Cigar Buying Guides

2019 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to E.P. Carrillo Cigars

Cigar Advisor’s Essential E.P. Carrillo Cigars Tasting & Buying Guide

Editors/Reviewers: Jared Gulick, Gary Korb, John Pullo, Tommy Zman Zarzecki

The E.P. Carrillo Cigars Back Story

Character. Quality. Family. Those are the first three words that you’re greeted with when visiting E.P.C. Cigars’ website. In order to fully appreciate their legacy, we have to go back to 1904 when Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Sr. was born in Cuba. He took to the industry at an early age and learned from his father who rolled penny cigars in the bustling streets of Havana. After learning the ropes, and with a clear gift as a blender, he eventually went on to purchase El Credito, a quaint cigar factory in Cuba. The Perez-Carrillo name was soon well-known throughout Cuba, even earning Ernesto Sr. a seat in Cuba’s Senate in 1954 and 1958, but his life was about to change drastically.

As the Cuban Revolution unfolded, Fidel Castro’s regime had Ernesto Sr. arrested repeatedly for his political beliefs. Their properties, including the El Credito factory, were all seized. To ensure his family’s safety, Ernesto Sr. fled Cuba for Miami, expecting the move to be short-lived, and to return once things had settled down – but it would not come to pass. So, he got to work, and within nine years, he was able to purchase a cigar factory in Little Havana which he named for the one his family had lost – El Credito. EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide Ernesto Perez-Carrillo

When Ernesto’s son, who shares his namesake, was 25 years old, cigars were the farthest thing from his mind. E.P. Carrillo was a talented jazz drummer and moved to New York City to pursue his dream. Gig after gig found him no permanent success, and eventually, Ernesto returned to Miami to work in the family business. The company went through many dark days of financial difficulty, and Ernesto Sr. even contemplated selling the factory, but the business was able to overcome their struggles to find lasting success.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo cigars La Gloria Cubana cigars

When Ernesto Sr. passed away in 1980, E.P. Carrillo took over the business. He was just 29 years old. His initial opus, La Gloria Cubana was a huge hit, but its success was only felt locally until 1992 when, a then relatively new publication, Cigar Aficionado, scored four of his LGC cigars at a 90 or higher, outdoing many long-standing industry leaders and Cuban brands alike.

Spreading like wildfire, the word on the street sent the demand for E.P. Carrillo’s cigars from a few thousand to the millions.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Lissette Carrillo at Tabacalera La Alianza in Dominican Republic
Ernesto and Lissette Perez-Carrillo, at La Alianza (pic via EP Carrillo Cigars website).

Carrillo went on to sell El Credito to Swedish Match/General Cigar in 1999 and worked with them for 10 years until his children asked him to return to making his own cigars. With his son Ernesto III, and his daughter Lissette, they unveiled the E.P. Carrillo brand in 2009, and opened a new dream factory, as Ernesto called it, – Tabacalera La Alianza in the Dominican Republic.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide mix of EP Carrillo cigars

In 2016, E.P. Carrillo Cigar Company named Jose Blanco of La Aurora and Joya de Nicaragua fame, as Senior Vice President. With two legends at the helm, and a portfolio stuffed with award-winning cigars, the E.P.C. dynasty met the ultimate success in 2018 when Encore Majestic was crowned as 2018 Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ernest Perez-Carrillo has fine-tuned his portfolio over the past two years, aligning his brands into various “series”; he’s visualized them in a pyramid where each tier is built on a concept:  

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo cigar reviews EPC cigar brands pyramid

At the cap is the Perez-Carrillo Family Series, Ernesto’s flagship cigars that honor previous generations of his family; the Elite Series follows (3 of the 6 blends are represented above), “classified as such because of their unique tobaccos and blends.” The next tier is the Dimension Series – a nod to Ernesto’s pioneering work in non-traditional and big-ring formats. His heritage brands appear in the Classics Series, a wide collection of easy-to-enjoy favorites; the base of the pyramid is built on everyday cigars made with efficiency and sustainability in mind, called the Factory Series.

For this Advisors’ EPC Guide, we’ve done a quick analysis of each of the 24 EP Carrillo cigar lines currently available at Famous Smoke Shop. Those picks are arranged below in roughly the same categories and order that EPC uses in their pyramid – starting with the Family Series’ award-winning Encore, and finishing with the La Alianza Factory Series selections. As we say in every guide, reviews are subjective and palates are different – but we expect that our short EPC reviews will give you the fundamentals about each of these two dozen cigars, how each smoke goes about its business, and help you decide which one is the cigar you’d like to try for yourself.  Then let us know about your EP Carrillo experience with a comment below. 

Perez-Carrillo Family Series

Encore by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review

Size: Majestic (5 3/8″ x 52 Robusto)
Strength: Full
Wrapper, Binder, Filler: Tercio-aged Nicaraguan tobaccos

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Encore cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Impeccable. The box-pressing is perfect, plus the cigar is solidly-built and sports three bands, two at the neck and a white silk foot band. The cap is a three-seamer and expertly fashioned to a seamless fit. The wrapper has a leathery look, mostly even in color with a little mottling, and the cap sliced-off in a perfect circle. Overall, a good-looking cigar with some nice weight in the hand.
Draw: Very good. The smoke is dense, creamy, and flows easily from both ends.
Pre-light flavor: Some sweetness and a hint of dried figs.
Toasting & Light: The cigar lit easily and fairly quickly with my twin torch lighter.  The initial puffs were sweet with some pepper remaining on a long finish.
Base flavors: Sweet spice, oak, damp earth, white pepper, coffee bean.
Retrohale: Not overly peppery, and quite creamy with a note of oak.
Aroma: Sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: The burn started off a bit uneven. Then I realized I was sitting under an air conditioning vent, which may have affected that, since after moving outside, the burn formed a very narrow carbon line and burned evenly for the rest of the journey. The ash was mostly grey, quite firm, and landed in half to three-quarter-inch nuggets.
Balance of flavors: Excellent. The base flavors stuck pretty closely together, while the cigar did have some change-ups where the pepper rose and fell at different points.

Summary: The No.1 Cigar of 2018 according to Aficionado, and well-deserved. The first act opens with some sweet spice, which is overtaken by some pepper, which tells me the blend is front-loaded. The pepper rounds-out with plenty of chewy, creamy smoke in its wake. The cigar settled into a mostly sweet and earthy smoke as notes of oak and coffee bean entered the fray. The flavors held together consistently with a medium-plus body.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Encore Cigar Review by Gary Korb

The second act was mostly a continuation of the first; very creamy, a mix of sweet spice, wood, damp earth, and coffee bean. Moving along, some of the pepper had faded as the oaky flavor rose to the surface.

During the last act the woody elements became even more dominant, while the smoke remained creamy, and finally rolled into the full-bodied range. Here’s where the pepper returned and the sweet spice moved down a few steps. At this stage I was getting mostly earth, pepper, oak, coffee bean, and just a remnant of sweet spice. By the time I got to the nub, the flavors were very robust, mostly earthy and oaky, and yet the cigar never turned bitter.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Encore Cigar review Cigars Box

Suffice it to say. . . This is a Nicaraguan puro of stellar proportions that checked-off all the marks. I smoked the Majestic around mid-morning with coffee, and it was quite good, but I think it’s better suited for a late afternoon or after dinner with cafecíto, or with a fine Bourbon, single malt whiskey, or dark Añejo rum. This cigar is aimed more at the experienced cigar smoker, especially those who like robust Nicaraguan blends. There are some nice change-ups along the way to give it some complexity, but overall, this is a flavor bomb that should be savored slowly so you don’t miss any of its finer qualities.

