Friday, March 8, 2013

NHC Surrogates vs Surrogates

It was August, 2011 when the NHC Surrogates first arrived.  The Bone Crusher and Skull Breaker vitolas became instant favorites for many of the fans of NHC.  Created to bring a "Limited Edition Quality" smoke to the everyday consumer and be readily available at an "Everyday Price", these sticks married strength with a balance of flavor that had everyone on their heels. 

A year later, when L'Atelier Imports was started, Pete and I decided to roll the Surrogates branding into the new company and release two new vitolas to the mix.  Now available nationwide at your favorite tobacconists, Surrogates has a much broader fan base and can continue to grow with new vitolas.

The original Bone Crusher and Skull Breaker were joined by Tramp Stamp and Crystal Baller.  A new stick is planned for July 2013 at IPCPR, Animal Cracker, a 6x60 full bodied stick with a fuma head.  All available from L'Atelier Imports.

Here at the NHC office, I decided to finally sit with a Bone Crusher from the original NHC release alongside a new stick from L'Atelier Imports.  We still have a number of the original NHC labeled sticks online at and I wanted everyone to notice the only way to tell the difference. 

On the back side of the original bands, you will see the NHC logo font on both the Bone Crusher and Skull Breaker bands from the original run.  These were all made in 2011 from the original batch.  (Tramp Stamp and Crystal Baller were never made for NHC, they started with L'Atelier Imports in 2012) 

Note the NHC labeled versions were never distributed nationwide, they were only available through New Havana Cigars.

The blends are exactly the same and the only difference at this point is age.  So I wanted to smoke them side by side and see what I thought of a comparison.  A new batch of Surrogates just arrived from L'Atelier Imports, so what better time than a fresh batch from the factory.

There are many misconceptions about aging cigars, and the number one thing that I hear (and used to think) is that they mellow over time and are not as strong.  This would be very important for this particular blend, since it is full bodied and full of flavor right off of the rolling table. 

I have both sticks burning side by side and switch back and forth between sips of water to help cleanse my palate.  (Yes - two Bone Crushers are a bit much for many of you - but I smoke them in the morning sometimes, so you can imagine)  From the beginning, both sticks are a slap in the face (the nice kind) as far as strength goes.  The flavors in the older NHC stick have definitely started to separate more, so side by side, there is a distinguishable difference in flavor profile.  At first glance it feels like the newer Bone Crusher has more of a flavor punch and more spice.  But, going back and forth it becomes more obvious that the flavors are all there in both sticks, but they are more distinguishable in the older NHC stick.  This makes for an interesting comparison as once the prominent flavors are on your palate, they can be discerned more easily in the newer stick. 

Strength is definitely not diminished with age.  (Just ask Arnold or Lou)  Strong sticks remain strong sticks.  (And a strong stick like this x 2 is enough to even hit me in the head)  

Flavors start to separate with age.  Just as they do with wine, the flavors open up more and make it easier to distinguish them. 

Is one better than the other?  For me, the difference simply provides a great way to train the palate to differentiate flavors and enjoy the benefit of aging.

If you want to experience it for yourself, I added a 4 stick sampler that places both versions of the Bone Crusher alongside both versions of the Skull Breaker.

Click Image to go to sampler

Boxes of both are still available as NHC Surrogates on the site, as well as boxes of the newer versions labeled as simply Surrogates. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Esteli - May 2012

I spent another week in Esteli at the My Father Cigars Factory with Pete Johnson the last week of May.  We were working on a new project for this year's IPCPR in August, but I'll save that for another post.

Besides working all week, there were a few treats in the packaging room that I wanted to share!

NHC SL Capa Especial 2012

Last year, while at the factory, I was smoking a 7th Capa pre-release and I looked at Pete and asked "What would this wrapper taste like on the NHC SL".  We had them roll a couple and both fell in love with them. 

