As I reflect back on the decade 2010 – 2019, if there is one cigar line that continues to have me scratch my head its the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal line. This was a line introduced in 2012 and it was intended to offer a bolder and stronger cigar into the E.P. Carrillo portfolio. The Cardinal would come in two blends – utilizing the signature wrappers company owner Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. is known for: Ecuadorian Sumatra and Connecticut Broadleaf. The cigars were priced reasonably in the $8.00 to $9.00 range and received critical acclaim (Cardinal Maduro finished #6 on the 2012 Cigar Coop Countdown while Cardinal Natural finished #27). But something didn’t connect with the consumers, and the line was eventually sunset. In 2016, as part of a massive portfolio restructuring, new versions of the Cardinal blends were introduced under the name Cardinal Impact. In addition to modified blends, these would also be box-pressed offerings. Today we take a closer look at the Cardinal Impact Maduro blend in the No.52 (Robusto) size.
Like the original Cardinal, the Cardinal Impact has both a Natural (Ecuadorian Sumatra) and Maduro (Connecticut Broadleaf) offering. In addition to a revamped blend, Cardinal Impact got revamped packaging and banding.
As a part of the portfolio overhaul, most of the portfolio has been aligned into one of five different groupings.
Cardinal Impact is in a grouping known as the E.P. Carrillo Classics Series. This is a grouping of what could be considered E.P. Carrillo’s foundation (i.e. everyday) smokes. The company describes this as follows:
The Classics are the type of cigars we all know well. Those cigars that are traditional in make and style. They are akin to a favorite sweater or pair of comfortable shoes, a smoke that we crave anytime of day. Ernesto Perez-Carrillo reinvented tradition with the Classics Series by adding his personal touch to a traditional approach.
The Classics Series includes the following offerings:
- E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact (Natural and Maduro)
- E.P. Carrillo Core Plus (Natural and Maduro)
- E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut
- E.P. Carrillo Dusk
Without further ado, let’s break down the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52 and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
In addition to the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, the Cardinal Impact Maduro features an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan tobaccos for the filler. The cigar is produced out of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr’s Tabacalera La Alianza factory in the Dominican Republic.
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza
The E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact Maduro is offered in three sizes – each presented in 20-count boxes. These are the same as the first three sizes of the original E.P. Carrillo Cardinal. In addition, these same sizes are found on the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact Natural.
No. 52: 5 x 52
No. 54: 6 x 54
No. 56: 5 1/2 x 56
The Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper of the Cardinal Impact Maduro had a dark-roasted coffee bean color to it. Upon closer examination, some subtle mottling was present on the surface. There was also a very light sheen of oil on the wrapper. The cigar didn’t have any significant visible veins. Despite the dark color of the wrapper, there still were some visible wrapper seams. The box-press was more of a trunk-press style.
The band design for the Cardinal Impact Maduro follows a similar design seen across E.P. Carrillo lines following the portfolio overhaul. The upper part of the band has a black square with rounded corners and gold trim featuring gold “EP” initials on it. This square sits on a red background. There are medallions surrounding the left and right side of the square. The lower part is black in color with the text “Cardinal Impact” in gold script. Just below the is the text “MADURO” in small gold font. There is a red pinstripe going horizontally across the center of lower part of the band. The sides of the band feature a sketch representing the Dominican Republic.
The cigar experience of the Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52 started with a straight cut to remove the cap. From that point, it was on to the pre-light draw. The dry draw delivered notes of mocha (a fusion between chocolate and coffee), floral, and a slight amount of cedar. I considered this to be a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to light up the Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52 and await what the smoking phase would have in store.
The start of the Cardinal Impart Maduro No. 52 kicked off with notes of espresso, earth, and a slight amount of black pepper and cedar. The espresso notes were joined by a salted chocolate note while the earth, pepper, and cedar settled in the background. There was also an additional layer of black pepper and cedar on the retro-hale.
Midway through the first third, a floral note made its way into the background joining the earth, pepper, and cedar. Normally a floral note is something that is not an attractive quality for me in the flavor profile, but in the case of the Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52, it worked. Meanwhile, the combination of salted chocolate and espresso continued in the forefront.
Just past the midway point, there was a slight increase in the cedar and pepper notes. As the cigar reached the final third, there was also a slight increase in the floral notes. However, none of these notes ever became overpowering. The combination of espresso and salted chocolate remained primary with the espresso having a slight edge. The background still also had some earthy notes. This is the way the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52 came to a close. When the cigar experience was complete, there was a soft, cool nub that remained.
The burn of the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro No. 52 meandered several times. This resulted in more frequent touch-ups than I’m used to. The resulting ash was silver-gray. This was an ash that skewed toward the firmer side. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both were ideal.
In terms of the draw, the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro No. 52 performed quite well. Normally a box-press will have more openness than I prefer, but here there was enough resistance to satisfy me. This was also a cigar that produced ample levels of smoke.
Strength and Body
The Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52 is a cigar that started out medium strength and medium-bodied. As the cigar experience progressed there was a gradual increase in the intensity levels. Right at the midway point, the strength and body crossed into medium to full territory. Toward the last third, the increase in intensity leveled off.
In terms of strength versus body with the Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52 , both of these attributes balanced each other nicely with neither overpowering the other.
Somehow when it comes to the rebranded products in the E.P. Carrillo portfolio, the Cardinal Impact is one that seems to get overlooked. To me this is as perplexing as how the original E.P. Carrillo Cardinal line would disappear from the shelves. The Cardinal Impact Maduro No. 52 is a cigar that excels in the most important category – flavor. If you are looking for rich, Connecticut Broadleaf flavor, this is going to be the cigar for you. The burn could have been better. It wasn’t a terrible burn, but it was more high maintenance than I prefer. In the end, the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact No. 52 is a cigar I would recommend to a more seasoned cigar enthusiast. As for myself, it’s a cigar I would smoke again – and pick up several to keep in my humidor.
Key Flavors: Espresso, Salted Chocolate, Cedar, Pepper, Earth
Complexity: Medium Minus
Strength: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Body: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy Multiples
News: E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Impact Launches at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show
Brand Reference: E.P. Carrillo
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop