EP Carrillo Encore Noir
EP Carrillo Encore Noir
Image: cigars.co.za

The arrival of new cigars onto our shores tends to be an unsteady and erratic trickle. By new, I mean any cigar that hasn’t been stocked before in tobacconists across the country which could, therefore, include cigars that have been available in other countries for some time but not available in SA. The reality is that we aren’t a significant market globally, with cigar smoking more niche in SA. But, sometimes, the cigar gods smile upon us and send us cigars that have been released elsewhere in the past couple of months.

EP Carrillo Encore Noir

In 2018, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s Encore Majestic received a rating of 96 from Cigar Aficionado and was the Cigar of the Year in their annual cigar rankings. It is an all-Nicaragua cigar, in terms of wrapper, binder and filler, produced in Dominican Republic. The filler is a blend of tobaccos from the Nicaraguan areas of Esteli, Condega and Jalapa.

This year, EP Carrillo has released the Encore Noir, also a majestic with a length of 53/8” and ring gauge of 52”, that picks up from the original Encore and follows the release of the Encore Black. The Encore Edicion Unica I was released at the same time.

While the Encore Majestic is a medium bodied, box-pressed cigar, the Noir Majestic No 2 is a medium to full bodied rounded cigar with a maduro-coloured wrapper from Ecuador, a Nicaraguan binder and a Nicaraguan and Dominican Republic blended filler. It is said to be a variation of the original blend.

The Noir is, for me, a reminder that, to get a true sense of a cigar, one needs to smoke a couple. The first stick I had started off a bit bitter and, probably because I was distracted while smoking it, at the end of a long day, I wasn’t really in the frame of mind to explore the beauty of the smoke.

The dark chocolate colour wrapper, which was aged for five years in bales, has a couple of bumps across the length, which give the cigar visual character that sets it apart from the original in an interesting way. My second sampling of it was beyond expectations. It is a really nice smoke with an easy draw and a creaminess and subtle sweetness that lingered from the first draw.

There was a spiciness to it with hints of cinnamon immediately. I found it had cocoa, leather and dark chocolate flavour notes that came through consistently through all thirds. From the second third, these flavours settled a bit and it was a very smooth smoke, though there were points where it burnt a little unevenly, but this could be attributed to the slight breeze coming from the side.

For the first year, production has been limited to 3,000 boxes of 10 cigars with 2,500 for the international market and 500 for the US market.

Saga Blend No 7
Saga Blend No 7
Image: Cigar Country

Saga Blend No 7

My introduction to Saga was their Short Tales series, packaged in boxes that look like classic, old-school books. My favourite is the Tomo VI. Saga has released the Blend No 7, which comes in three vitolas, namely a 5½ by 50 Robusto, a 6¼ by 54 Perfecto and a 6½ by 58 Toro Gordo. Blend No 7 is medium bodied cigar with a Habano Brazil wrapper, Habano Dominicano binder and a blend of Dominican and what they list as Central American tobaccos.

Produced by De Los Reyes Cigars, the master blender is Augusto Reyes who is fifth-generation Reyes involved in tobacco growing and cigar making. It comes in a wood box of 20 cigars.

It is a medium-bodied cigar with subtle notes of coffee and earth. The spiciness leans towards pepper, which becomes a bit more prominent the further into the smoke one goes. I had both the Robusto and the Perfecto and enjoyed both, though the Perfecto was more my flavour.

It is the kind of smoke to start the day, whenever that is for you, that I will definitely go back to on occasion.

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