– Gary Korb

 

La Historia by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review

Size: Doña Elena (6 1/8” x 50 Toro)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres Maduro
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Historia cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: A deep brown wrapper leaf is streaked like a chestnut; oval pressed, the La Historia is light in the hand – but very well packed with a few bumps. Super-fine tooth, too.
Draw: Good, with a touch of resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Smells of earth and fermented tobacco; tastes of sweet cedar and earth.
First Few Puffs: Nice big rips of smoke are loaded with citrus sweetness, hickory and clove spice.
Base flavors: Smoky wood, citrus zest, earth.
Retrohale: Spicy and sweet.
Aroma: Wood, with a floral essence.
Burn & Ash Quality: Not a perfect burn, but no need for a touchup. White ash is streaked with black and holds well despite a few flakes.
Balance of flavors: Rock solid – while they may change in intensity, the notes themselves are very consistent.

Summary: This is one of the 5 cigars that, when we asked EPC, he said it defined his career. “Whenever I smoke that cigar, I say, ‘Hey – don’t forget about me, because I’m here.’ I’m really proud of those La Historia blends.”

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Historia cigar review Torpedo Cigars Box
Ernesto loves Torpedoes – and his favorite La Historia is the Regalias D’ Celia.

The La Historia makes a really nice first impression, both in look and taste. A bit of salt to start, and get the juices flowing… earth and leather get into the mix, and there’s a sweetness in there that’s pretty crisp, like zest. That citrus is also what lags behind on the taste buds in between puffs.

Woody, smoky, zesty, earthy, spicy. That’s the lineup. It’s a nice mix and each takes its turn in the spotlight throughout the course of the smoke. Medium-bodied, as promised.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Historia cigar review by John Pullo

No wild rides, no surprises. La Historia doesn’t stray from that profile, so if you like a sweeter maduro – and especially these flavors – you’ll be thrilled how they jive together here.

I can’t add much more than what’s been said about La Historia, and there’s a lot out there…it took two years to blend, this Doña Elena is named in honor of EPC’s wife, and the E-III size – which is named for his son, furthering the Family Series legacy – was 2014’s #2 cigar of the year. This one’s a highlight of the portfolio, and shouldn’t be missed. – John Pullo

 

Elite Series

E.P. Carrillo Elencos Cigar Review

Size: Don Rubino (5 1/4” x 50 Robusto)
Strength: Medium (listed Full)
Wrapper: Brazilian Habano
Binder: Ecuador
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Elencos cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Chocolate brown leaf with a slight tooth and consistent hue.
Draw: Excellent.
Pre-light flavor: Sweet and nutty.
Toasting & Light: Floral and fruity.
Base flavors: Bread, earth, caramel, and coffee.
Retrohale: Peppery, yet creamy.
Aroma: Soy-sauce like spiciness and savory.
Burn & Ash Quality: A firm, grey ash with some marbling and stacking.
Balance of flavors: Fantastic.

Summary: E.P. Carrillo’s Elencos Series is supposed to stand as the next notch in the quality belt; a step above in the mastery of E.P.C.’s cigar craft. Ernesto classified these cigars as “elite” because of the additional care and attention that the blends received.

I noticed, straight away, that the craftsmanship of this sample is on point. I don’t know if we’ve ever called this out directly, but I think it’s worth mentioning that we don’t receive a box of these from the manufacturer to review. They’re pulled straight out of the Famous humidor from a shipment that would contain the same cigars you or anyone else would purchase, so there’s no way for the manufacturer to send us the good batch, and rig the game.

The wrapper’s coloring was consistent, the rolling was near seamless, and the ash held up to lots of bumps and knocks (I’m clumsy). On the pre-light, things were nutty and sweet, and once set aflame, a myriad of interesting flavor waves began to crest. Floral and fruity notes, bread, earth, caramel, and coffee – there was a little bit of everything.

Even better, the retrohale on Elencos was superb. It’s not every day that you can find a smoke that balances its spice with creaminess through the nose, but this one does to great effect.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Elencos cigar review by Jared Gulick

My only negative for this stick is its finish. It seems to have somewhat stagnant carryover that is hard to describe. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s certainly noticeable, and I find myself smoking faster than I normally would to get back to the flavor. I’ll admit that this is also my third cigar today, so that may be a contributing factor.

With regard to complexity, I found this to be similar in character to the Core Plus Natural. There are not many dynamic changes throughout the cigar, but the flavors build up from start to finish.

So, brass tacks time… For whom is this cigar made? I think, honestly, just about anyone. There’s very little kick to the cigar, both in bite and strength, but I wouldn’t call it mellow. It’s simply a tasty, everyday smoker. You could just as easily light one up with a morning coffee as you could after a good meal, and it’s got enough in the flavor department to not get lost, as some cigars do, among the remnants left behind by your entrée. Summed up in two words: Humidor worthy. – Jared Gulick

 

Capa de Sol by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review

Size: Robusto Royale (5” x 52)
Strength: Medium to Full
Wrapper: Sun Grown Ecuador Connecticut
Binder & Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Capa de Sol cigar review at Famous Smoke ShopConstruction: Very good. The wrapper is solid in color and seamlessly rolled, finished with an excellently applied triple seam cap.
Draw: Way easy; a bit on the loose side, but no major issues.
Pre-light flavor: Woody and slightly salty.
Toasting & Light: The foot lit almost instantly. This was surprising since my sample seemed a little on the moist side at the foot. The initial puffs began with a smack of black pepper that segued to a sweeter, woodier character.
Base flavors: Pepper, earth, oak, light hints of salt and sweet tobacco.
Retrohale: WOW! Black pepper comes a knockin’, and remains so throughout each segment.
Aroma: Sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: A little wobbly at the start, but by the end of the first inch, it straightened-out with a thin carbon line. The cigar also burned rather quickly. The ash was impressively firm with a grey/black nickel stack composition. The first ash hit land at just over an inch. The remaining ashes were flakier.
Balance of flavors: Very good. The flavors were well-defined.

Summary: From EPC’s Elite selections. A short and peppery start, rounded-out to a smooth, creamy, and dense smoke that was clearly earthy, oaky, and lightly salty with an appealing sweet note in the mix.

Crossing into the midsection, the medium-bodied smoke rounded-out even further, plus, the smoke volume increased considerably as more sweetness rose to the surface. Think of sipping a creamy vanilla milkshake.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Capa de Sol cigar review by Gary Korb

In the final act, the body shifted from medium into the full range. Remaining ultra-creamy, well-balanced and resisting bitterness, the flavors were mainly earthy, sweet, and oaky as some pepper peaked out from behind the curtain. At the conclusion, I’d left a nub at just under an inch.

Suffice it to say. . . the Capa de Sol Robusto Royale is miles apart from the typical “Connecticut” fare. With a superb mix of flavor, balance, and power, Don Ernesto has created a blend for the cigar smoker who wants plenty of zest from a morning or midday smoke. Moreover, its fullness of flavor would even suffice as a refined after dinner cigar. – Gary

 

E.P. Carrillo Seleccion Oscuro Cigar Review

Size: Robusto Gordo (5” x 54)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres Oscuro
Binder: Ecuador
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Seleccion Oscuro cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: You think Oscuro, you think black…the San Andres is more deep brown. Very fine tooth, a bit of sheen from the wrapper’s oils, and barely visible seams.
Draw: Excellent – just a bit of resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Earth, hay, cedar. Has a meaty, sweet tobacco smell.
First Few Puffs: Thick, creamy smoke hits with oak, salt and a huge pepper shot.
Base flavors: Earth, oak barrel, pepper, tart berry.
Retrohale: A real surprise…floral, almost herbal with a jab of spice.
Aroma: A sweet, toasty note hangs in the air.
Burn & Ash Quality: Ash is nearly white, and a bit ugly – but stacks up pretty well. Burn line is slightly wavy but doesn’t affect the cigar’s performance.
Balance of flavors: Nice balance between pepper and earth, both nicely supplemented by the sweet nuances.

