Review: Tatuaje La Casita Criolla HCR
Just shy of a year from the debut of the La Casita Criolla, Pete Johnson announced that a new size would be joining the lineup, a 5 x 50 Robusto. In what is becoming a trend, the cigar was given a limited introductory release in a specific region, in this case, in the Southwestern part of the country.
According to Johnson, he offered his reps in the southwest two choices as to what cigar they wanted and they chose the La Casita Criolla. “No other reason,” he said, adding that “it was their choice.”
As for why he picked a Robusto for this release, Johnson said that the bigger ring gauge “shows off the 100% broadleaf thing really well.”
The backstory of La Casita Criolla is fairly simple – Johnson loves Connecticut Broadleaf and has a fondness for old school American cigars that used 100% Broadleaf, while Jaime García buys lots of Connecticut Broadleaf tobacco. The move not only created a new cigar for the current generation of cigar smokers, but helps García maximize his Connecticut Broadleaf purchases by using it for filler.
When news of the launch started to come out, there was speculation as to whether the La Casita Criolla would be all Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro, which Pete promptly addressed, saying:
Okay guys. To clear this up. Not all Broadleaf is dark. The wrapper will be but the binders and fillers are made up of Broadleaf tobacco also. When Jaime buys Broadleaf, he buys in hopes to get good dark juicy wrapper, some medium color wrapper like La Riqueza and good binder but the other leaf that doesn’t make those grades is sorted by size and texture for filler. Again not every leaf will look like the wrapper. It’s all 100% USA Connecticut Broadleaf. Jaime also buys all primings of Broadleaf. Seco, Viso and Ligero. This is also how we are able to sort the filler to do the blend on the cigar.
It joins the three existing sizes of the La Casita Criolla:
HCB – 5 1/8 x 42
HCBC – 5 5/8 x 46
Not only is the HCR the shortest cigar in the line, but it’s also the largest ring gauge.
Here is a picture of a box of Tatuaje La Casita Criolla HCRs:
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s light this stick up.
Cigar Reviewed: Tatuaje La Casita Criolla Robusto
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Connecticut Broadleaf
Size: 5 Inches
Ring Gauge: 50
MSRP: $6.75 (Boxes of 25, $168.75)
Date Released: May 2012
Number of Cigars Released: Regular production
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
When thinking about a typical Connecticut cigar, the darker color of the La Casita Criolla is most likely not what pops to mind. As Pete Johnson noted, Jaime García buys Connecticut Broadleaf hoping to get good, dark, juicy wrapper, and while I wouldn’t describe this as juicy, it falls into the dark category. The delicacy of the wrapper isn’t readily apparent unless you happen to be smoking it in a hot, dry place – Phoenix, for instance – when it’s durability is quickly challenged and the weak spots are exposed by a crack. The cold draw is firm without being challenging while showing a light mix of flavors, with a bit of brown sugar and a touch of pepper. Aroma is strong with a bit of orange marmalade on light wood as the conversation starter. Despite the cigar having a bit of give, it’s firmer at the head, almost to the point of being uncomfortable in the teeth. There’s also a distinctive spice that comes from the wrapper that lights up the tongue and lips.
The flavor seems to hit the roof of my mouth more than anything – a bit woody, noticeable dry and with just the slightest bit of pepper to start the first third. As is the case with many Connecticut Broadleaf cigars, the ash isn’t terribly strong, with the first clump of ash drops off about an inch in with a clean separation from the rest of the stick. The flavors back off a bit in the first third, leaving the La Casita Criolla to settle into a mild-plus strength level.
Once the second clump of ash drops off at the middle of the second third, there’s a pepper note that comes seemingly out of nowhere to reroute what had been a fairly linear flavor progression. Notes of dry lumberyard wood set in with just a bit of sourdough bread coming through. The flavors of the Tatuaje are bold and unapologetic, though they do offer a fleeting but very enjoyable sweetness.
The final third sees a gradual increase in the intensity of flavors to the point where they get to sharp to palate enjoyably, as the heat and touch of sourness of the La Casita Criolla simply overwhelm the taste buds with just about an inch and a half left. There seems to be an underlying creaminess trying to get out but it gets outmanned by the other flavors. However, it was a great building of flavors in not a lot of time and made the second half of the cigar a real palate pleaser.
- While this doesn’t look like what I think of when it comes a Connecticut Broadleaf cigar, the wrapper certainly behaved like it. The second cigar was smoked outdoors with a temperature of 100 degrees and just 4% humidity, and the wrapper was no match for the dry air, cracking right under the cap and sticking to my lips.
- It bears repeating: this is not a regional release like Jaime García’s projects for the New England and Southwest (Poehler) regions. This is a case of a region of the country getting the first batch of a new size before it ships to all authorized accounts.
- That being said, I appreciate that Pete included the Phoenix area when he released it to the Southwest. I bring this up as a reference to the new Jaime García Sur Oeste, which translates into southwest but is being released in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma primarily. Not to start a turf war, but New Orleans isn’t the Southwest in my book.
- Instead of reviewing this cigar in thirds, it would be much more fitting to do it in halves, as the midpoint is where the drastic flavor change happens.
- The Tatuaje FT114, which was originally released as part of the Tatuaje Exclusive Series, is now being sold exclusively by Impact Force in Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Both cigars will be available nationally at IPCPR.
- If there was a way to get this cigar to finish without the harshness, I’d definitely pick more of these up.
- Kudos to My Father Cigars and Pete Johnson for including a box date on these. I rarely even look for this on non-Cuban cigars, and when I flipped the box over, I found a stamp showing what looked to be 24 FEB 12.
- Final smoking time is pretty standard for a Robusto at about one hour, 20 minutes.
The Bottom Line: Pete Johnson said that the Robusto’s bigger ring gauge would show off the “100% broadleaf thing” of the La Casita Criolla really well, and he didn’t lie. I looked back over my notes on the HCB vitola from last August and while there are many similarities, the Robusto brings a better balance to the flavors, though it still doesn’t allow the notes of sweetness that seem to be in there to really come out. If you want to divide this cigar into thirds, they certainly won’t be made with even slices. The initial puffs are one third that backs off into a milder smoke before stepping on the gas at the midpoint and racing home in a long, building final third. While I never got crazy about the La Casita Criolla in its first three sizes, the HCR has made me more of a believer in what can be done with an all-Connecticut Broadleaf cigar.
Final Score: 88