Montecristo first debuted their Epic series in 2012 with the Montecristo Epic Premium Selection ’07. The cigars were positioned as an ultra-premium experience for the fuller-bodied enthusiast, showcasing bright yellow packaging with an aerodynamic shape that remains a head turner in humidors to this day. The cigars also made use of vintage tobaccos (2007 harvest)—a theme that has carried through with each addition to the line in years since.
Such successors include the Epic No. 2 Premium Selection 2007 (something of a fan favorite) in 2012, the Epic Craft Cured in 2017, and the Epic Vintage 12 in 2021. The latter marks somewhat of a return to familiar branding, as the former Craft Cured changed factories (moving to Plasencia Cigars in Nicaragua) and was presented in rustic crate-like boxes.
Montecristo Epic Vintage 12 brings the brand back to Montecristo’s familiar Tabacalera de García factory of the Dominican Republic, offering the cigars in a blue-themed rendition of the original Epic line. The blue theme finds its way into the tobacco blend as well, with the company stating, “Harvested at night during a rare blue moon, the fine tobaccos of this exclusive vintage were selected with the allure of something truly unique.”
Montecristo Epic Vintage 12 Toro Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic | Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera de García S.A.S. (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Small Batch / Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 52 (Toro)
- Price: $17.75 (MSRP)
Described as a small-batch, ongoing release, Montecristo Epic Vintage 12 makes use of an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, Dominican binder, and fillers of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. As you might expect, this includes leaves (the Dominican filler) from a 2012 harvest. The blend is available in two similar formats (6″ × 52 Toro and 6″ x 50 No. 2), which are packaged in boxes of 10 cigars and priced at $17.75–$18.50 MSRP, respectively.
There’s no question that Montecristo is attempting to capture the magic of the original, with the Epic Vintage 12 arriving in nearly identical boxes. Everything from the oversized “MO” graphic (as in MOntecristo) to the wax seal on the box top to the individual cedar slots to house the cigars seems to match the original Epic layout. However, it’s not completely identical, as the Epic Vintage 12 is slightly more angular in shape; it’s less glossy and doesn’t quite have the shell-like feeling of the original. Instead of using the core Montecristo band and Epic sub-band, the Vintage 12 combines the two into one larger primary band, being finished with a foot band marked with “12.”
The cigar is in the Colorado ballpark in shade, having maroon-like undertones. But there’s a strange splotchy pale look to the wrapper as well, like it had been left in the sun too long (post-fermentation). Regardless, it’s an exceptionally smooth leaf, showing fine veins and nearly invisible seams. The construction has that papier-mâché rigidity that I love—typically signaling a double binder. This is usually great, as the cigar can have a medium to medium-firm bunch (making for a smooth draw) while taking on the sturdy, slow-burning construction of a densely packed cigar.
The wrapper has aromas of maple, medium-roast coffee bean, and musky barnyard. On the foot, there is more animal hide, along with a sweeter maple syrup (similar to an OpusX) and raisins. The pre-light draw is on the firm side, offering notes of cumin, allspice, and cinnamon honey.
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After an unusually long toasting/lighting process, the cigar kicks off with a very Dominican feel, having equal parts sweetness and zest through the retrohale, as well as a peculiar note that I’d sum up as grandma’s coat closet (dust/wood/perfume/musk/Carmex?). There’s a balanced sweetness to the smoke, hitting the tip of the tongue, followed by the back sides and front sides. This sweetness lingers, and can even be felt on the lips, though nothing in the realm of artificial (i.e. sweetened cap territory). Cola syrup is a unique and welcomed ingredient, being joined by raisin sweetness and sesame honey cashews (à la Trader Joe’s).
The cigar seems to require some babysitting in the first inch, with a canoeing burn warranting touchups and having a difficult time settling down. The draw is on the firm side (though nothing too concerning), giving off medium amounts of smoke on each puff. The wonky burn is accompanied by a flakey, medium-gray ash, which clings on for about an inch at a time. The firm pre-light feel translates into a very slow burn rate, giving an overall medium-light strength, medium-full flavor, and medium-plus body.
The retrohale is really something special on this Vintage 12 toro; it has just enough zip to let you know it’s there, being wrapped in sweetness and a high overall flavor output. While there is an occasional battery-like sensation of metal on the tongue, the profile is dominated by a deep juiciness, felt in flavor and mouthwatering sensation. There are times when the cigar feels like it’s giving you more than you can handle; this is a nostalgic trigger, more in line with the former grandma’s coat closet that pinches its way through the retrohale.
This pinchy quality later evolves into woods, having the musky/woody smell of walking through the millworks aisle at a hardware store. In the final third, the sweetness is largely gone, being milder in overall flavor intensity. The cigar tacks on cocoa and leather, darkening further to include allspice, clove, generic charriness, and black licorice at its close. It is medium in strength, medium in flavor, and medium (at most) in body.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Would I?! This is probably one of the best non-Cuban Montecristos of the last decade (or longer, but I have to put some sort of limit in place). It’s even good enough for me to forgive the marketing speak about the tobaccos being harvested during a blue moon…
- The Montecristo Epic Vintage 12 was awarded Cigar Dojo’s No. 6 Cigar of the Year for 2021.
- The original Montecristo Epic was one of the first Altadis cigars to tout their Grupo de Maestros blending team, which is made up of talented tobacco artisans that combine for roughly 300 years’ experience—like a supergroup, but for tobacco.
- In recent years, the company seems to be leaning more heavily on Rafael Nodal, head of product capability for Tabacalera USA, though the Maestros were still mentioned in working on this release.
- The cigars were announced in mid-March and expected to ship in April, eventually being delayed until June 2021.
- Montecristo shipped sampler packs for reviewers that included other blue-themed accessories, one of which being a shooter of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. It’s not a bad whisky, and I’m sure it was primarily included because it has blue in the name, but it just doesn’t live up to the level of body/flavor that the cigar delivers—it’s 80 proof, after all.
- I can’t recall if I’ve ever smoked the limited Epic No. 2 Premium Selection 2007. Outside of that, I’d give this the slight edge over the Epic Craft Cured, followed by the standard Montecristo Epic Premium Selection ’07.
- At the time of writing, the Montecristo Epic Vintage 12 has a 98 rating on Dojoverse, ranking 1,026th out of 3.7k cigars.
- Flavor: Medium-Full
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium-Plus
- Cola syrup
- Grandma’s coat closet
- Woodworking shop
- Smoke Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Belgian dubbel | Old fashioned (100 proof) | Rum and Coke (barrel-aged dark rum, let’s keep it classy)
- Purchase Recommendation: Box
- Extremely long burning
- Non-simplistic sweetness
- Nostalgic flavors not so easily grasped
- Touchups and wavy burn in first inch
- Not quite as enthralling in second half