Review: Tatuaje Black Label Lancero (Prerelease)
For many—myself included—Tatuaje’s new Old Man and the C was one of the most anticipated releases of IPCPR 2012 for one major reason, the Tatuaje Black Label Lancero.
The Old Man and the C was first introduced last year in the El Triunfador blend, featuring a Lancero, the El Triunfador Lancero Limited, and a Culebra of the same blend packaged in the same coffin. The coffins were packaged in master cases of ten coffins. This year the blend chosen was Tatuaje’s Private Reserve, or Black Label.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the blend, Pete Johnson explained the story behind it a few years ago:
On a recent trip to a famous island known for historic cigar making, I spent my time in a small town enjoying the simple life. Every day was peaceful and every night was festive, with both having cigars involved throughout. My favorite cigar was not a cigar bought at the local store or factory, but a cigar that was handed to me every morning.
Mornings, after taking a shower with a bucket of water warmed with what looked like a curling iron, I would walk to the front of the house and sit on the fence to get some sun and take in the fresh air. I also took in the fact that I was miles from home and no one knew where I was. My phone didn’t work and I had no cares in the world other than trying to decide what to smoke.
My first morning on the island an older gentleman came along on his bike. This was not a motorcycle but something like an old Schwinn that he had likely been riding for decades. This gentleman was well dressed, almost dapper, and I probably appeared to him to be a strange character. My usual outfit of jeans, t-shirt, loads of silver jewelry, and an arm full of tattoos didn’t seem to faze him. He saw I was enjoying myself so that morning, and every morning after that, he would stop and give me a cigar from his shirt pocket.
This cigar was far from being a ‘pretty’ cigar but that did not bother me a bit. It was a treasured and unexpected gift that I was thrilled to be given. After smoking this cigar I realized that this was one of the best cigars I smoked on the island. Later that day in speaking with my host on this trip I came to understand that these cigars were something special to every person who carried them. They were cigars that they made for themselves. Even the guys who worked hard in the cigar factories all day would return home at night and make their private cigars. Simple cigars with flavors they personally enjoyed. Over the course of the next few days my host and I visited his friends and asked for cigars that they made. Before I left I had cigars from a few locals who all used different tobaccos from the different growing regions. They were all great but there was one that really stood out for me as special.
I decided when traveling to Nicaragua to work with the Garcia family that I would try to recreate this special cigar for myself. Together we spent quite some time working on the blend and looking at different leaves for wrapper. The marbled toothy wrapper was perfect for this cigar, rustic looking but with tons of aroma. After smoking the first sample, I was immediately brought back to that island relaxing on a fence, enjoying life, smoking a great cigar. A great cigar that will always in my mind represent the place, the time, and the experience of the purity of the simple life. This cigar may be considered ugly by some but inside that surface roughness it contains such rich flavor and aroma.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. This is a tribute to that cigar.
Brooks described the history of the initial release a few years ago:
In the beginning, there was only one size of the Black Label. The original release Corona Gorda first released in 24-pack bundles in November of 2007 to select Tatuaje dealers. This was followed by the Jar release in the second quarter of 2008, in which 1,000 limited release jars with 19 cigars per jar. In between this time, Pete was known to hand out a second vitola of the Black Label, a Robusto that had the same unfinished foot and pigtail cap. A three pack of these were also given out to customers who purchased a box of Tatuaje cigars when Pete was present.
The coffins look like this:
(From left to right)
- Corona Gorda (Jar/Bundle Closed Foot)
- Robusto (1st Event Pack-Closed Foot)
- CRA Toro (Closed Foot)
- Tubo (Closed Foot)
- Robusto (2nd Event Pack-Clean Foot)
- Petit Robusto (2nd Release Pack-Clean Foot)
- Corona Gorda (2nd Event Pack-Clean Foot)
- Petite Lancero (Tobacco Grove-Closed Foot)
- Petite Lancero (Regular Production-Clean Foot)
- Lancero (The Old Man and the C)
- Culebra (The Old Man and the C)
And the particulars.
- Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje Private Reserve Lancero
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun Grown Criollo Estelí
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 7 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 38
- Vitola: Lancero
- MSRP: $7.50 (Coffins of 4 Cigars, $30.00 & Master Cases of 10 Coffins, $300.00)
- Release Date: August 2012
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 1
It’s what you expect. The My Father pigtail cap on top of 7 1/2 inches of the slightly red and relatively clean wrapper that is synonymous with Pete Johnson’s classic release. My Father is no stranger to Lanceros, but on the limited amount of Black Label Lanceros I’ve seen, the construction seems even better than usual. From the wrapper there’s a medium, but developed, note of sweet leather, orange peel and a bit of barnyard. It’s very much Black Label, although a bit heavy on the oranges. The foot is a near carbon copy of my memory of the Petite Lancero: sweet brownie cocoa, touches of fruits, almost painfully sweet with a touch of pepper on the end. Cold draw is perfect with tons of sweet cocoa met quickly by red pepper and leather. Rather full and providing plenty of hope.
It starts the first third with bitter earths, cocoa and leather. The Black Label Lancero turns the mouth completely dry before a beautiful salty nut flavor emerges. There’s a touch of harshness, but no real pepper is identifiable. One interesting note is the aroma, which I can best describe as a heavy Nicaraguan note. At the one inch mark I get an interesting apple cider note, something new and something temporary. The flavor settles to a core of earth with sweet syrupy cocoa, peppers and touches of cedar surrounding it.
By the second third the delicacy of the flavors is apparent. While they are rather full—you get punished very quickly for any sort of major increase in smoking speed. The cocoa decreases a bit, while the earthiness gains some sweet citrus notes, a bit of creaminess and a dark and heavy Nicaraguan cedar on the back of the throat. Construction of the Tatuaje is great: nearly two inches of ash, above average smoke production and a dead perfect draw. When I glance down to see the cut cap, a near perfect array of rolled tobaccos present themselves.
Into the final third and there’s an increased creaminess and a bit more generic earth. Touches of cherries and vanilla make it into the profile as the pepper turns into more of a black pepper, losing the edginess it once had. It’s hard to say whether the flavor profile advances, as in the cases of the cherry and vanilla notes, or regressed, as was the case of the earth—but it did change. A few touch-ups are needed in the last two or so inches, but I’m able to smoke the Lancero down past the inch mark without ever losing the cigar.
- Truth be told—one of my favorite parts about this release is people will finally stop referring to the Petite Lancero as the “Black Label Lancero”—I hope. I personally can’t stand when people refer to things by the wrong name.
- Each coffin carries an MSRP of $30.00. There are a total of four cigars, so the Lancero’s retail price ends up being $7.50—which looks a bit low on paper. The Tobacco Grove Petite Lancero was actually priced $1.00 higher despite being an inch and a half shorter.
- I never understood why Pete Johnson described the wrapper as ugly. It’s light on veins and features a bit of spotting—far from standing out in any humidor as being problematic appearance-wise.
- Both the Lancero and Culebra don’t run the full length of the coffin. If they did—the former would be impossible to get out of the box.
- Pete Johnson has already confirmed the Black Label will be back next year for the tenth anniversary release of the jars, which will be a new jar in a large quantity.
- There is no set amount of Old Man and the Cs, currently 300 master cases have been made, but there could be more. Last year 386 El Triunfador versions were produced.
- Smoke these slowly.
- Toros aren’t cloned Robustos with an extra inch, this was not a Black Label Petite Lancero with an extra inch and a half.
- The name for this year’s version is simply “Tatuaje Old Man and the C”—no mention of Private Cellar or Black Label.
- Strength is medium plus to medium-full for the entire cigar, never a major factor and never making a big jump.
- This cigar was given to halfwheel by Pete Johnson at IPCPR 2012.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes.
The Bottom Line: I’m not going to lie—the expectations were high, really high. While the Black Label blend has been by-in-large disappointing for me, never meeting the immense praise and hoopla associated with the line. The two shining moments—the Petite Lancero and Corona Gordas a few years ago provided some insight to why people go nuts over the cigars on the secondary market. Sadly, the Black Label Lancero will fall short of the insane hopes set on it by myself and others. This is a good cigar, a very good cigar; but to cut to the chase real quickly—the Petite Lancero from 18 months ago was a lot better. Every flavor the Black Label had it delivered with great detail and very cleanly, unfortunately, I was left hoping for one or two more to provide the complexity that I had hoped for. Once you get over the fact there are literally a handful of cigars capable of producing the experience you hoped for in the Black Label Lancero—you realize it’s a good cigar, a really good cigar, but perhaps not the best format for the blend.
Final Score: 89