We did a very short run of 70 boxes with the remaining NHC bands and when they came in, they sold out immediately and then became one of the most sought after sticks of 2011. 

This year we did another run, just under 250 boxes of 20, and they were packaging them while I was there on this trip!

This year, the packaging takes on the Tatuaje Limited bands and a new box design with the Limited branding as well. 

I was able to smoke one at the factory and another one when I returned home, alongside one from last year's release. 

They are just as special as I remembered!  The sumatra wrapper really shines on this vitola, exposing the complexity of the wrapper and the blend. 

The red and green of the Limited band on top of the Capa band in gold just reminds me of Xmas!  And they are arriving just in time to celebrate Xmas in July.

Again in boxes of 20, I'm sure they will move fast but hopefully last longer than last year's release!

These are due to hit the week of June 12th, so look for a newsletter announcing their arrival!

Tatuaje Little Monsters

Another release everyone is looking forward to, Tatuaje Little Monsters, was being packaged while we were there!

Featuring smaller versions of each of the last 4 year's Monster release as well as a smaller version of this year's Mummy, the box contains 2 of each stick for a total of 10.

Each box contains a collectible card depicting one of the 5 little monsters, and there is a special, rare, foil card in random boxes. 

I watched them packing these with stacks of cards to randomly pack into the boxes. 

On the last trip to the factory, I smoked 4 of the 5 and loved each one of them.  Very stoked to see these start arriving.

There are 10,000 boxes being produced, so they will start arriving in the coming weeks and will appear in a number of waves as the shipments arrive.

We hope to see a small wave as early as next week, with more following in a few weeks.

With 10,000 boxes floating around, there should be enough to go around, so just be patient.  Many retailers are bringing in a good number of boxes, including us, so if you don't score some the first time around - keep looking!
 That's a LOT of boxes to make their way to the states!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Esteli Trip 2012 and Surrogates Visit Home

Last week I was fortunate enough to travel to Esteli again with Pete Johnson, Dan Reeve ( and others.

First stop - Miami - where Janny Garcia met us for dinner and a tour of the new My Father Cigars offices in Miami. Moving from Calle Ocho last year, this new office facility is amazing. Much more storage, a rolling room like the one on 8th St., great office spaces and a visitor's lounge where Janny treated us to her new project, La Duena, which will be released officially at the trade show in August. Distributed by My Father Cigars, La Duena is a blend that Pete submitted for the project and it is absolutely on mark! Can't wait for this one. We were able to smoke a few other sizes in Esteli with the group. Everyone agreed. Winner.

On to Esteli the following day with the group. The Pan American Highway was closed for part of the trip from Managua to Esteli, so we had to take a fairly long detour around it. But we landed at the factory just before closing time and had a chance to relax a bit and Pete grabbed some smokes including a La Duena robusto and others.

During the trip we visited another new farm that Pepin is planting on as well as La Finca Estrella, which was just starting to harvest.

Over the course of the next 2 days, we were treated to some of the new sticks coming this year: Cojonu 2012 Sumatra and Reserva, La Duena, Avion 12 and the Little Monsters.

The Cojonu 2012 Sumatra and Reserva will first be seen in early April via a special "book" release, featuring 12 Sumatras and 12 Reservas in a beautiful "book box" that we saw being made in the box factory and packaged in the packaging room. 2012 book boxes are being released. Sumatra, Reserva and Natural will all be released in normal 25 count boxes at the trade show as well.

The Little Monsters are slated for a June release in 10 count boxes containing 2 of each of the 5 smaller versions of the Monster series, including this year's release, The Mummy. We were able to smoke 4 of them during the trip (all but the lil' drac) and across the board, everyone will be more than happy with this project! With a retail of $75 and many boxes being produced, this will be a release that everyone will be smoking and not just saving!

