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Staff Reviews

E.P. Carrillo Encore Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Okay, okay. Let’s cut to the chase. Cigar Aficionado recently anointed E.P. Carrillo Encore in the Majestic size as its annual ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ for 2018. An impressive accolade for any cigar, no? I agree. My curiosity is often stirred over the hubbub annual ‘Top 10’ lists generate, especially from an authoritative source. But, I like to experience firsthand whether a cigar lives up to such critical praise, and for what it’s worth, pass my humble appraisal onto the masses who look to Holt’s for perspective on what cigars deserve a place on their radars.


E.P. Carrillo is named for its beloved founder, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the master cigar-maker behind the original La Gloria Cubana brand. La Gloria Cubana is synonymous with the resurgent popularity of premium cigars during the Cigar Boom of the 1990s. Perez-Carrillo was at the forefront of the craze for bigger ring gauge smokes with his La Gloria Cubana Serie R edition.

The roots of La Gloria Cubana began humbly in 1976 when Ernesto took over his father’s fledgling cigar business called El Credito Cigar Company in Miami. A talented and aspiring jazz drummer, Ernesto refused to abandon his connection with premium cigars and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the business following the passing of his father in 1980. Having guided La Gloria Cubana to its top-selling status among throngs of aficionados for several years, he eventually sold the brand in 1999 to General Cigar Company. Today, La Gloria comfortably resides in an extensive General Cigar Co. portfolio with the likes of Macanudo and Cuban-legacy classics such as Cohiba, Punch, and Hoyo de Monterrey. Perez-Carrillo stayed on as La Gloria’s chief ambassador and blender for roughly a decade.

In 2009, Ernesto set out on his own again with his eponymous E.P. Carrillo brand and an active commitment from his children, Lissette Perez-Carrillo and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo III, to develop the company. Initially, E.P. Carrillo gained a following among boutique enthusiasts for a handful of small-batch blends, most notably La Historia in 2014. The brand’s portfolio grew quickly with some releases performing better than others. By 2016, the first incarnation of E.P. Carrillo Encore was set to debut, however, Ernesto felt the wrappers needed more age and he dutifully postponed the cigar’s official premier.

Today, I am smoking E.P. Carrillo Encore in the award-winning Majestic (5.375 x 52) format. The blend is handmade at Perez-Carrillo’s factory in the Dominican Republic, though it is entirely crafted from Nicaraguan tobaccos, including its lustrous reddish-brown wrapper leaf. The cover leaf glistens and perfectly coordinates with the cigar’s shiny copper-hued band and a cream-colored ribbon at the foot. I can easily characterize the appearance of E.P. Carrillo Encore as enticing in every way, including its attractive layout in a slotted 10-count box with a deep mahogany exterior.

Upon clipping the cap, the cold draw is nutty and sweet with a touch of spice. Its initial impression is on the approachable side and not particularly overbearing. The shape is firm with a clear draw and perfect consistency. After toasting the end for a moment, the first puffs captivate without overwhelming. Notes of wood and almonds accompany hints of maple, cinnamon, and black pepper. Its white-and-dark-gray ash stays intact throughout the first quarter.

As the second third approaches, the spices intensify a bit, especially in the nose. Tangy metallic and mineral notes surface. The sweetness drops into the background as the cigar develops. Where I might otherwise anticipate a climax or shift in taste, E.P. Carrillo Encore mellows out in the middle. I remain intrigued by the blend’s early woody sweetness, however, its zesty qualities become more pronounced.

Moving into the final third of the cigar, hints of plum and hickory accompany its creamy smokiness. The draw is seamless throughout. The finish is approachable and smooth, but not surprising. Overall, I classify E.P. Carrillo Encore as a marvelous cigar for a casual walk in the park. I could easily pair it with a cup of black coffee or a crisp lager.

I believe a number of E.P. Carrillo fans will be pleased with Encore as the brand’s newly minted classic. I don’t know that I would personally place it at summit of the many amazing cigars available right now, but it is a cigar worth trying. Taste, after all, is subjective and I would encourage anyone to savor the evolution of master cigar-maker Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and arrive at their own conclusions regarding E.P. Carrillo Encore.


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