E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Natural – Cigar Review

This year at the 2012 IPCPR in Orlando, Florida I had the opportunity to meet with and speak to Ernesto Carrillo about his current project, the EPC INCH (Which I reviewed in Natural here, and Maduro here), plus about some of his upcoming projects. One of the projects he had on display he simply called the “Red Box” since it had yet to be named. Now this project has been revealed as the Cardinal series and should be shipping to retailers by the end of October according to Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, III. The new Cardinal from E.P. Carrillo will be available in both a Natural and Maduro, below I have pictures of the boxes that were prominently displayed at the IPCPR. The sizes for both lines are as follows, a 52 (5 x 52), a 54 (6 x 54), and a 56 ( 5 1/2 x 56). Today I am reviewing the 52 Natural which features a Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and Nicaraguan binders and fillers.

Size: 5 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Full
Flavor: Full
Cigars Smoked For Review: 1

Construction and Appearance: The wrapper of the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural is a medium brown in color with a nice golden hue, very light veins, and a bit of an oil shine. It features a very tight elegant triple cap, and seamless construction. The band is a very typical EPC band, with the red simply accentuated near the bottom of the band, basically an inverse of the core line.

Flavor and Notes: The wrapper of the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural has notes of deep sweet grass, spice, and a bit of cedar to it. The foot has a scent which is made up of spice that tingles the nose slightly, sweet grass, nuts, earth, and a little leather. To prepare smoking the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural I use a slight straight cut on the cap. When cutting, I notice just how thick the cap was, very high quality construction. On the cold draw the flavor is a mix of spice, grass, and earth. The cold draw is a bit airy, making me a little concerned for the smoking experience.

Smoking Characteristics: Once I light the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural, all my concern from the cold draw vanishes instantly. The first draw is fantastic, providing the right amount of resistance, and an amazing body of smoke. The first few draws have a stronger kick of spice, and even a little pepper, along with notes of smooth creamy grass, and a little sweetness. After a few draws, the pepper calms down a bit and a nice rich cedar note and a deep sweetness emerges with dried fruit and molasses joining the blend. The experience of the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural is hard to put into words, the smoke is just so smooth, creamy, and Savory. I think savory really describes it best, each puff is like biting into a succulent piece of filet mignon. The lightly woody flavor is complimented well by the sweet grassy note in the blend. During the first third I start to feel a bit of the strength in the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural, you don’t quite taste it because it is so smooth and creamy, making it quite deceptive, but you can feel it.

Into the second third of the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural (closer to the half point really), a nice evolution takes place. Notes of nutty almonds, and a deep rich earthy flavor start to join the blend and pair well with the existing notes of cedar, grass, and the continued deep sweetness. The smoke is still just smooth, cool, rich, and savory. The draw is excellent, easily providing a full body of smoke, and the ash holds firm well past the inch point. The burn is also quite impressive, the burn line remaining quite tight. The strength is close to full, still subdued in the smoking profile, but the retrohale reveals the rich spice and strength masked by the deep smooth flavors.

During the final third of the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural, the flavor remains very consistent with the second third. The notes of nutty almonds, deep rich earth, grass, cedar, and the dark sweetness which is close to either dried fruit or molasses all remain. The flavor profile is well blended, balanced, rich, and very enjoyable. Even the aroma produced while smoking is enticing. The smoke production remains simply amazing. The construction, likewise is astounding. The ash on the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural still holds firm to the nub. I did eventually find the point where it would pull heat, but by then I had almost smoked the cigar to the cap!

I found where the Cardinal starts to pull a bit of heat

Conclusion: The EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural was amazing, possibly one of the best cigars I’ve ever smoked. I’ve now written nearly 200 cigar reviews since I started writing for A Cigar Smoker. Normally, I find it fairly easy to verbalize when I taste in a cigar, and a bit harder to write about it. Few cigars have that something special, that hook, so to speak, and that is what is always the hardest to describe for me. The EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural has that hook in spades. The smooth savoriness of the smoke is just unforgettable. This is easily in contention for our cigar of the year! With the wonderful flavor profile, excellent aroma, amazing construction, and medium to full strength the EP Carrillo Cardinal Natural is going to be a cigar that I buy far more than one box of, and I suggest you do the same.

Rating: 96

MSRP: $7.25