Agile Cigar Reviews are cigar assessments where we use a lightweight, shorter format. These will never take the place of our comprehensive reviews. They are only used on blends we have previously assessed. This might be a blend we are re-scoring or giving a score for the first time. It might be a blend we are looking at in a different size. Today we look at the Encore by E.P. 656, a TAA Exclusive cigar. This is a cigar line we previously assessed in the Valientes(Torpedo) size back in March 2020.

Encore by E.P. Carrillo 656 TAA Exclusive


Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
656: 6 x 56

In 2018, E.P. Carrillo would release the second installment of its Perez-Carrillo Series with the Encore. The cigar follows up the highlighted successful La Historia. While La Historia is a San Andres Maduro wrapped offering, Encore is a Nicaraguan puro that is made at company founder Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s Tabacalera La Alianza in the Dominican Republic. Both the La Historia and Encore garnered significant critical acclaim. La Historia would snag the #2 Cigar of the Year on Cigar Aficionado’s highly coveted Top 25 list. Four years later, Encore Majestic would top that – capturing the #1 Cigar of the Year on the Cigar Aficionado list. The Majestic would also place #23 on the 2019 Cigar Coop Countdown. In 2020, E.P. Carrillo would release a special 6 x 56 box-pressed size of the Encore. This would follow up a 6 x 56 version of the La Historia that was releasedfFor The TAA in 2019. Today we take a closer look at the Encore 656.

TAA Exclusive Series consists of cigars made by leading manufacturers that are exclusively sold at TAA member retailers. The TAA is a small group of retailers. At press time the number of retailers is approximately 80. The TAA has defined itself as:

The Tobacconists’ Association of America, Ltd. is a trade organization established in 1968 by visionary retail tobacconists. By providing education, communication, research, advocacy, and member discount programs, The TAA works with our members and the industry they support to offer the tools and relationship building opportunities needed to maximize professionalism and success.

There are 12 cigars released for 2020 as a part of the TAA Exclusive Series:

2020 TAA Exclusive Series (New Limited Releases)

New Limited Releases for 2020 TAA Exclusive Series, Ciento por Ciento not pictured

There were four additional TAA Cigars that were announced but never released in 2020. While it was never explicitly stated, the reasons were most likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Crowned Heads release was effectively postponed indefinitely while the La Flor Dominicana and La Palina releases will be a part of the 2021 TAA Exclusive Series.

  • Crowned Heads Lost Angel 2020
  • La Flor Dominicana TAA 52nd Oro Tecera Edición 6 1/2 x 58 Chisel Natural
  • La Flor Dominicana TAA 52nd Oro Tecera Edición 6 1/2 x 58 Chisel Maduro
  • La Palina White Label 6 x 50

The Encore 656 is the third cigar released by Nat Sherman International for the TAA. A fourth is planned for 2021.

As mentioned above, Encore features all-Nicaraguan tobaccos. The tobacco used for the Encore was aged and cured in something called tercios. Tercios come from the bark of palm trees and are used to wrap the tobaccos in bales. After the tobacco is wrapped, there is some additional aging that occurs.

The Encore 656 started out with a spurt of black pepper and baker’s spice. The spice quickly settled and gave way to a mix of savory natural tobacco notes, cedar, earth, pepper, and baker’s spice. By the middle of the first third, the savory natural tobacco notes moved into the forefront as the dominant note. The earth notes took over by the second third, and the final third saw an increase in the pepper notes.

The Encore 656 delivered a medium strength, medium-bodied smoke  Both the strength and body balanced each other nicely. The burn did require some touch-ups along the way to maintain a straight path. The draw was a little more open than I prefer, but at the same time the burn and draw could still be assessed very good.


Final Thoughts

As I continue to go through the 2020 TAA Exclusive Series, I can’t help but think this has been one of the more disappointing TAA series in recent years. Still there have been a couple of standouts, and one of them happens to be the Encore 656. I found the larger, box-pressed format to work quite well for the Encore blend. While I would still give the Majestic (Robusto) size the edge, the 656 is a close second. The cigar excels in the most important category – flavor.  It’s a cigar I could recommend to any cigar enthusiast. It’s one that I would certainly buy again. At 90 points it reaches the threshold for Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence.


Key Flavors: Savory Natural Tobacco, Earth, Baker’s Spice, Black Pepper, Baker’s Spice
Burn:  Very Good
Draw: Very Good
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium
Body: Medium
Finish: Very Good


Value: Buy One
Score: 90
Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence


Previous Assessment: Encore by E.P. Carrillo Valientes
News: Encore 656 by E.P. Carrillo to be Part of 2020 TAA Exclusive Series
Price: $13.25
Source: Purchased
Brand Reference: E.P. Carrillo

Photo Credits: Cigar Coop