The first time we tried the original Tatuaje cigar—now called Tatuaje Miami—back around 2005, we thought, wow, this could easily be mistaken for a Cuban cigar. I’m not sure if the cigar has changed, or our tastes have, but we would never say that now. Why? Maybe back then, this was the first cigar truly blended in the Cuban style, so it stood out as such. Maybe over the intervening 15 years, the blend or tobaccos have changed. Or maybe we’ve just grown accustomed to the kind of bold Nicaraguan tobacco that was fairly unique to Tatuaje then, but much more common now.
It takes a lot to stand out in today’s cigar market, where manufacturers play a seemingly friendly but relentless game of one-upmanship. Oscar Valladares manages to play that game well, offering a small but bold lineup of brands that really stand out on the shelf—though if you drop a box of the company’s camo-themed Wild Hunter smokes in the woods, you might never find it again:
Connecticut Shade-wrapped cigars have undergone a transformation in the last decade. First of all, very few are actually wrapped in genuine USA-grown leaf, which for decades was where nearly all Connecticut Shade came from. The high cost of US labor, combined with the short growing season and difficult process of literally shading the plants from excess sun exposure, became too much to overcome. Then there’s the value of the land, which was too high to justify its use for farming. Most Shade leaf now hails from Ecuador, where there’s no need to actually shade the leaves. The result is a richer, tastier tobacco that comes up lacking only when it comes to appearance. It’s oiler and veinier than the US-grown varieties, the finest of which resembled the smoothness of Cuban wrapper leaf.
Ugh, we thought. Just what we need: a slightly flavored cigar for those who like their cigars just slightly ruined, but not quite a full-on Acid. After all, why else would you age it in bourbon barrels if not to impart a flavor other than what naturally occurs in the tobacco, AKA an artificial flavor. We couldn't have been more wrong.
AJ Fernandez is on a roll, and his new partnership with cigarmaking giant Altadis USA has already netted at least one stellar smoke, H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez which we just reviewed—and recommended highly. Now here's a new take on another old brand with a three-country blend that practically mirrors the Upmann: Ecuador wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler. The price is higher, but Montecristos have always been sold at a premium. So for a few bucks more, is this a few ticks better?
About Our Ratings
CLASSIC means that a cigar is the very best example of its type.