadleaf Collection.

I knew the J21 was a robusto, but I thought it was larger than the Americanized 5 x 50 size. In addition, I spent some time figuring out the name, it’s listed both as J21 Reserva and Reserva 21. It is in fact is the latter, something I asked Tatuaje’s Pete Johnson about. He said the name has two meanings: his last name is Johnson and he always wore 21 in sports; also, a friend of his had a dog named Joss who died at 21-years-old.

As has been mentioned, last year Tatuaje showed off the Reserva Broadleaf Collection, a 100-count box containing 10 bundles of 10 different Tatuaje Brown Label releases, all with Connecticut broadleaf wrappers. Six of the cigars are broadleaf versions of Tatuaje’s original six Brown Labels, known as the HUNTER sizes because of the first letter of each of the cigar’s name,[ref]Hunter was also the name of one of Pete Johnson’s dogs.[/ref] and four other cigars including the J21.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje Reserva J21 Broadleaf
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $12 (Boxes of 10, $120)
  • Release Date: Feb. 14, 2017
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Each of the Reserva J21 Broadleafs I select for the reviews have some uneven caps. This wasn’t me intentionally selecting cigars with weird caps, but it was a constant trait on each cigar. Aroma of the wrapper has leather, barnyard and some meatiness. It’s medium-plus, which is similar to the intensity level of the foot, though that is much sweeter. There’s dates, banana bread, peach skin, a soapiness and a touch of spice. The cold draw has a very distinct chocolate ice cream flavor along with a latte-like creaminess, some nuttiness, brown sugar, barnyard and a touch of that a soapy characteristic.

It starts a bit pedestrian with nuttiness, toastiness, charcoal and some fresh soil, a distinct earthy taste. There’s some mild spice on my lips, but I can taste neither spice nor pepper in the mouth. However the Tatuaje started, it changes pretty quickly with the J21’s toastiness developing to a burnt popcorn, now joined by watermelon rind and some heavy cream. There’s a generic woodiness behind it, along with lingering effects of the burnt popcorn. All in all, it’s a complex profile. Construction is fine, though the smoke is a bit warmer than I’d like and it’s not due to the ambient temperature.

There’s another turn in the middle part with the cigar getting much sweeter thanks to a Wether’s caramel candy and red velvet cake on the retrohale. Behind that is a familiar toasty and woody mixture, but it’s joined by some sawdust and sour cream. After the hallway point, I get some spice in the mouth for the first time. It’s a mixture of paprika, cinnamon and a rotating mixture of white and cayenne peppers.

Unsurprisingly, the final third offers quite a bit of added flavors. There’s an orange creaminess in the retrohale, not as distinct as the watermelon rind, but still quite sweet, along with some floral flavors and a Cap’n Crunch. It’s contrasted by nuttiness, some freshly cut fire wood and an overproof bourbon. The heavy cream returns, blending in well with the rest of the Tatuaje’s flavors including a wasabi-like pepper that has emerged from the cinnamon. Construction ends pretty well and the cigar is a bit cooler than where it was at the end of the first third.

Final Notes

  • While it won’t explain the construction issues, I do wonder if the timing of this review versus the earlier ones has something to do with the drastic difference in how the cigars tasted. Most cigars go through sick periods, periods of time when the flavors are off because of how the tobaccos are settling, largely due to ammonia. It’s one of the many areas of doing cigar reviews that is inherently flawed, the same cigar is unlikely to taste the same today, a month from now, a year from now, etc. Cigars change over time—for the better, for worse and oftentimes, better at one point and worse at another.
  • On that note, we try our best to treat all cigars the same. We don’t review cigars right after they are released and all cigars spend at least three weeks, and usually at least a month, in our humidors before we review them.
  • That said, we’ve also tried to mimic consumer behavior as much as possible and so once a cigar ships to a retailer, sick period or not, the cigar is 100 percent fair game to be reviewed. In the case of some of the earlier reviews of the Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection, I feel pretty confident saying our reviewers would feel like disappointed customers given how the cigars smoked.
  • Spice and soapiness are characteristics that some can use to describe cilantro, though I don’t pick up any of the herb from the foot. Cilantro is one of the weirder foods in the world. Studies have shown that many people perceive cilantro differently, with the soapy characteristic being a common trait for people who dislike the flavor, something that could be genetically predisposed according to some popular studies. While I had one uniquely poor experience with cilantro as a kid–there was just way too much of it in a salad–I enjoy it now and have never found it to be soapy.
  • For those wondering, that bullet point above represents 103 words on a flavor I didn’t taste in a cigar, a certain record for this blog.
  • Tatuaje advertises on halfwheel.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 35 minutes on average.
92 Overall Score

Our initial reviews of the Tatuaje Broadleaf Collection have been surprising and our experiences largely disappointing, particularly for Tatuaje. The company has set a very high bar for itself and rarely does it miss, but many of those cigars have been flawed. It’s ranged from flavor issues to construction issues to consistency, all things the Reserva J21 Broadleaf thankfully avoids. This is what we’ve come to expect from Pete Johnson: flavor, construction, balance. I’ve still got two of the new broadleaf-wrapped Brown Labels to smoke, but so far, this has been the best of the bunch.

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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 have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.