Last fall, I got an email from Cigars Direct, a Tampa-based retailer, telling me that the store had a new 25th anniversary cigar coming from E.P. Carrillo. Emails like this—a store getting an exclusive cigar—happen quite regularly, but I was surprised when I saw what the cigar was.

It was a special size of Perez-Carrillo Pledge, a cigar best known for being named Cigar Aficionado’s #1 cigar of 2020 and not for the 89-point rating from Brooks Whittington.

Not only did Cigars Direct get an exclusive size, but it also got a somewhat special one. The store received a 6 1/2 x 56 box-pressed perfecto version of Pledge, the same vitola that E.P. Carrillo used for the Perez-Carrillo Encore and La Historia 10th Anniversary cigars, which honored the 10th anniversary of E.P. Carrillo.

Blend-wise, the Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurado uses the same blend as the regular Pledge: a habano-seed wrapper grown in Connecticut over an Ecuadorian binder and fillers from Nicaragua.

Cigars Direct set the price at $25 per cigar, while production was limited to just 250 boxes of 10 cigars.

“Celebrating 25 years wouldn’t be possible without the incredible support of our cherished customers,” said Cigars Direct in a press release at the time. “Their trust and loyalty have been the cornerstone of our success, and we are profoundly grateful for the privilege of serving their cigar needs. We will continue to ensure that each customer is 100 percent completely satisfied for the next 25 years and beyond.”

Note: The following shows the various Perez-Carrillo Pledge vitolas. Some of these cigars may have been released after this post was originally published. The list was last updated on March 3, 2024.

  • Perez-Carrillo Pledge Prequel (5 x 50) — September 2020 — Regular Production
  • Perez-Carrillo Pledge Sojourn (6 x 52) — September 2020 — Regular Production
  • Perez-Carrillo Pledge Apogee (6 1/4 x 58) — October 2021 — 3,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (30,000 Total Cigars)
  • Perez-Carrillo Pledge Lonsdale Limitada (6 1/2 x 43) — September 2022 — 1,500 Boxes of 20 Cigars (30,000 Total Cigars)
  • Perez-Carrillo Pledge Firecracker (3 1/2 x 50) — June 2023 — 1,000 Boxes of 20 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
  • Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurado (6 1/2 x 56) — November 2023 — 250 Boxes of 10 Cigars (2,500 Total Cigars)
81 Overall Score

Welcome to halfwheel’s review section, where I tell you about how this cigar probably would have tasted and scored better if it had been rolled and/or bunched better. Unfortunately, it's a common occurrence, one that I seem to be doing more than ever. Prior to this, I’ve generally enjoyed the Pledge blend, though I’ve also never experienced construction issues like this. I don’t have anything else to add beyond my normal wish that if you bought some of these, you had a better time than I did.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurado
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Casa Carrillo
  • Wrapper: Connecticut (Habano)
  • Binder: Ecuador
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 56
  • Vitola: Figurado
  • MSRP: $25 (Box of 10, $250)
  • Release Date: November 2023
  • Number of Cigars Released: 250 Boxes of 10 Cigars (2,500 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The first thing I notice about the Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurado is the band in the middle. While E.P. Carrillo’s early history saw the company release a decent amount of private label cigars for retailers compared to national brands, it seems to be less of a part of the company’s business today. Furthermore, seeing another company’s logo—even if it is a store’s logo—on an E.P. Carrillo cigar is unique. I’d say it’s especially unique given the Perez-Carrillo Pledge is one of the company’s near-flagship offerings. While I didn’t compare it to any other Pledge cigars—I suppose that’s what the picture above is for—I think this wrapper is a tad darker than normal. It’s a rich brown with some reddish colors that can give it a purple hue at times. There are some prominent veins on each cigar and the oiliness is high. The aromas from the wrappers—which weren’t protected by cellophane—are medium-plus with some dank earth, barnyard, faint sweetness and dry bread flavors. While one cigar has some scents, the other two are mild enough that it’s pretty difficult to identify much of what’s going on. This is a rare instance of when the foot of the cigar has a milder aroma than the wrapper. From the three feet, I get some generic wood flavors mixed with floral scents. It’s not to say that there’s no smell, but sort of like the taste of water, it has a smell that is very nondescript. Upon cutting the first cigar, I hear a sound that concerns me. While I’ve never thought about it before, I now have enough experience that I can oftentimes tell if a cigar is going to have cutting issues based on the sound. A quick glance down reveals the wrapper has become unraveled, something that also happens on the third cigar. Cold draws are generally sweetness over woodiness, but the three cigars have different flavors. The full list includes brown sugar, vanilla, milk chocolate, muted raspberry, pear, oatmeal, red pepper, white pepper, Spanish cedar and leather. None of the cigars have more than five of these flavors, but all have a medium-full mixture of detailed flavors.