Summary: We’ve discussed the difference between Maduro and Oscuro in the past – and judging by the color of the Seleccion Oscuro’s San Andres wrapper, it’s clear that some liberty gets taken with the term.

Something else interesting about the wrapper: it’s what’s called subido, which is the middle part of the tobacco plant – and Ernesto chose that leaf, he said, because it’s a bit thinner and “offers a distinct color and sweetness.”

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Seleccion Oscuro cigar review by John Pullo 1

The EP Carrillo Seleccion Oscuro starts out medium, with tugs of smoke so thick ‘n rich, you can cut them with a knife. The base note of earth comes from the San Andres – there’s also an essence of aged oak barrel, and a bit of salt to get the mouth watering. Before long, the dial gets turned up on a tart, sweet flavor that reminds you of berries.  That sensation comes on every now and again, and it’s a really agreeable addition to the mix. The pepper leaves its mark on the taste buds, but with a medium finish that’s got the warm, satisfying burn of dry rub spices.

If you’re a power fiend, you can start to really feel the strength in your gut once you move past the halfway mark. I’m not sure if that’s the nicotine kick, or it’s just brimming with that much power.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Seleccion Oscuro cigar review by John Pullo 2

All I can add is that it’s obvious that care was taken during the blending process to make sure you get a vivid sensory experience from this cigar, and that’s what makes it my favorite of the bunch.

Looks good, tastes good. Powerful yet refined. An excellent special occasion cigar. – John

 

E.P. Carrillo New Wave Reserva Cigar Review

Size: Toro (6” x 52)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo New Wave Reserva cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Superb hand rolled construction.
Draw: Buttery smooth.
Pre-light flavor: Tobacco sweetness.
First Few Puffs: Nutty & creamy.
Base flavors: Nuts, cocoa, spice, espresso, wood.
Aroma: Very toasty.
Burn & Ash Quality: Fairly solid.
Balance of flavors: Complex and flavorful.

Summary: You see the Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and you instantly think, “Okay, here’s a mild cigar I have to smoke”, and then you light up and you instantly say “WRONG!” In fairness, it’s a darker, golden brown, slightly oily Connecticut wrapper that packs a lot of flavor, making this a ramped up medium-bodied smoke. I think a good word to describe it is robust.

The first third starts out nutty with an ample amount of spice and it’s nice and creamy. But things change rapidly as the second third brings heartier flavors due to the Connecticut Broadleaf binder inside. So, it’s the mix of the Nicaraguan filler and Broadleaf binder that beef this baby up. Notes of wood, cocoa, and espresso really come into play in the second half and while it’s medium in body, it’s definitely loaded with fuller flavor.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo New Wave Reserva cigar review by Tommy Zman

Of course it’s extremely well rolled as all EPC cigars are, with a super smooth draw and a whole lot of smoke. And the aroma is particularly toasty because of the wrapper leaf. Now, retrohaling really brought out the toastiness at the start, but doing it again in the second half brought a more intense espresso spiciness.

I think this is a great morning to mid-afternoon smoke. I paired it with coffee and had it after breakfast and the flavor came through loud and clear, but it would hold up after dinner as well. – Tommy Zman Zarzecki

 

E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016 Cigar Review

Size: Toro (6” x 52)
Strength: Medium plus (listed Full)
Wrapper: Ecuador Colorado Habano
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua, Nicaragua Criollo ’98 Somoto

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Short Run 2016 cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Chocolate brown with some black splotches, a few protruding veins, and three turns to its cap.
Pre-light flavor: Fruity and sweet.
Toasting & Light: Grainy and tangy.
Base flavors: Bread, dry grains, dark wood, and salted butter.
Retrohale: Smooth and flat at first, and then spicy with some hints of black pepper and a vegetable-like sweetness.
Aroma: Buttery
Burn & Ash Quality: Solid, white, coin-stacked ash. Burned slightly askew at times, but nothing serious. Only one touch-up required.
Balance of flavors: Not enough sweetness, but the flavors are fantastic.

Summary: In this seventh iteration of E.P.C.’s Short Run series, the 2016 is the first time that its blend is a unique entity and not a tweak of an existing production E.P.C. cigar. They’re offered in limited-edition boxes of 10, and with the acclaim this series has enjoyed thus far, there are some sizable shoes to be filled. It seems, as an added layer of appeal, that some of Short Run 2016’s filler tobaccos are Criollo ’98, sourced from the somewhat secretive Somoto region of Nicaragua. I think we may be in for some unique flavors, so let’s get right to it!

As is typical with the E.P.C. cigars I’ve smoked (even prior to this guide) to this point, the craftsmanship displayed by their rollers is impeccable.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Short Run 2016 cigar review by Jared Gulick

The cold draw awarded me with a light fruit sweetness and a whisper of molasses, and that transitioned into a mouth-watering grainy tanginess when I toasted the cigar. Short Run 2016 doesn’t waste time settling in, either. Just a few draws down, and the flavors began to ramp up. Dry grains, savory butter, dark wood, and bread were present in its thick, billowing smoke.

Two things were missing, though.

For one, there wasn’t much sweetness to balance things out, and second, the retrohale was eerily flat. I felt a tingling sensation at the back of my throat, but there was no flavor through the nose, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that. I had to do it a few times to make sure it wasn’t me, but there was nothing at all, at least not until about a third of the way through the smoke.

At this point, the retrohale seemed to shine. There was black pepper and spices, and even some caramel-like flavors on the finish. My theory about why these flavors were delayed is that the cigar is likely somewhat rear-loaded, and it’s possible that there were some very mild-mannered tobaccos toward the foot – even the direction the leaf is pointing can affect this (the tips of the leaves get more sunlight and are stronger). Maybe Ernesto or Jose can chime in on the comments!

As my burn tapered off toward the nub, Short Run 2016, while a bit light on the sweetness, rounded out to be an excellent smoke – one I’ll be revisiting soon. Care to join me? – Jared

 

E.P. Carrillo Short Run 2016 Edicion Nicaragua Cigar Review

Size: Super Robusto (6” x 52 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano   
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Short Run 2016 Edicion Nicaragua cigar review at Famous Smoke ShopConstruction: Very firmly rolled.
Draw: Firm.
Pre-light flavor: Almost like black coffee.
First Few Puffs: Sweet cedar.
Base flavors: Cedar, floral, oak, vanilla, black cherry.
Aroma: Sweet dark wood.
Burn & Ash Quality: Nice and solid.
Balance of flavors: Very complex balanced notes.

Summary: Limited Edition and released in boxes of ten, this is a very special cigar. It’s only produced in one size, (6” x 52 Toro) and rolled in a dark Nicaraguan Habano outer leaf that Ernesto Perez-Carrillo hasn’t used since 2011. Carrillo notes that prior Short Run blends were basically spin offs of EPC lines, but this one has its very own distinctive blend – like I said, it’s special.

