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Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu No. 1 “West Side”


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Now that daytime temps have dropped back into the 80s (after a rare and ridiculous spell of mid-90s), it’s comfortable once again to sit out back and enjoy a decent-sized smoke. And this is one I’ve looked forward to for quite some time.

Enough has been written about the Tatuaje brand and owner Pete Johnson that I can skip the preamble. I’ll just say that I’m not only a huge fan of his smokes, but I love that Pete bucks trendiness in favor of Cuban traditions, old and new. It’s evident in the style of his blends, of course, but also in his choice of sizes. For example, his forthcoming La Riqueza brand eschews forearm-sized ring gauges that have become the latest rage. Instead, Pete pays homage to some smaller, classic Cuban vitolas such as the Hermoso #4, a true corona gorda measuring 5.62″ x 46, and a 5.5″ x 52 belicoso fino.

Likewise, it is Habanos’ acclaimed regional releases that spawned the Havana VI Verocu East and West. A limited edition extension of the Havana VI line, the 6.25″ x 54 Verocu No. 1 “West Side” and 5.5″ x 54 Verocu No. 2 “East Side” are available only in cabs of 50 and retail at $10.00 a stick.

According to Pete, the Verocu differs from the original Havana VI line in two important areas. First, the wrapper is a Cafe Rosado Oscuro, compared to the Cafe Rosado on the regular production vitolas. Second, some ligero has been added to the blend to make the Verocu “a Havana VI on steroids.”

Neither difference is very apparent at first, however. To my eye, this wrapper shade looks awfully close to the other Red Labels in my stash. And upon lighting this good looking toro, I’m immediately reminded of my first Havana VI, the Nobles. Most striking is the dense chocolate flavor, though there is plenty of nuance lurking in the background. In the first half inch, I pick up hints of nutmeg, coconut, ginger, leather and clove. What I don’t taste, however, is the sharp pepper note that other reviewers associate with this smoke.

For the first half, it is medium bodied but jam-packed with flavor. Chocolate and leather emerge as the dominant flavors, but the other spices I noted earlier hang around to provide depth. Lots of it. The draw is average. The burn, typical of an Havana VI, needs attention; I have to touch it up twice by the halfway mark.

By the final third, I’m beginning to see where Pete’s coming from on the “Havana VI on steroids” comment. The pepper is kicking in, and the overall power builds gradually, steadily. Where I have found Red Labels to be relatively static from beginning to end, this Verocu has a second gear. The last two inches are unmistakably full bodied with a tighter concentration of flavors and a spicy jolt. A little much for an a.m. smoke, I admit, but very good stuff.

CONCLUSION: Overall, the Verocu No. 1 is outstanding but I’m struggling to account for its value relative to the normal Havana VI. Until the explosive final third, the $10.00 “West Side” is essentially the same cigar as the $6.50 Tat Red Nobles, right down to the dodgy burn. Is the big finish worth the extra $3.50? For those who like the Havana VI blend but crave an extra kick, yes. For me, probably not. Call me cheap, but I’m happy enough with a Nobles and an extra $3.50 in pocket.

SCORE: 87

3 comments

1 Jeremy { 06.18.08 at 8:40 pm }

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I had one of these just this last weekend and had a completely different experience, although the one I had almost a year of age on it. It started and stayed in the med-full range from start to finish. Leather and spice were the predominant flavor. I don’t know maybe it was the location that made it better as I smoked pool side at a multi-million dollar house. (I was there shooting a wedding as I could never afford to stay in this place)

2 Kevin { 06.23.08 at 5:31 pm }

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Yeah, I had no particular beef with my samples. For me, it’s just that once a smoke that clips $8.00 or so mark, the comparative analysis thing goes into overdrive. In the end, I had to ask, “Would I rather have 15 regular Red Labels or 10 of these West Side deals?”

On another note, Jeremy, light foam surgery on my Leica R3 has failed. The leaking is much improved, but still bad enough to ruin another roll of otherwise respectable shots. I’m giving it one more go, then taking a hammer to it. :)

3 Jeremy { 06.25.08 at 1:05 am }

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If I could I would have 15 regular red labels AND 10 of the West Side :)

I have a holga that has the same problem. I just used A LOT of electrical tape and it did the trick… now if I could only get it to advance correctly. Don’t take a hammer to it just let it sit out to admire it for the piece of “art” that it is.

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