E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro

The E.P. Carrillo Cardinal line is one we have been giving some considerable attention to on this web-site for the past few weeks.  This is a new line of cigars recently released by E.P. Carrillo in both a Natural and Maduro offering. The E.P. Carrillo Cardinal line started out with a lot of mystery. At the 2012 IPCPR Trade Show, E.P. Carrillo  Carrillo was showing off a cigar being called “the red label”.  This cigar would turn out to be the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal.  About a month after the show, we did a pre-release review of the E.P. Carrillo Natural offering, but it was only a few weeks later where we finally learned some of the details about this cigar line.  In this assessment, we explore the Maduro offering – the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro.   This time we assess based on a post-release review.  E.P. Carrillo has done a lot of great cigars over the past three years – and the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro ranks right at the top of their offerings.

From a recent interview on Kiss My Ash Radio with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo III, we learned that the Cardinal doesn’t only get its name from its red band, but it comes from Perez-Carrillo III’s connection to being an alumni of Stanford University.  From a market positioning standpoint, the Cardinal line is intended to be the fullest offering in the E.P. Carrillo portfolio.   The Cardinal is also being positioned as a regular production line.

Let’s break down the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro and see what this cigar brings to the table:

Blend Profile

For the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro, blender Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. utilizes a Connecticut Broadleaf maduro.  This marks the third time E.P. Carrillo has utilized a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper for a maduro offering – joining the E.P. Carrillo Core Line Maduro and the E.P. Carrillo Inch Maduro.

E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

For completeness, we also include the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Natural blend:

E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Natural
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan 

The E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Natural

Vitolas Available

Both the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro and E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Natural will be available in the following vitolas:

Cardinal 52: 5 x 52
Cardinal 54: 6 x 54
Cardinal 56: 5 1/2 x 56

Appearance

For this cigar experience of the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro, I went with the toro-sized Cardinal 54.  The Cardinal Maduro had a coffee-bean colored wrapper with some dark spots.  It wasn’t the darkest maduro wrapper I’ve seen, but it was still dark enough where it would not be mistaken as a maduro.  While there is a slight amount of oil on the wrapper, I would classify the Cardinal Maduro as more of a silky wrapper.   The wrapper seams are well-hidden, and there are some visible veins.

The band to the Cardinal is a variation of the yellow, red, black, and gold color scheme of the core E.P. Carrillo logo.  The band features a two major stripes -a  yellow one across the top half and a red one across the bottom half.  On the yellow stripe is a black square with the letters “E.P” in a classic scripted gold font.  There are also beige leaves going across the yellow stripe.  On the red stripe is featured the text “CARRILLO” in white font.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
For my experience with the E.P. Cardinal Maduro, I went with my usual straight cut into the cap of the cigar.  It was on to start the pre-light experience.  The dry draw notes were nothing revolutionary for a maduro, but they still were very good.  The notes I detected were a mix of chocolate and cherry.   Given I was satisfied with what the pre-light draw delivered, I moved on to toast the foot of my Cardinal Maduro and begin the smoking experience.
Flavor Profile

Overall, I didn’t find a lot of flavor transitions with the E.P. Cardinal Maduro, but I did find a flavor profile that delivered great flavor and one in which the flavors complemented each other very well.

The start to the E.P. Cardinal Maduro picked up where the pre-light left off.  I continued to detect a mix of chocolate and cherry notes.  There was also a decent amount of pepper to start.  The pepper could be detected on both the tongue and through the nostrils.   By around the ten percent mark, the flavor profile soon began to take form.   It was at this point some nut flavors began to emerge.  The nut joined the chocolate in the forefront while the pepper and cherry notes became secondary.

As the Cardinal Maduro moved into the second half, the cherry and pepper moved to the forefront while the chocolate and nut moved to the background.  As the Cardinal Maduro entered the last third, the pepper spice took center stage.   The close to the cigar experience was definitely on the spicy end.  The resulting nub was ideal – firm to the touch and cool in temperature.

Burn and Draw

The burn of the E.P. Cardinal Maduro was vintage E.P. Carrillo – namely it gets high scores.  The burn line remained sharp from start to finish requiring minimal touch-ups.  The ash was white in color and firm.  On the samples I smoked, there was a time or two where I did get a little bit of flowering on the ash, but it was nothing major and it seemed to correct itself.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

As for the draw, it was outstanding – this made for an extremely enjoyable smoking experience from start to finish.

Strength and Body

My experience with the E.P. Cardinal Natural is that it started out as a medium to full strength, and medium to full-bodied smoke, but progressed to full strength and full-bodied.   With the case of the E.P. Cardinal Maduro, I found this to be a full strength, full-bodied cigar right out of the gate.  The Cardinal Maduro is definitely going to provide some pop from a nicotine profile.   It also is going to deliver some rich and robust flavors from start to finish.   The strength and body do a great job at balancing each other with neither attribute overshadowing the other.

Final Thoughts


When I first puffed on the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro, I realized this was one special cigar.   This cigar is the total package.   Not only is it a stunning looking cigar, but it has an outstanding flavor profile, excellent construction, and great balance of strength and body.  As I mentioned at the start of this assessment that this cigar ranks right at the top of releases by E.P. Carrillo – and I still stand by that statement.   Given this cigar does have a lot of strength, this is probably a cigar I would recommend to more seasoned cigar enthusiast.  Overall, this is one sensational cigar.  It is not only one I look forward to smoking again, but one I would consider a box purchase for.

Summary

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Full
Body: Full
Finish: Good
Assessment: Memorable
Score: 94

Source: The cigars for this assessment were a combination of samples provided by E.P. Carrillo and cigars purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The samples were initiated by E.P. Carrillo in order to provide feedback.  Cigar Coop is appreciative for the samples, but in no way does this influence this review.