Tatuaje HCS

When it comes to retailer exclusive cigars, Tatuaje has been well known to provide blends in this area.  Some of these have been more accessible to cigar enthusiasts than others.   In 2011, the Tatuaje Anarchy, which finished as our #3 Cigar of the Year was made accessible online via Smoke Inn.   On the other hand, the Tatuaje Federal Cigars 90th Anniversary cigar (for Federal Cigars) was a much more difficult cigar to obtain.  In the end, whether the cigar is easier to obtain or not, it is going to come down to the blend that will judge its place in the cigar landscape.   The Tatuaje HCS is a retail exclusive cigar that has been made available to Holt’s Cigar Shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is a cigar that has been made accessible online from Holt’s.  In the end, this is a case where I don’t think this is a bad cigar, but one that definitely has fallen short when compared to other Tatuaje projects.

Par for the course with Tatuaje blends, the Tatuaje HCS comes out of the Garcia family factory in Nicaragua.  It was released in 2010.  On an original post on Brothers of the Leaf (BOTL),  Tatuaje founder Pete Johnson said 500 boxes of each size was made available.  He mentioned the HCS can mean two things: Holts Cigar Selection or Havana Cellars Signature (the original name of Pete Johnson’s company).   He also mentioned he regretted giving the blend as an exclusive.

As I mentioned, I did not think this was a bad cigar, but it wasn’t my first choice of a Tatuaje.  Let’s take a closer look at the Tatuaje HCS.

Blend Profile

The profile of this cigar is a mix of Nicaraguan tobacco with an Ecuadorian wrapper.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

There are currently three vitolas available with the Tatuaje HCS.  All of the cigars are in a box-press shape.

Robusto Larga: 5 1/4 x 50
Toro Grande: 5 5/8 x 54
Torpedo: 6 1/8 x 54


The Tatuaje HCS is a visually impressive cigar in my book  While I have heard this is a rosado wrapper, the wrapper still has a milk chocolate look to it.  Overall, it has some veins, but the texture is pretty smooth.  By Tatuaje standards, the band is a little more elaborate – it is gold with “HCS” embossed on it.  As for the box-press, it was a well-made box-press vitola with no soft spots.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience, I selected the Toro Grande.  I went through my usual procedure of putting a straight cut into the cap and going right into a pre-light draw.   The dry draw notes were not bad – a cross of pepper/cedar spice and some chocolate.  Satisfied with this pre-light draw, it was on to light my Tatuaje HCS and get into the core of the smoking experience.

Flavor Profile

The start to the Tatuaje HCS was actually pretty good.  It had a nice mix of leather, chocolate, and cream.  I had expected a stronger dose of Garcia pepper earlier on.  Instead, I was treated to more of a cedar spice in the background.  Around five percent into the smoke, the flavor profile moves from leather/chocolate/cream to more a chocolate/wood tone.  The cedar spice still remains in the background.

As the cigar progresses to the second third, the flavor profile got less interesting to me.   The chocolate notes actually dissipated and took on more of a leather, wood, and earth profile.  The cedar spice did increase somewhat in body.  By the last third, the spice has taken on more of a classic black pepper spice on top of a very woody/earthy flavor.  The finish actually was a little harsh in my book.  The resulting nub was soft and cool.

Burn and Draw

While the burn rate and burn temperature were satisfactory on the Tatuaje HCS, I did have to do multiple touch-ups.  The touch-ups kept the burn on track, but I did more than I would have liked to.  There were no issues on the draw – this was textbook Tatuaje/Garcia as this made for a very easy smoking experience on that end.

Strength and Body

The Tatuaje HCS definitely had a little more kick from a nicotine standpoint than I originally thought.  I still think it still falls short of full-strength and falls into the medium to full area.  As for the body, the notes are not the deepest – but still have enough flavor to qualify the Tatuaje HCS as a medium-bodied smoke.  As the cigar got more generic in flavor, I thought the strength started to overshadow the body of the flavors.

Final Thoughts

There are a couple of conclusions I can make about this cigar each time I smoked it.  The first is that the flavors were so promising early on, but seemed to get less interesting as the cigar smoked.  The second is that I can see the woody/earthy profile that this cigar eventually takes on appealing to many cigar enthusiasts.  In my book, it just didn’t fit my flavor profile.   This is a well-made cigar, but there are ultimately more complex and bolder flavor Tatuajes that I would reach for first.   I’m probably more inclined to recommend this to a Tatuaje fan than anyone else.  It is your classic “See What You Think” assessment.


Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Low
Strength: Medium to Full Body:
Medium Finish:Good
Assessment: See What You Think 
Score: 86

Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased in-person at Holt’s Cigar Shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.