The Tatuaje La Casita Criolla (which translates from Spanish as “The Little Native House”) is unique in that it is 100 percent USA Connecticut broadleaf tobacco. I am not aware of any other hand-rolled cigars using all-Connecticut leaf, which is a shame because Pete Johnson and Jaime Garcia – who was involved in the production of the La Casita Criolla series – demonstrate with the La Casita Criolla series that USA Connecticut tobacco can be blended well as wrapper, binder and filler. The La Casita Criolla series was initially launched in 2011 and they are produced at Mr. Garcia’s My Father Cigars S.A. factory in Esteli, Nicaragua.
Tatuaje (Spanish for tattoo) was launched in 2003 by Pete Johnson, a native New Englander (Maine) who moved to Los Angeles when he was 18 to pursue a rock music career playing bass guitar. He worked at a cigar shop on the side and fell in love with the industry. Anyone familiar with the Tatuaje brand knows Mr. Johnson is a big fan of broadleaf. In the excellent 2013 Cigar Aficionado “Heart of Darkness” story by executive editor David Savona, he praised Connecticut broadleaf tobacco for its earthiness and sweetness, saying that “[i]n its truest form, it can be one of the best-tasting wrappers.”
The Tatuaje La Casita Criolla HCBF (6½” x 48) short Churchill has a rustic, veiny USA Connecticut broadleaf wrapper with an oily sheen to it and the coloration varies slightly. To the touch, you can tell the wrapper is thick, and the tobacco inside feels like it is consistently packed on the slightly tight side. Running your fingers down the cigar, you feel lots of small bumps due to the layer-upon-layer of thick veiny broadleaf tobacco packed into it. The cigar is well constructed with tight seams, especially for using such a thick wrapper leaf. This cigar reminds me of another USA Connecticut broadleaf-wrapped cigar, the Nica Rustica series by Drew Estate, but does not appear quite as rustic.
Adding to the old-world feel of the cigar, the band is simple and looks like it could have been made a century ago. It has a brown background, and three gold-bordered rectangular sections; the first in red identifying the Tatuaje brand, the second in white identifying the La Casita Criolla series, and the third in white containing a picture of what appears to be a tobacco barn or house with a thatch roof (hence the Little Native House). I fully appreciate Tatuaje putting the production dates on the boxes, which lends to date authentication for anyone who ages cigars. The HCBF reviewed here is from a box dated November 19, 2016.
The initial draw is slightly tight, but it packs a lot of flavor, mostly leather with pepper and cedar in the background. In the middle of the cigar, the leather subsides slightly and the flavors grow richer and more complex, with notes of orange zest and sweet spice. The richness further develops during the final third of the smoke, leaving a finish of cappuccino foam and cocoa powder flavors on the palate.
Thanks to the nutrient-rich Connecticut River Valley soils in which the tobaccos were grown, the cigar had mostly white ash that burnt evenly and didn’t show a hint of ever needing to be touched up or relit.
In addition to the HCBF (6½” x 48) short Churchill reviewed above, Tatuaje’s La Casita Criolla series comes in three vitolas: HCR (5” x 50), HCB (5⅛” x 42) corona, and HCBC (5⅝”x 46) corona gorda. If you’re lucky, you may also be able to track down the Las Casita Criolla in a lancero (7½” x 38) that was released in Tatuaje’s Limited Lancero Collection in 2014 (reviewed by Jeremy Hensley of Casa Fumando here.)
This fine Connecticut puro (a cigar using wrapper, binder and filler tobaccos all from the same region) makes you fully appreciate the hard-working Connecticut River Valley tobacco farmers and migrant workers who spend up to 15 hours a day in the hot, humid fields and curing barns each summer.
Overall, Mr. Johnson has done Connecticut and America proud in producing this fine throwback cigar made exclusively of USA Connecticut broadleaf tobaccos. This Connecticut puro is something to be appreciated.
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