Posted by Jack | in L'Atelier | on 01 Aug 2013 | at 11:44 AM | 3245 views
Before I start this review, I feel compelled to state that I really dislike the trend of 60 or larger ring gauge cigars.  They are often unwieldy, uncomfortable, hard to smoke, poorly constructed, and overpriced.  They are everywhere too.  Just pick up a Cigars International catalog to see what I mean.  Now, that being said, the selection of the day is something that Pete Johnson and his partners at L'Atelier showcased at the 2013 IPCPR in Las Vegas...the Animal Cracker from the Surrogates line, which is a 60 ring behemoth.  After picking on Seth at Seth's Humidor for not sharing his when they first came out (excellent cheeky replies from him too...great guy), I was able to snag one last weekend from The Market.  I was excited too....the Surrogates line is terrific, so this newest addition had me acting like a giddy school boy - 60 ring or not.  So, how is this big creature?  Let's see....
Construction: It's a massive cigar.  The wrapper is a nice solid dark brown with a few veins.  The cap is what really catches my eye.  It's a triple cap that comes to a nice crisp point.  Very nice look to accompany the name of the cigar.  The band, which I usually save for the photos below, is the black standard Surrogates design with a pink skeletal rhino or some such critter surrounded by a unique display font.  Very nice presentation.
Pre-light Aroma and Draw: Out of the cellophane, I get whiffs of earth, oak, and some sweet leather, and a mild peppery note from the foot.  The pointed cap really helped with cutting this monster too.  I was able to guide the cut a bit easier as a result.  The draw is flawless just like every cigar under Pete Johnson's umbrella.  A cold pull gives off a sweet cocoa and tobacco flavor.
Light and Burn: Lighting with matches just doesn't cut it with a big cigar like this.  To mitigate the massive 60 ring gauge, I opted to use some cedar from a My Father that was laying around.  The result?  An outstanding start to the burn.  The burn produces a dark gray ash with plenty of cling and an outstanding burn line.  Most of  the time where broadleaf is concerned you might see a wonky burn but Pete, the undisputed master of broadleaf tobacco, flaunts his skills perfectly here.  A first for me....I didn't have to touch it up at all!
Tasting: This cigar hits hard and fast.  Starting off with a blast of pepper, oak, and black coffee.  Calling it a powerhouse would be an understatement.  Juggernaut is probably a better term.
As the first third kicks in, the flavors are eye-watering intense.  Black pepper, black coffee, cedar, and a sweet cocoa/oak undertone prevail over a head of creamy aromatic smoke.  This cigar should be avoided by the novice and anyone that hasn't eaten for a few hours.  The balance in the first third, while extremely full tilt, is exquisite.  There is a massive leather and earth core that develops about an inch into the cigar - killer cigar so far.
The middle third drops in strength a couple of notches.  There is a toasted quality to the earthy core now while continuing the flavors from the start.  The pepper does drop off a bit here and the leather comes to the front.  There are nice tones of wood and a mild nutty flavor in here too.  For something so large and full throttle in body, this is a beautifully blended and balanced cigar.
I admit that I am sad reaching the final third.  The strength is pumping up again but the flavors are still smooth as silk which developed in the middle - unlike the raw blast from the beginning of the cigar.  Flavors are woody, earthy, and leathery, and just plain awesome.  As the cigar finishes to a nub I am treated to a nutty flavor that smacks of walnuts with a sweet oaky and tobacco laced finish.  I am, as I am so often by Pete Johnson's cigars, blown away.
Value: At just over $9, this is an amazing well priced creation.
Final Thoughts: I love the Surrogates line.  The Skull Breaker is still my favorite....I could smoke those all day, every day.  But this massive Animal Cracker is easily the best 60 ring cigar I have ever smoked.  As my compatriot in cigar review blogging, Seth, has noted several times....a cigar that is blended to be a 60 ring gauge and not just something cobbled together to add the size to a line makes all the difference in the world.  Of course when the blend is touched by Pete Johnson, that can't hurt either.  I highly recommend this cigar to anyone that likes full bodied cigar and big ring gauges.  It's one of the best you can find in those categories....if not THE best.  It will easily become a regular smoke for me.
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Size: 6 x 60
The beautiful and massive Animal Cracker...no, it tastes nothing like the cookies
I love the presentation of the Surrogates line
There is that flawless pointy cap
Skeletal rhino thing on the band.  Very cool!
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