The wrapper leaf on a cigar is like the sear on a carefully cooked piece of beef — it’s often what makes the difference between a bland piece of protein and a sizzling dinner centerpiece. But the sear must be done right — overdo it and your dinner guest will send that Porterhouse right back to the kitchen. Like most of the fine things in life, flavors need balance.
So it’s a puzzle to me when a cigar maker decides to focus on one ingredient in the recipe to the exclusion of the other components, the ones that usually give a cigar balance. We’ve seen cigars that are almost exclusively ligero like Oliva’s Cain, and we’ve seen cigars that are 100% maduro, like Camacho’s Triple Maduro. I don’t care for either of them, and lack of balance is one of the reasons why.
So what possessed Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars to create a cigar made entirely of Connecticut Broadleaf?
I’m not sure, but I was curious to find out. Connecticut broadleaf is prized by manufacturers of everything from machine-made Toppers to Fuente Anejos. It’s thick, it’s ugly, and it’s one of the most expensive tobaccos for blenders to use. But heavens, it’s tasty. (My apologies to Garrison Keillor.)
La Casita Criolla, an old Cuban brand name acquired by Johnson for this blend, means something like “the little native house.” That’s one brand name that is better left untranslated. I’m as puzzled by the name as I am by the idea of a broadleaf puro, but it does conjure up an image of rusticity which is reflected in the cigar’s appearance.
La Casita Criolla is made for Tatuaje by My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua, and was released last year in three sizes, all comfortably under a 50 ring gauge:
HCB Corona – 5 1/8 x 42
HCBC Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
HCBF Short Churchill – 6 1/2 x 48
The HCB Corona is rough and marred with imperfections, which is typical of broadleaf. It’s maduro in color tone, a little bit oily, and has a rustic but rich appearance. The roll is firm, but staring down the barrel it appears to be loose due to the thickness of the leaf. Rolling broadleaf in the bunch must take some getting used to, but the torcedors have apparently made the appropriate adjustments.
Both samples drew very well — not too loose, despite initial visual impressions — and they burned almost evenly, much better than I expected. My only complaint is that the cigar burns a little too hot after the mid-point. Draw frequency should be limited to about once per minute in the last part of the smoke. Discipline is required.
Overall construction: Very good.
The Casita Criolla corona offers initial flavors of leather, minerals, and a whiff of black pepper, though there is far less pepper here than in many other Tatuaje blends. The aroma is what you’d expect from broadleaf — it’s rich and sweet with roasted coffee and chocolate.
The middle section doesn’t stray too far from the palate of flavors it starts with, but I notice that the smoke is surprisingly light in texture. The flavors are balanced, the strength is no greater than medium, but the body of the cigar is much lighter than I expected. An aftertaste of graham crackers is a nice touch.
The aroma in the last section turns from leather to wood, but the sweet chocolate notes remain as long as the draw frequency is kept to a minimum. A bitter taste appears if the cigar gets too hot, which it seems to do quite easily in the final stretch.
Contrary to my expectations, La Casita Criolla is a very well balanced cigar. Despite this, it seems to be lacking something. Maybe a different leaf thrown into the mix might give the smoke a little more weight and add to the overall experience. That said, the overall experience is still pretty good, and broadleaf lovers will get a thrill out of this stick.
The coronas are in the 5 to 6 USD range. For the experience of smoking a pure broadleaf cigar, it’s well worth the scratch. I’m not sure I’m ready to run out and buy a box, but I’m glad I had the chance to try them, and I expect I’ll be picking them up from time to time in the shop.
Final Score: 89