L’Atelier Surrogates 7th Sam | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadoran Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan (Double binder)
Filler: Connecticut Broadleaf, Mexican San Andrés, Nicaraguan
Size: 6.75 x 48/52 Perfecto
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $11.00 ($10.00 online)

Today we take a look at the L’Atelier Surrogates 7th Sam.
Bought a couple at my local B&M. My bud, Tyler Jeffery, at Havana Lounge & Cigar is recovering from surgery and I want to wish him a speedy recovery.
This stick has around 2+ months’ humidor time.

From Cigar Aficionado:
“The newest smoke from L’Atelier Imports packs seven different tobacco varietals into an alluringly curvy cigar, and it’s on its way to stores now.

“Dubbed Surrogates 7th Sam, the numerical name was inspired by the number of tobaccos in the cigar as well as the fact that it is the seventh blend in the Surrogates line. Like the other Surrogates cigars, 7th Sam comes in only one size that is unique to that blend.

“That size is an attractive Perfecto—the first in the Surrogates brand. It measures 6 3/4 inches long by 52 ring gauge near the foot and elegantly tapers to 48 ring at the head. The cigars wear bands that are emblazoned with the Japanese Kanji symbol for the number seven, printed to look like handwriting.

“Surrogates 7th Sam comes packed in wooden, slide-top boxes of 20.
Wrapped in a dark, Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper, 7th Sam features two Nicaraguan binders and a three-country filler mix of tobaccos from the United States, Mexico and Nicaragua. According to Dan Welsh of L’Atelier Imports, the seed varietals in 7th Sam include Criollo ’98, Corojo ’99, Habano and Sancti Spiritus (all grown in Nicaragua by the Garcia family); Connecticut broadleaf; San Andrés from Mexico; and Sumatra from Ecuador.

“We wanted to use seven tobaccos to have some fun with this one, and given the perfecto size, felt we had enough room to work with,” says Welsh. “It’s complex, but balanced and falls between medium and full in strength.”

“Surrogates 7th Sam comes packed in wooden, slide-top boxes of 20 and carries a suggested retail price of $11 per cigar.

“Like all cigars from L’Atelier Imports, a subsidiary of Tatuaje Cigars, Surrogates 7th Sam was rolled at the Garcia family’s My Father Cigars factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.”

The wrapper has a rusty and mottled appearance with a modicum of oiliness.
The cigar feels adequately filled without hard of soft spots. The perfecto shape is nicely achieved by rollers that have their shit in one bag.

From the shaft, I can smell floral notes, fresh sweet summer fruit, caramel, chocolate, coffee, cedar, spice, golden raisins, and malt.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell a strong aroma of fresh peaches, caramel, malts, black pepper, cocoa, coffee, cedar, floral notes, and cedar.

The cold draw presents flavors of fresh summer fruit, caramel, white chocolate, a bag full of nuts, malt, cedar, black pepper, salted caramel, and espresso.

I’ve had a bug for 4 weeks now. Water balloon head syndrome. Can’t taste anything. Feeling better today…so why not? Here goes nuttin’ honey.

Oh ratzen, fratzen, schmaltz….There is a small plug somewhere so out comes my PerfecDraw cigar poker. A couple times clearing the issue and I’ve now got an unfettered access to free flowing air.

First up…A rich earthy sweetness. Malt and savory notes of jerky….plain; not that teriyaki shit.
The plug was right underneath the cigar band and without removing it, this would have been a cheek sucking catastrophe. Go PerfecDraw. While I’m mostly not a whore, I only hammer on products I believe in. And this little tool has saved countless cigars from being shit canned.

Strangely, no creaminess. I smoked my other stick two weeks after I put it to bed and it told me that Old School was the vibe of the blend. If after 2-3 months, the blend isn’t showing some serious potential, then it ain’t going to get any better. Anxious to see how it fares and I have a long way to go…my apologies to you: the reader.

