Ask near-any craft cigar junkie what their favorite brand is and you’ll be told, “Tatuaje” 7 out of 10 times—yes, those are made up numbers and yes we’re sticking to them! Brand owner Pete Johnson is largely credited as a pioneer in the modern era of premium cigars, helping to transform the landscape to fall in line with the more fun, lively, and collectable nature of the craft beer scene. Limited editions, local exclusives, seasonal releases, and enough new combinations of Nicaraguan tobaccos and creative marketing to keep the diehard enthusiasts on constant alert throughout the year have made Tatuaje the benchmark for sought-after cigar releases.
Case in point, Tatuaje’s annual Monster Series. The series was introduced in October of 2008 with the now-legendary The Frank cigar, a soft-pressed, Connecticut Broadleaf maduro-wrapped Double Corona that featured the standard Tatuaje band with an altered color scheme of green and black. What caught smoker’s attention was the cigar’s unusual packaging, offering 13 cigars in special dress boxes made to resemble a blood-spattered coffin. Only 666 boxes were produced (yes, there’s horror-themed numerical meaning squeezed into nearly every aspect of this series!), checking every box in the collector’s handbook and making for quite a frenzied debut.
In 2009 it was made clear that ol’ Frankenstein was no accident, being joined by fellow horror icon Dracula with The Drac cigar. Pete doubled the release in an attempt to meet the demand, but soon realized the elaborate coffin boxes wouldn’t be practical to scale much further. The following year’s The Face (Leatherface, of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) brought the dress box count back to 666, with an additional allotment of 10-count, plain boxes to meet the growing demand.
The releases were gradually scaled up over the years, always maintaining 666 dress boxes of 13 cigars; which are primarily allotted to a new set of 13 retailers each year, known as the “Unlucky 13”. Each Unlucky 13 shop receives 31 dress boxes, with Tatuaje’s top accounts receiving the leftover 263 boxes (around 3 boxes per store, for those that receive an order). But for those that aren’t in the collecting game, there’s typically around 4,500 plain boxes of 10 cigars dispersed across the country.
Tatuaje Monster Series
|The Frank||Connecticut Broadleaf||7⅝” × 49||2008|
|The Drac||Habano Ecuador Maduro||6¾” x 52||2009|
|The Face||Mexican San Andrés||6⅜” × 56||2010|
|The Wolfman||Ecuadoran Sumatra||7½” × 52||2011|
|The Mummy||Nicaraguan Sun Grown Criollo||7¾” × 47||2012|
|The JV13||Connecticut Broadleaf||7½” × 52||2013|
|The Jekyll||Ecuadoran Sancti Spiritus||7″ × 49||2014|
|The Hyde||Ecuadoran Sumatra||7″ × 49||2015|
|The Krueger||Mexican San Andrés||7¼” × 48||2016|
In 2012 the series saw an interesting spinoff in an attempt to further appease demand. Along with the yearly release (The Mummy), Tatuaje unveiled the Little Monsters—a 10-count sampler box that contained miniature versions of all 5 cigars. This kicked off another trend, with Pudgy Monsters (similar to Little Monsters, but with large ring gauges) arriving 2 years later (2014), and Skinny Monsters 2 years following (2016). Add to the mix the recently announced Skinny Monsters Cazadores and Skinny Monsters Lancero limited editions, as well as individual releases of all 10 Skinny Monster cigars, and the event-exclusive Tatuaje Halloween cigars… Tatuaje begins to rival their originally Cubanesque persona with something closer to “the Halloween brand” persona.
Nevertheless, Tatuaje has never lost sight of the original Monster Series, showcasing monster after monster without skipping a beat (rumored to eventually encompass a total 13 cigars in the year 2020). 2016’s monster was showcased for the first time at the IPCPR show in Las Vegas, introducing The Krueger, à la Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The Krueger No. 9 Breakdown
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: My Father Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Limited Edition (53,658 cigars)
- Vitola: 7¼” × 48 “The Krueger” belicoso
- Price: $13.00
As with many of its predecessors, The Krueger hovers around the churchill/double corona range, at 7¼” × 48. The vitola is the third in the series (joined by The Drac & The Wolf) to offer a torpedo shape—opting for a less tapered, belicoso-style cap. The size is most similar to The Frank, and the box-press style is shared by The Frank and The Wolf. Finally, it is the second San Andrés-wrapped monster, joined by The Face. On paper, one could imagine The Krueger to smoke like a Frank-sized The Face—of course, you and I know there’s a bit more to it than that…
The Unlucky 13 retailers were announced on October 3, with The Krueger cigars eventually shipping close to two weeks later.
