Review: La Mission du L’Atelier
Meanwhile, back at the farm…Okay no farm, just random use of one of my favorite narration segues. For some reason, living in south Texas has its disadvantages when it comes to the availability of certain cigars. Personally, I prefer to support my local B&Ms over volume-fixated online retailers whose cartoonish ads and offers bloat my Gmail inbox. Yes, even at the expense of burning through a couple of gallons of precious premium fuel, contributing to the paranoia of various environmental phenomena and dodging family-sized jars of mayonnaise on the highway, I prefer to stay local. Could I save some dinero shopping online? Did Rose Kennedy own a black dress? Believe it or not, many of the cigars you see on these pages were purchased online simply because the B&Ms either don’t carry them or they always, shockingly, seem to be out of stock. Interestingly, when asked why they didn’t carry certain brands or lines, some B&Ms stated it simply came down to the relationship with the cigar maker. For example, one B&M lauded folks like Padron and Cornelius & Anthony while lamenting a limited stock of Rocky Patel’s because “…Patel is a Pr**k…” Don’t get me wrong, I’m always looking for a good deal, but I also feel strongly about supporting our local folks so, I strive to strike a balance. Case in point: I resorted to going online to hunt down a handful of sticks since I got nada at my local B&Ms. One of my unicorns was L’Atelier’s La Mission. The first thing that caught my eye was the labeling. Then it was the San Andrés wrapper. Then it was this attractive 30-ish SOTL puffing on one. Hell, she could have made toking on a Chihuahua turd rolled in newspaper look good. Anyway, there was some solid feedback on the La Mission and since it hailed from the Pete Johnson brain trust, I knew it wasn’t going to be an ass banana.
In 2012, Pete Johnson felt his Tatuaje brand was maxed out with offerings and wanted something new and fresh. With a desire to move beyond his established (and highly successful) brown-labeled offerings, Johnson focused on a small-batch premium line with a Cuban flair and L’Atelier Imports was born. Rolled in the Garcia family factory in Esteli´ Nicaragua, the first line, launched at IPCPR in August 2012, was aptly dubbed L’Atelier and was initially offered in 3 vitolas (now 7) paying homage to the first three sizes of the Cohiba Behike BHK launched by Cuban Habanos S.A. in 2010. Subsequently, Johnson went on to launch a maduro version of the L’Atelier featuring a top-of-the-line Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Inspired by robust French wines, the La Mission line was released in 2015 and like its predecessor, featured the touted Sancti Spiritus leaf in its blend. Follow-up blends include the campy Surrogates line-up and the Ecuador-skinned El Suelo and Trocadéro.
Did you know: L’Atelier cigars are hand-made in the Garcia family’s My Father factory.
- Profile: Full
- Vitola: 2009 [Box-pressed Toro]
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.5″/ 56
- Purchased: Online
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrès
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Cutter: Colibri V-cut
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price Paid: $9.00
Being true to his past efforts, in creating L’Atelier Johnson wanted to use rare and unusual tobaccos. His opening salvo was a hit with an Ecuadorean-grown Sancti Spiritus wrapper on the eponymous L’Atelier. Considered very flavorful and lush, Sancti Spiritus is a hybrid made from Criollo and Pelo de Oro Cuban varietals. Subsequent blends, including the La Mission, employ the unique leaf in both binder and filler compositions. Like it’s L’Atelier predecessor, the La Mission features a Cuban flare complete with a pigtail cap and is boxed in 7 vitolas in quantities of 18. The eye-catching label imparts a vintage wine label look and following the French wine theme, the vitolas are represented by a particular vintage year. The firmness of the stick was darn near perfect from head to foot and the box press is more of a Spanish-press. The triple cap topped with a pigtail is well done. Veiny and vaguely toothy, the dark, mottled, reddish-brown San Andrés wrapper is gorgeous, the seams of which are near invisible. Construction and roll are hallmarks of Pepin Garcia’s torcedores. The stick is very aromatic offering a wonderful mix of caramel, cream and barnyard from the wrapper which complement the chocolate and raisins from the foot. The cold draw is on the firm side mixing in a mélange of cocoa powder, hay and raisins.
The initial draw and retro are a medley of leather, coffee, cream and black pepper. There is a soft spice left on the tongue. As it settles in, there is more creamy caramel on the retro and a nice rich coffee texture on the finish. There is also a light sweetness on the inhale accompanied by a hint of cedar tang. The body is rich and smooth with a long finish. As it nears a transition the profile becomes more woody with hints of toffee, more baked bread on the finish and dark cherry on the lips. The combustion is good but the char line does get uneven enough to require a single touch up.
A definite transition is noted with an arrival led by notes of espresso, baked bread and cedar. The element of sweetness of the wrapper on the lips is very pleasant. There is a noticeable uptick in strength along with notes of graham cracker on both the inhale and retro. Unfortunately, the La Mission continues to burn unevenly requiring another touch-up.
Strength is full Monte in the final leg represented by a cedar profile. There is a nice balance of chocolate and earth notes with a rich coffee bean finish. The spice has long since waned but there is a nice red pepper kick added to the chocolate. There is a wonderful flavor of malted oats on the finish throughout the final stretch making this a strong but delectable ending.
I can’t emphasize this enough – I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this cigar. From the vintage band to the delicious San Andrès skin to the well-balanced and flavorful profiles, the La Mission delivers over and over. So much so, it forces me to overlook its one flaw: an inconsistent burn. And that’s typically a “booger in the eye” for me. I’ve not tried other blends in the L’Atelier portfolio, but they nailed something truly special with the La Mission. The fact that it’s under $10 is a huge bonus and makes this cigar boxworthy in every sense of the word. A go to smoke. It’s almost too beautiful to truck out during your next herf and besides, once your friends get wind of how good these little babies are they’re liable to bug you senseless until you buckle from social pressure to share. Okay, maybe one or two with your BFFs but keep the rest for those special occasions, a night out at your favorite cigar lounge or quiet Sunday afternoons. There is just too much to miss if you shove one in your maw to mow the yard. A yard ‘gar this ain’t. I’ve never had the pleasure of listening to Pete’s music before his accension to cigar genius, but please gimme an “Hallelu-Jah” he chose tobacco. – In Fumo Pax!