A relative newcomer to the scene, Surrogates cigars are produced at the My Father factory and distributed by L’Atelier Imports. The company’s philosophy is neatly summed up in their slogan, “Limited edition quality at an everyday price.” The fifth and largest release in the Surrogates porfolio, the Animal Cracker would be my first experience with the brand. The cigar is a single blend available in one vitola, a fatty 6×60.
The Animal Cracker was a beefy stick decked out in an oily and veiny Habano Oscuro wrapper with a neatly applied cap punctuated by a tiny little nip up top, a “covered pigtail.” I opted to pull off the nip instead of cutting the cigar, and pre-light draws gave off a mellow tobacco taste with a tinge of slightly sweet anise. I would also like to mention that the band on the cigar features a pink Rhinoceros skeleton.
The cigar opened up to a lot of chewy smoke with a thick cocoa flavor and lots of crisp black pepper. A few puffs in an added dimension of cream joined the profile, working to “soften up” the pepper a bit. The burn was off to a straight start, with a plump grey ash taking shape atop a thick, black “burning leather” burn line. As I approached the 2nd third I began to pick up notes of salty earth. Strength in this portion maxed out at a solid medium.
The 2nd third brought about flavors of cocoa, earth, sea salt, and cream with a malty sweetness that coated my palate. Initially my mouth had been on fire from the blast of pepper, and this was almost like a swig of salty chocolate milk to cool it down. Looking back at my tasting notes I realized that the flavors I had listed sounded like they would clash horribly, but they actually worked together amazingly well. Some of the best cigars out there tend to do that. A quick retrohale set my sinuses ablaze with peppery spice. The smoke here was still sufficiently dense but not as chewy as the intro, and three inches in, the fat ashes were still holding on tight.
In the final third the Animal Cracker continued to progress into dominant notes of rich tobacco and a slightly sour anise, offset by some toasty bread and cream. The body had reached a manageable level of full. This was an entirely different profile than the one that the cigar had started off with. For the first time in quite a while I ended the smoke wishing it could go on just a little longer.
Sometimes when I’m smoking a big-ring cigar I can taste what I would describe as “filler flavor”- the result of tobacco that doesn’t really compliment the blend being added to fill out the large cigar. The Animal Cracker is a shining example of a cigar that was blended specifically for a 60-ring smoke. Another good example would be the E.P. Carrillo Inch. This stick was deeply complex with very interesting flavor and nice subtle transitions throughout. Finding stuff like this is the reason that I smoke cigars. Kudos to the guys at L’Atelier for keeping the price down, as they could easily charge more for a cigar with so much to offer. This was a dynamite smoke and I give it an A+. If you like complex and engaging cigars you won’t want to miss this one.