The stick is actually filled beautifully as it provides a long slow roll. I could turn this into a 3 hour cigar if I took my time. But it’s a review so if I could shove it up my arse and still get all the benefits of smoking it, I would. Thank goodness I can type. I’ve noticed that among men my age…..on the down slope to 70…cannot type. My dear mutter forced me to take it in high school to prepare for college. I was the only boy in a class of 30 girls and took a lot of heat for it. But then I made dough typing papers for idiots in college.

OK. The cigar. It doesn’t start off with a bang…more of a limpy noodle. I smoked a Las Calaveras 2017 the other day with a few months humi time and from the first puff I was inundated with pure pleasure as it assaulted the pleasure portion of my brain.

The L’Atelier Surrogates 7th Sam doesn’t jump out at me. But then, like a lot of boutique brands, they have their heyday and then things change. Eddie Ortega went through this. So did Espinosa. Their shit that used to be $9 a stick can now be found in sales all over the interwebs for $3. L’Atelier should be doing better. Johnson heavily relies on Pepin Garcia to help him out and that’s a good thing.

After an hour of clearing my sinus passages upon awakening, my palate and taste buds are just fine. So it ain’t me. This is becoming an unimpressive blend as the very few number of reviews show. No one wants to piss off Johnson or Garcia with a funky review.

Flavors begin to emerge from hiding. Creaminess appears but comes and goes on a whim. Chocolate malt is nice. Oddly, the spiciness is nearly non-existent. Some black pepper hovers but refuses to punch with any conviction.
A little mintyness shows up that allows the chocolate another aspect to explore.
There have been a few very good L’Atelier blends but they seem to remain static with each release. This blend doesn’t help that image. It is a $6 blend disguising itself as an $11 price point. I want and expect more.

Smoke time is 35 minutes.

The first third was a total waste of time. It is here at the start of the second third that the blend comes to life with big flashy flavors: Super creamy, malts dripping down my leg, very minty, salted caramel, big push of cedar, milk chocolate, some black coffee, a touch of black licorice, and only a touch of spiciness.
Using a combo of 6 ingredients, this blend should be erect and ready to penetrate my palate.

Strength is an anemic medium…barely.
At last, some complexity takes a bow…giving rise to a minimum level of transitions. The finish is small.
I want the blend to do well. I want every $11 stick to do well.

I get gasps from the blend. Gasps of momentary cigar cred. Then it fades into the background. Inconsistency is not a friend to good cigars.

I cannot believe I shoved my whole face into a bowl of ice water to do this review.

I hit the halfway point at one hour. And the cigar teases me as it appears to be blossoming like a rose. Transitions are more than decent. Complexity improves. Even the finish is pleasing.

Strength rises to a solid medium+ giving the experience some sorely needed punches and jabs. (Hi Kap).
OK. The L’Atelier Surrogates 7th Sam makes its overdue good impression I expected from the first puff but was forced to wait til the second third to bloom. This will have consequences…maybe this is why there are barely any reviews of this cigar. No one likes writing highly critical reviews; including me. I want to write of joy and a happy experience.

Now Garcia is what I refer to as a New Breed blender. His sticks don’t take months and months to gain your affection….like so many big manufacturers’ wares. Your typical CAO needs 6 months before its ready. Same goes for Patel and others. (I will not mention the Gurkha word).

The second half is nothing like the lackluster first half. I don’t see this as needing another few months humidor time. I see it as a flaw in the blending process.

Strength hits medium/full.
All factions of flavors impregnate my palate now. I like it.
The L’Atelier Surrogates 7th Sam is now excellent. Wow. That took forever.
A wonderfully long finish is lip smacking good. Transitions…nice.
Although…I detect an AJ Fernandez Man O’ War body now. That is exactly what this blend reminds me of. Damn.

Smoke time is one hour 25 minutes.

Changes slow down to a crawl. Nice flavors but not spectacular. I did have high hopes but I’m confronted with mostly disappointment. By all accounts and the PR B.S., this should have been a stunner.