The Baby Face (below) was one of the standouts, although the Wolfie that we smoked during the full moon on the rooftop of Los Arcos was quite a memory as well. Frank Jr. was outstanding as well as Mini Mum, which after I found out the blend I stated "You should keep that under wraps" and much to everyone's dismay, repeated over and over for the next day. ;-)

Dan Reeve, Pete, his brother K.C. and I sat in the bar at Los Arcos and got to sample prototypes of the 2010 La Verite that Pete brought with him. This is going to be another exciting year for La Verite, but we probably won't see them until next January. Trust me, it will be worth the wait!

Maybe it was the full moon, or possibly the Surrogates Bone Crushers that I brought with me that I kept rotating through my smoking lineup while we were there, that started the discussions - but the overall consensus was that it was time to lift the veil about Surrogates.

Spoiler Alert: Read on unless you love simply smoking them and 'not' knowing where they came from!

Surrogate Bone Crusher on the rooftop of Los Arcos. Great start to a morning in Esteli!

For the last 6 months or so, Surrogates has been a bit of an enigma. Stated as a stick rivaling a special release yet lacking much information about where they came from, NHC customers took a chance on my smoking preferences and embraced the unknown. Reviews came in, feedback to us and on the boards was filled with speculation yet the overall conclusion seemed to be 'just smoke them - you will love them'. It was quite humbling to have customers take a chance like that. Staying quiet was harder than I thought it would be.

Why the secrecy? Well, as a retailer in a special position to observe and analyze buying habits, I wanted to do a bit of a social experiment and test the waters of my palate. The first blend of the Surrogates branding was something that I absolutely loved, but to test it without a name attached to it would prove to me that consumers loved it as well. So we decided to release it without the names attached and let everyone decide for themselves.

I originally went to Pete with the idea for Surrogates as a line for NHC and explained what I wanted to try with the 'experiment'. Pete and I talked at length about it last summer and he was behind my idea as well. I knew that if I said that Pete Johnson blended the cigar for me and produced it at the My Father Cigars factory it might persuade people to buy it simply based on the history of those names and all that they produce. But I wanted people to like it for what I thought it was - a fantastic cigar.

There are plans for new Surrogate blends and I could let the experiment continue as a blind tasting, but there are many people who want to know more about them and there is the 'give credit where credit is due' sentiment. Pete nailed it with this as did the factory, producing a perfect blend and construction.

Yep - maybe it was the full moon!

Stay tuned for more plans with the Surrogates line and keep smoking Bone Crushers and Skull Breakers! Mostly, though, thank you for taking a chance on them and spreading the word. The success of the project has been a testament to the quality of the NHC customers and their smoking experiences.

This Surrogate came home for a visit!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

NHC IN 2011

I would like to thank everyone for making 2011 the biggest year to date for New Havana Cigars! As I look back on the year it seems to have gone by extremely fast, yet we have had more excitement than ever. The ELO's made an early appearance and were received so well they were gone quickly, La Verite made history by selling on Futures, we saw the NHC SL Capa come and go and everyone continued to enjoy the NHC SL Natural and Maduro, IPCPR brought a ton of new products and we had them online before the trade show came to a close, we introduced Surrogates as our own brand to rave reviews, had a Monster of a Halloween and brought another NHC exclusive, the MUWAT Bait Fish last month.

The end of the year always brings about many "best of" lists, and this year we saw the NHC SL Capa show up in multiple lists, including position #2 and #3 new cigar of the year. Surrogates made an appearance on at least one as well as an honorable mention and many of the IPCPR releases from our vendors were on the lists of favorites as well.

2012 is sure to bring a lot of excitement as well!

To celebrate a few of the highlights of 2011, we have a couple of New Year specials in our Members Only section online.

A special price on a limited number of Surrogates Skull Breaker boxes and Bone Crusher boxes. 25 of each available.

A special price on a mixed box of 20 NHC SL by Tatuaje, featuring 9 Reservas, 9 Naturals and 2 Capas! Get a chance to see what all the rage was about! 50 available.

