Review: E. P. Carrillo Selección Oscuro
I am chomping at the bit. It’s a warm, beautiful late afternoon. The sun has moved to the west side of our cavernous back yard and is streaking through the oak trees giving an ethereal glow to the green grass. I’ve been thinking about this cigar all day. Okay, I lied. I’ve been thinking about it since I brought it home from the local humidor. Patience is not one of my better virtues, particularly when cigars are involved. Ever since I saw the ad for this cigar, in the hand of Perez-Carrillo himself, I knew I had to get one…or two… or ten. Pronto. The torpedo shape. That zesty oscuro wrapper. The sultry flow of smoke from the ash. And now, its languishing in my humidor beckoning, taunting me. I think to myself, alright, one more email and then by God its go time! Just…one…more…. I close my lap top, call it a day at the office and leap to my feet. As I head straight to the humidor, I’m dancing and singing like a really bad “American Idol” contestant. Cutter, check. Lighter, check. Cigar rest, check. Journal and pen, check. I open one of my humidors and there she is. There SHE is! I’ve been waiting for you, Jay. The lead up to this moment has made me a little nervous and I thought to myself, you better not f**k this up.
I love music and I am a musician. But I suck at making cigars. Thank God Perez-Carrillo doesn’t have that problem. The once future jazz drummer turned tobacco and cigar savant has made it look easy. Particularly at things chicks really dig. Thankfully, cigars are in his blood. Settling in Miami in 1959 after fleeing their Cuban homeland, Perez-Carrillo’s father, Ernesto Sr., spent the better part of 10 years resurrecting the cigar factory he left behind in Cuba, now in Little Havana, also named El Credito. Instead of selling the factory in 1976, Perez-Carrillo convinced his father not to sell only to take the wheel when sadly, his father passed in 1980. Falling on hard times, including cigar demand in general, Perez-Carrillo relied on his tobacco connections and he set out to follow his instinct. Recalling a time in 1982 when he smoked a Cuban Davidoff, Perez-Carrillo recalled how the cigar not only excited his palate but all his senses.
This watershed moment would lead to the inspiration behind Perez-Carrillo’s creation of a cigar icon – La Gloria Cubana. After taking the world by storm, Perez-Carrillo sold his family’s El Credito factory to Swedish Match and set-up his new boutique business, EPC Cigar Co., and cigar factory in the Dominican Republic. Mastering the blending of not only tobaccos from the hot regions of the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, Perez-Carrillo discovered some of the best wrapper tobacco outside of Cuba was in Ecuador. The Ecuador Habano leaf would clothe his first release under his new label, E.P. Carrillo CORE. The family continues to release one new blend ever year and in 2016, they release the Elite series Selección Oscuro garnering a #4 cigar of the year honors by Cigar Aficionado.
I love oscuro wrappers. They typically are packed with flavor because the tobacco resides at or near the top of the plant, gathering the most sun light which causes the leaves to actually begin curing on the plant. The fermenting and aging process is also unique (compared to maduros), but can vary between makers. The Mexican San Andres leaves have garnered a lot of attention over the years (e.g. Rocky Patel) and Perez-Carrillo has masterfully blended the San Andres with Dominican and Nicaraguan long fillers secured with an Ecuadorian binder. On a scale of 1 to 10, the anticipation factor of this cigar is a 15. The Selección Oscuro comes in 4 vitolas: Piramides Royal [Torpedo], Robusto Gordo (5″X54) small Churchill (5.5″X50), and Especial No. 6 (6″X52). You can get them in singles, packs of 5 or boxes of 24.
Here are the stats:
- Profile: Medium-Full
- Vitola: Piramides Royal [Torpedo]
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″/ 52
- Purchased: Local Humidor
- Origin: Dominican Republic
- Wrapper: Mexico San Andres Oscuro
- Binder: Ecuador
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Cutter: Xikar XO
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird 3-jet
- Price Range: $7.50 – $8
This stick is just beautiful to look at. Admit it – it makes your mouth water. The toothy and slightly-veiny oscuro wrapper is a rich russet brown. From the nice triple cap to the foot, this gal is solid. Firm. She’s only had a few weeks humi time, but I can’t wait any longer. The oscuro wrapper offers rich aromas of sweet chocolate and cedar while the foot will entice you with light cocoa. Just a single 1/4″ cut is all you’ll need for a fantastic draw. There is a light sweetness on the cold draw with hints of peat and cocoa.
Annnnnnnnd, ignition! Its happening. The first few puffs are amazing marked by a creamy chorus of earth, peat and pepper. In the initial third, there’s some initial spice added to notes of cocoa and baking spices along with the aforementioned earth and pepper profile. The flavors are mixed beautifully but the spice wanes and leaves you with a rich coffee finish. There are hints of salted caramel within the creamy smoke and I’m absolutely lost in this cigar. Somewhere else. If I had any problems earlier in my day, they were a distant memory. I’m traveling with the beautiful plumes of smoke.
This oscuro babe is burning beautifully – combustion is so even its crazy. She’s building a nice healthy gray ash and there’s never a worry this little girl is going to quit on me. The char line gets out of shape once or twice, but she corrects herself. Definitely more on the medium strength and body side of the spectrum. Don’t rush her or she’ll get woody on you. Won’t make that mistake again. 🙂 The strength is building to more of medium-full once you get into the middle third.
The earthy profile has now lost its peatiness but you immediately get some savory oak notes. The earthiness is nicely balanced with hints of milk chocolate and a toasty finish. I’ve become one with my Adirondack. My eyes move between the dying sun mottled on the patio flagstone and the lovely ribbon of smoke from the oscuro. Nirvana is not far away. Through 4 inches of near cigar smoking bliss, I have yet to find a single flaw. Then the little oscuro begins to get feisty.
In the final third, the first thing I notice is that the earthiness is getting more dense. But she throws in some sweet and slightly sour cedar. The coffee notes are more espresso now – Marvelous! The char line, while getting a little askew from time to time, is never far off from even and again, she burns so uniformly. There are no touch-ups required and she has yet to go out or even simmer. The only niggly thing that I will mention, is that when I finally removed the band so I could nub this thing, the adhesive pulled part of the wrapper up. Not a big deal, but I’m glad I didn’t do it sooner.
This experience was so worth waiting for and everything I thought it would be. Seriously, this is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And for under $10! There have few been few cigars, I can count them on one hand, where I’ve experienced such a stirring of the senses. Just looking at this cigar causes you to make that guttural “Grrr” sound. Perez-Carrillo famously said “I smoke because I want to feel not just the senses around the palate, but the whole body. When I tasted a Cuban Davidoff cigar in 1982, that’s what I felt. And that experience is what I try to replicate in my cigars – a total sensuous smoke.” Mission freakin’ accomplished, baby. – In Fumo Pax!