Cigar Aficionado

Unconventional Tatuaje Hits the Market

In 2009, Pete Johnson, owner of the Tatuaje brand, conceptualized La Vérité Tatuaje A.O.C., essentially taking a vintner's approach to cigarmaking by creating a brand using tobacco from a single vintage and a single farm. Johnson chose a 2008 harvest from José "Pepin" Garcia's La Estrella farm in Estelí, Nicaragua, consisting of Criollo tobacco grown from Habano seed. The cigars were rolled in 2009 and will finally be shipping to retail shops within the next few weeks.

Johnson took a decidedly unorthodox approach to constructing this brand. Not only is he using tobacco from one year, and from only one farm, he has also skipped the traditional aging process, which takes place in bales, and decided to let the tobacco age in the form of a completed cigar. (All the tobacco inside went through the complete fermentation process.) This is a departure from conventional cigar making, as most premium cigars are typically made with blends of tobacco from a variety of styles, such as the diverse growing areas of Nicaragua and with varied ages.

"It's like aging wine in a bottle," says Johnson. "I'd rather age the tobacco gracefully in the rolled cigar instead of in the bales. A lot of people will say that I'm rushing this process, but if the tobacco is properly fermented and aged, I think you can use it right away."

La Vérité comes packaged in master cases of 100 cigars, and retailers will have the choice of four boxing formats: four boxes of 25; 10 boxes of 10, two boxes of 50; or one box of 100. The master case, which resembles a case of wine, will contain the smaller unvarnished boxes. Like fine wines, Johnson expects his La Vérité Tatuaje A.O.C. cigars to improve over time.

For much more on this new cigar, see the current Cigar Insider.

To watch a video interview with Johnson taken at the boutique El Rey de Los Habanos factory in Little Havana, Miami, click here.