It would seem that everyone has had the experience of finding out that a person had a milestone birthday or a company celebrated a milestone anniversary and you pause and say to yourself, wow, has it really been that long? For instance, the daughter of a friend of mine just turned 13, and I vividly remember when she was still being wheeled around in a stroller.
I bring this up because I had that same sort of reaction when I learned in the summer of 2020 that Epic Cigars would be celebrating its 10th anniversary in the way that seemingly every cigar company does, with a new cigar.
First, a bit of Epic’s history, as told by founder Dean Parsons back in 2014:
Back in 2010 while in the DR I began to research .com’s and trademark names related to cigars. Although there were alot (sic) of cigar related .com’s available, upon researching the names trademark I found that many of the names had been registered. I would sit on the beach for hours and purchase different .com’s.
One afternoon I was with a friend from Miami enjoying a cigar on the beach of the North Coast. As I was watching kite boarders race across the water I though of a friend of mine “Dimitri” who owns Epic Kiteboarding. I immediately searched on Go Daddy for the name using my iphone and it was available. The next day I bought 20-30 other related .com’s for Epic Cigars. A few weeks later I began the process of trademarking Epic cigars in the USA. I believed then as I do now that it was a name of Epic proportions. The easy part was done. Now it was time to start creating cigar blends.
Since that time, Parsons has found himself in a trademark issue with Altadis U.S.A. over the Montecristo Epic, one that was amicably resolved. He built up the company’s portfolio and then sold the brand to Zander-Greg in early 2019, a transaction that saw him move into the role of brand ambassador.
As for the cigar that celebrates the company’s 10th anniversary, it is fittingly named the Epic Ten.
The cigar is notable not only for being blended by Parsons in collaboration with Abdel Fernandez and being produced at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A., but also for using a Cameroon wrapper. That varietal is relatively rare in the industry, especially outside of the larger companies who have been using it for many years.
Underneath that Cameroon wrapper is a Nicaraguan binder and filler. The Epic Ten is offered in one vitola, a 6 x 54 box-pressed toro, that has an MSRP of $16 per cigar and $160 for a box of 10 cigars.
Production is limited to 1,000 boxes, each of which are individually numbered and comes with a commemorative certificate inside.
The cigars arrived at the company’s warehouse in early November and began shipping to retailers not long after.
- Cigar Reviewed: Epic Ten
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Cameroon
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $16 (Box of 10, $160)
- Release Date: Nov. 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Epic Ten sports a darker, earthier, almost chocolatey brown wrapper, one that I would have never guessed was a Cameroon leaf. Regardless, it is a good-looking cigar with a fairly matte finish and just a bit of oil to be found by the fingers. One thing that stands out on the first cigar is its head; the wraps of tobacco as well as the cap don’t lay quite flat, leading me to wonder if it wasn’t a byproduct of the box pressing. The others are fine, making this one sample the outlier. In terms of firmness, it is spot on for a box press, offering a firm yet pillowy feel front to back and with a bit less give when squeezed side-to-side. I don’t usually smell the wrapper that intently, but since it is a Cameroon leaf I decide to give it a sniff. I get a bit of cool cocoa from the first sample, while the second has a bit more spice and vibrance and third has a nutty smell. The foot is a bit fuller but aromas don’t consistently pop here. The spiciness ranges from very subtle and cool to fairly vibrant; beyond that there is a bit of pepper, and something that has a cocoa or chocolate syrup component, though I can’t quite place it more specifically. Air moves fairly freely on the cold draw and has that same chocolate base but less of the spice and pepper until a few draws elicits a slight tingle on my lips.
The Epic Ten isn’t shy about starting off with a fairly full-bodied and full-flavored profile; it’s not a pepper bomb but there is some red pepper and related spiciness as well as the chocolate note. It’s a combination that I haven’t generally liked away from cigars—such as chocolate bars with peppers, dark beers with peppers, etc.—but the balance here has me intrigued. While flavor is full, there are times when it is much fuller than the body, which seems to amplify the effects of the pepper. There’s a bit of slightly damp earthiness making its way into the profile as well, effecting the texture of the smoke as much as slightly framing the rest of the flavors. My first retrohale shows a much brighter expression of the profile than what the palate experienced, showcasing much more of the red chili pepper aspect and in turn lighting up the olfactory nerves. It doesn’t have the earth or chocolate that the palate has and as such is a lighter full body experience. A bit of orange citrus sweetness begins to appear faintly in the background, subtle enough that it is easily missed, but when found it makes for a wonderful addition to the flavor’s complexity. After the first clump of ash drops right after the photo was taken, the smoke gets a bit lighter and brighter on the palate, as the spicy aspects of Cameroon tobacco get put front and center. The earth and chocolate fade a bit, but there is still more than just what I would consider typical Cameroon flavors being offered, including some very enjoyable creaminess that emerges ahead of the second third commencing. The first third is full flavor, medium-full in body and medium in strength. The draw is smooth, burn line is even, and smoke production is very good.