YOU NEED TO LOG IN TO YOUR ACCOUNT FIRST, and then the following Category will appear below the other categories on the left side of the site:

Click on the MEMBERS ONLY category online to find the New Year specials. If you don't see the category after logging in, try refreshing your screen or emptying your browser cache, but you should not have to do so.

Once again, THANK YOU for making 2011 a record year and we look forward to sharing some great smokes in 2012!



Monday, December 5, 2011


My Uzi Weighs A Ton is a collaboration between Drew Estate Tobacco Company's Subculture Studios and the Joya de Nicaragua factory.

Made at the JDN factory, this much anticipated blend was officially rolled out at the 2011 IPCPR where I had a chance to sit down with Jonathan Drew. After some brainstorming about doing some business with each other, Jonathan mentioned the infamous "Bait Fish" size of MUWAT, a 4x44 that was announced but still in the process. After early feedback from the 60 ring gauge releases of MUWAT, many customers wanted something with some more strength to it. Jonathan felt that Bait Fish might be the perfect outlet for a tweaked blend, and a great smaller project that New Havana Cigars would be a great fit for. Humbled by the offer, I immediately said "Let's make it happen!"

So he sent some blends to compare and we decided on the EF blend (the stronger blend). An initial factory order was placed and we are very proud to have the exclusive on Bait Fish!

Wrapped in paper packs of 5 sticks and bundled in sets of 5 packs for a total of 25 in a bundle, this is a much anticipated release and I think everyone will be quite impressed with the tweak in the blend and especially at this size.

MUWAT is in such high demand that it won't be until January that we will be able to bring the original sizes in. Bait Fish has arrived, though, and will be a great addition to the lineup. Smaller and stronger and available only at!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Wolfman from Tatuaje is arriving today.

In the past it has always been a struggle to determine a time to open up orders for these special releases. They are gone in a matter of minutes and there isn't a time that is good for everyone.

So I decided to try something different and post half of them at 13:00 EDT on the 13th, the now traditional and expected time for many customers - and post the other half on Saturday, the 15th at 08:00 EDT for the early risers who couldn't hunt during the afternoon on a weekday.

I'm sure there are plenty of people for whom neither time is convenient, but at least we are trying!

For those who don't already know, The Wolfman is the 4th Halloween release from Tatuaje, and in addition to the 666 coffins, most of which went to the 13 'unlucky' retailers chosen this year - there are approx. 1500 10-count boxes being distributed to the rest of us. After all - it's about having the cigar in your hand on Halloween and saving some for future special smoking times.

This year's selection is a 7.5 x 52 vitola based on the Cojonu 2009 blend with a Sumatra wrapper - and it is fantastic!

It will be fun! And there should be plenty available throughout the country if NHC sells out before you get a chance at them.

We will post the 10 count boxes as well as singles.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October in Columbus

This Friday, October 7th, our friends at Cigar Explorer, are hosting a charity event for the CRA here in Columbus. Details are on their homepage.

Pete Johnson from Tatuaje Cigars is going to be in town for the event, so we are going to do one of our NHC Online Events with him on Saturday, the 8th.

For those who have been customers for a while, you will remember the other events we have done. On Saturday, there will be a chat room open online (hours and details to follow) and all orders placed on Saturday, the 8th, will qualify for the event promotions. You will have a chance to 'chat' with Pete and other customers online, and place an order for in-stock Tatuaje family products.

All Tatuaje boxes will have a special sale price and qualify for extra swag promotions, including the NHC Seleccion Limitada by Tatuaje. It's a great chance to stock up on your favorites and take advantage of special pricing and promotions.

We have an order coming in this week so we will have everything that is currently in stock at Tatuaje on hand, as well as others that we have in stock now.

On Saturday, we will open up a category that will list all of the qualifying boxes to choose from. If you have seen this before, you know that early in the day, supplies diminish quickly and the list shrinks to the remaining in stock boxes, so order early to get your favorites.

We will post exact details later this week.