I can say without question that this is one of the most complex cigar blends I’ve smoked in quite some time with a number of distinct notes that cross the palate. The first few puffs, about a half inch in or so, deliver a sweet cedary taste. But that moves on quickly as an extremely pleasant oaky-vanilla flavor enters in with the sweetness remaining. Suddenly at about the halfway point I get a really nice floral component, something I usually find more often in well-aged Cuban made cigars.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Short Run 2016 Edicion Nicaragua cigar review by Tommy Zman

The cornucopia of complexity is pretty crazy in this stick, as the final third turns to black cherry on the finish. Like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve experienced a cigar with this much balance and complexity. And whoa, that retrohale delivers a hearty sweetness that is eye opening.

This is a firmly rolled cigar that’s packed with tobacco, making for a nice firm draw as well. Even the aroma is wonderful making this one hell of a complete cigar smoking experience. A Woodford Reserve Bourbon accompanied the Short Run, making for a pleasure filled pairing.  I’ll go as far as saying that this is a top-tier smoke and one that deserves a lot of attention.  – Tommy Zman

 

E.P. Carrillo 5th Ediciòn Limitada 5 Year Anniversary Cigar Review

Size: Toro (6½” x 54)
Strength: Medium to Medium-plus
Wrapper: High-priming Ecuador Sumatra
Binder & Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo 5th Edicion Limitada 5 Year Anniversary cigar review at Famous Smoke ShopConstruction: Well built, showing no soft spots. Wrapper is mostly even in a milk chocolate color with some mottling, some dark freckles near the head, and finished with a perfectly applied, three-seam cap, which sliced-off in a perfect circle.
Draw: Very good. Smoke flowed easily from the foot out through the head.
Pre-light flavor: A bit figgy with some sweetness and a nip of pepper.
Toasting & Light: I toasted the outer rim with a torch lighter and finished with a cedar spill. My sample was a bit spongy, so it charred a little, and took longer to light. Once it got going, the initial puffs offered some sweetness and cedary notes.
Base flavors: Earth, sweet spice, cedar, coffee bean, light cocoa.
Retrohale: Plenty of pepper in the early stage; lighter at the midsection.
Aroma: Sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: Ash is very light grey and firm.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.

Summary: This one’s a rare bird, and it’s a goodie, too. The E.P. Carrillo Ediciòn Limitada 5 Year Anniversary Toro was made as a limited edition one-off several years ago, and I’m pretty sure I’d bought one of the last boxes, but luckily, there are still a few singles lying around. Let me first confess that I’m extremely fond of this cigar, and I’ve been nursing that box ever since.

The cigar started off very creamy with notes of earth, sweet spice, and cedar. Once it got going, the medium-bodied smoke was so creamy it smoked like a dream. . .

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo 5th Edicion Limitada 5 Year Anniversary Cigar Review by Gary Korb

And continued so, consistently, right through the midsection where I picked up a note of coffee bean and light hint of cocoa. Settled deep within the sweet spot, the flavors were perfectly-balanced, and giving it a retrohale at this point offered a creamy dash of light pepper.

Although the strength had ramped-up slightly, the final chapter was also consistent in balance and flavor profile. Plus, I realized that I’d been smoking this cigar for almost two hours without a relight. What a trooper.

Suffice it to say. . . It’s pretty apparent from the flavors, balanced, and consistency that Ernesto wanted this anniversary cigar to be special. He also chose one of his favorite wrappers, Ecuadorian Sumatra, but in this case, a high priming leaf. (Notice its darker color from receiving more sunlight.)  I wish there were more of these available for everyone reading this review to enjoy, so if you can find one, snap it up. It’s one of EPC’s greatest hits, pairs beautifully with just about any libation, and IMO, right in line with the EPC La Historia and more recent Encore selections.  – Gary

 

Dimension Series

INCH Ringmaster by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review

Size: 5 3/8 (5 3/8” x 64 Gordo)
Strength: Medium plus (listed Full)
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Ringmaster cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Dark brown, perfectly cylindrical and straight, invisible seams, and a sturdy cap.
Draw: Smooth.
Pre-light flavor: Molasses and cocoa with a chocolate aroma.
Toasting & Light: Slightly bitter with a sweet aroma.
Base flavors: Dry nuts, pepper, sweet spice, salted caramel, and floral sweetness.
Retrohale: Spicy, savory, and sharp.
Aroma: Chocolatey sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: Solid, white, coin-stacked ash. Burned slightly askew at times, but nothing serious. Only one touch-up required.
Balance of flavors: Fantastic.

Summary: If you love big ring cigars, you’d probably enjoy a lounge chat with Ernesto as he holds an affinity for them as well. Ring gauges are measured in fractions of an inch. A 64 gauge just so happens to be one inch wide, so Inch Ringmaster measures up to its name (see what I did there?). Unlike Ernesto, I do not have a penchant for larger ring gauges. It’s a matter of preference, and it’s just not my thing, so I’m going to focus on attributes other than its size.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch cigar making molds at cigar factory
The cigar molds used to make INCH and Ringmaster cigars, sized “64” – 1 inch in diameter (pic via EP Carrillo Cigars website).

The first thing that I noticed is that the construction on this stick is meticulous. It’s near perfect in its shape and roundness. Unlit, its aroma was chocolaty and sweet, and the cold draw offered smoothness along with a hint of molasses and cocoa.

I was taken back slightly when I lit the cigar because it was somewhat bitter. I checked the foot to see if I had mistakenly charred the wrapper during my light, but I hadn’t. The bitterness wasn’t extreme, but I was glad that it didn’t last long.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Ringmaster Cigar Review by Jared Gulick

The first inch of this cigar was, in a word, WILD. I’m noticing a theme with this name, here… Ringmaster went through three distinct changes within the first half inch. The initial light bitterness morphed to a cocoa-like sweetness, and then abruptly changed to a hint of salted caramel. By the time my ash had hit the 1 on a ruler, it again changed – this time to a floral sweetness.

I’ve never been big on complexity, and what I mean by that is, it’s never been make or break for my smoking experience. But I’d be lying if I said that the rapid-fire evolution wasn’t a pleasant surprise.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Ringmaster Cigars stack
Ringmaster by EP Carrillo (pic via EP Carrillo Cigars website).

At some point, shortly after the rollercoaster, the cigar settled in and kept with the floral flavors with some intermittent bouncing back to its caramel notes and it kept this pace throughout the rest of the session.

So, in closing, if the big ring is your thing, I think these cigars will peg your flavor meter and are well worth a try. – Jared

 

INCH by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review (Natural)

Size: No. 62 (5” x 62 Gordo)
Strength: Medium (listed Full)
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Wrapper has a silky, matte finish; mostly brown in color, the leaf is well stretched and tightly rolled. Packed super firm with tobacco.
Draw: Some resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Wood, earth and a bit of cocoa. It smells very sweet.
First Few Puffs: Toast, earth, a hint of spice.
Base flavors: Toast, cedar, spice.
Retrohale: Earth and ground coffee, with a bit of spice.
Aroma: Wood and dry sweetness.
Burn & Ash Quality: Nearly white ash holds well but drops a few flakes from time to time. Has a thin burn line, and a wavy start eventually straightens out.
Balance of flavors: Nicely complex.

Summary: Gas up your lighter, because you’re going to need a lot of juice to get this thing going.

The Inch is a thing of legend, at this point…a standout among the Gordo crowd, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo had to source some special tobaccos – and a lot of them – to develop this blend. The recipe is as follows: Dominican Piloto, Corojo, Criollo ’98 and Nicaraguan Viso – all wrapped up in a high-priming Ecuador Sumatra wrapper for more strength and more flavor. All the extras bump the intensity of this Inch up to about medium, maybe medium-plus.

