Referred to as the “godfather of boutique cigars” in some quarters, Ernesto Perez-Carillo Jr learnt much of what he knows about cigars from his father Ernesto Sr, who eventually settled in Miami, the US, following the Cuban Revolution. After an unsuccessful foray into jazz as a musician, he went into the family business in 1976, including a decade of working for Swedish Match, to which he sold the family cigar factory, El Credito, in 1999.
In 2009, Ernesto Jr established EP Carrillo as a boutique cigar brand, which he runs with his son, Ernesto III, and daughter, Lissette. My introduction to EP Carrillo cigars was in 2020 with La Historia, Encore and Pledge (which I have previously written about), all of which have been rated highly by Cigar Aficionado in their Cigar of the Year awards.
The Encore and Pledge Prequel were both the number one cigar in 2018 and 2020, respectively, with the Pledge getting a rating of 98. There is only one other cigar that has been rated higher — the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona, which was rated 99 in 1992. In 2022, the H Upmann No 2 also received a rating of 98. This is by August 2022.
Pledge was also Best Dominican Cigar for both Tobacco Business and Cigar Journal in 2021 and Cigar of the Year 2020 for Cigar Dojo.
While I have been happy to simply rotate through the three cigars, I have been eyeing the EP Carrillo Elite Selección Oscuro Especial No 6 Toro for some time and finally sampled it recently. The EP Carrillo Selección Oscuro Piramides Royal was rated 94 and Cigar Aficionado’s Top 5 Cigars of the Year, placing at number 4 in 2016.
Made at EP Carrillo’s Tabacalera La Alianza in Santiago, Dominican Republic, which he acquired in 2009, the Especial is cocooned in wonderfully dark and oily Mexican San Andres maduro wrapper with an Ecuadorean binder and Nicaraguan filler. It is listed as a full-bodied handmade cigar, 6-inch in length and a ring gauge of 52.
When it came to lighting up and drawing, there was some bitterness on the first couple of pulls, but settled into itself quite quickly. I found a pepperiness and a bit of spice at the back of the palate right through the smoke. These dampened a bit in the first third with the spiciness more pervasive all through and the pepper dipping and then ramping up again towards the end of the second third into the last.
There was also an underlying yet subtle sweetness that lingered throughout the thirds that had me gently smacking my lips, trying to get a handle on whether it was caramel, cocoa or dried fruits I was tasting. There were also hints of wood.
To be honest, while it was an enjoyable smoke, and I cannot fault it for anything, I am still not sure how I feel about it, primarily because I found the flavour notes subtle. It isn’t an in-your-face type of cigar. Consistent smoke, with a lovely flavour profile, albeit a tad restrained, it probably has more to do with me than the cigar.