Cigar Review: Tatuaje TAA 2014/2017

  • Tat2016_straightVitola: Toro (box-pressed)
  • 6” x 52 ring gauge 
  • $12.99
  • Purchased at Burns Tobacconist

Background

What’s old is new again…and this time even the year printed on the cigar band and box is old! So, every year since 2011, Tatuaje Cigars has produced a TAA exclusive stick. For those that haven’t heard (or haven’t been paying attention in class!) the TAA is the Tobacconist Association of America, a loose confederation of about 70-80 cigar retailers nationwide, as well as about 25 or so manufacturers. Each year they gather for a vacation, party, and trade show at some tropical location…and somehow call it “work.” But seriously…every year we look forward to several TAA exclusive cigars hitting member stores and Tatuaje’s annual release is probably the biggest deal every time.

Every year except 2013 has been a blend of Nicaraguan filler and binder leaves covered with a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper…a blend that is derived from the fabled Pork Tenderloin and Barclay Rex exclusive cigars. (In 2013, the blend was basically the Brown Label blend in a new vitola, celebrating 10 years of Tatuaje Cigars.)

There have really only been 3 box-pressed sizes of this stick: 2011 and 2015 use a 5.625 x 54 ring gauge size, while 2012 and 2016 were 6.25 x 50…and 2014 and 2017 are 6 x 52. Each release has had the year of release printed on the box and band…except this year it says 2014 on both. From what company owner, Pete Johnson, revealed in a Facebook post, the bands and boxes had to be printed before they could get clarification from the FDA whether or not a change was allowed. (The change is allowed.) The band and box, therefore, read 2014, but most stores will have it listed as the 2014/2017 (or 14/17…or something like that). It’s confusing, but understandable…thanks, FDA! The inside of the band also has a “2017” printed on it…white numbers in a light gray bar that is nearly impossible to read under less than optimal lighting and without some sort of magnification (no…I don’t need glasses, except for the very low-power ones I use when sitting for long periods at my computer).

I’ve smoked a couple of these before this review stick, including one on the day the shipment showed up at Burns (I really wasn’t impressed) and one about three weeks later (I was just short of “blown away”). By the time I write this review, it’s been another week on from that second stick, and the review sample has been in my humidor at home for 5 to 6 days.

A couple notes: the 2015 Tat TAA was one of my favorite cigars of all time…I bought a box and still have one left, which will be smoked soon. As Pete Johnson has said, his cigars are meant to be “ready to smoke” when they hit the stores. Excessive aging simply doesn’t do some of these blends any favors…I know, I’ve tried some that were 3 or more years old and they are just a shell of their former selves. 2016’s release, though the same blend, was never very satisfying to me…I’ve been told, though, that if you dry-box the sticks, they smoke much closer to the 2015 release…I haven’t tried it yet. Some of the background notes above came from h news story on this release.

Tat2016_footPrelight

The order of the day when it comes to Tatuaje boxes is “plain light-colored wood with cliches burned into as many sides as is necessary.” That’s what we have hear and it works. The “Exclusive Series” band is back: red, white, and blue arm stripes leading to a white circular front, all trimmed in gold. The TAA logo Indian head is in the center with “Tobacconist Association of America, LTD” and “2014” surrounding it. In other words, it looks pretty much like the other Tat TAAs that came before it.

The wrapper leaf was a dark chocolate brown with a little mottling, a couple prominent veins and a very oily feel to it. The build quality seemed to be excellent, from the triple cap to the closed foot. The aroma from the wrapper was earthy and slightly chocolatey; the foot was mostly the same after being out of the wet-pack foil wrap that the cigar ship in (inside the box) for at least 10 to 12 days.

After putting a straight cut on the head, the draw was very easy. The cold draw had flavors of dark chocolate, cinnamon, and earth.

Tat2016_bandFlavor

“Be patient when lighting up!” It’s been something I’ve preached for years…and I was on this stick. Give it some fire, blow on it and see how it’s progressing…toast the foot a little more, blow on it a little more…after repeating a couple more times, take a puff…and enjoy! This Tat TAA 2017 started off with strong earthiness, semi-sweet chocolate, and pepper spice on the palate, as well as a substantial amount of pepper overlaying some roasted nuttiness on the retrohale. It was full-bodied and sweet, peppery and delicious, right from the get-go…just as I remembered the best of my box of 2015 being.

The second third had the TAA 2017 going more earthy with just a subtle sweetness backing it up and balancing it out. Pepper spice was subdued and there was an occasional anise note in the mix.

Chocolatey sweetness came back up in the mix in the final third, though not to the level it was at before. Pepper spice also made a slight comeback, but the profile was still ruled by sweet earthiness overall.

Tat2016_burningConstruction

I had a fantastic draw, even enough burn line and very solid ash up to an inch.

Value

Even though it’s a little young, this stick is still almost as good as the 2015 version; and even in the age of FDA regs, it’s only $1 more. Excellent value.

Conclusions

Only about two months after the box date, these Tatuaje TAA Exclusive 2017s are smoking absolutely fantastically. The flavor profile features the strong presence of the Connecticut Broadleaf the stick is wrapped in, giving up a sweet, spicy earthiness throughout, though with different aspects taking the lead at different times. It’s not quite as flavorful as the 2015 that is my favorite in the series so far, but it is beating the pants off the 2016 in the last two samples I smoked (including this one). This is one to keep an eye on as it comes to (hopefully) full maturity over the next month or two. It is one of two cigars that I’ve rated in the past month (the Camacho Nicaraguan Barrel Aged being the other) that could be revised before the year is over, putting them both in the “Cigar of the Year” contention. This stick is damn near “box worthy” right now…if it gets any better, I’ll be pulling the trigger.

By-The-Numbers

Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4.5/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 9.5/10

David Jones

David has been smoking premium cigars since 2001. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leaf Enthusiast. He is a full-time retail tobacconist, working for Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, where he has also organized the Chattanooga Tweet-Up for the last four years. He is also an independent graphic designer and typesetter. Twitter: @dmjones1009

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