Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, or E.P. Carrillo, dreamed of becoming a jazz drummer in his youth; he moved to New York at age 25 to pursue this dream. Encore, being a musical reference, makes sense in that regard, but Carrillo himself has had multiple encores in his career—both in music and cigars. Encore is a followup to the the E.P. Carrillo La Historia, the only other cigar in the Perez-Carrillo series, but this is not Carrillo’s first dynamic encore in the premium cigar industry.

Ernesto started in the cigar business in the late 1970s; he took over his father’s company and eventually turned it into the famed cigar brand, La Gloria Cubana. Carrillo eventually sold La Gloria to General Cigar Co. in 1999, where he remained until 2009. Carrillo then founded EPC Cigar Co. with his children, marking the first of his encores in his cigar career.

Encore Celestial Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Nicaragua
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. (Dominican Republic)
  • Production: Regular Production
  • Vitola: 6⅛” × 50 “Celestial”
  • Price: $11.75 (MSRP)

The Perez-Carrillo Encore was originally released at IPCPR (the cigar industry’s annual trade show) in 2016 under a different name: La Historia Encore. It was delayed for two years, making appearances successively at IPCPR 2017 and 2018, as Ernesto felt the wrapper wasn’t fully ready for release. Encore is the first Nicaraguan puro that EPC Cigar Co. has ever released, meaning it features only tobaccos from Nicaragua (a somewhat unique feature for a factory based in the Dominican Republic). Encore was one of the most anticipated releases of 2018, and delivered on this buzz by placing prominently on several cigar-of-the-year lists.

Appearance

The Encore Celestial has a slight box-press to it that gives the cigar a sleek, race-car-like vibe. The ornate bronze band features a “PEREZ CARRILLO” sub-band and an accompanying white silk band on the foot. The wrapper is soft to the touch, with a slight toothiness, like fine-grit sandpaper, and the cigar feels generally firm throughout. The wrapper has some slight blemishes on the foot and a slight tear as well. The cap is not applied totally seamlessly and honestly, parts of it look hastily applied.

There is a scent of cedar on the wrapper and the foot has odors of ammonia and anise. The pre-light draw is very floral, with notes of barnyard hay. I also get characteristics of light and sweet fruit, almost having candy-like notes (think Skittles) to it.

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Smoking Experience

The first puff is VERY perfumey and excellent construction becomes evident, as the draw produces thick, rich plumes of smoke instantly. The smoke just pours out of the Encore; I get flavors of wild herbs, with some tanginess on the tongue. On the retrohale this cigar has a real bite to it; there is white pepper with some power behind it. Encore is incredibly high on flavor while being a lighter-bodied cigar, it is evident to me why this cigar is beloved by some for these unique qualities. Notes of gin botanicals and some brown sugar are the main flavors at this point, with some tanginess on the back of the palate.

The ash is tight and the flavors are rich; some flavors of cedar and red pepper start to appear moving past the first inch. The retrohale still has some sting to it, and the overall profile still has this herbal/perfume flavor. This is a cigar that doesn’t necessarily fit into my wheelhouse but I can see why it is so eye-catching to some. The burn starts to become a little wonky, calling for a slight touchup—the only flaw thus far is in construction. The draw is slightly firm but it produces a perfect amount of smoke with each puff. There are notes of orange peel and sweet coffee accompanying a heavy dose of white pepper on the retrohale.

E.P. Carrillo Encore Celestial cigar ash

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There is an interesting balance of spice and an herbal quality. It’s almost like a steak doused with horseradish and rosemary. After a re-light, the flavor progression has slowed and the bright and vibrant cigar I initially started to smoke has become lower on the flavor scale. The burn has become more wavy and the re-lights start to pile up. This cigar has noticeably slowed down in the flavor department and there is a chalky note with some burned nuts accompanying it. The smoke has a dry texture to it, with the ash developing a dark color that clings to the cigar faithfully.

The construction of the cigar overall was strong, if not unusual, like the cigar itself. The draw was slightly firm but I found that the slight tension on the resistance was to my liking. The wavy burn that began halfway through the cigar stayed throughout, eventually requiring a few touchups and a re-lights.

E.P. Carrillo Encore Celestial review

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

I would without a doubt; I think it was an interesting flavor profile and a really solid draw. I am excited to see what this cigar does with age and I feel that it is worth trying for every cigar smoker. The herbal and perfume notes were not necessarily for me but the profile is so interesting that it should certainly be on every smoker’s radar.

Additional Info
  • This cigar was the most floral and gin-like cigar I have ever smoked.
  • E.P. Carrillo Encore was really like a tale of three cigars, each worthy of their own rating. The first cigar (third) was a flavor bomb with interesting notes dancing around the palate and a real punch on the retrohale. The second cigar had some interesting changes, the overall flavor started to decrease but still solid. The third cigar lost a lot of character, being bitter, nearing harsh territory, and totally different than any other component.
  • 1/3: 91
    2/3: 89
    3/3: 86
  • Encore has received quite a bit of attention in recent months, as the cigar was awarded Cigar Aficionado’s coveted No.1 Cigar of the Year for 2018. This, combined with the predecessor in the Perez-Carrillo series, La Historia (CA’s No. 2 Cigar of the Year for 2014), has elevated EPC Cigar Co. to new heights in the realm of sought-after brands for today’s market.

What’s he doin’?

(a tentative section detailing my ideal smoking scenario for any given review cigar)

I would smoke this cigar on a canal in a foreign country. I am wearing a scarf but it isn’t necessarily cold outside—this is mainly to make a statement. I am drinking a gin rickey in a yeti cooler to show that I am an American, but also a man of culture. Steely Dan is playing in the lone AirPod I have in my ear and I’m eating soup out of a bread bowl; it’s delicious but incredibly messy on open water… I am spilling all over.


Profile
  • Flavor: Medium / Full
  • Strength: Medium
  • Body: Medium-light
Core Flavors
  • Perfume
  • Gin botanicals
  • White pepper
  • Brown sugar
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: Gin, Ginger ale, Topo Chicho mineral water
  • Purchase Recommendation: 5-pack

E.P. Carrillo Encore Celestial cigar finished

Perez-Carrillo Encore Celestial
E.P. Carrillo Encore brings an interesting flavor profile to the table; the start is incredible and there are touches of brilliance. The cigar is somewhat inconsistent and if it had continued to develop on this trajectory throughout, it might've been a different story. Ernesto Carrillo is a master at his craft and, in his first Nicaraguan puro (at least as far as EPC Cigar Co. is concerned), he created a unique project that is polarizing, but may be a smash hit when it meets the right palate. Personally, I found the experience to be a bit too disjointed to give the level of praise it has received from others in the industry.
Appearance89%
Burn/Construction86%
Draw91%
Flavor91%
Complexity86%
Price/Value87%
Pros
  • Great start
  • Interesting flavors (especially at its start)
  • Good draw resistance
Cons
  • Inconsistent
  • Construction issues
  • Bad (harsh) final third
88%Herbal Essence
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