21 Minutes with Pete Johnson

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21 Minutes with Pete Johnson

Quick shout out to all the peeps who came out to Drapers on Friday. It was great seeing familiar faces as well as putting faces and real names to Twitter handles. Twitter peeps like @tatuajecigars @nicetightash @doc8466 @stogieguys @sboyajian @naugs56 @dabyrdman33 @btmiles @dcspeopleschamp @chris_suspect @edfernandez2 (Norfolk VA), all the Facebook people like Larry (NC), Benjamin and Jennifer. I know I’m forgetting some people…to @dcamacho who bailed at the last minute…c’mon son, bros before hoes!

My yearly interview with Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars includes some of the new things to expect from Pete this year. Will there be any more tubos? What’s new with the El Triunfador? Original El Triunfador to CRA member shops? The possibility of no Monster Series in 2010? Whats going on with Ambos Mundos? And much much more…


34 thoughts on “21 Minutes with Pete Johnson

  1. One thing I took away from this Jerry (thanks again by the way – I look forward to these each time you do it) – is that Pete seems a bit tired and beat down by consumers. I am sure as a brand owner that is involved with social media, that its hard to not take feedback to heart. And it was a tough 4Q 2009 as many consumers were upset they were not getting access to new releases, and some of those releases had their issues. My concern is that we will see this stifle his creative process – which is part of what put him on the map in my mind. He is very innovative, and you find that you cannot please everyone. But it sounds like he may now be less willing to take risks which makes me sad. We need people to push the industry, and I hope he is still getting enough feedback (besides sales) which will encourage him to keep pushing. thanks again for 21 informative minutes. I am enjoying all the sizes of the new El Triunfador, and look forward to the Verite. Anything else interesting off camera that you can note for us Jerry?

    1. Keith – I see it mostly as Pete regrouping and getting back to basics in 2010. I don’t see the feedback on the tubos or Monster series stifling his creativity. I think Pete will continue to be one of the innovators in the cigar industry. I think Q4 2009 for him was tough and he learned a few valuable lessons.

      As far as what didn’t make the video…this came up afterwards but there is a new line he is working available only at events called Fausto. I’m not sure how you spell it but its an old Cuban cigar. No ETA.

  2. DAMMIT…a more expensive, “great-tasting,” Ultra-special Tat Vintage that I HAVE to try. The wife is gonna kill me!

    Great plug for the CRA!

  3. Hey Keith…it’s not so much for me that I can’t get some of the limited things. It is simply they were not that good…to me….and quite a bit of the Pepin stuff is…again to me. The Drac and Boris was very expensive…and I really feel my effort in getting those smokes was a HUGE waste of my time. I don’t expect Pete or anyone else for that matter to make knock me over smokes every time out. When you happen to live, or be stuck, or whatever, in a smaller market, it does get tedious as a consumer and a lover of good cigars when all you get to do is read about a new release. Having given this two cents, I can honestly write here that my fav and the best Tat I have had is the Verocu East Coast edition. I know a B&M that has quite a few cabs still in inventory, and it is a cigar worth every bit of 10 bucks!

  4. wooot!
    nice job Jerry!

    -Keith, I see what you mean about Pete seeming beat down, but I think that his rough 4th quarter, was the result of a very ambitious 2009, maybe too much for even a mastermind like Pete can handle. I mean, just in 09 he released The 2 tubos, the drac, the, boris, Ambos mundos, working on the Verite… all while dealing with that bullshit lawsuit. If you think about it, he produced roughly twice what the average cigar company produces each year, and in many cases triple, just last year.

    I think he just took on too much, and has realized that, hence the uncertainty of the Leatherface.

    I agree his creativity, and ambition is what makes him who he is, but everyone has limits.

    Other than that…good news on all fronts, particularly that the original El Triunfador is still going to be produced! And now we have video proof (audio really) of how to pronounce Noella! Always bugged me that people pronounce it “no-EL-a”.

  5. Thanks for post Jerry! I’m gonna see if my friend want to do that art work for Pete’s cigar.

  6. Awesome video! I got to meet and talk with Pete the following day and i just have to say, what a guy! Very down to earth, easy to talk to and just a regular cigar smoker. I think that is one of the reasons his line goes over so well, other than the awesome flavors 😉

    I found out one thing that might not make too many shops happy, they cancelled all backorders from 2009 and started fresh in 2010 🙁 I know the shop I was at had no idea that happened. DOH

    I hope he does keep doing the monster series! I don’t care if the naked line continues, but the regular monster series would be nice to see. It is a pain in the ass being limited, but it is a staple and should continue on for a couple years at least.


