In August of 2012 at the IPCPR I got to speak with Ernesto Carrillo about some of his upcoming projects and current projects like the EPC Inch (Which I reviewed in Natural here, and Maduro here). One of the other projects we talked about was only called the “Red Box” at the time, since the actual name hadn’t actually be decided. Now this project has been revealed as the Cardinal Series, and should be shipping to retailers around the end of October according to Ernesto when we spoke to him. The new Cardinal from E.P. Carrillo will be available in both a Natural and Maduro. Below I have pictures of the box for the Maduros from 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 Maduro which features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder, and Nicaraguan fillers.
Size: 5 x 52
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Strength: Medium to Full
Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
Construction and Appearance: The wrapper of the EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro is a dark brown, but a bit lighter than many Connecticut broadleaf maduro cigars. It has some moderate veins, is slightly mottled, and has a light oil sheen to it. 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 Maduro has notes of sweet cocoa, coffee, and a bit of grass. The foot has a scent which is a blend of spice, coffee, wood, and earth. To prepare smoking the EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro I go with a punch, mostly because my new lighter has one I want to try out. The cold draw is perfect, none of the air that the Natural had, with flavors of coffee, oak, grass, and spice.
Smoking Characteristics: The EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro opens up with a nice bit of pepper, spice, and a little bit of coffee. The smoke is instantly smooth, cool, and rich with an excellent draw. After the first quarter inch or so the pepper calms down a bit, the spice eases, and new notes of coffee, oak spice, dark chocolate, grass, and bakers spice joins the blend. The smoke production is excellent, very high in volume, with thick smoke continuing to pour out of the stick between draws. The strength is medium to full, with a nice rich spice on the retrohale.
Into the second third, the notes of dark chocolate mature, becoming more of a cocoa, with only a very light sweetness. The EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro is not quite as sweet as I expected it to be, the main notes are more of the rich oak spice, grass, bakers spice, wood, and the strong coffee flavor which lingers on the palate with a bit of a grassy note. The smoke production is still excellent, each draw providing a full body of thick, cool, rich, smooth smoke. The strength moves steadily through the medium range as the flavors continue to evolve and play on each other in an orchestrated way. The construction is exceptional, with a very firm ash that is charcoal in color and a tight burn line.
During the final third of the EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro, the flavors continue to evolve. Fruity notes are introduced, the smoke takes on a leather finish, and a bit of the pepper returns into the flavor profile. The notes of coffee, cocoa, grass, oak spice, and bakers spice all remain with an interesting complexity. The black pepper teases the palate between draws with a nice coffee and fruity flavor lingering on the palate as well. This third is much sweeter than the rest of the cigar has been is absolutely delicious. The construction remains impeccable with an excellent burn line and ash. The EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro smokes cool to the nub without any issues whatsoever, the smoke and the nub was cool to the end.
Conclusion: The EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro was certainly an excellent blend with a variety of flavors, great construction, and a nice strength. While this a fantastic stick, the Natural version possesses a more savory note which makes it stand apart from almost all of the new sticks I’ve smoked this year. It was certainly a solid stick, and definitely worth trying. In fact, for a maduro fan, it is certainly worth a box. The Carrillos have raised the bar again for what you can expect from them. This medium to full bodied stick is one that can be used to graduate milder smokers to the more complex and full bodied realm of the cigar world.