In May 2018, E.P. Carrillo showed off its first ever exclusive blend for the Tobacconist’ Association of America (TAA) during the organization’s annual convention. That year happened to mark the 50th anniversary of the TAA and E.P. Carrillo was one of four different companies to debut a creation for the organization, a list that also included Arturo Fuente, Gurkha and Joya de Nicaragua.

The company made other exclusive cigars for TAA retailers in 2019 and 2020, and in August of this year, the newest E.P. Carrillo creation for the organization began arriving at stores. Appropriately named E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021, the cigar is a 6 x 52 toro made up of a Nicaraguan wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and a filler blend that  includes both Brazilian and Nicaraguan tobacco. Each cigar carries an MSRP price of $9.50 and it is sold in boxes of 10 cigars, with only 1,000 boxes produced.

My colleague Charlie Minato explained what the TAA is nicely in his review of the Villiger TAA Exclusive 2021:

The TAA is a fairly small group of some of the country’s top tobacconists, about 80 retailers, as well as 40 or so manufacturers. The association gathers annually to discuss issues facing the industry and retailers, as well as to have its annual trade show, a unique event that works on a group buying format in order to secure exclusive deals for these generally high-volume merchants.

During the event, the organization holds two selling events, one known as the Dream Machine where the retailers collectively order to secure larger discounts, while the other is a more traditional trade show. Typically, around a dozen manufacturers release new exclusive cigars for the retail members of the organization under the TAA Exclusive Series Program banner. Those manufacturers agree to give a portion of the proceeds to the organization, a minimum of 50 cents per cigar.

This year, a total of 13 different companies announced TAA ESP releases, more than half of them have shipped to stores. It would appear that just two of the 13 cigars—the Gurkha and La Flor Dominicana—have not begun shipping.

  • Cigar Reviewed: E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Brazil & Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro Extrra
  • MSRP: $9.50 (Box of 10, $95)
  • Release Date: August 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Boxes of 10 (10,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Visually, the E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021 is covered in an attractive milk chocolate-colored wrapper that is parchment rough to the touch, although there is very little oil to be seen. There is a slight box-press visible along with a number of bumps running up and down its length and the cigar is very hard when squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of cedar, dank earth, generic nuts and hay while the foot brings notes of strong, sweet raisins and milk chocolate along with a touch of cedar. Finally, the cold draw features flavors of strong cedar, gritty earth, powdery cocoa nibs, hay and rich raisins.

Immediately after lighting the foot of the E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021, I am greeted with an abundance of both white pepper and a gritty earth flavor, both of which transition quickly into a combination of cedar and peanuts that take the top spot in the profile. Additional notes of hay, dark chocolate, toasted bread, coffee beans and a touch of cloves flit in and out at various points, while the retrohale features a bit more white peeper and a tiny amount of caramel sweetness. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent after a straight cut and there is plenty of off white smoke but the burn runs into issues early on, forcing a quick touch-up. Flavor is medium, body is on the light side of medium and strength struggles to get beyond the mild mark.

As the second third of the E.P. Carrillo begins, I notice a bit more white pepper on the retrohale as well as some very slight mineral saltiness on my lips. The main flavors have not changed from the peanuts and cedar combination, while the secondary notes now include barnyard, leather, hay, cocoa nibs, bread and slight citrus. While there seems to be a touch more caramel sweetness to go along with the increase in white pepper on the retrohale, but the level is still fairly low overall. Thankfully, the burn evens up nicely and is giving me no more problems, while both the draw and smoke production continue along their excellent path. Flavor remains at a solid medium, body has bumped up to its under medium and the strength has increased enough to come close to medium.

Coming into the final third of the TAA 2021, and there is no change in the main flavor combination of cedar and peanuts, followed closely behind by notes of hay, leather, gritty earth, coffee beans and a very small amount of floral. There is a bit more of both white pepper and caramel sweetness on the retrohale, but neither is strong enough to really impact the overall profile in any major way. The construction is hitting on all cylinders, with the burn, draw and smoke production giving me no problems, although I would not call the burn line razor sharp by any means. Flavor ends a bit above medium, body hits a solid medium and the strength ends the cigar at a solid medium.

Final Notes

  • Although the TAA hosted a virtual meeting in March, the organization is also planning on having an in-person meeting later this month at the Casa de Campo resort located in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

  • The bands that I pulled off of my three samples each took a bit of wrapper with it, although none of them were large enough to have any significant impact on the overall construction.
  • One sample—the first one I smoked, incidentally—became noticeably harsh in the very last part of the final third, although it was the only cigar out of the three where that occurred.
  • While the overall construction was nowhere close to perfect—each of the samples needed at least one touch-up—the touch-ups that were needed were all fairly minor.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 33 minutes.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021 cigars, site sponsor Corona Cigar Co. has them in stock here.
87 Overall Score

While the aroma and cold draw on each of my E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021 samples almost had me salivating, there was an unfortunate lack of any major sweetness in the actual profile of the cigar. In fact, the cigar was highlighted by two main flavors—cedar and peanuts—both of which changed very little during the entire smoke, and while there were differences in the secondary flavors—especially in the first third—the profile featured very few changes. In the end, the E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021 is a nice example of an enjoyable medium-bodied, medium strength blend, but lacks massive complexity and major transitions.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.