It’s also become one of Carrillo’s most successful and in-demand cigars.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Cigars Box

The smoke, as big ring cigars are inclined, is cool and velvety – and there’s a pretty good amount of it. The overall profile is sweet, and not so much spice; the sting is lighter, almost like fennel, but with less of the tangy bite. The taste eventually leans more in the nutty direction, and is reinforced with traces of wood, salt and tanginess.

Later, the Inch develops some wood and cocoa flavors, and smokes pretty toasty all around. Some spice hangs around, too.

This Inch is a relaxing, 2+ hour smoke; even if you’re a heavy puffer and nub it, you’ll still come close to filling the 120-minute time frame. That subtle spice helps keep things interesting, as this thing smokes well past regulation and into double overtime. And yes, it’s an ashtray filler.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Cigar Review by John Pullo

To be fair, 62 seems a bit on the smaller side these days…especially now that there are so many inch-plus diameter cigars out there. So stepping up to this No. 62 won’t break your jaw, and it smokes cool the whole way through with good flavor; so size alone makes this Inch an easy recommendation. If large RG cigars aren’t a staple in your humidor, or you’ve never smoked ‘em this big – this is the one, if you’re ready to take the plunge. – John

 

INCH Colorado by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review

Size: No. 64 (6 1/8” x 64 Gordo)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Colorado cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Very solid.
Draw: Impeccable.
Pre-light flavor: Toasty.
First Few Puffs: Nutty.
Base flavors: Cedar, nuts, coffee, toast.
Aroma: Toasty.
Burn & Ash Quality: Thick solid ash.
Balance of flavors: Nicely balanced.

Summary: This, my friends is the big boy, and if you’re afraid you can’t handle its mandible stretching power, don’t even bother. A 64 ring gauge happens to be an inch in diameter, hence the clever moniker. Now as you might figure, there’s a whole lot of tobacco packed into this baseball bat: three different Dominican leaves, two Nicaraguan leaves, and that gorgeous, shimmering golden brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Colorado Cigar Review by Tommy Zman

Now, to go along with its girthy size is a lot of big flavor. There’s a distinct nuttiness at the start with a pleasant toasty creaminess that lasts about an inch and a half, and then comes in rich coffee and sweet cedar. Already, my jaw is a bit tired, but I’m a trooper, dammit, and I’m gonna ride this one out. I attempt a retrohale and a mountain of smoke drills into my nasal passage and that’s enough for me.

The cigar isn’t overly complex, but delivers the right amount of flavor to satisfy. Actually, the flavor profile pretty much stays the same the rest of the way and the body and strength seems to smooth out a bit. I paired the Inch with a dark and robust Dominican coffee which accompanied the profile really well. At the 2/3’s mark I’m about two hours in and I have to say “uncle” as I’m all tobacco’d out. Call me a hero, or maybe a wuss, but I gave one for the team here and tomorrow I live to smoke another day. – Tommy Zman

 

INCH Maduro by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review

Size: No. 62 (5″ x 62 Gordo)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Piloto Cubano, Corojo, and Criollo ’98, plus some Nicaraguan Viso

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Maduro cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: About as solidly built as it gets. The maduro wrapper is even in color throughout.
Draw: Very good.
Pre-light flavor: A dry mix of salt and sweet spice, cocoa.
Toasting & Light: Get out the quad flamer for this beast. It took a little more torching to get this 62-ringer going, but once lit, the initial notes offered some nice sweetness and earthiness.
Base flavors: Salt, cedar, sweet spice, earth, coffee bean, light pepper.
Retrohale: Black pepper in first third; lighter pepper note at midsection; coffee & cream in the final third.
Aroma: Sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: Good. Burn started out a bit wobbly, and required a couple of relights. By the midsection it evened-out nicely. Ash color was a mix of mostly grey with some black streaks, and quite firm, but flaky when ashed.
Balance of flavors: Very good.

Summary: This cigar is built like a tank and looks like a missile. It’s also a real mouthful, especially if you’re not a smoker of 60-plus ring gauges. The early puffs set the stage for what was to come. A hint of salt, some sweet spice, a nip of pepper, light coffee, and a rich cedary note. These flavors were fairly consistent even into the midsection, then switched-up as the cedar eventually dominated. The best way to put it would be. . .

Remember those rocket-shaped, red, white and blue popsicles you’d see in the posters on the side of the ice cream man’s truck? Now, imagine if that was the EPC INCH No.62 Maduro. You’d have the cedar in the middle flanked by the saltiness on one side, and the sweet spices and coffee bean on the other side. 

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Inch Maduro Cigar Review by Gary Korb

Eventually, I got sort ‘a used to the thickness of this cigar, and segueing into the final inch of the INCH, the flavors revealed a trace of bittersweet chocolate. Also, this cigar wasn’t particularly complex in terms of change-ups, but with some extra concentration, there were enough flavors to keep me engaged.  One thing’s certain . . . this bulbous barrel of bodacious delights smoked for over two-and-a-half hours with no relights.

Suffice it to say. . . as impressed I was with the EPC INCH No.62 Maduro for its flavor, I can only recommend it to cigar smokers who like full-bodied cigars with these dimensions. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a long, take-the-afternoon-off kind of cigar, and don’t mind the ring gauge, go for it. – Gary

 

E.P. Carrillo Original Rebel Cigar Review (Natural)

Size: Maverick 56 (7 ½” x 56 Churchill)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Original Rebel Maverick cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Beautifully made.
Draw: Perfect draw.
Pre-light flavor: Cedar.
First Few Puffs: Sweet woodiness.
Base flavors: Wood, cinnamon, oak, leather.
Aroma: Extremely toasty.
Burn & Ash Quality: Fairly solid gray.
Balance of flavors: Very well balanced.

Summary: At 7 ½ x 56, this is the Louisville Slugger of cigars. Now I don’t normally gravitate towards a cigar of such girthy stature, but I had a job to do, and by golly, I was going to smoke this whole damned thang. It’s listed as a full-bodied smoke, but I found it to be medium-bodied and it even got smoother towards the end.

Before even firing up this bad boy, it is a sight to behold, big and beefy, with an oily Ecuadorian wrapper. And it is extremely well made and rolled to perfection. From the second I lit it to the moment it went out some two hours later, the damned thing continually billowed with thick smoke. What a truly flavorful cigar this is, and because of its size, different notes would come in and out making it hard to tell where this thing was going, but I gladly went along for the ride.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Original Rebel Maverick Cigar Review by Tommy Zman

From the very first puff, a sweet woodiness was prominent coming from that thick white smoke stack. About an inch in, strong notes of cinnamon hit my taste buds which was extremely pleasant. Now this stick burned very slow and smooth and it took a good hour to get to the halfway point, but when it did, oak and leather became noticeable. There was still a lingering sweetness and those flavors took me through to the end. I retrohaled once towards the beginning and once towards the end and an intense, but pleasant woody sweetness jumped out at me.

I’ll tell you what, this is a hell of a nice smoke, and if you’ve got a two hour-plus car ride ahead of you, or just a couple of hours to kill at night on the back patio, the Maverick 56 is a great choice. ­– Tommy Zman

 

E.P. Carrillo Original Rebel Maduro Cigar Review

Size: Rebellious 54 (6 ½” x 54 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro  
Binder: Ecuador
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Original Rebel Maduro Rebellious cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Packed with tobacco.
Draw: Firm.
Pre-light flavor: Dark fruit.
First Few Puffs: Woody.
Base flavors: Dark coffee, bitter dark chocolate, earthy, molasses.
Aroma: Sweet charred wood.
Burn & Ash Quality: Perfect ash and burn.
Balance of flavors: Complex with prefect balance.

