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Staff Reviews

Tatuaje 20th Anniversary Staff Review

Zack D. D's picture

Zack D.

Tatuaje brand founder Pete Johnson recently released a new cigar to celebrate two decades in the business, Tatuaje 20th Anniversary, and I’m smoking it in a 6.375-by-54 size called the Grand Chasseur. I’ve known Pete for over twelve years and have always been impressed by the small-batch smokes he creates in Estelí, Nicaragua, with Pepin and Jaime Garcia, arguably two of today’s greatest cigar-makers.

When Pete launched Tatuaje in 2003, he was an unknown entity in the cigar world who segued from playing in a band in L.A. to working in a handful of premium cigar retailers where he immersed himself in the product and became obsessed with it. Through his cigar connections in California, he crossed paths with José ‘Pepin’ Garcia, who had just immigrated to the States from Cuba with his family. Pepin was a prolific cigar-maker in Cuba but was unknown in the premium U.S. market. Together, Pete and the Garcia family steadily built Tatuaje into a popular boutique brand, and the critics in Cigar Aficionado spread the word when they began rating the cigars highly.

Tatuaje cigars are on the fuller-bodied side. Some of my favorites include Tatuaje Cojonu 2003, in the classic brown label line, and the Havana VI Verocu. Both blends are strong and spicy but also balanced. I’ve been looking forward to the new 20th Anniversary for a while to see how it compares.  

Tatuaje 20th Anniversary is blended from an oily, reddish-brown Cuban-seed wrapper, grown in Ecuador, and a potent core of well-aged Nicaraguan long-filler tobaccos. The cigars come in dark-brown 20-count boxes, and they’re available in two sizes, the Grand Chasseur I’m smoking today and a 6.125-by-46 size called the Grande Merveille.

When I choose a Grand Chasseur from a fresh box, the cigar feels hefty in my hand. It looks rich and well made. The box emits strong aromas of pepper, meat, and soil. Pete decided to go with a closed foot for the 20th Anniversary, too, a detail he had chosen for the debut of his Tatuaje 10th Anniversary cigars a decade ago. With a closed foot, the wrapper leaf encompasses the foot of the cigar, so when you first light it, you’re getting a big dose of flavor from the wrapper.

After I snip the cap and take a few draws before lighting up, strong notes of chocolate, espresso bean, and cayenne pepper mingle with toasty hints of wheat and leather. I’m careful not to toast the foot of the cigar too long, as the wrapper covering it ignites quickly and offers intense flavors out of the gate.

The first minutes of Tatuaje 20th Anniversary are powerful and peppery. Notes of peanut and earth reveal a touch of bitterness, while the aftertaste is floral, bordering on vegetal. Sweet and spicy notes momentarily sting my nostrils in the retrohale, but they mellow quickly into a well-rounded profile. Earthy flavors of moss, leather, and oak develop throughout a series of rich and creamy draws. Tatuaje 20th Anniversary is decadent but not as overpowering as I thought it would be. 

The Grand Chasseur is exceptionally well constructed. Twenty-five minutes in, hearty flavors of red pepper and dark chocolate meld with the cigar’s initially leathery and floral taste. A bright white-ash grows with strong structure, and it hangs on with the kind of stability I’ve come to expect from many other great cigars handmade at the My Father factory in Estelí. Tatuaje 20th Anniversary deserves a vintage Scotch if you’re looking to pair it with a spirit. It’s a dense cigar you should smoke slowly and definitely on a full stomach. 

After an hour and fifteen minutes, I’m nearing the end of the Grand Chasseur, and the nub unloads a concentrated profile of espresso bean and cayenne pepper in a finish that really lingers. If you’re looking for strong, new Nicaraguan blend to explore, Tatuaje 20th Anniversary will not disappoint.