Cigar Review: Surrogates Animal Cracker by L’Atelier

Cigar Review: Surrogates Animal Cracker by L’Atelier

L’Atelier Imports / Surrogates 
Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador (Hanano Oscuro)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Size: 6″ x 60
Strength: medium-full to full
Price: $9.50

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Overall Rating: 9.2

As a brand, Surrogates was originally sold as an exclusive to Dan Welsh’s New Havana Cigar Company in two original blends (the Skull Crusher and Bone Crusher). When L’Atelier Imports (in which Dan is a partner) began, the Surrogates line fell under that company’s umbrella. Since that time, four more blends were added to the Surrogates line. Like everything blended by Pete Johnson and produced at the My a Father Cigar Factory in Nicaragua, the Surrogates brand quickly developed a fanatically loyal following. Despite it’s large ring gauge and strength, the Surrogates Animal Cracker has a good deal of complexity. More than simply a cigar for Pete’s fan boys, the Animal Cracker is a cigar that both Pete Johnson and Dan Welsh can be proud to be associated with. It’s a cigar that smokers of full bodied Nicaraguan cigars should certainly seek out at their local shop.


Pre-Light: A very dark coffee colored Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper covers the Surrogates Animal Cracker. There a nice oily sheen to the wrapper that really gives it an appealing look. A few noticeable veins and seams appear on this Oscuro wrapper. Two bands tout the cigar’s name and brand. The top band is black with a small pink elephant skeleton in the middle and features the word “Animal Cracker” on it. The secondary black band features the Surrogates brand name in white lettering. These black and white bands stand out just enough against the dark Habano Oscuro wrapper.


The wrapper of the Surrogates Animal Cracker has an earthy aroma with some subtle wood, nut and coffee notes. Chocolate, sweet powdered cocoa and coffee scents are prominent from the unlit foot of the cigar. The cold draw is a little on the firm side.


Burn: The draw is fairly easy, and continues to loosen up as time goes by. The is a very even burn to the early part of the cigar that gets a little jagged as time goes by, but avoid correcting the burn with a lighter since it will correct itself, and by the final third the burn is mostly even. A grey ash clings tightly to the Surrogates Animal Cracker, and drops off easily about and inch or two into the smoking experience.


Flavor: Upon lighting the Surrogates Animal Cracker, there is a significant leather note that dominates the first third. Some nutmeg, oak and very mild coffee notes occur during the first third of the cigar. There is a very unique black cherry flavor that occurs about an inch into the Surrogates Animal Cracker, and it sticks around for some time. On the retrohale there are leather and cherry notes. Some pepper and mild spice begin to peek out from behind the dominant leather and cherry flavors. At the transition to the second third of the Animal Cracker, the coffee flavor begins to take over the flavor profile. As the dark cherry note dies down, an earthy note begins to grow. Throughout the second third of the cigar the pepperiness builds, but it does not come to the forefront until the final third. There is a delightful interplay of flavors throughout the second and third parts of the Surrogates Animal Cracker. The final third begins with the pepperiness beginning to gain in prevalence, while a mixture of coffee and earth take on a secondary role in the flavor profile. By the final third of the Surrogates Animal Cracker, there is a blend of pepper, spice and leather to the retrohale. Due to the complexity of the cigar, there are a number of flavors that occur in the final third too specific to put a name to. However, there are the occasional extremely brief occurrences of cocoa, leather, spice, cedar, hay, grass and nuts.


Overall: Pete Johnson has two classy brands to his name, so the whole Surrogates by L’Atelier line was one I was not so sure about at first. With blend names like “Tramp Stamp”, “Satin Glove” and “Animal Cracker” I was worried that this was a departure from the classy image of the L’Atelier brand.  Still, I’m a fan of much of what Pete Johnson puts out, so after a recent event at Stogies World Class Cigars in Houston, I decided it was time to sit down and see what the line was all about. The Surrogates Animal Cracker by L’Atelier did not disappoint. It manages to retain much of the charm of Pete’s other brands, while having a character all its own. For such a large ring gauge cigar the Animal Cracker is an extremely complex cigar, with a wonderful mix of strength and flavor. Fans of Pete Johnson’s cigars will not be disappointed with this wonderful cigar. Personally, I really enjoyed the Surrogates Animal Cracker, and I’ve been enjoying them fairly regularly for over a month now. All the characteristics are there for this cigar to age quite well, and it should only benefit from a year or two in the humidor. I’d highly recommend picking up a box if you enjoy full bodied Nicaraguan cigars.


Pairing: The Animal Cracker pairs extremely well with a full bodied red wine. My personal choice for pairing with this cigar is a bottle of Lancaster Cabernet (really more a meritage) and the Domaine Tempier Bandol Cuvee La Migoua. Other wines worth pairing with the Surrogates Animal Cracker include the Château Simone Palette Rouge, Olga Raffault Chinon “Les Picasses”, Opus One, Coppola Director’s Cut Reserve Cabernet, California 37, Duckhorn a Decoy Cabernet and Hess Select Cabernet. For the single malt drinker, a Balvenie 21 PortWood, Balvenie 17 DoubleWood, Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength or Macallan 18 will all pair nicely with the Surrogates Animal Cracker.


Reviewed by Jonathan David (@JonDavid1210)

Some cigars for this review were provided by Dan Welsh (@SurrogatesDan) and Stogies World Class Cigars. No request for review was made. Though the generosity of Dan and Jorge is greatly appreciated it in no way affects the way that this cigar has been reviewed. At ToastedFoot we remain committed to providing impartial cigar reviews.