Unfortunately, the wrapper issues of both the first and third cigars are more than minor, which impacts the smoke volume of some puffs. That said, even on the lone cigar that doesn’t have unraveling issues, I still don’t get as much smoke as I’d like. There are cocoa and woody flavors over toastiness, earthiness, milk creaminess and varying amounts of pepper. On two cigars, it’s a relatively restrained pepper, but the first cigar I smoke has an extremely sharp black pepper that I picked up on the cold draw that intensifies for a couple of minutes, including during the first puff. The Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurados oftentimes have a very loose draw, which is directly related to the wrapper coming undone. Most of the time, when a wrapper becomes loose, I typically tear off the small bit that has become detached and the rest of the cigar’s physical integrity remains. This is not one of those cigars. I can see that there’s little holding the wrapper on the cigars, so I’m fearful of trying to cut any section off. Instead, I regularly will try to pull the wrapper back in place—sometimes with my fingers and other times twisting the cigar in my mouth—to try to get the draw back to an acceptable level. Flavor-wise, the profile tends to be very woody, with toastiness and leather serving as secondary notes. At times, the cigar is very dry, but there’s always some underlying sweetness and mild black pepper that help to provide contrast. The finish is led by leather with other flavors of burnt black pepper, white pepper, generic dough, sweetness and saltiness. Nutty flavors lead the retrohales, though it’s not a consistent flavor. Sometimes it’s a toasted nuttiness, other times it’s sweeter thanks to flavors of pear and honey. Other flavors include some generic grain alcohol-like burn, leather and some aggressive red pepper. I generally find the flavors on the retrohales to be a lot more intertwined with one another compared to the main profile. Woodiness, creaminess and green pepper add themselves to the rertrohale’s finish. Flavor is full, body is full and strength is medium-full. Beyond the issues related to two wrappers unraveling, two of the cigars—including the one that doesn’t have issues with unraveling—need help with burn issues.

By the midpoint of the Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurado, each of the three cigars has either gone out or has gotten very close to going out. I bring that up because I think the flavor profile is probably different if this cigar isn’t suffering from obvious construction issues. Flavor-wise, it’s a logical progression from the first third, as nuttiness or toastiness lead to starchy flavors, sesame seed bagels, white pepper and leather. At times, the toastiness, dryness and pepper get intense, and the end result reminds me a bit of mezcal gone wrong. The finish tends to be dominated by toastiness, with black pepper, generic sweetness and vegetal flavors coming in as accents. Retrohales seem like they add a lot of sweetness, though I suspect it’s not that much but it feels more intense because of the contrast it creates compared to the dominant toastiness. Other flavors include potato chips, black pepper, white pepper, honey and leather. Like the first third, the flavors of the retrohales are much more intermingled compared to the main flavors. They finish with lots of toasty leather and earthiness accented by honey and pepper. Flavor is medium-full to full, body is medium-full to full, and strength is medium-full. On two cigars, the draws continue to be overly loose thanks to the unraveling. All three cigars need help addressing combustion issues.

