A Tale of Two Samplers.

It was the best of cigars,
it was the worst of cigars,
it was the age of ligero,
it was the age of seco.

If Charles Dickens were alive today, he could certainly wax poetic about the flavor extremes of today’s cigars. In my recent article Traditional Cigar Flavor, I wrote about how much cigar flavor has changed over the last decade. Boldness has supplanted subtle, and earthiness has edged out floral. This fact was made crystal clear when I purchased two samplers that were polar opposites in flavor profiles: the Tatuaje Pudgy Monsters, and a Curivari line sampler. I didn’t buy them for the purpose of comparison, but rather out of curiosity. I’m a longtime Tatuaje fan, and wanted to try Pete Johnson’s Halloween cigars; and Curivari was a brand with which I wanted to get better acquainted. Plus, it was a good excuse to splurge a bit, and immerse myself in a fun cigar-smoking project.  I started first with the Pudgy Monsters.

Tatuaje Pudgy Monsters: fun, but with a scary edge.

Tatuaje Pudgy Monsters

The Pudgy Monsters: a great sampling of the Halloween cigars.

When Pete Johnson introduced his Tatuaje cigars a decade ago, he took the cigar world by storm. His cigars were very strong and spicy; unlike anything we cigar smokers had experienced before. With its introduction, Tatuaje created a new paradigm for non-Cuban cigar flavor, and helped fuel the current demand for powerhouse cigars.

The Tatuaje line was an instant success, and his cigars are still in high demand. A few years ago, Pete started making an ultra-limited line of cigars to coincide with Halloween. With names like The Mummy, Jason Vorhees, The Wolfman, and Little Boris, these “Monsters” paid homage to our favorite horror movie characters. But these cigars were hard to find, and sold out fast. Getting our hands on them was often a source of frustration. This year, he released a sampler of Monsters cigars for wider distribution. Entitled Pudgy Monsters, it contained examples of many of his previous Monster releases. I was excited to see them available, finally giving me a chance to sample a variety of his Monster blends. I’ve now smoked through them all, and as expected, it was a fun smoking experience.

It’s alive!

The Pudgy Monsters box offers ten cigars, with eight different blends. Included in the box are (left to right) in the above photo:

1 – Frank (5 5/8 x 49)
1 – Drac (5 x 52)
1 – Face (4 3/8 x 56)
1 – Wolf (5 ½ x 52)
1 – Mummy (5 ¾ x 47)
1 – JV13  (5 ½ x 52)
2 – Chuck (4 x 50)
2 – Tiff (4 x 50)

Price: $100

The different colored wrappers in this sampler foreshadowed a variety of flavor profiles. I started with the lighter, Conn. Seed style Tiff, and being a short smoke, I appreciated having two in the sampler.   As anticipated, this cigar was the most mild of the lot. With terrific aroma, and nice complexity, this smooth cigar had enough power to satisfy, in spite of its short stature. Staying small, up next was the Chuck. With a darker wrapper, this cigar had more kick than the Tiff, albeit a slightly strident aroma. I enjoyed smoking the Chuck, but it lacked the creaminess of the Tiff.

Pudgy Monsters Tiff

The Tiff was the most mild, and my favorite Pudgy Monster.

As I continued to smoke through the sampler, I found a pattern emerging: the cigars with the lighter wrappers were smoother and more nuanced than the maduro sticks. One cigar, the Face, had an acidic quality that bit you in the back of the throat (maybe that one should have been called Drac!). I really wanted to like this cigar. It had a unique band made of tobacco leaf, with a shaggy foot, and nipple-like cap. Actually, every cigar in the sampler had its own unique look, making for a fun presentation. But a number of these sticks were quite acidic, compromising my enjoyment of the set. I was also a bit disappointed that many of the Monster cigars were similar in flavor profile. I found none of them particularly box-worthy.

Pudgy Monsters The Face

The nipple cap (my term) of The Face was one of many interesting features of this sampler.

Smoking the Pudgy Monsters was a little like Halloween itself: fun, but with a scary edge. Strength, and in-your-face flavor, seems to be the goal of many new boutique cigar makers. In the case of the Pudgy Monsters, nuance gave way to strength. This sampler demonstrates how far the cigar flavor pendulum has swung. Over all, the Pudgy Monsters were too aggressive for my liking. The next sampler would show the opposite apex of this flavor pendulum, for better and for worse.

The Curivari Flight Sampler II 9-pack.

Curivari Sampler

The Curivari cigars look a lot like Cubans.

Offered by Atlanticcigar.com, the Curivari sampler offers a good cross section of this Nicaraguan brand. Included is the Achillies, of which the robusto scored a 93 in Cigar Aficionado. Also included is the Buenaventura. One vitola in this blend, the BV 560, achieved no. 7 in Cigar Aficionado’s best cigars of 2013. Although neither of the exact, award-winning cigars were in this sampler, the brand was none-the-less on my cigar radar. One other attraction was the fact that these cigars are blended for the European market (the Cuban-looking bands are unmistakable). I’m always searching for cigars with subtle tobacco flavors, and knowing Europeans smoke mostly CCs, I was hoping the Curivari cigars would fill this niche.

