The humidor that holds my redux cigars only gets looked at about once per month, something that is a function of our schedule regarding who has the next redux. During the course of monthly openings and closing of that humidor, there are a number of cigars that, for whatever reason, simply don’t get selected for my next redux.
Somewhere in between my previous redux and this one, I saw an advertisement for Epic Cigars, a boutique brand that had gained some traction but which seemed to have lost its visibility in more recent years. The brand didn’t go away or fold; far from it, actually. In early 2019, Epic was acquired by Zander-Greg, a tobacco products distributor that might not be well known by consumers, but which has been in the tobacco business for 25 years and has the Nat Cicco brand in its portfolio, a brand with a 55-year heritage.
Seeing that ad led me to reach out to Dean Parsons, the founder and original owner of the brand, to see what was new. Parsons reminded me that 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the creation of the company, an anniversary that caught me a bit by surprise, mainly because the first Epic cigars weren’t released until February 2014. But such is the tobacco business: start a company today, release the cigars a few years later.
With that in mind, it seemed time to finally pluck the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto from my redux humidor, just over five years since I first reviewed it.
The review of the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto that I did was the second review of a cigar by that name, as my colleague, Charlie Minato, had reviewed a prerelease version of the cigar about a year earlier.
Why would we have two people review the same cigar within a year? Because the blend changed.
The cigar that Charlie reviewed had a blend that included a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, Dominican olor binder, and a Dominican piloto cubano filler. Just a few weeks after that review ran, as the company was preparing for the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, and about a dozen retailers had already Dean Parsons of Epic Cigars changed that blend to include a binder from Cameroon while adding Nicaraguan tobacco to the filler. Not only would the blend be changed, but the robusto vitola would be changed from a 5 x 50 to a 5 1/2 x 50, which would join the 6 x 54 double corona and 6 x 60 gordo as the three sizes that were initially released, all wearing a secondary band. Since the launch, the line would add a 6 x 52 torpedo and 7 1/2 x 40 lancero.
The company would also go on to grow the maduro line with the Maduro Fuerte, a limited production line that offered a stronger blend than that of the original Maduro Reserva.
Here’s what I said about the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto when I reviewed it in February 2015:
I’m certainly glad I didn’t read the review of the first incarnation of the Epic Maduro Reserva before lighting this reblended version up, if nothing less out of fear that it would have skewed my impressions of what the cigar might offer. I’d love to compare the two head-to-head to see just how much the Cameroon binder and tweaked filler changed things, but I certainly have to think it was for the better. What troubles me is that it seems like this new Epic Maduro Reserva missed a golden opportunity to really establish itself as a unique cigar and flavor profile. The first third was not only enjoyable, it was also engaging, causing my senses to perk up and my mind to try and decipher exactly what it was I was tasting and smelling, much like a good chef does with a well-crafted dish. Yet instead of challenging me to do that the whole way through the cigar, the second half became familiar, relying on a leading pepper note on top of an earthy backing flavor to carry the cigar to its conclusion. This revamped Epic Maduro Reserva is still a good showing from the young company, and one that’s certainly worth trying should you come across it.
- Cigar Reviewed: Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Charles Fairmorn Factory
- Wrapper: Brazil (Arapiraca)
- Binder: Cameroon
- Filler: Dominican Piloto Cubano, Seco & Ligero & Nicaraguan Viso
- Length: 5 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto Extra
- MSRP: $9 (Box of 20, $180)
- Release Date: July 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 3
If there’s one thing that has stuck in my head about the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto, it is how dark the wrapper is. It’s a very rich, dark shade of brown, mottled closer to the veins and still showing a bit of glossiness, even if the oils aren’t abundant or readily apparent on the fingertips. It’s a well-rolled cigar, still quite firm but shy of being rock hard, and the cap blends into the rest of the head nearly seamlessly. The aroma off the foot of the cigar is still bright, rich and sweet, offering raisins and black pepper right out of the gate, and the latter of those two increases as the former decreases. There are some hints at light wood and earth, but before long it’s a bright pepper doing almost all of the talking. Air moves smoothly on the cold draw but doesn’t offer nearly as much flavor; there’s some graham cracker sweetness followed by a mixed fruit cup syrup note, with some suggestions of more woodiness quite far in the background.
Even with a bit over five years of age on it, the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto starts out with plenty of flavor, pepper and body. It’s not a complete pepper bomb, but it will quickly wake up the senses, while a bit of damp wood comes along to coat the roof of the mouth. As the first inch of ash builds up, the flavor gets a bit denser, a bit less peppery, and a bit softer, but once that ash gets tapped off, it’s as if the pepper is suddenly off its leash and running full speed. It’s not heavy, but it is bright and really lights up the profile. While it’s certainly stimulating on the palate, any supporting notes are well in the background, meaning that once the sensation from the pepper wears off—and that takes some time—there’s not much else to process. While the woodiness was off in the distance just a few puffs ago, it’s now a much more vibrant part of the equation, which makes for a much more enjoyable experience. The cigar burns near flawlessly with plenty of smoke, a smooth draw, remarkably strong ash, and even burn line. Flavor is medium-plus to medium-full, body isn’t far behind, and strength closer to medium.
Black pepper continues to drive the show as the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto gets into its second half, and the slightly damp firewood note continues to provide a solid foundational note, making for a good 1-2 combination, even though the profile doesn’t have much of a supporting cast of flavors. The pepper, by way of both by its quantity and that lack of other flavors, has become just a bit tiring on the palate, with the finish a touch more irritating and repetitive than it was in the first half. While the profile has stayed pretty linear up to the final inch or so, there’s just the slightest suggestion at some chocolate sneaking in before the cigar gets put down. It’s smoky and seems to have picked up some of the pepper and wood, but I could make the case for a hot chocolate from a powdered mix at times. The Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto closes out at full in flavor, medium-full in body, and somewhere between medium-full and outright full in strength, meaning I’m a bit concerned about how the nicotine will hit me once I stand up after smoking the cigar over the past 90 minutes or so. If anything, I’m equally if not somewhat more concerned about giving my palate a good rinse, as the flavor seems to have permeated into my taste buds, leaving a bit of harshness for me to rid from my senses.
I’m not fond of calling a cigar singular in its approach, and the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto does give the bulk of the flavor to two things: black pepper and a woodiness that I would describe as firewood that has been sitting out in the elements for a while. While the first flavor is still plenty vibrant and engaging, the second shows the age of the cigar better, as it is more restrained and supportive. Technical performance is stellar, and overall the cigar is still very enjoyable, if lacking those additional notes that would be welcomed for the sake of balance and complexity. All put together, the Epic Maduro Reserva Robusto is an enjoyable if somewhat uneventful cigar, but one that still offers its share of enjoyable puffs.