Stick with the La Mission or the various other Surrogates. There were also some excellent limited editions but I choose not to list them as they are out of reach now.
I don’t like the roller coaster ride caused by inconsistency. One moment, the flavors and body are exemplary…the next; So-so.

I love raving about good cigars. Not so much dissing them…
I believe a better choice and alternative purchase should be a decent Man O’ War variety. AJ does this better.

The L’Atelier Surrogates 7th Sam must be a regular production cigar as I cannot find any info to the contrary. It is sold everywhere online.

The cigar becomes harsh with a touch of bitterness. Flavors go into the dumpster.
Maybe a name dropping rock story from my glory days will make up for this dismal review.

There were real moments of hope for this blend only to bow to mediocrity. Damn shame.
The L’Atelier Surrogates 7th Sam is quickly becoming drek.


And now for something completely different:

We always started our tour of the European Continent in Amsterdam. Then we’d finish the tour back in England.
We took the ferry from Dover, England to the Hook of Holland…an overnight trip. While waiting to board the ship, all the core roadies for Led Zep showed up with their own 18 wheelers full of equipment. We chatted. We got stoned. We drank. We had dinner together. And said goodbye the next morning. Didn’t know our paths would cross again during our tours.

Our first gig was always the Paradiso Club in Amsterdam which was, conveniently, the place to buy hash. But we didn’t buy enough for the whole tour. And there was no other place on the Continent to safely buy it.

We were out of herb when we hit Aachen, Germany. No worse place to be out of smoke.

We played at some arena in Aachen not far from the border of Holland. We announced to the crowd that we needed advice on where to get some hash. Of course, lots of people handed us stuff after the concert but we threw it away. Never trust free dope. Too many horror stories about that. The German cops gave us the stink eye. They didn’t like Hippie musicians. The country was still pretty fascist even in 1974.
One audience member told us we could follow him to a hash club right across the border where we could buy enough stash for the rest of the tour. So our destination was Maastricht.

We finished playing around 11pm. We quickly changed. I wore a pair of patch suede leather pants on stage. After 2-1/2 hours on stage under hot lights, I entered the dressing room soaked to the bone. This night, I couldn’t get them off. They were glued to my legs so I just changed my shirt.

Darryl didn’t do drugs so a club meant he could drink himself stupid. We all grabbed our instruments.
The five of us got into the Lincoln town car driven by our road manager and we followed the bloke to Maastricht.

This club was massive and we were all duly impressed. Classy joint.
A band was playing. Hundreds and hundreds of people. It had a really nice stage and sound system. And the acoustics were brilliant.

The good fellow from the concert showed us where the dealer was. The dealer had set up a little station for selling hash. He sat in a big overstuffed chair with a big chalk board standing behind him. There were the names of different types of hash and the prices.

The dealer wouldn’t take our money but we foisted it upon him because we needed a lot. It had to last an 8 week tour.

Then we took the stage. We didn’t ask if we could play. We were Curved Air. The crowd went nuts. The band that was playing was thrilled we would be using their equipment and they had a good sound guy.
Sometimes it’s good to be the king.

Stewart, Mick, Sonja and I lit up a big bowl of hash a couple minutes before jumping on the stage.
Within minutes, it hit us. Holy shit the stuff was strong. And because we hadn’t had any in several days, we were gluttons. I had smoked hash in America but it was nothing like the quality of European hash. Or as cheap.

We stumbled on to the stage and giggled the whole time. Darryl downed an English pint (20oz) in two minutes to catch up with us.
We tried to play but couldn’t stop laughing. The crowd knew what was going on and they began to laugh. Must have been 400 of them.

We broke into playing and Sonja nudged me. Standing next to the stage was Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. I just about shit myself. It was a star crossed moment. Apparently, this club was the place to hang.

The heavens had aligned perfectly. I grew up a huge fan of Zep. And the best band I ever played with, prior to CA, was named Homegrown. Subtle, huh?

We had a singer and guitarist that could perfectly mimic those two guys in Zep. So we were damn near a tribute band. So, of course, we got booked constantly.

