September 19, 2012

Cigar Review: L'Atelier Surrogates Crystal Baller

Crystal Baller
At the 2012 IPCPR we saw the foundation of a new cigar company. The company was given the title L'Atelier. It was right next to Tatuaje, and bore the slogan From the Makers and Creator of Tatuaje. The company began with four men, three of them being brothers. Pete Johnson, Sean "Casper" Johnson and K.C. Johnson are brothers, and they teamed up with industry friend Dan Welsh to create this brand. One of the line for this brand, L'Atelier, was already in production, but they decided to expand on it and release a flagship line and two bundle lines. I have had some smokes from the Surrogates line in the past, and enjoyed them, but I was very eager to see their new production. One of their smokes, that I was given, was the line extension Crystal Baller under the Surrogates line.  



I have no idea what the reference to Crystal Baller is, so I am not going to get into that, but the concept behind the Surrogates line I do get and love. The line was created by Dan Welsh sometime back in the hopes of creating a cigar that was a limited released but not limited. A cigar that you wish you could smoke more often, but could not because eventually they would be gone. Dan Welsh solved that problem with the Surrogates brand. The line was made in Esteli, Nicaragua at My Father Cigars, and was created with the assistance of Pete Johnson. One of the newest vitolas and blends in the line is the Crystal Baller. The cigar is a robusto extra in dimensions and measures 5 3/4' with a 56 ring gauge. It is a box pressed cigar, and features a wonderful cap. The cigar begins with an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper, and is then composed of Nicaraguan tobacco in the filler and binder. I do not know the seeds for the filler and binder, but I imagine it has some Corojo and Criollo in there. The cigar has a toothy and oily wrapper showing some veins while remaining fairly smooth, and has a wonderful aroma of of sweet spices, molasses, sweet earth and wood that has been washed up on the shore from the ocean.     

When I light up the cigar the first third really catches me by surprise. There is this lovely doughy biscuity flavor to it, and living in the South a Southerner would understand that. There is some molasses flavors present with that and also that salted and damp wood flavor. I am getting some soft spices and sugar cane notes with all of that, and it is a very enjoyable first third. Unique and balanced are two great words to describe the first third. It is producing a solid burn line to it with a charcoal colored ash, and the strength level is remaining right underneath that medium body level. It is really not at all what I was expecting from the first third of the cigar, and maybe because of that I really am loving it. 
Great Wrapper in Box Press
When I get into the second third of the cigar I am finding the flavors to be somewhat similar, but they are sticking out a bit more. The spicy notes are showing a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg, and it is playing off of this lovely rich cocoa earth flavor. It is not overly sweet, but enough to notice it. There are still plenty of doughy notes paired with some salty wood flavors and it has that sugar cane molasses flavor finish to it as well. I love this flavor profile, and the reason for that is because it is soft and enjoyable, but still very complex and flavorful. It is a cigar that you could smoke back to back all day, never get bored, and never get burned out on too strong a cigar. The burn line was still lovely, and with that it was producing that nice charcoal colored ash. 

I am in the final third of the cigar now, and it is finishing wonderfully. It is still showing those lovely sweet spice notes, and I am getting this cinnamon, sugar and toast flavor with that. There are still some nutmeg notes here and there, but they are more in the background with this dark cocoa powder and earth flavor. I am loving this consistent flavor of doughy biscuits from beginning to end, and with that soft molassess flavor I am getting with it, it is leaving a nice flavorful and long finish. I smoke the cigar all the way down to the nub, and till the end it is smoking evenly and producing a nice charcoal colored ash. Each third was truly enjoyable and unique, and after smoking one I needed to have another. 

I loved this smoke, and of the Surrogates I have had, and anything under the L'Atelier brand, this has been my favorite. It did not possess a super strength level, or have those typical Pepin flavors to it, but instead was a complete change of pace and a wonderful cigar anytime of day. I would probably find myself smoking more of these throughout a day, and they are definitely worth buying a box of. The Surrogates line is really a sweet line by L'Atelier, and I think Dan Welsh really had a great idea when he wanted to create a limited cigar for daily enjoyment. If you were a fan of Skull Beaker and Bone Crusher, I would say this cigar is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum to those, but equally as great. I look forward to seeing other new releases by L'Atelier, and I can say that the three running it, not including Pete, are doing a great job to begin with. I give this cigar a solid 93 and can not wait till it is released.   
Crystal Baller of Surrogates of L'Atelier
*Cigar for this assessment was provided to me by a L'Atelier and Tatuaje representative.
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