Summary: Alan Rubin, owner of Alec Bradley cigars, once referred to Ernesto Perez-Carrillo as the “original rebel” and it seems that the name has stuck. Available in 10-count boxes, the Rebellious is a tremendous value at its price point, but don’t let the “value” angle fool you because this is a hell of a good smoke.

Dark coffee and bitter dark chocolate are the first notes that jump out at you as this brawny stick is front-loaded with all kinds of flavor rich flavor. It’s a hefty smoke packed with a ton of tobacco and it burns nice and slow (this one lasted a solid two hours). When I retrohaled, I was duly reminded that I was smoking a full-bodied stick as the intense nose-feel gave me a serious wake-up call.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Original Rebel Maduro Rebellious Cigar Review by Tommy Zman

Now about the halfway mark, an earthiness sets in making the cigar even a bit fuller bodied, and I’m already a good hour into it. While the burn is slow, the draw is excellent as each pull expels a big old puff of thick white smoke. The aroma lets off a very full tobacco scent, like they know you’re smoking a cigar from a mile away, but to me, that’s a good thing. But this cigar’s not done as the final third brings in a slightly sweet molasses component to make the finish complete as I begged for more.

This is a damned nice cigar and especially for the price. I enjoyed it with a hearty California Cabernet, and the plum and berry sweetness of the wine paired so well with this Rebellious. I’m telling you that I’m coming back for more. – Tommy Zman

 

E.P. Carrillo Interlude Cigar Review

Size: Rothschild (3 ¾” x 48)
Strength: Mellow-Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Interlude cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Wrapper is a dry looking, tawny-colored Connecticut with a few veins; a well-packed parejo.
Draw: Very clear, and this Rothschild toasts up quickly.
Pre-light flavor: Hay, leather and slightly powdery-sweet.
First Few Puffs: That dry Connecticut taste is here…plus salt, and a little nutty.
Base flavors: Hay/barnyard, nuts.
Retrohale: There’s a bit of pepper up in there…EPC hid it well.
Aroma: Woody, with a caramel sweet vibe.
Burn & Ash Quality: Grey ash has a bit of flake; at this small size, it’s not built to hold its ash for long.
Balance of flavors: There’s not that many to balance – it’s pretty mellow.

Summary: Calling all dog owners – meet EPC’s polar opposite of the Inch, Interlude by E.P. Carrillo – which the INCH Cigars Facebook page has billed as “small but flavorful cigars perfect for short winter walks.” I parked my ass on the porch instead.

It’s a little chilly for a summer night. And it quickly becomes clear there’s a skunk somewhere in my neighborhood. Not great smoking conditions, so the fact that I’m sampling EPC’s shorty – the Interlude Rothschild – works in my favor.

I gave it a v cut and lit it up – that dry Connecticut flavor is fleeting, as the Interlude soon takes on a taste of cereal grains and salt. It’s very aromatic from the get-go…though I couldn’t tell at first if that was my coffee, but it really is the cigar. There’s good flavor here, and it offers surprisingly large puffs of smoke.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Interlude Cigar Review by John Pullo

Also important for you to know: the Interlude uses the same high priming Ecuador Connecticut that EPC uses on the New Wave Reserva; if you go for the Maduro option, you’re getting a small smoke wrapped in the same Mexican San Andres that Ernesto placed on La Historia. Each of these facts make these quick cigars worth the coin, in my opinion. The Maduro may prove itself to be the better choice for a stroll after an evening meal, whereas this Connecticut is a good “early bird” smoke when something less head-buzzing is called for. And that nice aroma even makes this Interlude a great commuter’s cigar.

Frankly, I’m surprised there’s so much to say about such a small smoke – the cigar is almost done (it burns more quickly than a Corona), and I’m still writing notes.

Complex? Nah. Strong? Not at all. Pace yourself and enjoy 20 minutes with this smoke; nurse it and you’ll get even more quality time. As dogwalkers go, it’s not hard to imagine that the E.P. Carrillo Interlude will quickly become one of Fido’s favorites. – John

 

The Classics Series

E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact Cigar Review (Natural)

Size: 56 (5.5” x 56 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Cardinal Impact cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Fit and finish is great – a soft-pressed smoke wrapped in a mottled Sumatra leaf that’s well-stretched, and the cap is expertly applied. Light in the hand, and much less dense in the middle.
Draw: Very open…maybe a little too open. Once lit, the draw is actually very serviceable.
Pre-light flavor: Dried fruit, herbs and nuts. The cigar itself smells sweet.
First Few Puffs: Thick smoke radiates red pepper and wood.
Base flavors: They’re all dark – wood, a mix of red and black pepper, espresso. Faint sweet tobacco notes show up from time to time.
Retrohale: Has a nice sting of pepper.
Aroma: The cedar smell is huge.
Burn & Ash Quality: The grey ash leaves a bit of flake behind; and even with the ligero noticeably off-center in the roll, it burned better than I expected…still a bit ragged and off, enough to warrant a touch up.
Balance of flavors: It’s honest – meaning the Cardinal Impact doesn’t stray from its base flavors.

Summary: The best way to describe the look of this cigar is appetizing…velvety Sumatra wrapper, flawlessly constructed.

Even with the open draw, the Cardinal Impact produces a chewy smoke, tinged with a bit of oiliness. It’s the same kind of oil you might sense from a Starbuck’s dark roast coffee with no cream or sugar. If you’re more of a foodie, the best comparison I can make for you is turkey – the Impact is a “dark meat” smoke.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Cardinal Impact Cigar Review Ligero leaf
The ligero tobacco is obvious inside the foot of the Cardinal Impact.

The pepper coming off the retrohale is eye wateringly – and life affirmingly – powerful.

It’s a pretty husky blend. Other reviewers have agreed on a thick creaminess in the smoke, but mine didn’t have that feature. The smoke is plentiful, alright – but it’s more into leaving a fresh layer of pepper across your taste buds at the finish, which seems to last forever. That pepper ramps up toward the end, giving it a tinge of Red Hots.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Cardinal Impact Cigar Review by John Pullo

This EP Carrillo Cardinal Impact is an evolution of what Gary had originally reviewed a bunch of years ago, when it was just the Cardinal…today’s version is very rich, smoking full-bodied towards the end. I’ll even argue that this Impact might be La Gloria 2.0: by dropping the Dominican tobacco out of his mix, Ernesto amps this Toro up in strength and complexity, but still retains some of the base flavors that made his LGC a humidor hit.

This is a serious blend for the serious smoker, and this is a good crossover if you prefer Nicaraguan cigars that burn on the darker end of the flavor spectrum. – John

 

E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact Maduro Cigar Review 

Size: 56 (5.5” x 56 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Cardinal Impact Maduro cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Rustic Broadleaf wrapper has a leathery feel, and shows a fair bit of tooth. Well-packed and box pressed, the Impact Maduro is tightly rolled and near seamless.
Draw: Very good.
Pre-light flavor: Roasted coffee, black pepper, wood.
First Few Puffs: A bitey start quickly gives way to a sweet and creamy smoke, laced with pepper and cinnamon.
Base flavors: Coffee, pepper, sweet.
Retrohale: Gives you a snoot full of pepper and charred wood.
Aroma: Sturdy, but has a faint sweetness to it.
Burn & Ash Quality: A thin char line burns with a slight wave, leaving a nearly white ash.
Balance of flavors: The complexity is most evident in the sweetness.

Summary: Old hands may remember the Cardinal line; Ernesto has dropped all of his Parejo (Spanish for equal, but means a round cigar) options in favor of only box pressed cigars. As of 2016, they’re called the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact. And this is the Maduro version.

