Origin : Miami, FL
Format : Torpedo
Size : 6 3/4 x 52
Wrapper : Nicaraguan Habano Maduro
Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Price : ~$13 each
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Pete Johnson, brand owner of Tatuaje, has been releasing annual special edition cigars around Halloween he calls the Monster Series. One of this year's releases, and the subject of this review, is the Drac-2009. Before I go any further, let me address some major issues which have surrounded this cigar. The Dracs were shipped in painted and lacquered, coffin shaped boxes which have been at the root of the primary complaint. There have been numerous complaints about a terrible odor emanating from the box and even some about that odor and even a flavor having been imparted to the cigars themselves. The Drac is a Halloween themed cigar which of course, had to be released by 31 October, but according to Pete Johnson the box maker in Nicaragua wasn't able to complete the boxes until shortly before the release date. This resulted in the boxes not having time to air out before they were packed, wrapped in cellophane, and ultimately shipped. When opened by B&Ms or individual buyers at their final destination, the trapped odor from the paint and lacquer has poured out. The second complaint about these cigars is that many of the wrappers were damaged when the boxes were opened and the cigars were still "wet."
For the first problem, Pete recommends that you remove the cigars from their original box and place them in your humidor to rest and age for a while. If you want to keep the box, let it air out for a few weeks and he says it should be fine. This is why I'm reviewing a Halloween themed cigar now. For the second problem, he says if you have any damaged cigars, return them to Tatuaje in an uncut, unlit, unsmoked fashion and they will replace them. I have heard some people say that they think the Dracs were released too soon and the moist tripa expanded causing the capa to "burst." Who can say for sure, but Pete says they were intact when they were shipped and each of the ones I smoked for this review had none of the reported bad smell or damage. I also checked with one of the top B&Ms in my area and they said they had heard of these problems but had not experienced them. There is an in depth explanation on the Tatuaje website of what I just reiterated, so on to the smoke.
The Drac was released in a 6-3/4 x 52 "fang-shaped" Torpedo vitolla, in 1,300 boxes of 13 cigars each with a recommended price of $13 per cigar (before taxes and other penalties of course). There were also a certain number of "Spooky Tickets" placed in various boxes, the finders winning something from Tatuaje (reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The Drac is a Nicaraguan puro with a Habano maduro capa which was perhaps just a shade below maduro in color with no real visible flaws. It was adorned with a simple black and red band at the foot, had a smooth texture with some nice veins but felt very light in the hand. The squeeze test was a bit odd; it seemed to give too much close beneath the capa and didn't firm up until under pressure. These could all be signs of poor packing, but I'm not certain this is the case here and that would definitely be out of character for Tatuaje. The pre-light aroma was very mild with the slightest hint of sweetness but no real perceptible notes. I made a straight cut with a single guillotine which the head stood up to without fraying. The reason I mention this is because a single guillotine only cuts from one side and exerts pressure from the other which can easily cause damage, so this was sort of a quality test. The pre-light draw was easy and had a slight woody taste, following which it lit easily and evenly and produced a good amount of grey smoke from the draw.
Initially there was a mild woody taste and a hint of bitterness on the middle-top of the tongue which went away quickly. The tiniest spice tingle snuck up on the tip of the tongue about 1/4" into it and retro-exhalation was a bit harsh but could be done very gently. As it smoked it produced a light-grey ash with hints of dark undertones which was soft and a little crisp and had an interesting 'rippled' appearance to it which held on for the whole first 1/3. Up to this point it burned well but required its first touch-up about 1-1/2" in. Into the middle 1/3 the ash became a little flaky and irregular and dropped off quickly. A charred / burnt flavor would occasionally present itself but only briefly before passing. Just past the half-way point it required a full re-light and bitterness became the dominant taste on the top of the tongue. Through the final 1/3 it required minor touch-ups and couldn't shake the bitterness which ultimately took over the entire center of the tongue and lingered a while.
I met Pete Johnson a couple years ago and liked him which is when he turned me onto his Cojonu cigar (but that is another review). As I mentioned above, cigars with quality problems would certainly be out of character for Tatuaje and I am a fan of their smokes, but I have to give my honest opinion here, "Puro Integritas." Reputation is huge in this business and something like this can hurt a good company. While they couldn't control the problems with the boxes, perhaps they should have bit the bullet and held on to them until next Halloween; the boxes wouldn't have been a problem and cigars get better with age. Also, some of the problems others have reported, as well as the ones I experienced, could possibly indicate a "wet" cigar. There is a time following a cigar's rolling known as, "the period of sickness." Some say it is only a myth, some say it is true, but the general consensus among believers is that from a few months up to a year after being rolled, a cigar may still be overly humidified from the tobacco being moistened prior to rolling. During this period it may still give off ammonia (which is alkaline and causes bitterness), have problems burning, or have not much in the way of flavor at all and should not be smoked. I'm not saying this is in fact the case with the Drac, I'm just presenting some possibilities. Don't let any of this put you off from smoking Tatuajes, they are a good company that makes good cigars which can frequently be found in my humidor.
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