  7. Nice interview. I wish you asked about the spooky ticket giveaway from last year since we haven’t heard about that in a while.

  8. Great interview. I am as excited as ever for what Pete is producing. That was an interesting note about how he chooses his daily cigars. One thing that I would have liked to have learned was how he thought his cigars were aging. When he said that he has quite a few of the Black Label robustos left I was intrigued to learn if he has older batches of his other cigars and how he thinks that they are progressing.

    Thanks for posting this!

  9. Pete is a great guy, and he deserves all of his success. The one thing I really like about him is that he does not define success in terms of profits alone. He really takes his consumers’ opinions to heart.

    I dont think the problems with the tubos stem from a lack of quality in the tobacco, but more from issues with quality control (if that makes sense). The blends were top notch if you ask me, but they dried out during shipping and did not smoke well out of the box. They have settled down since they were released, and I think they are smoking great.

    Aside from the box problems, I thought the monster series was a success this year. I really enjoyed both the Drac and the Boris, and the Boris is really progessing nicely with a few months of age. The Ambos Mundos I could take or leave, but I think the Cojonu 2009 was one of Pete’s very best cigars. Havent tried the new El Triunfador, but it is on my list of things to do.

    As far as the Verite, Pete was nice enough to give me two of the robustos, and honestly, it is one of the best cigars I have ever had. Hands down my favorite Tatuaje, and that is saying a lot. Waiting anxiously for them to be released.

  10. A couple things regarding price jumped out at me:

    “No one complains about other cigar companies coming out with $30 cigars.” I’m not sure what shops Pete is referring to, but I know my local B&M is having a hell of a time selling the $30+ LFD El Museo. Realistically, I’ve had maybe 2 sticks in my life that are really worth that kind of price tag…a Padron 1926 and an Opus X lancero.

    Pete talks about getting killed on the Brown Label, but that is consistently the most expensive of his regular “Tatuaje” lines. Although it’s the only one I would like to smoke on a regular basis, I already don’t buy more than a few a year just because they start at $9 or $10 a stick and go upward from there. If he’s really losing money on these at that price point, maybe it’s time to look at some way to cut costs. I won’t be buying more at the current price, much less if he were to increase it.

    With more and more companies bringing out super-premium quality smokes at lower prices, it’s disappointing to see Pete going the other way on the Tat lines. Geez, in a year when even Newman puts out two new sticks under the $8 price point (El Baton and Brick House), CAO gets praised by nearly everyone for its cheapest stick ever (La Traviata) and LFD undercuts the price of it’s most popular lines with a new cigar that tastes better (Air Bender), it’s just kind of hard to swallow $15 tubos and a $25 “vintage” stick.

    1. Just out of curiousity, how many cigars does Pete need to offer up at a great price? You have the Cabiguan and the Havana VI which depending on size range from anywhere from $5 to $8. You’ve got the P Series and the Ambos Mundos which fall in the $3 – $5 range. Most of his stuff sit’s comfortably between $7 and $11, which is right in the same price range as most worthwhile Fuente, Padron’s, Ashton’s. In most instances he is less than the guys with the super premium pricing.

      The reason the brown label costs him more, and in turn costs you more, is because it’s done in Miami where labor costs are much higher. That being taken into account, plus that he didn’t raise prices from SCHIP (whole sale or MSRP), he is taking more of a beating on those. I’m sure he’s making more than he claims, but just because it’s more $ to buy, means it’s more $ in his pocket. He probably banks just as much on that $10 Miami as he does on a $6 Havana VI.

      I guess it has to do with tastes.. I forget what I paid for the Brickhouse.. and personally I feel I paid to much. It simply wasn’t worth the $5 or 6 or whatever I paid for it. That being said, I’ve never felt that way after smoking a Tat (granted, I’ve never smoked a P Series and probably won’t).

      1. The La Traviata is cheap because it’s the first stick made in CAO’s new factory. My understanding from the reps is that all new CAO lines will cost less because of this.

        If someone else is rolling your stuff, the price goes up. If someone else grows your stuff your price goes up.

