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Staff Reviews

E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

E.P. Carrillo Pledge takes home Cigar Aficionado’s coveted ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ title for 2020 in an alluring, soft box-pressed Robusto called the Prequel. Let’s find out if it lives up to the hype. Brand founder Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is beloved in the cigar business. As the man behind the original La Gloria Cubana franchise, Perez-Carrillo’s catalog of top-selling cigars stretches back decades and occupies shelf space in cigar shops around the world.

The last ten years have pushed Perez-Carrillo’s success with La Gloria further into the past as he continues to rack up the top ratings and awards for his self-titled E.P. Carrillo brand. In 2014, the critics at Cigar Aficionado ranked E.P. Carrillo La Historia as their ‘#2 Cigar of the year,’ and in 2018 E.P. Carrillo Encore earned Ernesto his first ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ award. Pledge is the latest in a string of wins and it’s the third release in a trilogy that began with La Historia and Encore. Pledge officially went on sale in September of 2020 and Ernesto cites the blend as an homage to all cigar lovers.

E.P. Carrillo Pledge is handmade at Ernesto’s factory, Tabacalera La Alianza, in the Dominican Republic. The Prequel is a classic 5 x 50 Robusto in a pressed format. Its appearance draws the eye with a radiant blue and copper color scheme on the cigar bands and a copper ribbon at the foot. The cigar’s wrapper leaf, however, sets its visual appeal in motion. A dark and toothy Cuban-seed wrapper cultivated in Connecticut boasts an oily sheen from head to foot. As you flip the cigar over, a pair of females graces the cigar band. One is Ernesto’s mother and the other is his daughter, Lissette Perez-Carrillo, who runs the company with him.

Beneath the cigar’s lustrous exterior is a premium blend of long-filler tobaccos grown in Ecuador and Nicaragua. The cigar is firm. I am hesitant to squeeze it hard. It possesses an unusual heft. The cap slides off between the blades of my cutter with ease and a few spins in the mouth reveal notes of molasses, caramel, and salt. Tree bark and cocoa powder characterize the unlit aroma.

Following a few flashes of my soft flame lighter to the foot, the cigar is fully lit. At first, a full-tilt spice flourishes in the nose. The Pledge is peppery and almost off-putting but not uncalled for by today’s standards for strength. Notes of mesquite and hickory command attention with a stinging zest but a nice mouthfeel and perfect draw moderate the cigar’s initial intensity.

E.P. Carrillo Pledge is a dense cigar. Its compressed shape mirrors a fine bar of chocolate and its flavors are polarizing in the way of strong black coffee or fudge. Although baked sweets show up in other reviews of the Pledge, I find its woody qualities more discernible. The construction is impeccable. A stark white ash develops with no indication it will flake or fall off early. The flavor profile shifts from rigid notes of earth and wood to a slightly sweeter palate of dark cocoa, espresso beans, and chocolate-covered almonds. The texture is a bit chalky but a nice cohesion of flavors emerges as its zest recedes.

The Prequel burns for a deceptively long time. The compact shape extends past an hour before a creamy, lingering finish falls into place. E.P. Carrillo Pledge is a dark and uniform cigar. It tastes the way it looks: substantial. But, its profile doesn’t vary tremendously. Smoky, fireplace-like aromas and big earthy tasting notes culminate with piercing spices and velvety texture toward the end.

Ernesto plans to roll out more sizes of E.P. Carrillo Pledge in the future. I think it’s a good cigar, but one that will benefit from additional aging. Because ‘Cigar of the Year’ status naturally stimulates a spike in demand, I would buy a few when you find them in stock and let them rest in your humidor for a few months before smoking. There are plenty of readily available E.P. Carrillo cigars to smoke until the fervor wears off.


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