Surrogates Animal Cracker

At the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show, L’Atelier Imports showcased its fifth cigar in its Surrogates line – the Surrogates Animal Cracker.  The Animal Cracker had been a long anticipated blend as L’Atelier Imports first announced the cigar at the beginning of the year.  Currently, the way things stand, the Surrogates line consists of one blend, one size.  The Animal Cracker would bring the first 6 x 60 size to the line.  It also would be the first cigar in the Surrogates line to use an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper.  Early on the Animal Cracker was advertised as a powerhouse in terms of strength – and it lived up to that reputation.  While we discovered the strength has mellowed a bit, this is a still an excellent cigar for someone who wants some firepower when smoking.

The Surrogates line actually has its origins prior to the launch of L’Atelier Imports.  Surrogates was sold as an exclusive blend to Dan Welsh’s (a partner in L’Atelier Imports) New Havana Cigars company.  There were two cigars initially offered – the Skull Breaker and Bone Crusher.  Both cigars had a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.   When L’Atelier Imports was launched, the Surrogates line was moved under the L’Atelier umbrella and has been made available to authorized L’Atelier retailers.   As this happened, two additional offerings were added – the Crystal Baller and Tramp Stamp.  These two additional offerings leverage a Habano Ecuador wrapper.  As mentioned each of these releases have a unique blend in a single size.   The Animal Cracker marks the first new line since the official launch of L’Atelier Imports.

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.  Without further ado, let’s break down the Surrogates Animal Cracker and see what this cigar brings to the table.

Blend Profile

In addition to the Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper, the Animal Cracker contains Nicaraguan binder and filler.  It is currently the only offering in the Surrogates line with this wrapper.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian-grown Habano Oscuro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

As mentioned, the Animal Cracker will be released in one vitola – a 6 x 60 vitola.


The Animal Cracker features an espresso colored wrapper than has a very oily complexion.  There are some visible wrapper seams as well as some visible veins.  One distinguishing characteristic is the Animal Craacker’s fuma cap.

The Animal Crafeatures two bands.  There is a black background on each. The top band has a purple creature on the center flanked by the words “ANIMAL” and  CRACKER” on each side of it in a white font.  The second band has “surrogates” written in more of a gothic style white font.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

Before lighting up my Animal Cracker, my first step was to place a straight cut into the fuma style cap.  After the cap was clipped, I moved right into the pre-light draw.  The cold draw actually produced several flavors – including unsweetened cocoa, earth, pepper, and some cherry.  Overall I was quite pleased with the Animal Cracker.  At this point I was ready to light up this cigar and see what the overall smoking experience would bring to the table.

Flavor Profile

The start to the Animal Cracker provided a mix of earth, black pepper, coffee, and cherry notes. The flavor profile takes shape quickly as the pepper and cherry notes recede to the background. The coffee and earth notes are the primary notes early on.  The pepper is still quite prominent on the retro-hale.

As the cigar moves through the first half, the earth and coffee notes alternate as a primary flavor – however the earth notes play an increased role more and more.  Meanwhile by the time the Animal Cracker reaches the midpoint, the cherry notes were pretty much gone.

By the last third, the earth notes were pretty much in control.  The pepper notes creeped up toward the forefront.  The coffee notes were still present – but more in a background role. This is the way the flavor profile held until the close.  The resulting nub was ideal – cool in temperature and firm to the touch.

Burn and Draw

Despire the fact the cigars sell, 60 ring gauge cigars are the target of many cigar purists. Sometimes in the area of burn and draw, this criticism can be justified.  No such problem with the Surrogates Animal Cracker.  This is a cigar that scored extremely well in the area of burn and draw.  The burn line was literally “set it and forget it” as it required very little maintenance to burn straight.  The resulting ash was  on the darker shade of salt and pepper colored.  Overall the ash pretty much remained firm throughout the smoking experience.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

Burn of the Surrogates Animal Cracker

There was a touch of resistance on the Surrogates Animal Cracker.  This is something I consider ideal when puffing on a cigar.

Strength and Body

The story of this cigar is its strength.  Back in early August, I had my first experience with the Surrogates Animal Cracker.  There was no doubt, this cigar was the true definition of a nicotine bomb.  It easily was the strongest cigar I had in 2013.  Now about 3 months later, I’ve seen the strength dial back.  It’s still a full strength cigar.  While it was a “10 out of 10” in terms of strength in August, it was more like an “8.5 of out 10” in strength now.

As for the flavors, these are not going to be overwhelmingly bold.  I assessed the flavors as being medium-bodied.  Given that this still is a full strength cigar that is medium-bodied, this is going to be the type of cigar that emphasizes strength over body.

Final Thoughts

I am under the belief that there is room in the cigar marketplace for a cigar that emphasizes strength over body.  While I prefer a cigar where the two attributes are closely balanced, there are times where I do want a good kick from a cigar.  The Surrogates Animal Cracker fits this bill perfectly.  I think the 60 ring gauge was ideal for this as I do think a smaller ring gauge would have kicked the strength up way too much.  The strength coming down from when I smoked it in August improved this experience overall.  Overall, the Animal Cracker does have some nice flavors as well. At the same time, this is cigar only for an experienced cigar enthusiast who likes a very strong cigar.  As for myself, this is one I’d keep five of in my humidor and smoke from time to time.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Low
Strength: Full
Body: Medium
Finish: Excellent
Assessment: 3.0- The Fiver
Score: 89

Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased from Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, Tennessee.