        Why would Pete back off from one of the hottest cigar lines in history. I mean I heard some people were camping outside stores to get Dracs and Boris.

        An instant guaranteed sell out of a pricey cigar? That’s a “nightmare?” I’m not buying it.

      2. I think Stephen laid out the reason why Pete takes a hit on the Tatuaje Brown lab. Considering Pete has been eating SCHIP for almost a year, its made in the USA, etc,.

        1. You’re probably right. To tell the truth I’m still smarting from the double-disappointment embodied in the Black and Red Tubos. Together, I paid almost $30 for 2 cigars, both of which were just “good”…which isn’t nearly enough for that kind of price. For his other cigars, I liked one of the two Ambos Mundos and the Cabaiguan just didn’t make a big impression on me. I’m looking forward to trying the new Triunfador.

          As for the regular Tat lines, I have never liked the white, only liked the red slightly more, and really enjoy the brown. Of course, the brown is the most expensive of these. I haven’t seen too many of them here in TN, but when I lived in SoCal, they started about $10 and went up from there to close to $15. I want to say that TN prices are about $1 to $1.50 cheaper than that…too much to consider buying on a regular basis for my cigar budget.

          Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have complained about it if I wasn’t feeling freshly ripped off from those two tubos. The black was a great $8 stick, but I paid $16. The red would have been acceptable (just didn’t like the first half at all) at $7, but I paid $15. Stephen, I could have bought 5 Brick House sticks (or La Traviatas) for the price of those 2 Tats together–I felt I had paid far too much.

  11. Another great job from the originator of video PJ interviews!!

    Couldn’t help but notice that Pete seemed a bit down in this video…chin up Pete. Your true supporters are behind you brother!

    1. Well…I’m not sure if he was down. It may have been a combination of jet lag and the fact that we had to hurry to record because we were kicking back some drinks. LOL.

  12. Great interview, good questions/answers. It was real cool meeting all the people there as the place was packed, thanks peeps for good conversations (correction on the twitter handle- @edfernandez2 ) . The new triunfador is phenomenal and I managed to bring a couple back to some of my co-workers here and a couple of reserva j21, excellent cigars. It’s great that Pete decided to release the corona gorda brown label in the regular and especially the reserva. Hopefully he’ll be able to continue releasing his annual monster series and out of costume series too. As far as the increased pricing, just something to deal with as both a consumer and supplier, if it bothers you don’t buy it, if you don’t mind then go for it, but so far none of the tatuaje cigars I’ve smoked have dissapointed so whatever price he sets on it is probably going to be worth it.

  13. I enjoyed the vid and the posts here are very good and interesting! Thanks again! So is the new El Triunfador out yet? I think Pete said no?!

  14. Thanks for the great interview Jerry, outstanding as always. One of the things I really like about Pete is he seems like a “regular guy”. One you would enjoy hanging out with and enjoying a cigar and libation.

  15. Had a chance to meet Pete today, but had to be painfully brief because of a-totally-uncalled-for evening meeting with my boss (a waste of time, the chance to talk with cigar-master, and a pissed wife to boot!).
    Picked up a box of Noellas, a couple black tubos, the new El Triundador and got a bunch of great freebies (a vintage among them).
    And a dollar very well spent! Yes, the price is high but that Made in the USA quality is more than worth it. In the corona size I ONLY smoke Noellas. Mainly because the draw is perfect on all of them.
    I will hunt down and shell out bucks for every cigar Pete makes; when he is at his best, he is on a completely different level. Add the benefit of Pepin’s knowledge and his best cigars are just so damn good! That said, I am still hoping he can surpass the mark he set (for me) with the West Side. I know if I ever like a cigar that much again, it will be blended by Pete.
    On that note, I am with Jimmyk26. If someone else is at an event with Pete ask him if the two West Sides I have are still doing well with the age or if I should smoke them.

  16. Great video Jerry. Pete really is a master crafter. He needs to coast for a year and just keep craking out great cigars. Viva la cojonu’s.

  17. what up Don? Great news on the triunfador. you were pressing my man hard! hahaha

    I’m going to a bachelor party in Vegas and was wondering what mild cigar do you prefer? I wanted to get something that i can pass out at the party, but no too strong so that the novice guys wont pass out or not like them. i was thinking the CAO La Traviata, somewhere in that range

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