Included in this sampler are:

1 – Reserva Limitada Cafe Noir 54 (5 1/2 x 54) $7.80
1 – Reserva Limitada Cafe Petit Cafe (4 1/2 x 42) $6.00
1 – Reserva 1000 Series 4000 Torpedo (6 1/4 x 54) $7.50
1 – Seleccion Privada Diplomatico (6 1/4 x 54) $7.50
1 – El Gran Rey Prominente (6 1/2 x 50) $9.50
1 – Gloria De Leon Prominente (6 3/4 x 50)  $7.80
1 – Reserva Limitada Classica Monarcas (5 1/4 x 52)  $7.00
1 – Achilles Toro (6 1/4 x 52)  $9.50
1 – Buenaventura BV600  (6 x 60) $5.90

All these cigars are Nicaraguan puros, but blended from regions known for milder tobacco (sorry Esteli). Because I was already a fan of the Achillies Heroicos, I started this leg of the journey with an unfamiliar stick, the Reserva Limitada Café Petite. It was also the smallest cigar in the sampler and, like the Monsters, I wanted to smoke them in size order.

The Petite was a nice, mild cigar. Unfortunately, this stick didn’t have quite enough flavor to hold my interest. It was smooth, but a small cigar has to be satisfying (see Winter Cigars), and the Café Petite left me wanting more. The next one up was the larger version of this blend, the Café Noir 54. Now THIS was more like it! The extra tobacco in this vitola added a richness and complexity that the smaller version lacked. I liked that fact that the Noir 54 has a dark wrapper but doesn’t taste processed. It retains its natural (traditional) flavor without tasting overly earthy. With a sweet character and a touch of spice, its chocolate-like tones are absolutely delicious. It’s what I was looking for when ordering this brand sampler…definitely box-worthy.

Curivari Reserva Limitada Cafe Noir 54

The Noir 54 was my favorite of all the cigars.

To change things up, the next cigar I smoked was the El Gran Rey Prominente. This large Churchill showed a lot of promise. It looked like a CC, and I was hoping it would have some of the floral quality inherent is a great Cuban. But my expectations were quickly dampened. The smell of the unlit wrapper was sour and unappealing. Upon lighting, my initial skepticism was justified. The Prominente tasted sour, had no richness, and left a bad taste in my mouth. I put it down after the first inch. To get me back on the right track, I lit a cigar I knew was not going to disappoint: the Buenaventura BV600.

I’m usually not a fan of fat cigars. I find them hard to draw, and they don’t fit well in my small hands. But I’d be willing to make it work for a great cigar. The big brother to the BV560, this 6×60 cigar smelled great. It had a hint of the classic “barnyard” aroma…always a good thing for a cigar. But as with some 60 ring-gauge cigars, the BV600 had more smoke than flavor. It was smooth and pleasant, but lacked complexity. I smoked most of it, but ultimately lost interest. I’ll have to try this blend in a smaller size.

One cigar that stood out was the Reserva 1000 Series 4000 Torpedo. It was so full-bodied and spicy, it would have been at home with the Pudgy Monsters. It’s the black sheep of this sampler. There is no doubt about the origins of the Series 4000 torp., it’s a Nic. Puro through and through.

Curivari Reserva 1000 Series 4000 Torpedo

The Series 4000 torp would have been at home in the Monsters sampler

To continue, I next smoked the Reserva Limitada Classica Monarcas. With a band that’s a dead ringer for the Partegas Serie D, one could anticipate a similar smoking experience. Of course it’s impossible to duplicate the flavor of a CC without using Cuban tobacco, but I was willing to give it try. Unfortunately, the Monarcas had little in common with the great Partegas other than the look-alike band. This cigar was rather bland and uninteresting.

On the other hand, the Achillies Toro was a big winner. Like its smaller brother, the Heroicos, this cigar had all the qualities I anticipated when ordering the sampler. With lots of smooth tobacco nuances, and notes of leather and café au lait, the Achillies Toro had a true “traditional” flavor profile.

The take-away.

Between both the Pudgy Monsters and the Curivari sampler, I smoked seventeen different blends. (I know, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta to do it!) The flavors ram the gamut from meekly mild, to overtly strong and strident. In the end, I ordered two boxes: the Curivari Reserva Limitada Cafe Noir 54, and the Curivari Achilles Toro. Luckily, I liked the cigars that were both available, and reasonably priced. Plus, I no longer need to fret over the Tatuaje Monster cigars. They are simply not to my liking.

This two-sampler run-off was a great cigar adventure; well worth the time and investment. We critical cigar smokers love trying new things, and with each new cigar we expand our knowledge and refine our tastes. I recommend everyone explore the unknown, and buy a line sampler of an unfamiliar brand. It’s an experience like no other, full of surprise and discovery.

Thanks for listening,


4 Responses to “A Tale of Two Samplers.”

  1. Rob

    As usual, a great review Artie, with insight and substance. Interesting to hear that you really wanted to like a stick, but ultimately, didn’t. Looking forward to the next review.

    • Robustojoe

      Thanks for the kind words, Rob. I’m trying to locate the Curivari factory. Might be a good place to visit while in Esteli!

  2. gmoney

    Having just bought the “Pudgy Monsters” collection, and have yet to open it, I thought the review was candid and enlightening. No real spoilers either, but I’ll be paying a lot more attention to some of those maduros. G~


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