Cigar Ratings & Reviews

CA Review Panel: Cuba Aliados Cabinet by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo


Cuba Aliados Cabinet by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Backstory

Those of us who’ve been smoking longer than a decade remember the late Rolando Reyes Sr. He was a master blender of legendary proportions, founding the companies Cuba Aliados, Puros Indios, and others. And unlike so many cigarmakers whose expertise is passed down to them via the family business, Rolando expressed his desire to become a tabacalero instead of joining his father’s trucking business.

Tobacco was his calling.

At nine years old, Rolando spent four hours each day in school, and an additional eight hours working in a Cuban factory as an apprentice. His apprenticeship lasted two years and got him in the door of some of the most recognizable Cuban manufacturers—H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta among them—where he spent a decade honing his craft.

Rolando Reyes Sr. set out on his own at 21 and became a self-made industry giant, whose passing in 2012 marked an era’s end. His brands, once popular on the shelves, went dormant until 2022 when they were purchased by Vandermarliere Family of Cigars, Oliva Cigars’ parent company.

Who do you get to resurrect such an iconic brand? For Vandermarliere, the answer was simple. Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. The founder of La Gloria Cubana, INCH, and E.P. Carrillo Cigars, Ernesto is a natural successor in the master blender department.

“To be able to bring this iconic brand back to life [with] Ernesto, especially with [his] strong ties to Rolando, is very special,” said VFC in a press release. “We made sure to take every step possible to pay homage to its storied past.”

Now it’s time to tell you how it tastes and performs. Scroll down to find our reviews and leave a review of your own in the comments below!

Cuba Aliados Cabinet by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo – Cigar Details

Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza
Size Reviewed: 6” x 60 Regordo (Gordo)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, & Honduras

Construction: All noted toothy texture and lauded its construction.
Draw: Pullo noted extra resistance, Paul found it airy, and Gary said it was perfect.
Pre-Light & Toasting Flavors: Pullo and Gary agreed it was chocolatey. Pullo and Paul agreed that it was nutty.
Key Cigar Flavors: All found it sweet, leathery, and earthy with spice.
Smoke Aroma: Each agreed it was spicy and rich.
Burn & Ash Color/Quality: Gary’s burned perfect with a grey ash whereas Pullo and Paul noted some minor burn issues that didn’t affect flavor.

Presented in boxes of 20

John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…

Summary: I didn’t smoke Cuba Aliados, or Roly’s during the heyday, so I’m somewhat divorced from the nostalgia for the brand…so I’m really approaching this as a standalone, new cigar. It’s limited to 10,000 boxes (that’s actually a pretty big number), but I’ll bet Ernesto ends up making more.

Opening puffs of EPC’s Cuba Aliados echo just a bit of those really nice prelight sensations: earth, leather, and now some bread. And it gets a bit more dynamic from there, with nuts and a modest coffee taste. But it’s all very understated. The draw has some extra resistance, so smoke production is decent; but could it have been more?

Second third adds more coffee, more earth and now some cedar. There wasn’t much in the way of spice before but now it’s more consistent. Dark chocolate creeps in, the start of some of those drive-by flavors that arrive in the final third: split firewood, citrus sweetness, dark chocolate. Spice is now a full-time feature, as it all finishes out as wood with cinnamon heat.

The burn line did the wave a few times, but I don’t really like to touch up the cigar with a torch if I don’t have to – a good cigar can straighten itself out with a little care instead of fire. And the Cuba Aliados did, stacking up a solid, salt & pepper ash.

In sum, EP Carrillo’s Cuba Aliados is one of the better Sumatra seed wrapper cigars I’ve smoked in a long time. It never got bitter, which has been my experience with a number of cigars that have a similar profile. So is the new Cuba Aliados good? Sure it is. And I think you’ll agree with me, if you prefer a (at most) medium-bodied smoke, that does complexity in shades rather than being obvious about it. Cuba Aliados never puts you on blast, but certainly doesn’t bore you; that’s the difference between understated and underwhelming.

Gary’s Tasting Notes

Summary: Now back on the market, it’s gonna be hard to resist this new Cuba Aliados Cabinet blended by none other than Ernest Perez-Carrillo.

The first few puffs were a combination of light cocoa and sourdough bread. Some sweet tobacco notes lie one layer below. The smoke itself was very smooth and medium in body. The burn was also good, revealing ashes that were firm and mostly grey in color. Some of that chocolate flavor and baking spices appeared in the form of nutmeg and star anise, while the sourdough continued along with a light earthy-leathery flavor.

By the midpoint, the cigar was medium in body and strength. There was a little more sweetness in the mix, too. Sometimes, that “sour” note when combined with the sweetness reminded me of vanilla yogurt. At that point I asked myself, “Could this Grande be more complex than I thought?” I also tried a few retrohales. They were lightly spicy and very smooth through the nose.

Moving into the final inches, the leather, nutmeg, and star anise were more clearly defined, while the light earth, sweet tobacco, and sourdough flavor remained true. I took my sample down to the final inch. At that point the body and strength were medium-plus. Some slight bitterness ensued and that’s all she wrote for me.

As I remember them, the Cuba Aliados going back to the early 2000s didn’t really do much for me. Now, with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo behind the wheel, he definitely brought this brand up out of the basement. Yes, the Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition was a darn good smoke, especially since I don’t often smoke Grandes. It’s not a cheap cigar either. Yet considering the size and the length of time it smoked (almost two hours), the cigar offered a decent amount of flavor and an impressive performance. With that, I think this blend qualifies as a pretty tasty daily smoke—if you favor big ring cigars—and as a golf cigar I think it’s a natural. As Paul noted in the video, the slimmer sizes might offer a little more flavor, but I had no problem starting with this big gun. Kudos to Señor Perez-Carrillo for reviving this formerly much heralded brand.

Paul’s Tasting Notes…

Summary: Cuba Aliados has risen from the basement to the penthouse with this new edition by E.P. Carrillo.

The Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition begins calmly with notes of leather and earth before the first hint of spice emerges with a whisper of cinnamon. There’s a pleasant wood note that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m tempted to say cedar since that’s the usual suspect when it comes to woody notes. But it isn’t cedar per se, maybe cedary, or maybe like freshly split firewood. At any rate, it’s there and manages to work in balance with the previously mentioned flavors. There is a bittersweetness as well akin to dark chocolate or chocolate covered espresso beans. As the first section of the Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition winds down, body is at medium while the flavors are rich, smooth, and balanced.

The midsection of E.P. Carrillo’s Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition holds the line in terms of body and main flavors with a bit of tangy citrus fruit as the main new note I tasted. Earth and wood are still primary with dark chocolate and strong black coffee riding shotgun. The cinnamon is there, but more in terms of a ‘drive-by’ sensation—making an appearance only to recede and pop back unexpectedly. Medium-bodied through and through, the Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition burns beautifully with volumes of dense and creamy smoke.

Unless there’s a dramatic U-turn, it appears as if E.P. Carrillo has done it again. As I smoke through the end of the Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition, I can best equate this segment to a grand finale in a piece of classical music. All the hits are reprised in the final third with the cigar smoking cool and the flavors remaining full, balanced, and complex.

I’d recommend Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition to those looking for a rich and full flavored medium bodied cigar with plenty of depth and spirit. If the 6” x 60 isn’t up your alley, try the Cuba Aliados Cabinet Edition in a smaller ring gauge and you won’t be disappointed.