Cigar enthusiasts were shocked upon learning of its release earlier this year, a cigar that become (potentially) the most sought-after release at the 2015 IPCPR trade show—we’re speaking of none other than the Henry Clay Tattoo. In an unusual twist of fate, cigar giant Altadis USA teamed up with Pete Johnson of Tatuaje to create a revamped twist of Altadis’ classic Henry Clay brand.

SEE ALSO: New cigar releases at IPCPR 2015

Johnson, a renowned creator of some of the most popular boutique cigars in today’s market, has always emphasized a fondness for traditional Cuban cigars and Cuban techniques. And according to an Altadis representative at their trade show booth, Pete approached the brand a year prior at the 2014 IPCPR with a desire to finally collaborate on a cigar, after years of tossing the idea around.

Johnson has always enjoyed a special appreciation for the Henry Clay Brevas. He always talked about working with Altadis U.S.A., the makers of Henry Clay. Now that time has arrived.

For this special release, Pete teamed up with Altadis’ Grupo De Maestros, an elite collection of experienced cigars blenders, to create an homage to one of Pete’s favorite cigars. This new blend features vintage tobaccos to create a similar size and blend as the original Henry Clay.

Henry Clay Tattoo cigar

Henry Clay Tattoo Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Dark Connecticut Broadleaf Vintage 2010
  • Binder: Dominican Piloto Vintage 2010
  • Filler: Dominican Olor Vintage 2012 – Dominican Piloto Vintage 2012 – Nicaraguan Criollo Ometepe Vintage 2013
  • Factory: Tabacalera de García (Dominican Republic)
  • Production: Limited edition (2,500 boxes of 20 cigars)
  • Vitola: 6″ x 52 toro
  • Price: $9.00

As expected, the Henry Clay Tattoo cigars were among the first to completely sell out at the 2015 IPCPR show. There were 50,000 total cigars made, which have sold almost as quickly from retailers across the country. Henry Clay Tattoo showcases a look very similar to the standard HC offering, with a bold transition from white accents to black. But most noticeable is the new sub-band, featuring the Tattoo name, displayed diagonally across the band. The cigars are then packaged in the original Henry Clay Brevas bundle press, again using the altered, black scheme.

The packaging is the first thing that catches me off guard with this cigar—it’s as if it’s trying to look retro/classic and modern/bold at the same time. This feels disorganized to me, and the cigar seems to be struggling for an identity. But it isn’t just the identity crisis—the embossing on the “Henry Clay” lettering is noticeably off, the “Tattoo” looks as if it were slapped on last minute, with the letters extending too far in either direction (the cigar needs to be rolled to view the word), and the bands are too long for the cigar’s size.

As far as the cigar itself, it is very densely packed, among the most packed rolls I’ve encountered—this is fine, even great, so long as the draw/construction are sufficient. The box-press is impressive, with a very square look, rather the rectangular feel you’ll often see. The overall appearance is nice, with a stout pigtail cap and uniform look across the wrapper.



Smoking Experience

After a clean cut and long toasting process (due to the incredibly packed roll), the cigar gives way to some rather muted notes of mineral and sourdough. It’s a better draw than expected—about medium-firm—nothing to worry about. The smoke is thin and seems to require multiple puffs to get the desired smoke output. Tatuaje fans will be surprised to find little-to-no spice in the retrohale (that’ll come later)—keep in mind, this is a Dominican blend, different than Pete’s usual Nicaraguan profile.

Though I found myself relatively bored through the cigar’s beginning, it finally seemed to open up after 1″. Some light coffee notes, chocolate, anise, and toffee all find their way into the mix. There are even some surprises in the retro—it starts as a light zest, but quickly builds to a sharper, wasabi-like intensity—this is a fun twist. Everything opens up at this point, the draw feels better and there is more smoke on each puff.

Henry Clay Tattoo toro cigar review

Construction-wise, the cigar is looking great—the burn line remains wavy but consistent, the ash falls in solid, 1.5″ chunks, and there are little-to-no touchups required. It’s a medium-plus-bodied smoke, with a strength that seems to be steadily building. But just as soon as I found my comfort zone, the flavors zigged and zagged into some strange territories… From the get-go, there is a noticeable mineral quality, like the smell of freshly-soaked rocks in the rain—this transforms into what is now a more bitter, metallic/artificial sweetener flavor—the only way I can think to describe this is like touching your tongue to a 9-volt battery. Okay, so that may be an exaggeration, but that is the essence I was experiencing for a good inch or so.

Few flavor changes develop, but I did find notes of chocolate Graham cracker, burnt caramel, and even a strange dustiness.

Would I smoke this cigar again?

I don’t think so. While the concept is very intriguing, the final outcome just wasn’t fulfilling. Between the 3 cigars smoked for review, not all showed such strange flavors, but none really had enough to keep me interested. This is more strength-forward than flavor-forward, and I’d prefer the reverse. I didn’t really get the feeling I was smoking a Pete-inspired cigar and am beginning to doubt his actual involvement here. For me, it’s a smoke you gotta try to say you’ve done it—check it off the list and move on.

Henry Clay Tattoo cigar review and rating

Henry Clay Tattoo
The cigar is said to be blended by the great Grupo De Maestros and approved by Pete, but it feels more like the Tattoo branding is simply that—branding. It's a long-burning cigar (1.5+ hours) with good construction, but it lacks in flavor, depth, and overall enjoyment. Triple puffs were all too common, making for a cigar that felt more like a chore by the end.
Appearance75%
Burn/Construction98%
Draw89%
Flavor81%
Complexity82%
Price/Value88%
Pros
  • Long burner
  • Solid ash and general construction
Cons
  • Tight draw
  • Low smoke output (triple puffer)
  • Strange, bitter flavors
86%Identity Crisis
Reader Rating: (6 Votes)
75%
  • Charlie H.

    This is a bad cigar…disaster of a blend. They sold out asap from IPCPR but no one got to try them first…they were buying them off of Pete’s name alone. I can tell you this, the Tatuaje TAA 2015 is my favorite cigar released this year, puts this Henry to absolute shame. Pete needs to stay far away from the DR and stick with his Nica cigar roots.