There is no cigar cliché that gets under my skin more than the image of the fat cat lighting up his churchill with a hundred dollar bill. Aside from being moronic (rich people don’t get that way by burning money) it justifies in the minds of many non-smokers the marginalization of cigar enthusiasts and the taxing of cigars. The reality is that most of us checking out cigar reviews and eyeballing the auction sites are doing our best to manage a tight budget in a challenging economic environment. It’s been a while since I saw any fat cats licking their paws around my neighborhood.
It wasn’t due to the stormy economy that Pete Johnson decided to blend a cigar with affordability in mind, but price control was definitely an objective in developing Ambos Mundos. Tatuaje has been a runaway success for “Tattoo” Pete, but like many Miami-rolled cigars, they’re pricey. By producing this cigar in Nicaragua with lower grade (but still high-quality) tobaccos, he is hoping to keep the price down and fill the bargain cigar niche for his label.
As Pete told Cigar Insider,
This value-priced cigar uses B and C – grade tobacco. In other words, it’s tobacco that was not used on Tatuaje, the premium brand, which uses A – grade. It’s very good tobacco, but just needs more time to be processed and needs more fermentation, taking a little longer to get out all the impurities. These bales don’t cost as much, so it’s a way to pass on the savings using some really good tobacco.
Ambos Mundos differs a bit from Tatuaje’s other budget-priced cigar, the Tatuaje Serie P, in that the latter is a short filler cigar made from the scraps of the standard Tatuaje line. Ambos Mundos is a long filler cigar that uses tobacco that just didn’t make the cut for standard Tatuaje cigars.
Only two sizes are in production so far (a robusto and a toro) but they are available in two different wrappers: Ecuadorian Sumatra (red label) and Nicaraguan Habano (white label.) They are rolled in Jaime Garcia’s Tabacalera Garcia factory in Esteli, Nicaragua.
I smoked the Habano (white label) Ambos Mundos Toro first and found that it has just the quality construction you’d expect from Tatuaje and Tabacalera Cubana. A toothy wrapper tops off a solid roll, finished with Garcia’s trademark triple cap. Once lit, the Habano set to building a solid white ash. The burn was steady and even from start to finish. The draw was just a little bit firm, but that was the only demerit it received. Aside from that it was perfect.
The Sumatra (red label) version has a leathery looking wrapper, a little smoother and a little oilier than the Habano. The same good construction qualities were in evidence here, though the draw on these seemed to be a little better, while the burn was more erratic and required a couple touchups. The ash on the Sumatra was more variegated in color, but held just as well as the Habano.
Both of these toro-sized cigars are lighter in body than the standard Tatuaje line, but the Sumatra seems a little bolder than the Habano version. Both cigars score well in terms of aroma — the Habano had a woody spiciness to it, while the Sumatra was a little meatier with notes of leather. Both versions have Pepin’s characteristic tartness, especially in the first inch or so, but also a sharpness and an irritating burn at the back of the throat, with the Sumatra being heavier, more peppery, and more aggressive in this regard. Some aging might temper this quality.
The white label Habano starts up with an earthy flavor and a good dose of tannin. The aroma is a pleasantly spicy, but for the first couple inches this is a simple and straightforward smoke. It transitions to aromas of hardwood with a touch of caramel and about an inch from the band picks up a good pinch of black pepper. The last third gets fairly sharp, but it’s smokeable. The Habano reminds me of some of Pepin’s milder offerings, but with less complexity.
The red label Sumatra starts up where the white label leaves off — with lots of pepper. The difference between the two is immediately apparent. The Sumatra is a meaty and leathery smoke while the white label is woody. The tannins still make an appearance, but they seem to be overpowered by the wrapper’s rich flavor and aroma. It’s slightly sweet with a dry finish. The last third increases in intensity until it unexpectly sours about a half inch from the band.
Both versions of the Ambos Mundos are good, but not great cigars. Personally I’d rather pony up the full price for an “A-grade” Tat than settle for a C-grade alternative that pales by comparison. If this were a 2 dollar bundle stick I’d be impressed, but it isn’t, and my opinion of this cigar suffers for it. For nearly the same price you could be smoking a DPG Black or an Illusione, better cigars that are similar in style as well as price.
Ambos Mundos is a long filler cigar set to retail around 5 USD per stick, or around $115 per box of 25. This stretches my definition of “bargain” a little bit, but it’s still a reasonable price for a premium cigar. Just remember that there is a fair amount of competition in this price range.
Ambos Mundos White Label Habano: 85
Ambos Mundos Red Label Sumatra: 79
Other Points of View
Her Humidor approves of Ambos Mundos as an everyday smoke.
The Great Torpedo thinks the Sumatra version is a decent smoke for its price.
Resident Tatuaje expert Matt lets both wrappers have both barrels.