The second third of the Epic Ten starts with more of the red chili pepper, and now offers a bit of the physical reaction that comes with eating the real thing, meaning a slight burning tingle on the front half of my tongue. Even with that happening, the rest of the flavors begin to mellow slightly as the flavor has turned down its overall intensity a few ticks from the first third. There is still some subtle chocolate and orange happening, standing out ahead of the creaminess in one cigar, the result of which is nuanced, complex and very enjoyable. As the burn line approaches the midway point, the flavor evolves and picks up some more earthiness, though this time it is drier and more vibrant, something I tend to associate with Nicaraguan tobacco on a very general level. It is also a bit smokier, almost reminding me of a spent charcoal grill at times. It’s at that point that I notice that the sweetness in all of its forms is gone and the cigar is now appreciably different than it had been not that long ago. Part of that is also attributed to a vibrant nuttiness that comes out after the char flavor has had some time on my palate, with the tail of that reintroducing pepper to the mix in a new form. As the second third begins its transition to the final portion, the flavor has shifted to a point where the various types of pepper—black, white and red chili—have become intertwined to a point where it’s tough to tell them apart, yet they still impose a significant tingle on the senses. There’s a bit more of a mineral note as well, and if anything the cigar has lost most of the lushness that it showed in its first third. It is still full flavored and medium-plus in body, while strength seems to be lingering closer to the medium mark in terms of any physical effects below the mouth.
As this fairly new profile continues to develop, I find myself struggling to pinpoint all of the specifics of the flavor, which is somewhat odd because there are still plenty of individual components and plenty of physical reaction. It’s definitely drier, more rocky, a bit lighter without the heavier earth from the first third, and still peppery; yet those aspects have gotten so intertwined that they’re more knotted amongst each other rather than layered upon each other. One thing that has faded away from the Epic Ten—even if it was never a huge part of the equation—is the underlying sweetness, whether it be the chocolate and orange combination or what I would describe as a citrus-forward simple syrup base that would be found in Americanized Chinese food sauces. The finish is also just a bit grittier, which seems to be a result of the creaminess having fallen away, as each puff grates over the taste buds instead of gliding as it did earlier. While it’s not what it was in the first half, the second half is still very enjoyable, finishing very palate friendly and able to be smoked down to a small nub with only minimal effects from the heat. The flavor finishes medium-full, though a bit lighter than it had been earlier, body is medium-plus and strength is now medium-plus. Outside of some sporadic issues with the durability of the ash, the technical aspects are all great: wonderful combustion, an even burn line and plenty of smoke production. There is a bit more nursing of the overall combustion in the final third, but only when I get inattentive does it become a problem.
- Brooks Whittington handled the first review of an Epic cigar on halfwheel back in February 2014 when he reviewed the Epic Corojo Reserva Double Corona.
- I bring this up because I seem to think of 2014 being when Epic debuted and why I was a bit surprised that it had been 10 years already.
- On the side of the main band, there is text that says “A.J. Fernandez Handmade” which leads me to wonder if some people will think this is part of the AJ Fernandez portfolio.
- Meanwhile, on the side of the secondary band is text that says “10th Year Anniversary” which isn’t completely incorrect to say, but had it been me designing the bands, I would have been inclined to say “10 Year Anniversary.”
- In the case of the first sample, where I want the ash to build up a bit for the sake of pictures, it was cooperative in that regard for photos, but dropped on the floor as soon as I had the shot, almost as if it knew it didn’t have to pose for another shot.
- Charlie Minato had some good thoughts on the use of Cameroon wrapper and Nicaraguan tobacco in his review of the Warzone Short Churchill. He suggested that cigar could be one of the first in a Cameroon revolution that results in “strong, classic Cameroon” profiles, and after smoking the Epic TEN, I’d suggest this might further that theory.
- Epic Cigars is part of the Zander-Greg portfolio, which acquired it in early 2019. While it’s a name that might not be known to many cigar smokers, the company also produces the Nat Cicco brand.
- There is a bit of strength to be found in the EPIC TEN, but it doesn’t come out until after the cigar has been put down, and even then it takes a minute or two to really set in. I’m not woozy or anything, but it is noticeable.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Epic Cigars. We received box #789, if you’re interested.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 20 minutes on average.
When we did our Top 25 Cigars live show, I mentioned that I would gladly welcome a Cameroon revolution. Much like we saw with the “not your grandfather’s Connecticut” trend of the past several years, we may very well be entering into an era of cigars that aren’t your father’s Cameroon. What I find most interesting about that is that I never had issue with the majority of Cameroon-wrapped cigars on the market, but seeing the combination of a bolder Nicaraguan binder and filler seems to bring out a completely new experience. The Epic Ten starts with big, bold flavors that have the familiar Cameroon spiciness, but then evolves to show some of the earthier, drier and more black pepper dominant notes of Nicaraguan tobacco. It does all of this without ever losing connection to the flavors of the wrapper, but just taking them in a new and very exciting direction. This is not only a very good if not excellent cigar right now, but it might also be looked back as one of the first cigars to usher in a new era of Cameroon-wrapped cigars.