It amazes me that so many people still have yet to try the premium cigar blend that is "Encore" by EP Carrillo. One would think that by now everyone and their uncle would have smoked the #1 "Cigar of the Year" from 2018, yet so many stogie smokers confess that they have never fired one up.
With its 96-point rating, extensive aging, impeccable box-pressing, appealing Nicaraguan puro tobacco bill, and signature EP Carrillo attention to detail, this cigar seems like it would be one of those sticks everyone tried when it first launched. Yet here we are...
So for those of you who missed out on this medium-full smoke, here's a quick rundown on one of the highest-rated cigars in tobacco history, along with our take on this modern classic.
Oh, and did we mention that some of the leaves in this premium cigar blend are aged for two additional years in handcrafted royal palm bark box tercios? Yeah, that's something you don't see every day. And yes, it does make a notable difference.
Bronze, copper, rose gold, and cream-colored, the triple banding on the Encore scores extremely well for its packaging appeal. It's a clear stand-out on the shelf that is not overly expressive, and outside of the name on the band, is nearly identical to that of other cigars from this manufacturer, including the utterly outstanding EPC Allegiance.
Tightly pressed and nearly oil-free, veins and seams seem to disappear into the nut-colored wrapper. However, despite feeling tightly filled and bound, all four of the cigars I smoked had unsightly creases and wrinkles in their wrappers, with one of the cigars hiding soft spots below the final band and in the center of the barrel on one side.
Nuttiness and dry hardwood smells waft from the wrapper instead of the familiar sweet cedar one comes to expect from heavily aged tobacco blends of this caliber. In contrast, the foot is more milky and tangy smelling. Almost like a mix between yeasty bread dough and dried citrus peel. Both it and the barrel also have a mild tropical smell that I found to be most akin to dried coconut and salty sea spray. Perhaps those palm bark tercios pack more potency than one might expect...
Tangy, milky, and slightly sharp, light-up is little more than medium-minus in intensity and flavor, and instantly fills the air with rich smoke. There's a nutty, wood-like taste too here that reminds you of what was just smelled along the barrel and foot pre-light.
Progression of flavor, body, and strength is a gradual climb with this blend. Toasted almonds and cashew halves, dried oak, and a lingering tingle of tanginess combine to create a mellow first third that can be best described as languid.
Not looking to rush into anything for fear of overwhelming the senses, this robusto burns slow and cool and refuses to provide off-flavors even when puffed in earnest. Take this route, and you will discover a darker nut flavor, with more spice notes and a touch more strength. Smoke leisurely, and the smoke remains far more milky and a splash sweeter, with a doughy almond cookie taste being the underlying cigar flavor profile.
Retrohales are slightly spicy, but lean more toward an oatmeal and dried hardwood olfactory sensation than anything else.
Already exuberant, but yearning to stretch its legs further, the center section and beyond is zestier and deeper than ever within the Encore. Still standing square in the medium range on every account, EPC's masterful blending turns toward embellishing upon what it has already instated instead of diverging from its predestined path.
Smoke slow in the first portions of the stick, and it's a toastier almond note that develops, with more cashew milk adding body before that dry oaky finish cranks up the tannin time bomb another tick. Bitter and tart at times, the candied orange peel aftertaste continues to spread as it goes, and is best paired with a medium-plus strength, cereal grain-like retrohale.
Overzealous smokers will receive a toastier cigar flavor profile, which at times borders on being akin to light roast coffee or even chicory. There's still plenty of milky nuttiness going on, but it's quite darker and a bit more bitter, and I mean that in a good way. Spicier and stronger in aroma, the shortcut smoker's path is peppered with flavor, but is still by no means something I would refer to as "peppery."
Oh, how I do cherish a cigar that can maintain its momentum and provide balance and intrigue within the parting puffs portion of its structure. This is where those who have opted to stroll down the leisurely smoker's path receive their reward, for this blend is built to be burned until your lips can't handle the heat anymore.
Those toasty tercio tannin tastes are most notable at this moment than ever before, and help add depth to the already vibrant cigar flavor profile. It's a unique taste unlike anything else out there, and is very intoxicating.
Ash / Burn / Smoke / Draw
Like several other top-rated cigars I have reviewed recently, this box-pressed blend's primary weakness is its construction and combustion.
Although the grade of the ash, draw, and smoke level production were top-notch, every single stick required touch-ups along the way, with one stick bordering on being labeled as disappointing.
Outside of the near-immaculate combustion of the stick in my review video, burn issues remained an unwanted distraction from the enjoyment of each of the other cigars. Perhaps some of those unsightly wrapper wrinkles and soft spots down the barrel were the culprit? You never know...
I found this smoke to be a refreshing deviation from the familiar, punch-you-in-the-pie-hole EPC blends that we have all come to know and love.
Although it may play with the idea of taking you into full territory, Encore stays well within the boundaries of medium from beginning to end, and is extremely smooth in its delivery of flavor, body, and strength.
I also love how the cigar provides you with a "choose your own adventure" at the start, where fans of darker, more robust flavors and strength get to smoke more actively to receive the cigar flavor profile they desire. Fancy a milkier, slightly milder smoke? Pace your puffs in the first third and this cigar will be all almonds and candied orange peel up until its deeper cedar and oak finish.
And then there's the topic of all that palm bark, which surely has imparted some form of enhancement to the tobacco after two years of continuous exposure. However, what this flavor and aroma imparts is difficult to describe. The closest thing that I can compare it to is the smell you get from tanning lotion warming to the sun's rays on a sandy beach. It's a taste that is faint but memorable once detected, and somewhere between grassy, nutty, woodsy, and salty.
But your palate could pick up on a wheel of flavors that are completely different than what I detected, and the only way to determine exactly what the EP Carrillo Encore has in store is to go out and smoke one yourself.
EP Carrillo "Encore"
5 ⅜" x 52 "Robusto" (box-pressed)
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