This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important trade organizations in the cigar industry: the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA).

Up until a handful of years ago, most consumers—even the passionate ones—had no clue what the TAA was. That began changing thanks to a trend of manufacturers producing exclusive cigars for retail members of the organization, most notably an annual release from Tatuaje which began in 2012.

The TAA is a group of the country’s top retailers, about 80 in total, though most operate multiple locations which increases the number of actual places to purchase said cigars. There’s a detailed membership process that most stores would fail and membership is limited, meaning that just because you could be a TAA store doesn’t mean you will be a TAA retailer. While the TAA might claim some sort of marketing pamphlet full of advantages to memberships, the most obvious are two-fold: one, the annual TAA Meeting & Convention offers retailers large discounts on a variety of products; two, the exclusive products made for the organization.

A few years ago, TAA began to talk up its upcoming 50th anniversary and while the celebration wasn’t as grand as it might have once been talked about, this year marked the larger roster of TAA exclusives the organization has ever had. In total, there are over 20 different TAA exclusive products for 2018, including new cigars from manufacturers who have never created a TAA exclusive. One of those companies is E.P. Carrillo.

The E.P. Carrillo TAA 2018 is a 6 x 52 toro using a Connecticut habano wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers. Like many TAA releases, it’s limited in production, in this case to 2,000 boxes of 10 cigars.

  • Cigar Reviewed: E.P. Carrillo TAA 2018
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Habano)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $13.50 (Boxes of 10, $135)
  • Release Date: Aug. 1, 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Most of the time, Connecticut habano wrappers provide a fairly robust flavor, but that’s just not what happens with the E.P. Carrillo TAA. I struggle to pick up much and end up with peanuts written down multiple times, along with leather. The foot is more defined, though pretty jumbled, with sweet cocoa, peanut butter, oranges and some white pepper. Identifying flavors on the cold draw is also more challenging than it normally is, though once again, that’s not because they aren’t there. Sweet chocolate and orange peel are the most prominent on top of some soy sauce and a really artificial vanilla creamer flavor.

The good news is, once the E.P. Carrillo TAA 2018 is lit, the flavors come to life pretty easily. There are sunflower seeds, some cognac and a vanilla sweetness. It’s medium-plus and extremely smooth with each flavor trailing off as delicately as possible. The profile gets a bit stronger and looses some of that grace that it once had, but it’s still pretty enjoyable. Peanuts and earthiness are the main flavors, barely stronger than some cornbread, a generic bready flavor and an inconsistent meatiness. At times there’s an herbal absinthe-like flavor, but it’s not consistent and really doesn’t develop. Pepper isn’t always present, though when it is, it’s restricted to the back of my mouth and just inside of the cheeks. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus.

At varying points shortly before the second third, nuttiness completely overtakes the profile. For multiple stretches, it’s nearly impossible to detect anything other than just layers of nuts, but at times I pick up a roasted kettle chip flavor and some sour creaminess—not actual sour cream—but a creaminess that would otherwise concern me. Black pepper is in the back of the throat, much stronger and in more areas than before. Flavor is medium-full, body is full and strength is medium-plus. There are signs that a touch-up is probably coming, but I manage to get through the second third without needing to use the lighter.

A light and delicate mustard flavor sits on top of the entire final third profile of the E.P. Carrillo TAA 2018. It’s pretty mild, but it serves as an introduction to the next round of flavors which are still dominated by the nuttiness, though now with secondary flavors of burnt meats and some artificial fruitiness slightly behind that. Retrohales are no longer just a plethora of nuts, instead, there’s an extremely hearty cedar that does a great job to break up the extreme nuttiness. Flavor finishes full, body is a bit lighter—albeit still full—and strength is medium-plus. Every cigar needs a touch-up in the final third, and sometimes, it’s more than one that’s required to keep the cigar burning until the end.

Final Notes

  • Connecticut habano, i.e. the habano seed grown in Connecticut, is beginning to gain a lot more prominence in cigars and as such it’s being grown a lot more in Connecticut. The most famous use of the wrapper is on Drew Estate’s Liga Privada T52.
  • In addition to E.P. Carrillo, Arturo Fuente, Gurkha and Joya de Nicaragua also released TAA exclusives for the first time.
  • As you may have noticed, there’s nothing on the front of the cigar that would identify this is an E.P. Carrillo product. The back of the band does have a logo and the word “CARRILLO.”
  • Construction was really good up until the final third. I’m not sure exactly why, but what was otherwise a flawlessly-burning cigar got out of hand.
  • I suspect this will be a cigar that many will smoke a lot quicker than me, but if you go slow the cigar will certainly adhere to that pace. Final smoking time was two hours and 40 minutes on average. Of note, the first third burned extremely slow.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
89 Overall Score

While Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. is the source behind one of my favorite cigars of 2018, I have struggled to find many new E.P. Carrillo releases I like for the last few years. It’s been a dramatic shift from when the brand first debuted, where I could cover my eyes and basically point in any direction and run into, at the very least, a good E.P. Carrillo release. While the E.P. Carrillo TAA 2018 is not the Short Run 2010, it’s a massive step in the right direction.

Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.