At first glance, the E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel may look like just another dark, box-pressed cigar fighting for shelf space at your local retailer, but there’s a story behind this extraordinary smoke that started in 2014 when cigarmaker Ernesto Perez-Carrillo released another brand called La Historia. It was a tribute to his family and one the finest cigars he’d released up to that point. One particular size, the E-III, came very close to making Cigar of the Year and was ranked the No. 2 smoke of 2014. At the time, we didn’t know that La Historia was part one in what came to be a trilogy.
Part two was a brand called E.P. Carrillo Encore, which came out four years later. You should remember it—in 2018, the Encore Majestic was named Cigar of the Year.
You’d be forgiven if you missed part three. In a year such as 2020, it was easy to overlook things, even the release of a new cigar brand from one of the cigar industry’s great talents. Pledge went on sale in September, and it may have slipped through the cracks for some in 2020, but our taste buds took notice at first light, and after a few consistently brilliant performances, the Pledge Prequel stood out as the most sublimely rich, structured and interesting cigar we smoked all year.
The most distinct tobacco in the Pledge is its wrapper, a Cuban-seed varietal grown in Connecticut aptly called Connecticut Habano. On its own, the E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel is a delicious smoke that delivers flavor in bold, zesty parcels of spicy oak, licorice, black cherry and black pepper. Baking spices sing like a holiday chorus, and when you think you’ve tasted all the cigar has to offer, a warm, familiar note of baked apple settles across the palate. That performance alone is what sent the cigar straight to the top of the list. However, when you look at Pledge Prequel as part of a larger body of work, you see that Perez-Carrillo’s trilogy nearly hit the trifecta, as two out of three were named Cigar of the Year, the other barely missing at No. 2. Achievements like this are the confluence of skill, talent and experience.
In his 50-year career, Perez-Carrillo has owned factories big and small, worked for a major corporation, and has been making cigars on his own terms for the last decade. Now a two-time Cigar of the Year recipient, the man who’s done it all in the cigar business has just done it again.
98 Pts Cigar Aficionado