Cigar.com (CC): Pete, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Let’s get right to it. You make all of your cigars with legendary cigar maker Pepin Garcia. How did you guys hook up?
Pete Johnson (PJ): We hooked up in 2003 at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills, CA. We both had no idea who the other was and we had no idea what that meeting would create.
CC: Will we ever see you branch out to make cigars at other factories in the future or are your loyalties strictly with the Garcia family?
PJ: I doubt you will see me branch out. I consider them family. They give me freedom in their factory. That means a lot for someone who constantly wants to create new things.
CC: How soon after you launched your original Miami-made line did you see a surge in demand?
PJ: It took at least two years before anyone really cared about my product. We were doing well but it got crazy in 2006.
CC: Your El Triunfador line has been very popular with our clients. In fact, it was rated as one of our top picks for mellow cigars in 2010. What is it about that cigar that makes it so flavorful yet so smooth?
PJ: I love this cigar also. This was a blend I put together on my own. I was looking for subtle strength but full flavor. I think the Seco tobaccos we used in the blend really just adds big flavors without too much strength.
CC: A big part of your following centers around your limited release style of cigar making. It seems you always have something new to offer the Tatuaje faithful out there. What can we expect from you this year?
PJ: Well, I will continue with my Monster Series and my La Verite Single Farm Vintage, but this year I'm concentrating on bringing some old favorites to full production.
CC: What about the Monster Series you launched around Halloween? Are we going to see a sequel in 2011?
PJ: Well, you won't see the Face again but I'm thinking this year might be a tribute to the Wolfman.
CC: What are you smoking these days? I remember in the days prior to you having your own brand, you used to love those old Henry Clay cigars. You still enjoying those?
PJ: I still smoke a little bit of everything. Now I'm enjoying a lot of samples for the new releases.
CC: How many cigars do you burn through in a single day?
PJ: Depends on the day, but when I'm working in the factory it’s somewhere around 10. When I'm relaxing in my office, maybe only two.
CC: How do you see the future of the cigar industry and what role do you envision Tatuaje playing in it over the next five years?
PJ: I'm just hoping we survive these anti-smoking laws and taxes that are hitting this industry every day. Truthfully, this is my life. If I'm a part of this industry then I'm a happy person. If consumers will have me and continue enjoying my cigars, I'll do whatever the industry needs from me.
CC: Pete, it was great speaking with you. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers before we finish the interview?
PJ: Keep enjoying your personal freedoms and help us all fight to keep them free. A big thank you to Cigar.com for supporting the brand and a huge thank you to all of you for enjoying the results of what I love to do.