At IPCPR 2017—the industry’s annual purchasing convention—onlookers were treated to a full assortment of new additions to the age-old Montecristo brand, including Montecristo Grupo De Maestros Private Batch III, Montecristo Espada ESTOQUE Vintage 2002, Montecristo Artisan Batch II, and Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez. And while this may have been enough new additions and spinoffs to thoroughly frazzle the wandering onlooker, Altadis USA (parent company of Montecristo) had yet another “Monte” up their sleeves—casually introducing the Montecristo Epic Craft Cured at the tail end of the year.
Epic Craft Cured is a followup release to the popular Montecristo Epic release from 2012. At the time, the company was in the early stages of modernizing their portfolio, such as the hugely successful ROMEO By Romeo Y Julieta of the same release year. Montecristo Epic shared ROMEO’s bright and bold packaging and was billed as the most full-bodied Montecristo in the entire portfolio. These cigars were touted for their usage of select tobaccos from a 2007 vintage (five-years-aged at the time), and a limited edition “No. 2” size was added later in the year (this cigar remains a sought-after choice for many enthusiasts to this day).
Despite the perceived popularity of the Epic line, 2017’s Epic Craft Cured marks the first addition to the brand in five years. For this project, production moves from Altadis’ usual Dominican factory to their frequent choice (as of late) of Nicaragua—partnering with the Plasencia family to create a Montecrisoto for the third time (the other two being 2014’s Montecristo Espada and 2015’s Montecristo Espada Estoque). The cigars have been named for their fermentation style, where the traditionally large pilónes (stacks of fermenting tobaccos) have been broken down into smaller collections, allowing for greater control. In addition, where pilónes are typically built from a singular varietal, Montecristo Epic Craft Cured introduces tobaccos from the full blend to ferment together. This allows the melding of the cigar’s blend to begin at a much earlier stage and, according to Altadis, makes for a more flavorful cigar.
Montecristo Epic Craft Cured Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Rosado Oscuro (Vintage 2006)
- Binder: Nicaragua (Ometepe)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Esteli | Jalapa | Condega)
- Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5″ × 52 (Robusto)
- Price: $14.65 (MSRP)
As is customary from the Plasencias, the cigars make use of a Nicaraguan puro blend. Epic Craft Cured includes tobaccos from all four of Nicaragua’s major growing regions, including the lesser-used island of Ometepe. The cigars also share the vintage style of the original Montecristo Epic, boasting an 11-year-aged wrapper from a 2006 harvest.
Epic Craft Cured is rolled in three sizes (Robusto, Toro, and Belicoso), each using the same 52 ring gauge. Craft Cured is packaged in boxes of 10 and is priced from $14.65 to $16.25, in line with the original Epic cigars.
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Altadis may have the money to spend on marketing and elaborate packaging, but when it comes to the actual cigar band, I’ve always gotten the impression that this area is an afterthought. Oftentimes, the strategy seems to be simply a combination of adding more bands, extending the current bands, or swapping in and out their existing repertoire of logos with the first font that seems remotely relevant. This is sort of the case with Epic Craft Cured (ECC), where the primary band has been extended to display “Craft Cured” in a seemingly RoMa Craft Intemperance-inspired font that doesn’t quite mesh with the project’s overall look. There is also a foot band that shows a strange graphic of a wax seal (that I originally took for a rose). In my opinion, a wax seal should always be applied the old-fashioned way—with wax… But the transition to a heavier paper stock was a nice touch, and the die-cut borders (à la OpusX) helped to set the cigar apart from the Montecristo portfolio a bit.
The cigar’s wrapper has a colorado shade, with subtle undertones of brass and rust. The overall look is quite smooth, having very tight veins and flush seams. With a soft squeeze, the bunch appears to be on the firm side, showing no signs of soft spots. Construction is very solid and appears nearly perfect overall.
Subtle notes of musk and cedar are apparent on the wrapper, with generic cabinet spices and mineral on the open foot. With a double guillotine cut, the draw resistance is great—about medium-plus (6/10), showing notes of sawdust, pencil lead, and a light, generic spice.
The cigar lights up without much excitement—there is a dull sensation on the palate, with somewhat flat and cryptic sensations that resemble raw peppercorn. This continues for close to five minutes, where the smoke awakens with an assortment of spices—nutmeg being most noticeable. The cigar is light in strength, mild to medium in flavor, and mild to medium in body. At this point, the smoke seems to build in five-minute intervals, with another rush of flavor development occurring close to the 10-minute mark. A subtle sweetness, closely resembling brown sugar, builds in the background; and the black peppercorn from the cigar’s start is cranked up a few notches. This primary profile is backed by supporting notes of mint, as well as custard on the finish.
Not only do flavors progress dramatically in the first inch, but the body moves from the mild side to medium/full—all within the first 10 minutes. The cigar shows a wavy burn (that eventually requires a touchup at the one-inch mark) and a dull, flakey, white ash. The draw is right in line with the “guesstimation” from the pre-light draw, showing a practically perfect resistance (6.5/10 (with a 5 being exactly medium)).
Throughout the midsection, flavors are dominated by mineral, with added complexities of anise, caramel, and a unique cotton candy sweetness. The flavors are deep, long-lasting, and thoroughly enjoyable. In the final portion, flavors darken, displaying a more earthy mineral, toasted hazelnuts, and roasted peanut shells. The mouthfeel becomes dry, requiring frequent sips of the nearest beverage for balance. Black pepper and black licorice dominate in the retrohale during this portion. Before the cigar has gone through its paces, a final touchup is required, igniting revived pleasantries of nuts, gentle spice, light anise, and cinnamon.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
That’s a big “10-4!” Montecristo Epic Craft Cured started slow, but when the flavors hit, they hit hard. The cigar has a sneaky strength to it, at times hinting that it could knock you out at any moment; but in the end, it’s the flavors that steer the ship. These are deep and long-lasting nuances that incite chewing in an attempt to eke out every drop of flavor before even considering the next puff. The cigars are very reminiscent of the Plasencia’s new ultra-premium lineup, smoking like a cross between the family’s Alma Fuerte and Alma del Campo offerings.
- Flavor: Medium / Full
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium-Plus
- Cabinet Spices
- Smoke Time: 2 hours
- Pairing Recommendation: Old Cuban cocktail, Barleywine, water, Mojito cocktail, cola
- Purchase Recommendation: 5 – 10 cigars
- Deep flavors
- Long smoke time
- Flawless draw
- Multiple touchups
- Slow start