Every once in a while stores become closely associated with certain brands, usually because the cigars sell well in a particular shop and the heads of the two companies seem to hit it off and develop a better than average professional relationship.

In the case of E.P. Carrillo, that store could very well be Old City Cigar and Smokin’ Joe’s in Tennessee. In the fall of 2012, Smokin’ Joe’s Alsoa became home to the first E.P. Carrillo branded lounge in the world, and the store received an E.P. Carrillo Lounge Exclusive cigar in February 2013.

In August 2013, both the retailer and manufacturer confirmed that plans were in the works to create an annual limited edition release that would be released when company head Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. makes his annual visit to the store. At the time of the announcement, Cody Hicks of Smokin’ Joe’s said that the project would be full-bodied, and in October 2013 added that they were considering a blend very close to the E.P. Carrillo Edición Limitada 2011 “Dark Rituals” but in a corona gorda vitola.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Lounge Exclusive  Limitada

  • E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Lounge Exclusive (6 x 54) — February 2013
  • E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada (6 x 46) — September 2014

In early June, a handful of the new cigar arrived at Smokin’ Joe’s, a teaser for the upcoming September launch. The new E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada will come in ten-count boxes, which the store showed off on its Facebook page in early June:

The cigars are set for a Sept. 4 release date, which will coincide with the grand opening of Smokin’ Joe’s new Alcoa location and an event featuring Perez-Carrillo. The store will have a soft opening a few weeks prior, in case you’re in the Aloca, Tenn. area and want to see it in person.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Limitada 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: E.P Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza, S.A.
  • Wrapper: Oscuro Maduro
  • Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 46
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: $9.99 (Boxes of 10, $99.99)
  • Release Date: September 4, 2014
  • Number of Cigars Released: 100 Boxes of 10 Cigars (1,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1

If you’re familiar with the E.P. Carrillo portfolio, you should almost instantaneously recognize the Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada as looking very much like the Dark Rituals. A dark, mottled and slightly toothy wrapper with a sizable vein on one side, it may not be the kind of cigar that comes to mind when you think of a glamorous, photogenic stick, but it is one that is intriguing to see in person. The roll quality appears to be good, with a bit of variance in the cigar’s firmness from head to foot but nothing overly concerning. There’s just a touch of oil on it, and the variance of colors adds a visual depth to the leaf. The foot offers a slightly sweet chocolate note along with faint notes of dark fruit such as prunes and plums. While the head of the cigar feels a bit firm in the teeth, the cold draw is well tuned and sits neither too loose or too tight. A cola syrup sweetness starts the cold draw with a bit of pepper following in its trail.

While not packing much pepper or spice, the first puffs aren’t shy about flavor, with a good bit of earthiness to start things off and the dark fruit notes in the background seemingly trying to step forward with each puff. There also seems to be just the slightest bit of oiliness to the smoke, a unique and enjoyable texture that I can’t recall having in many other cigars. Smoke production is on the lower side of average but manages to pick up a bit when the first clump of ash breaks off just shy of being an inch long, with the burn line staying sharp and even. The flavor path stays fairly straight through the first third, with a good bit of just slightly sour earth coming through. Retrohales come across as almost disproportionately peppery; with the palate getting so little I was shocked by just how full bodied and strong the smoke came across in the nose.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Limitada 2

I’ve been patiently waiting for the signs of sweetness that I picked up before the cigar was lit to emerge from the E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada, and while they don’t show in the portion leading up to the midway point, they start creeping out at it and develop very well to provide an enjoyable shift. If you’ve ever smelled or tasted cola syrup that hasn’t had the carbonated water added to it, you will have a good idea of the flavor and aroma that the cigar is now offering. It’s a rapid development of flavors once the burn line passes the midpoint, with a thick, rich cherry coming in and meshing perfectly with the cola note while helping to push the earth note back just a bit to create a distinct separation. Pepper has also turned up a bit on the palate.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Limitada 3

The pepper note begins to trade places with the sweetness of the cherry cola and starts to guide the E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada as it heads into the final third. The earth note has moved into a supporting role, providing a full bodied and flavorful base note that comes out more in the aftertaste. The burn line and construction continue to be phenomenal, while smoke production is lacking just a bit for my preference. The draw also seems to tighten up just a bit in the final third, though never becomes restrictive. Notes of chalk and a touch of mineral come in with less than two inches to go, lightening up the overall flavor a touch but reinforcing the pepper note that has increasingly become a central part of the cigar. The smoke starts to warm up as well, a reminder to slow my rate of puffing in order to take the cigar to its eventual conclusion.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Limitada 4

Final Notes

  • The Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada is a limited production cigar but will be an annual release in different blends.
  • There is talk that subsequent releases will be a bit larger in size, but specifics haven’t been decided at this point.
  • You’ll notice that both this cigar and the Lounge Exclusive share the same secondary band, denoting them as a lounge exclusive. While that is true in the sense that you can only get these from Smokin’ Joe’s, they are two different lines and will require some added notes to correctly identify them down the road.
  • The corona gorda vitola is not one regularly found in the E.P. Carrillo portfolio. The Core Line and Core Line Maduro both offer a 5 5/8 x 46 Regalias Real, which is the closest in size to this vitola.
  • E.P. Carrillo should have a busy booth at this year’s trade show, as they have announced three new releases, including the INCH C-99, La Historia line and an as yet unnamed fifth anniversary cigar that will be coming out later this year.
  • Given the different blends and what time has done to the E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Lounge Exclusive, I don’t know if I have a clear cut favorite between the two. The Lounge Exclusive probably left the better first impression on me, but I wouldn’t turn down either one if offered.
  • Brooks Whittington reviewed the E.P. Carrillo Edición Limitada 2011 “Dark Rituals” in September 2011.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes.
  • The cigar for this review was provided by Smokin’ Joe’s.
  • If you’d like to get your hands on the E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Limitada, they will be available on Sept. 4. Your best bet is to call the store at 865.380.4298 to see if there are any available. Be sure to tell them you heard about it on halfwheel.
89 Overall Score

While the first half of the E.P. Carrillo Smokin' Joe's Limitada was enjoyable, it seemed like it took a while to make its first flavor move, something that didn't come around until nearly the midway point. When it did it was outstanding, adding rich sweetness that really helped to develop the profile and move it forward while adding a good level of complexity. The hope is that a bit of time helps the first half develop while leaving the second half alone to preserve what makes it so enjoyable. It seems like the regulars at Smokin' Joe's are in for another treat and now have a pair of solid store exclusives from E.P. Carrillo to choose from.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.