Opinions here are of Cigar Coop and Cigar Coop alone

I debated for about 12 hours whether to post an opinion on what I saw on The Stogie Review’s 20:15 Interview with Tatuaje’s Pete Johnson.   After thinking about it, I felt another point of view needed to be documented here.

First up, I am a fan of the Tatuaje products.   I gave the Tatuaje Gran Cojonu my #2 Cigar of the Year.   I don’t know Pete Johnson personally – and he doesn’t know me.  I do know this guy is a true cigar-ebrity and he makes some awesome cigars with great marketing.   However, in this interview there were some pretty candid comments made about another company’s timing of their new candela release.    While I respect Pete for giving candid thoughts, from my point of view I cannot disagree with these comments more.   Here are some quotes from the interview that are in the last 3 minutes or so.

“I think what Dion (Giolito of Illusione) did with candela is brilliant…and I think he deserves to have his time with it.  I’m kind irritated with the fact that there is another guy coming out of the factory with a candela cigar… the only reason why anyone is going to do candela now is because Dion made it work.”

“Same thing with the candela, I would probably ask Dion first or tell him first that I would use it for a monster…… “

“I have no interest in being a follower and anyone coming out with candela now is just a follower to what Dion did because he made it cool…. I make gimmicky cigars cool, that’s why there’s holiday blends and skull and bones”

So if you read these quotes, it is pretty clear that Pete is referring to the Viaje’s White Label Project CandelaSummarizing this, Pete feels that Illusione’s Dion Giolito was the one to bring his Candela cigar to the market first.   While Dion didn’t invent Candela, Pete feels Dion took it to a new level.   The implication here is that the other company should have let Illusione have their moment in the sun as their release was right on the heels of Illusione’s release.

I admire the fact that Pete has a respect for what another company (Illusione) is doing – and I like that.  As for the other side of the coin, while he doesn’t call Viaje out by name, the reference to “Skull and Bones” makes it clear who he is upset at.  

Here is the problem.   The common denominator in this Tatuaje-Illusione-Viaje scenario is that the cigars made by all of these guys are not easy to find.  Tatuaje and Viaje are known for their microbatch releases and Illusione Candelas have been tough cigars to find.   The same with the Viaje’s WLP Candela – extremely limited runs.

Here is the issue.  Pete says “I think what Dion did with candela is brilliant”.  Yes, folks are saying that, but I wouldn’t know.  I could not get an opportunity to purchase the Illusione Candelas.  They were very difficult to find – even at the biggest Illusione shops.   If Illusione Candelas were a major nationwide release with widespread availability – I agree let Illusione have its day in the sun.  

Given the marketplace, and the fact the Illusione Candelas were tough to find – there certainly is room for Viaje’s release.   Keep in mind – the Viaje WLP Candela is a Robusto.  Viaje is targeting a single vitola while Illusione has gone wider across their releases.   I’m also not griping because I couldn’t get the Illusione candelas.   If the limited release model has worked for Tatuaje, Illusione, and Viaje – more power to them.  This is what makes America great.  However, if this is the model consumers are expected to subscribe to from these companies, then there needs to be more than one brand option available – namely why I favor the candela releases by multiple companies.  Supply, demand, pricing, and quality will decide who has the most successful product in the long run – i.e free market economics. 

I do thank Pete Johnson for these candid comments, but to let you know I’m just not in agreement.  Pete gives some great insight into his 2011 pipeline though in the interview.

Update: Got a lot of feedback on this topic.  I’ve addressed it in a “Part 2”.

This is just my two cents.  The opinions above here are of Cigar Coop and Cigar Coop alone. As always your opinions to me matter and if I have anything incorrect here, please let me know.