About Tatuaje Cigars

If you would have told Pete Johnson when he began working part-time at Gus' Smoke Shop in California back in 1993 that he would eventually become one of the most respected and prolific boutique cigar blenders in the entire industry, well, he may have believed you. You see, even from an early age Johnson was an artist, playing bass guitar in bands and even moving to Los Angeles when he was 18 in an effort to break through and hopefully start a career as a professional musician. But it wasn't very long after being introduced to tobacco that he serendipitously found his true calling, which pushed music down to second-place on his list of passions. He began to learn, live, and dream about cigars. Mere months had gone by before Johnson was curiously hopping around other tobacconists in the local area, eventually becoming general manager of LA's The Big Easy. Once he felt he had conquered that position, he then became director of retail for the Grand Havana Room, but even throughout this impressive climb he relentlessly continued to mentally prepare the blueprint for his own future brand. Seemingly bursting at the seams, Johnson now wanted more than anything to create an outlet for his newfound inspiration. With early attempts (and failures) at making his vision come to life starting as early as 1995, it wasn't until after meeting Jose 'Pepin' Garcia in 2003 that he finally felt he had the opportunity to begin constructing and producing exactly what he thought was his perfect cigar.

The relationship between Garcia and Pete Johnson was an interesting one, mainly due to the immediate language barrier. It proved to be a moot point, as there was an instant mutual spark in chemistry and respect and the two managed to each get their ideas across to one another effectively. Once official production started that same year, Tatuaje was born. At first, the tricky to pronounce Spanish name paired with price points that some could consider optimistic for a newcomer caused a slow start in sales and popularity, but as time went on and more and more people continued to smoke them, it gained steady traction and demand inevitably increased. By 2006, Johnson himself was amazed at the amount of retailers practically begging for his product. His dream had come to fruition.

Today, Johnson and 'Pepin' maintain a close business bond, and Tatuaje has perched itself comfortably on the top of the boutique brand totem pole. With cigars rolled both in Nicaragua and at the El Rey de Los Habanos factory in Miami, Florida, Johnson now has the added luxury of experimenting with different blends as he sees fit thanks to the stunning variety of tobaccos grown exclusively at Pepin's impressive Tabacalera Cubana factory in Esteli. Although he started the brand with the intent on re-imagining his favorite Cuban cigar, he's now taken off running with Nicaraguan tobacco and the many delicious possibilities contained therein. Whether it's his original Brown Label, the incredibly popular Red Label, the rich and complex Cojonu, or the yearly Halloween-themed Monster series, Tatuaje takes itself very seriously and relentlessly pushes the envelope for what a high-end premium cigar should be - or, could be.

By Luzzie Normand
Co-Founder & Editor; Neptune Cigars Inc.
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