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Tatuaje’s annual exclusive release for the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA)—known affectionally as the Tatuaje TAA—has become one of the company’s most anticipated releases every year due to its combination of great blends, a decent price point and that it has historically been fairly easy to find. For the past five years or so, there have been so many Tatuaje TAA cigars produced that some fans had no problems buying boxes of the past year’s version off of the shelf even as the new year’s new version was being released.

That might come to an end next year, as Tatauaje owner Pete Johnson confirmed that the 2021 incarnation in the series would not be produced in the same quantity as past versions.

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With that said, the first teaser of this year’s addition to the series was shown off in August of last year. It is a 5 5/8 x 54 box-pressed vitola that happens to be the same size as the first TAA cigar that the company released in 2011. However, it’s not the same cigar.

 

While the vast majority of the TAA release from Tatuaje have been made with Connecticut broadleaf wrappers—seven out of 10—the newest addition the line features a wrapper leaf that has never been used in the series before. Specifically, an Ecuadorian Sumatran wrapper covering a Nicaraguan binder as well as filler tobaccos from Nicaragua.

The Tatuaje TAA 2020 has a retail price of $11.95 each and the release is limited to 3,000 boxes of 20 cigars. This year’s boxes are a bit different than most of the rest of the series, now wider in a 2 x 10 format instead of 4 x 5 and with a stained finish and gold accents.

As has been the case for every preceding release, the Tatuaje TAA 2020 was made available exclusively to members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America. If you are unfamiliar with the particulars of what the TAA is, Charlie Minato described it thusly in his news story about this very cigar:

The TAA is a fairly small group of some of the country’s top tobacconists, about 80 retailers as well as 40 or so manufacturers. The association gathers annually to discuss issues facing the industry and retailers, as well as to have its annual trade show, a unique event that works on a group buying format in order to secure exclusive deals for these generally high-volume merchants.

During the convention, the organization hosts two distinct selling events. One is known as the Dream Machine, an optional event where manufacturers offer the entire group of retailers tiered specials and discounts. The more the group collectively agrees to buy, the better the discounts and deals are for every retailer involved. In addition, the week includes a more traditional trade show which oftentimes sees some of the most aggressive discounts of the year.

For consumers, the TAA is most known for its Exclusive Series Program. Participating manufacturers produce exclusive cigars that are only sold to the group. A portion of sales is donated back to the TAA.

This year 14 companies have new TAA ESP releases:

There have now been 10 different releases of Tatuaje’s TAA exclusive cigars.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje TAA 2020
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Sumatra)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 5/8 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $11.95 (Box of 20, $239)
  • Release Date: April 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: 3,000 Boxes of 20 Cigars (60,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The size of this year’s Tatuaje TAA may look familiar, but the band does not: gold font on a black background, albeit with the same TAA logo that has been on seven of the past nine releases. Underneath that band is a reddish milk chocolate brown wrapper that is silky smooth to the touch and covered in copious amounts of oil. The cigar is slightly spongy when squeezed and both the soft box-press and closed foot are nice touches. Aroma from the wrapper and foot bring a combination of nuts, dried pasta, leather, earth, cocoa nibs and hay while the cold draw brings flavors of peanut shells, dark chocolate, espresso beans, creamy cedar, generic fruit sweetness, pepper and a touch of mint.

Lighting up the closed foot of the TAA 2020, I am immediately inundated with flavors of strong mocha chocolate and cinnamon, the combination of which reminds me strongly of Mexican hot chocolate followed closely behind by notes of rich espresso beans, cedar, earth, leather, hay, roasted peanuts and a touch of floral. Along with some spice on my tongue, there is also a distinct caramel sweetness on the retrohale that combines nicely with a large amount of black pepper. In terms of construction, the draw features just the right amount of resistance after a straight cut, while the burn is wavy but far from needing attention from my lighter. Smoke production is both thick and copious off of the foot and the overall strength ends up hitting a point just under the medium mark by the time the first third ends.

While the main flavor combination of mocha chocolate and cinnamon retains the top spot during the second third of the Tatuaje, some new flavors are added to the profile, including anise and popcorn. Other notes of creamy cedar, hay, roasted peanuts, coffee grounds and toast flit in and out, while both the caramel sweetness and black pepper on the retrohale show no signs of letting up anytime soon. The spice on my tongue has diminished somewhat by the halfway point and the smoke production continues to pour off of the foot, but there is not much change with the construction as both the draw and burn continue to give me no issues whatsoever. Finally, the overall strength increases quite a bit, easily passing the medium mark by the end of the second third. 

The dominant flavor has some significant changes during the final third of the Tatuaje TAA, as the Mexican hot chocolate combination fades a bit, only to be replaced by a strong charred meat note. Lesser flavors include creamy cedar, leather, rich tobacco, peanut shells, popcorn and coffee beans, along with some still aggressive black pepper and caramel sweetness on the retrohale. Construction-wise, both the draw and burn continue to impress, while the overall strength ends up smack dab in the middle between medium and full by the time I put the nub down with about an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • A Tatuaje TAA release has placed in halfwheel’s Top 25 five out of the last eight years, with last year’s version taking the sixth spot.
  • Interestingly, some of my favorite Tatuaje cigars of all time have been wrapped in an Ecuadorian Sumatra leaf including the Bombazo Capa Especial and the Little Boris.
  • If you are looking for a TAA retail member, you can find a list here.
  • The construction on these cigars was phenomenal in just about every aspect; in fact, I only had to touch up two of the samples once each.
  • As has been the case with a number of major cigar events, the in-person TAA Convention & Meeting was canceled due to coronavirus COVID-19. Instead, the organization held a virtual event.
  • Cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 34 minutes.
  • You can find the Tatuaje TAA 2020 for sale at site sponsor Corona Cigar Co. here.
91 Overall Score

Ask just about any Tatuaje fan which series has produced the most enjoyable cigars year after year and you may hear a number of different answers; but for me, the top of the list belongs to the Tatuaje TAA. No matter what year, what blend and what size you are smoking, the odds are good that it will be an extremely enjoyable cigar, and the TAA 2020 is just the latest example of that. Smooth, complex and balanced, the new release includes dominant flavors of rich Mexican hot chocolate and charred meat, along with a caramel sweetness that pairs well with the black pepper on the retrohale. Throw in the excellent construction and great size and you are left with one of the best new cigars of the year so far.

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Brooks Whittington
About the author

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.

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