ATL Black 2022 | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Nicaraguan (Masaya region)
Filler: Nicaraguan (Estelí, Jalapa, and Pueblo Nuevo)
Size: 6.5 x 56 Gran Toro
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $13.20

I’ve had these cigars resting naked for several months.

According to ATL Cigars:
“An updated, richer-flavored version of the classic original, this full-bodied Maduro was the blend we spent the most time to get right. With a Mexican San Andres wrapper, the ATL Black packs a punch but avoids the bitterness that often characterizes other full-bodied cigars. The secret is a combination of “fuerte” and “suave” featuring high-end ASP leaf in a blend that is one of a kind. Produced in partnership with Luciano Meirelles at Ace Prime – Tabacalera Pichardo in Esteli, this is a Maduro you have to try.”

Torpedo: 6 x 52 $12.40
Gran Toro: 6.5 x 56 $13.20

A big, solid, good looking tree trunk. Lots of veins visible…seams are visible but tight. A nicely applied triple cap. An oily pecan/bronze wrapper with a bit of toothiness. A heavy cigar in the hand. Packed like a Wisconsin bratwurst. This is going to be a long smoke.

Nothing to see here folks, move it along…
The cigar has all those familiar aromas that come with a Nic cigar adorned by a Mexican wrapper: floral, dark chocolate, espresso, nuttiness, cream, black pepper, raisins, caramel, malt, cedar, and barnyard.
Amazingly, this hulk of a tightly packed cigar has an unfettered draw. My PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool rolls over to a corner of the room and sulks.
The cold draw presents espresso, dark cocoa, black pepper, pretzel logic, caramel, marzipan, cedar, malt, raisins, black cherries, and graham cracker.

When a cigar is this big, I prefer to wait a couple minutes after lighting it before I comment. Why? Hell, if I know.

Okie doke…strong sweetness melds with some nice savory notes of charred steak, almonds, and pretzels.

Hints of complexity are kick started at 3/8” burned. Too early for transitions. A nice mouth feel with a finish of creaminess, black pepper, and lemon curd.

The citrus tanginess is a fine complement to the sweet efforts of chocolate, creaminess, and espresso.

Don’t want to jinx it but the char line is dead nuts perfect. Ssshh…

In most cases, a huge cigar like the Black takes a long time to age gracefully in your humidor. This cigar is no different. If I had waited a year or longer, I bet this cigar would be dancing the volta with Queen Liz.

The smart reviewers are letting this cigar mature. Me? A few months is sufficient to get the over all picture of what is possible.

The flavor points bunch up together allowing the blend to shine as a sum of its parts. I can taste the rich soil in which the tobacco was grown. Just kidding. I have a cat hair on my tongue…don’t ask.

In December of 2021, I reviewed the ATL Magic. Gave it a 94. Excellent cigar. I gave that cigar roughly the same humidor time of 3-1/2 months. But it was a Toro, not a Gordo. The toro whipped itself into shape in the allowed time. This cigar is just too big to be impatient with its aging process by the consumer.

I should have doubled that time, for the Black, to 7 months. That would have been fairer.

The cigar has great potential. And that is all I’m tasting. I just did this in the last review. Smoked the project too soon. The cigar’s plan was to entice me with a nice, if not impressive, start…and then find the goodies in the second half of the stick.

Strength began as medium and with 2” burned, strength is movin’ on up. I was right on when I said this cigar is a commitment. That 2” took nearly 30 minutes.

I’m listening to Pandora. Cream and “Crossroads.” Reminds me of a long ago and far away time when Curved Air was at Island Studio in London recording an album. And Ginger Baker with his band the Baker Gurvitz Army was recording in the adjacent studio. I shall add the story at the end of this review.

Some of the rough edges disappear. The blend transitions into smooth and delightful.
The Sweet v. Savory balance is now spot on with 3” burned.
The stick has changed gears and makes its move. This is good.
The complexity spreads its wings like bats in Wuhan.

A very distinct and unique flavor profile plants its tiny feet. The chocolate is just barely there but it accentuates big notes of graham cracker, gingerbread, creaminess, a mild black pepper, smoked almonds, sourdough bread, and the vital element of a stronger citrus component.

Transitions begin their input at this point…it ups the nuances to a nicely well-rounded approach. The mere taste of fine tobacco along with subtle flavors seems to direct the cigar into what I believe is the blender’s intent.

As I approach the halfway point, the cigar is all it can be…in a good way. Complexity demands my attention with every sip of water and each puff along the way.