On the outside, a roughhewn, a US-grown Connecticut Broadleaf stands in contrast to the previous review’s Ecuador Sumatra wrapper. As we know, not all Maduros are strong – but some are…and this Cardinal Impact Maduro is by no means a delicate smoke.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Cardinal Impact Maduro Cigar Review by John Pullo

The cigar opens with a bitey sensation that has the pinprick spice of cinnamon toothpicks. By 1”, that sharp flavor drops out, and this EPC turns on some charm with a mix of wood and dark, creamy sweetness.

That creamy-sweet sensation lasts only a bit, before the cigar picks up a thinner taste sensation I normally associate with drinking tea. Tannins drop in for a visit, and you might even find a faint, peaty smokiness. And it’s about now that the retrohale cools off, too.

A dash of sweetness from just about every portion of the flavor wheel show up as this smoke progresses, and we can now add raisin and cocoa to that list of drive-by flavors. Even when you get past the band, don’t be surprised if the Impact Maduro drops its rowdy exterior for one more quick peek of its chocolatey side.

Even with all these different kinds of sweet sensations coming and going, the charred wood flavor is what anchors this whole thing – so does the spicy tingle on the tongue and lips that sticks with you, long after you put the cigar down. While very nuanced, this Cardinal Impact Maduro has some real power…that’s a tasty trick to pull off. – John

 

E.P. Carrillo Core Plus Cigar Review

Size: Encantos (4 7/8” x 50 Robusto)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Core Plus cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Brown with a few protruding veins and three turns to its cap.
Draw: Consistent and easy.
Pre-light flavor: Barnyard and damp earth aroma with a dash of honey and a strong note of raisins.
Toasting & Light: Warm and savory with a pop of smokiness.
Base flavors: Savory nuts, sweet grass, and crisp freshness.
Retrohale: Fiery sweet peppers with a floral finish.
Aroma: Savory.
Burn & Ash Quality: Coin-stacked light-grey ash.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.

Summary:
Core Plus is part of E.P. Carrillo’s series of cigars called, The Classics. As written on the company’s website about this series: “The Classics are the type of cigars we all know well. Based on the flavor profiles and composition of heritage brands but brought forward for today’s smoker and their contemporary tastes, the Classics Series adds a new chapter in the storied tradition of everyday cigar smoking.”

As I find myself, decidedly, a contemporary smoker, I wonder how much of this will ring true. Only one way to find out!

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Core Plus Cigar Review by Jared Gulick

Core Plus opens with a shot of smoky tobacco flavor. It’s reminiscent of the strong flavors that are associated with Latakia (pipe smokers will know this well) tobaccos, but I highly doubt that any is used in the blend. This note comes and goes but was only dominant in the first two or three puffs. As the cigar settled, it dialed back into its medium-bodied profile and began to offer some nuttiness, grassy sweetness, and a vegetable-like crisp freshness that at times straddled the line between tea and mint on the finish.

I really think they hit the nail on the head with their description. It has both that old-school appeal and new-age flair. Imagine if you could get an old, mellow Fuente and then throw in some current day boutique complexity and flavor into the pot. I think Core Plus is what you’d get.

About that complexity, though… Many people define it as different things. The most common definition, and the one I tend to agree with, are the changes (usually to a more positive effect as you go) a cigar goes through. I will say that while the cigar is somewhat in the single-act department as far as changes, those flavors become richer, and maybe even a bit bolder as you make your way toward the finale. If you’re newer to smoking and want to earn your yellow belt, consider a Core Plus. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. – Jared

 

E.P. Carrillo Core Plus Maduro Cigar Review

Size: Churchill Especial (7 1/8” x 49)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Core Plus Maduro cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Dark brown with dark blotches. The sample was rolled with a slight curve to it, and some of the wrapper’s seams had raised off of the cigar, but it doesn’t look like it will adversely affect my experience.
Pre-light flavor: Dried fruit and molasses.
Toasting & Light: Roasted coffee beans.
Base flavors: Coffee, cocoa, pepper, fresh sweetness, and a hint of tea leaves.
Retrohale: Spicy and warm, yet smooth.
Aroma: Coffee beans.
Burn & Ash Quality: Solid, white, coin-stacked ash. Burned slightly askew at times, but nothing serious. Only one touch-up required.
Balance of flavors: Not enough sweetness, but the flavors are fantastic.

Summary: A few weeks ago, Gary and I both received a Core Plus Maduro to test for its flavor, and we both raved about it for the better part of half a day. That happened to be my first, and I’ve smoked a few since then. All of them have impressed me.

I’ve noticed with this, and every E.P.C. cigar I’ve sampled, that the pre-light flavors are strikingly similar throughout their portfolio. A welcoming mix of dried fruit and molasses greeted me at Core Plus Maduro’s door, and its toast and light offered a waft of roasted coffee beans.

As I made my way through the first two inches, flavors bounced around a bit. The coffee was still there, but notes of peppery spices and a fresh sweetness – maybe tea leaves? – caught my attention.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Core Plus Maduro Cigar Review by Jared Gulick

As I retrohaled, there was a warm smoothness to its pepper and spice. It didn’t overpower, but it also didn’t leave me wanting more, so the balance was spot on.

Interestingly enough, the Core Plus Maduro, to my palate is more mellow than its Natural sister blend. We often talk about how Maduro is often type casted as being strong, but this cigar is proof that the extra fermentation involved in creating a Maduro often mellows its flavor. It’s quite medium in body, though, so don’t think this cigar is going to be a breakfast snore-fest. You’d still want to wait until at least midday – maybe after lunch.

The only negative mark I can give to this stick was its construction. My sample probably shouldn’t have made it past the quality check, but the problems were purely visual, and I can assure you from the many of them I have smoked, this isn’t a common issue.

Remember – these are handmade products, and sometimes it’s nice to see that evidenced by a few cosmetic flaws.

With regard to complexity, Core Plus Maduro delivers. There’s a constant cycling of its pace from the ebb and flow of its core flavors, and I think this cigar would be perfect for anyone who wants a memorable smoke with character. – Jared

 

E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Cigar Review

Size: Brillante (5″ x 50 Robusto)
Strength: Mellow – Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut Shade
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican RepublicEPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo New Wave Connecticut cigar review at Famous Smoke ShopConstruction: Well-packed. Wrapper had a freckled appearance, as opposed to the usual even-hued, “dirty blonde” color of Ecuadorian wrapper, but I didn’t find unattractive. The wrapper was also deftly rolled with barely visible seams, and finished with a triple seam cap.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre-light flavor: Salted raisins.
Toasting & Light: Light was fairly quick and even with a creamy, buttery note right-off the first couple of puffs.
Base flavors: Butter cream, sweet tobacco, cedar, sweet and peppery spices, coffee bean.
Retrohale: Slightly peppery with a hint of berries.
Aroma: Sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: Burn swerved off-line a little in the first inch, revealing a fairly firm black & grey ash.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.

Summary: This one was a real charmer. Smoking it in the morning with coffee, the cigar started off impressively smooth, mellow, and creamy. The initial notes were a clear-cut flavor of sweet butter, cedar, and sweet tobacco, all in perfect harmony, with a thin veil of peppery spice remaining on a long finish.

The second act remained very smooth, creamy, and dense, offering more cedar and peppery spice as some of the buttery sweetness faded. A retrohale revealed an interesting combination of light pepper and berries, but I found no berry notes in the core flavors.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Cigar Review by Gary Korb

Even in the final third, the chewy smoke continued to chug-along with a substantial creaminess while the body leaned into the medium-plus zone. More dominant notes of cedar arrived, a hint of coffee bean rode shotgun, and sweet and peppery spices continued to linger on the long finish.