The Krueger returns to a more traditional coffin look for the cigar’s dress box (The Jekyll & The Hyde were square to fit together). On the face, the box is red and green, striped in Freddy’s infamous sweater patter. There are claw marks down the front, with burned-in and disfigured scratches and scars running down the box’s sides, the likes of Krueger’s face. The plain, 10-count boxes feature the usual plain wood boxes with the cigar’s logo painted in black, as with previous releases.
Bands are made to match the box, having the same green and red scheme in Tatuaje’s signature, skinny, simplistic look.
The first thing you’ll notice with The Krueger is its size—it’s big—as with many of the cigars in the Monster Series. The vitola is a slightly oversized churchill with a nubby, belicoso cap; as opposed to the long and tapered head of The Drac and The Wolf. The box-pressed shape is somewhat rounded at the corners and the feel is on the flat side—like a rounded rectangle. The wrapper is dark and toothy, showing a multitude of thin, yet prominent veins and easily visible, dark seams—although these are very tight and well-rolled. There are the usual gnarled aspects of mottled coloration, and an eye-sore of an unfermented water spot on the cigar’s backside. The pack is medium, giving an overall light weight for the cigar’s large size.
On the nose: light mustiness, wet tobacco, and leather—not a very aromatic cigar. The pre-light draw feels perfect, giving notes of cinnamon, mineral, and anise.
The Krueger ignites with tingling spices running down the nostrils and back of the throat. It isn’t overly sharp, but a more complex spice of tangy and zesty bell peppers. As the pre-light draw indicated, it’s close to perfect, giving a resistance that’s just a tad tighter than medium-plus. Unfortunately, this is accompanied by a lower-than-desired smoke output (medium-light). The cigar feels good in the hand, with an even balance and symmetrically flat sides.
The cigar seems to be a pretty slow burner through the first inch, lasting around 20 minutes and producing a soft-textured ash with bright white, light gray, and light brown coloration. There’s no mistaking that this blend has flavor and lots of it! Although, it’s an interesting mix that’s often tricky to pin down. A multitude of intricate and subtle spices can be found in the retrohale, and there’s a fun combination of sweet and garlic-like spices that me thinking Sriracha. The overall profile in the first third is full flavor, medium strength, medium/full body.
The construction is good but has its drawbacks. On the plus side: straight burn line, slow burn, awesome draw. On the negative side: the ash seems to hold only an inch and the cigar needs fairly frequent puffing to stay lit. Flavors throughout the mid-section include wet earth and mineral qualities, light black pepper, licorice, and a great vanilla sweetness that wavers between powdered sugar and vanilla root beer.
The strength picks up somewhere near the cigar’s half-point, briefly approaching full before falling back to medium-plus nearing the end. There is also an appreciated increase in smoke output (around medium), simultaneously allowing for a more maintenance-free experience. In the final third, there are some interesting flavors campfire smokiness, toasted marshmallows, allspice, and hot chocolate powder—a great combination that begs to be heavily retrohaled, allowing the smoke to really hang in the nostrils to fully absorb the complexities.
But in the final quarter, the fun comes to an end. Multiple touchups and/or re-lights briefly bring back desirable flavors, which quickly drift towards harsh and ashy notes. Unfortunate, considering the cigar only required a single touchup up until this final portion.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I’m actually surprised to say yes. It’s always been my opinion that many of these releases rely more on fun marketing and limited edition statuses than on unique flavor profiles and smoking experiences. While I have not tried every monster cigar (there’s almost too many to count these days), I’ve smoked a fair share, and after smoking The Krueger, I’d rank it among the top three blends to date (joining The Frank and The Drac).
- Smoking Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: straight rye whiskey | craft root beer
- Purchase Recommendation: 1 – 2 boxes (non dress) | only buy dress box if you’re a collector and already have at least close to the full series
- Big flavors
- Long smoke time
- Perfect draw
- Low smoke output
- Disappointing finale, with harsh flavors in final quarter