This is going to be a 2-1/2 hour cigar. Generally, if I smoke a big cigar, I light up and do my thing coming back to the cigar over a longer period…since it is hard to sit still for that much time. This is a good evening cigar for after dinner. While away your time drinking yourself stupid while watching Captain Kangaroo. Dang me.

I like this cigar. It is easy going without any jarring moments in the space time continuum.

The second half is indeed where the sweet spot enforces its determination.

This ain’t your usual Mexican/Nic blend. AJ Fernandez has used this formula in a lot of his cigars. But this blend goes another way.

Usually there is a big influence of chocolate and coffee…but not here. It succumbs to the lighter aspects of what is possible when trying to bend the expectations after reading the leaf stats.

The char line continues on its conga line in not missing a step. So nice not to worry about out-of-control burns.

The medium/full strength is not debilitating. It cruises along like a float in the Pasadena parade each year.

Instead of a battle to stay cognizant of one’s surroundings, the blend becomes relaxing and a dream to steer.

I jump ahead to the finale of this wonderful cigar blend. Otherwise, I would have rambled on without any sense of time.

This is a nice addition to the ATL Cigar catalog. Nicotine was minimal. Flavors were balanced and delightful.

You can purchase this cigar directly from ATL Cigar Co.


And now for something completely different:

Curved Air was recording at Island Studios in London…in the Jamaican district. It was my second album with the band.
Food was great there. It was nice being a rock star because you could tell the production assistants what to do; like “Go get me some food. Get the money from our tour manager.”

The building could accommodate two separate studios. We were in Studio A and the Baker-Gurvitz Army was in Studio B. For you old timers, you remember Ginger Baker? The drummer in Cream? This was a follow up project with American brothers Adrian and Paul Gurvitz.

I had to baby sit my girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter, Jenny, while April worked. I had basically finished my chores of laying down the bass tracks. Back then, we laid down the rhythm section first and then layered the rest of the instruments. I think Curved Air would have been better suited to play live in the studio to give the music some authenticity.

Hanging out in the booth during the rest of recording and then the mixing was a blast, and I certainly didn’t have anything better to do. I was a star inside that building and got treated as such. No one ever asked me to pick my jacket off the floor.

The studio had a nice lounge. And a couple of pin ball machines. No such thing as video games in 1975.

I was sitting on the lounge couch, eating my lunch, when the “Army” came out for a break. Ginger walked over to one of the pin ball machines and dropped some coins in. He played for a few minutes when Jennifer slowly walks over and stands next to him, looking up at Ginger.

Ginger stops playing and grabs a milk crate and tilts it on one end. He motions Jennifer to stand on it. Now she’s at the perfect height to observe and even play as Ginger teaches her.

Ginger never said a word, even when a direct statement was pointed his way. He was completely focused on the game. Jennifer is made little screeches of joy as she got the hang of it. Ginger would shake the machine to make the ball do what he wanted it to do. Jennifer imitated his motions. Remember, she was 3.

They did for an hour. The band’s manager was telling Ginger that they need to get back into the studio. Ginger ignores him for a while, but finally relents. He asks Jennifer her name and she hugs him. His eyes widen and it was the only time in a month of recording that I saw him smile.

As the days and weeks passed in the studio, Ginger’s time at the pin ball machine got longer and longer. I was happy because little Jenny was happy. Every night, she would chatter incessantly to her mother about her new friend, Ginger. This astounded April and she took me aside early and asked if I was always in their company? I nodded yes. There wasn’t a weird bone in Ginger’s drug addled body when it came to Jennifer. He was a Papa Bear.

During this time, the band’s manager pleaded with me to leave Jennifer at home. This was costing them a fortune. He even brought in the band’s American trophy wives to volunteer to baby sit her. Jennifer didn’t want them. She wanted Ginger. So, I refused. I told them that I didn’t know them, and I wasn’t leaving her in their care.

So, their manager got a hold of our manager, Miles Copeland, and pleaded with him to do something. He just shrugged it off and told the guy to control his talent. Not his problem.

At the end of a month, we were done in the studio. Ginger still had another month booked. It was a very tender moment when the two said goodbyes. Jennifer cried and hugged and hugged Ginger. She wouldn’t let go when I tried to take her away. Ginger looked at me and I could actually see tears welling. The man still had never said a word to me.

Jennifer asked every day if we were going back. She cried every time I told her no. I was sort of heartbroken for her. She had found an adult in her life beside her mother and I that she bonded with. And remember, we wrenched her away from all her grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins when we took her to Europe. So, this was the first genuine “love affair” she had. And she felt safe with Ginger. Jennifer is now 52 without any memory of this friendship.