Suffice it to say. . . The EPC New Wave Brillante is an ideal morning cigar, or first-cigar-of-the-day smoke for the cigar smoker who wants a more vivid Connecticut blend. This vitola could also serve as the gateway cigar for new cigar smokers who want to discover many of the finer qualities found in the E.P. Carrillo Cigars stable. Or to put it another way for newbs—opt for the New Wave Brillante over something like a Macanudo Café Hyde Park. The flavors are much more generous. – Gary

 

Dusk by E.P. Carrillo Cigar Review

Size: Robusto (5” x 50)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf (USA)
Binder: Ecuador
Filler: Nicaraguan

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Dusk cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Solidly packed. Even in color. Fashioned with a triple seam cap.
Draw: Very good.
Pre-light flavor: Strong note of raisins.
Toasting & Light: Easy and fairly quick and even with a combination of torch and match. Initial flavors are earthy and peppery.
Base flavors: Earth, oak, coffee bean.
Retrohale: Peppery and woody.
Aroma: Sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: Beautiful. As even as you can get with a barely visible carbon line. Ash is entirely light grey and quite firm.
Balance of flavors: Excellent. The flavors, while only a few, were very homogenous.

Summary: I have a confession to make: I smoked an EPC Dusk Robusto a couple of years ago and it just didn’t do it for me. However, this one was much more impressive. A dominant oak note drives the first act in a very smooth and creamy, medium-bodied smoke with a sliver of pepper on a short and somewhat dry finish.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Dusk Cigar Review by Gary Korb

Second verse, same as the first. . . but the smoke remained smooth and creamy with that tangy oaky flavor. The body ramps-up a bit here, too; then a note of coffee bean slides into view.

 The final third offered a full-bodied smoke with more earthiness in the mix, while the smoke remained smooth, cool, and free of bitterness.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo Dusk Cigars Box

Suffice it to say. . . If I had to describe the EPC Dusk Robusto, I’d say it’s very earthy, woody, and a bit dry on the finish. Nothing fancy, just a straight-shootin’, full-flavored midday smoke that offers a rich, dark tobacco taste at a reasonable price. For smokers who love bold, Nicaraguan flavor, Dusk gets the job done. This cigar will pair well with a good Bourbon or Single Malt. To add a little sweetness to the palate, a fine Tawny Port. – Gary

 

Factory Series

E.P. Carrillo La Alianza Cigar Review (Natural)

Size: Gran Toro (6” x 54)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Alianza cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Somewhat firm.
Draw: Smooth.
Pre-light flavor: Coffee-like.
First Few Puffs: Sweetness.
Base flavors: Sweet wood, raisins, vanilla, plum.
Aroma: Woody.
Burn & Ash Quality: Solid.
Balance of flavors: Nice subtle balance.

Summary: La Alianza Cigars, named after the factory they hail from, debuted at the IPCPR show in 2016. With an all-Nicaraguan inner core and a dark Habano wrapper, you’d think this would be a rather beefy stick, but it’s actually medium bodied while packing a lot of nice flavor.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Alianza Cigar Review by Tommy Zman

Visually, the wrapper is a bit mottled looking but in no way does that have any effect on the flavor. The first couple of puffs give off sweet woodiness but almost immediately I got a very pleasant hit of raisins that lingered in my mouth. I then got notes of vanilla entering in – vanilla and raisins is indeed a sweet and tasty combination. It wasn’t until the final third that notes of dark fruit – I’d say a plum-like flavor – came into play. As you can see, it’s a very interesting and appealing set of flavors in the profile making this an almost dessert-like smoke.

I enjoyed this one after dinner with a coffee and a Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny port and with the sweetness flowing, there was no need for my wife’s cherry cheesecake. Ok, so I nibbled on a piece of biscotti and it went so well with this meld of tastes and textures. What was interesting was that the retrohale was pretty smooth and consistent with the outright flavor of the cigar. This is a really pleasant smoke, one that can work any time of day. – Tommy Zman

 

E.P. Carrillo La Alianza Rosado Cigar Review

Size: Robusto (5” x 50)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Rosado
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua

 EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Alianza Rosado cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop

Construction: Reddish brown in hue and very well rolled with a soft spot at the foot. There was a crack in my sample that started below the head and made its way to the band, but I’m pretty sure that it occurred either in shipping, or possibly as a result of the cigar being dropped at some point.
Draw: Open and smooth.
Pre-light flavor: Raisin and honey.
Toasting & Light: Sweet wood and toast.
Base flavors: Grains, earth, sweet wood, cream, and spice.
Retrohale: Spicier than I expected, but still sweet and relatively smooth.
Aroma: Spicy, creamy, savory, and warm.
Burn & Ash Quality: Firm, marbled ash with high contrast between its dark and lighter areas.
Balance of flavors: Both salty and sweet with a good balance.

Summary: As part of E.P. Carrillo’s Factory Series of cigars, and sharing its name with their factory itself, La Alianza Rosado is meant to pay tribute to the daily work of E.P.C.’s torcedors. In my opinion, these folks who handle the rolling duties are the unsung masters of the industry.

When I clipped my sample, the crack on the cigar that I mentioned in my construction notes worsened. In truth, I probably should have swapped it out right there, but I think I made the right call in forging ahead. More on that later.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Alianza Rosado Cigar Review by Jared Gulick 1

The pre-light draw of La Alianza Rosado reminded me a lot of Le Careme by Crowned Heads, a cigar which Ernesto blended with them. It left me wondering if there was some similarity in the filler tobaccos between the two. Notes of raisin and honey were quite prevalent, and, admittedly, I went back for seconds – and thirds – before committing to my toast and light.

While the raisin and honey notes didn’t stick around afterward, they evolved into a creamy complexity of spice, sweet and woody flavors, and a touch of earth and grains. It’s clear that the Ecuador Rosado wrapper that E.P.C. selected for this blend was helping to carve out a broad cross section of flavor.

EPC EP Carrillo Cigars Guide EP Carrillo La Alianza Rosado Cigar Review by Jared Gulick 2

At the one-third mark, some of the most drastic changes in La Alianza Rosado’s flavor profile, along with more of the wrapper, began to unfurl. Sweetness made way for salinity and it was a fantastic complement to the previous act. It occurred to me, at this point, that the state of the wrapper at the head was having next to no impact on my enjoyment of the cigar. It’s like that perfect pair of old jeans. Sure, they’re riddled with holes, but they fit perfectly and they’re comfortable. That’s how this cigar felt to my palate. It didn’t have to look great because it smoked great, and that’s a concept I think a lot of smokers (myself included) miss sometimes. If it was this enjoyable with a third of the wrapper missing, I can only imagine how good it would be when it’s intact.

If you love a solid dose of complexity in a cigar that sits near dead-center in body, La Alianza Rosado might be one to put on your to-do list. – Jared

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Cigar Advisor Staff

Cigar Advisor Staff

The Cigar Advisor Staff is comprised of three good-humored, yet dangerously unpredictable writers who share over 75 years of premium cigar smoking experience. Traversing the tobacco landscape like smoke-shrouded Avengers, they wander (mostly because the fat one ate the map) in search of new leaf adventures armed with nothing but torch lighters and runcible spoons as their weapons. Each is equally knowledgeable on the matters and pursuits of the cigar lifestyle, with his own unique and capricious insights on various luxury, sports, automobiles and entertainment affairs - all served with good counsel for your reading pleasure.

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