Surrogates Crystal Baller

The Surrogates Crystal Baller is one of four cigars that was launched by L’Atelier Imports in 2012.   L’Atelier Imports is a spinoff company to Tatuaje Cigars. Tatuaje founder Pete Johnson was involved with the launch of the company, but the operations are separate and run by Johnson’s brother K.C. Johnson, Johnson’s friend Sean “Casper” Johnson, and Dan Welsh of New Havana Cigars.  For the 2012 releases, the Surrogates line feature two different wrapper options and four distinct blends and vitolas.   In this assessment, we take a look at the Surrogates Crystal Baller.   This cigar is another solid addition to the L’Atelier Imports portfolio.

A few weeks ago, we assessed the Surrogates Tramp Stamp.  The Tramp Stamp along with the Crystal Baller are the two Ecuadorian Habano wrapper cigars currently offered in the Surrogates line.  While there is a similar blend composition between the Tramp Stamp and Crystal Baller, each blend was tweaked and modified to the vitola designed.   There are also two Connecticut Broadleaf cigars in the Surrogates line – the Skull Breaker and Bone Crusher.  These cigars also have similar composition, but have different blends geared for each vitola designed.  All of the cigars in the Surrogates line are made in Nicaragua by the Garcia family at the My Father Cigars factory and blended by Pete Johnson.

The cigar experience with the Crystal Baller differed from the Tramp Stamp.  Let’s take a closer look at what this cigar brings to the table.

Blend Profile and Vitolas Available

Normally we separate out the sections of “Blend Profile” and “Vitolas Available”, but we will combine them here as this will allow us to better give an overview of the Surrogates line.

As mentioned, the Crystal Baller is one of the two Ecuadorian Habano wrapper blends in the Surrogates series released in 2012.  It is the one box-press that is currently a part of the line. As mentioned above the blends were made to match the vitola, so these are considered two separate blends.

Ecuadorian Habano Offerings
Wrapper: Habano Ecuador
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Crystal Baller: 5 3/4 x 54 (box-press)
Tramp Stamp: 5 1/4 x 48 

Closer look at the Tramp Stamp – the “sibling” to
the Surrogates Crystal Baller

There will also be a 2013 release added to the Surrogates line called the Animal Cracker.  This is planned to be a 6 x 60 vitola using an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper.  This will also be a unique blend.

Connecticut Broadleaf Offerings
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Skull Breaker: 5 1/4 x 52 (Belicoso)
Bone Crusher: 5 1/4 x 55

Surrogates Line:  (From Left to Right):
Crystal Baller, Tramp Stamp, Bone Crusher, Skull Breaker
(Cigar Coop photo from 2012 IPCPR Trade Show)


The Crystal Baller is a well-packed box-press.  It has a medium colored wrapper.  The wrapper itself is slightly oily.   There are some veins that are visible, but there are no major wrapper seams that are visible.

The Crystal Baller features two bands.  There is a black background on each. The top band has a beige crystal ball (that almost matches the wrapper color) flanked by the words “CRYSTAL BALLER” on each side of it in a white font.  The second band has “Surrogates” written in more of a classic white font. 

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For my smoke of the Crystal Baller, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut into the cap of the cigar.  After the cap was clipped, it was time to begin the pre-light draw.  The dry draw notes yielded a combination of wood and cherry sweetness.  Overall, it wasn’t the most exciting pre-light draw.   Since we don’t factor the pre-light draw into our final assessment rating and score, there was no loss of points here.  At this point, I was ready to light the Crystal Baller and see what the actual cigar experience would bring to the table.

Flavor Profile

Given this is a cigar made at the My Father Cigars factory, there was no surprise that there was a pepper blast to start.   Once the pepper subsided, a combination of earth, chocolate, and pepper were primary notes.  There also was some cherry sweetness in the background.  Later in the first third, the pepper eventually subsided into the background.  Some grass notes also entered the background.  If you are keeping score at home, the flavor profile going into the second third was: earth/chocolate (primary), pepper/grass/cherry (secondary).

As the smoking experience of the Crystal Baller reached the midway point, the primary flavors became the earth notes.  The chocolate, pepper, and grass notes remained secondary and the cherry notes pretty much had dissipated.

As the Crystal Baller moved into the last third, the pepper notes re-emerged as a primary flavor.  The pepper spice took hold toward the end of the cigar.   The chocolate and grass notes significantly diminished. There was a little bit of harshness in the last stages.  The construction held up very well on the nub as it was firm to the touch and cool in temperature.

Burn and Draw

The burn and draw to the Surrogates Crystal Baller scored very well.   The burn line remained straight from start to finish – requiring few touch-ups along the way.  The resulting ash was tight with a nice white color.   The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

The draw to the Crystal Baller was low maintenance.  This resulted in a nice cigar to puff on from beginning to end.

Strength and Body

I found the strength and body attributes of the Crystal Baller to be very similar to its sibling – the Tramp Stamp.

From a strength perspective, I found the Crystal Baller to be medium to full.  This gave the cigar the right amount of pop without being too overwhelming.  From a depth of flavors point of view, the Crystal Baller starts out medium to full-bodied.  In the second half, the flavors progressed to full-bodied.  When looking at the strength and body, I found this cigar to have a slight edge of body over strength – particularly in the second half.

Final Thoughts

With the L’Atelier Imports offerings, I’ve found these the type of cigars that do require multiple smokes to truly appreciate everything these blends have to offer.  The Crystal Baller is no exception to this rule.  Overall in the Surrogats I give the Ecuadorian Habano blends an edge over the Connecticut Broadleaf blends.  When comparing the Crystal Baller against its sibling the Tramp Stamp, these two cigars scored very closely.  I still give the Tramp Stamp a slight nod in terms of flavor, but this is not a knock on the Crystal Baller.

Like the Tramp Stamp, the Crystal Baller is a cigar I would recommend to the more experienced cigar enthusiast because it does have some pop.  There are cases that I might recommend a novice try this cigar to try something fuller in strength and body.  As for myself, this cigar delivered a nice smoking experience for me – and it is one I would definitely smoke again.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Medium to Full (1st Half), Full (2nd Half)
Finish: Good
Assessment: Nice to Have
Score: 90

Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.