After a few songs, Plant and Page got on stage with us. Curved Air was a progressive band with their roots in classical music. Darryl and Sonja had not an ounce of blues in their background. Luckily, our guitarist Mick, Stew the drummer, and I had paid some dues on that front.
Page started with a slow 1-4-5 blues. Plant made lyrics up as he went. We followed.

Sonja just weaved back and forth banging her tambourine. Darryl was embarrassing with his classically trained violin chops. Everything sounded like “Vivaldi.”

I asked if we could play some Zep music. Page asked what I would like to play and I said, “Dazed and Confused.” Plant smiled as I began that iconic bass line that started the song. Darryl freaked and left the stage as he clearly couldn’t keep up.
Page had his famous Les Paul with him. I damn near fainted.

Mick sort of stayed in the background but since Zep was basically a musical trio, all they needed was for me to know the songs. And I DID!

Word got out and the audience swelled by two hundred more people. No one could move in that place. 600 people in a large bar was still a lot of people.

I got to pretend to be John Paul Jones.
We played 3 more songs: “Whole Lotta Love,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Rock and Roll.”

Page and Plant shook hands with the band and gave me a big bear hug. I could barely speak. All I could utter was a meek “Thanks.”

And you ain’t going to believe this. Clapton was in the audience the whole time. Plant went to where he was standing and they talked for a few minutes. Next thing I knew, Clapton was on stage.

Page got back on the stage. They had decided to do some Yardbirds songs. Both Plant and Clapton were in that band. Different times of course.
None of Curved Air was left on the stage except for me and Copeland; the drummer. The rest of CA chickened out.

We started with “Over Under Sideways Down.” Then “Heart Full of Soul” and finished with “For Your Love.”

It was 5am and the bar closed an hour before but the bar owner would have been lynched if he tried to shoo everyone out.

We got back to the hotel around 6am. Couldn’t sleep because I was so jacked up. I used the hotel phone to call some friends at home to tell them what happened. I later got into trouble with management for spending the dough on the phone calls. I think a 10 minute call cost around $50. A lot of dough for 1974.

But we made a big article in Melody Maker in the following issue. Management eased up on me when they saw that. You can’t buy that kind of publicity. So a couple hundred English pounds was a small price to pay…and it was forgiven. Otherwise, the management assholes would have made me pay for the call.

I just realized by finding this story, as my memory fades, that this is why my daughter and wife insisted I claimed I played with Clapton. Katie was in grade school and always bragged to her teachers about this. So I got a lot of attention on parent’s night about this. I would sheepishly have to deny this ever occurred.
They mistakenly thought I played in a band with him. I never did. But at some point in the past, I must have mentioned this story. End of mystery.

I can’t play anymore because my back is too feeble to lug gear and rigs around from gig to gig. At 68, your peers are in bed and have bad backs too…but no matter what, no one can take away from me those wonderful memories. I was just a kid from Long Beach, California living the dream a 16 year old had many years before; lying on his bed at home listening to British rock.

What a giant stroke of luck. Talent, opportunity, and ambition. Right place, right time.

“I don’t know if Momma was right or if, if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I…think maybe it’s both. Maybe both are happening at the same time.”


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4 replies

  1. That was an incredible story and experience, Grandpaw!! Great to hear you were among some great legends of rock!! Did you smoke cigars at that time and if you did, do you remember any favorites?

    By the way, glad you are feeling better!

  2. Incredible story, Thanks, for sharing that awesome experience. I remember the freedoms of 1974 fondly. Zeppelin, my favorite band of all time. Your great story put me to mind of a similar excperience I had with Gregg Alman, one night in Macon,GA, long ago. (Sorely missed)

    Quality cigar, shared experiences and situations with a friend. Doesn’t get much better than that. ( maybe a taste of J. Daniels, for added creativity)

    Thanks again, for all you do!

  3. Hey Mark,
    I’m always looking for musicians with great stories. Write something and I will publish it.

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