By the final third, the cigar is literally falling apart more than it is figuratively. Two cigars are coming apart and increasingly more difficult to keep smoking because of this. When I get a decent draw, there’s a toasty core accented by earthiness, creaminess, green pepper, salt and some metallic flavor. It’s enjoyable enough, though I’ve already had more toastiness than I would have liked up until this point. The largest issue is clearly the unraveling, but the regular touch-ups also play a part in this cigar’s downfall. Even on the second cigar, the lone Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurado that isn’t unraveling, the profile tastes like the generic toasty sensation that occurs when a cigar has been relit one too many times. The finish is led by toastiness with herbal flavors, vanilla, bitterness, leather, creaminess and saltiness underneath. It’s a frustrating reminder that there’s probably a lot of nuance and complexity in the tobacco, but the way these cigars were put together makes it nearly impossible for me to find. After a few more touch-ups, some more unraveling and a lot of frustration, I give up.

Final Notes

  • These cigars were aged for six months after rolling.
  • Had I not been smoking the cigars for review, I would have stopped smoking and thrown out the first and third cigars pretty early on. This is one of the big differences between reviewing cigars and just smoking them; with reviews, I have to finish the cigar even if I don’t want to.
  • None of the cigars showed any signs of damage. Furthermore, Cigars Direct probably packs its cigars better than 99 percent of the cigar retailers from which we purchase cigars.
  • I used two different cutters—the Fox Knives 749 and a brand-new Davidoff Double Blade Cutter—and had issues with the cuts from both of them. I’m not sure what the issue was, but given how good those cutters are, I don’t think it’s something I could have reasonably avoided.
  • I tell people that cigars are generally physically more resilient than they think. The reality is most cigars can be left out of humidor in relatively dry—but not desert—conditions and will still be smokeable. Obviously, try to store your cigars in the optimum condition. This is a cigar that reminds me that they are still quite delicate, and one thing, something that I typically overlook, can doom a cigar before it gets a chance.
  • For those wondering, these cigars arrived at our office in the first half of December and have been in our big review humidor ever since. I don’t think the issue here was that the cigars were dried out.
  • While I don’t know if it’s the issue here, I was recently talking to a Dominican cigar factory owner and he expressed frustration that many of the new rollers in the Dominican aren’t capable of rolling pretty caps.
  • The simple reality is that cigars today should be worse, probably a lot worse, than they were pre-COVID-19. While I’m sure there’s been some advancement when it comes to certain techniques or procedures at certain factories, there are far more negative and more impactful negative factors that have emerged post-COVID:
    • Many factories, especially in Cuba and Nicaragua, have lost workers due to migration. The factories in the Dominican Republic and Honduras are also dealing with their own labor issues, but from what I gather, there are different levels of problems.
    • The pandemic created intense demand for cigars, which meant factories were not only working with fewer and/or newer workers but also tasked with making more cigars than before.
    • Due to this demand, any inventory of aged cigars sitting at a factory was likely exhausted. That means that the average age of a cigar in a particular factory is probably less than it was before.
    • While many countries have experienced great tobacco harvests. Cuba and Ecuador have lost large portions of crops—roughly half a harvest—due to extreme weather events.
  • It doesn’t excuse any issues. Consumers are being charged more for cigars today than ever before. However, it would be really weird if all of a sudden, cigars, on the whole, got better. It’s quite clear why they should be worse than they were in 2019.
  • The real question is when is this trend going to reverse and cigars, on the whole, are going to get better? My own reviews suggest that things are still getting worse, not better.
  • One of the three cigars eventually got to a point in the final third when the wrapper was barely hanging on the cigar, I decided to smoke the cigar wrapperless. It was a pretty dramatic change that saw a near-complete reduction in the spiciness. Unfortunately, the binder was also unraveling.
  • The one cigar that didn’t unravel had the worst combustion issues of the bunch, going out multiple times. Between the three cigars, I have no idea what this cigar tastes like at its best.
  • Both E.P. Carrillo and Cigars Direct advertise on halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was just over two hours. I suspect this was quicker due to the generally open draws.
  • Site sponsor Cigars Direct still has the Perez-Carrillo Pledge Box-Pressed Figurado in stock.
81 Overall Score

Welcome to halfwheel’s review section, where I tell you about how this cigar probably would have tasted and scored better if it had been rolled and/or bunched better. Unfortunately, it's a common occurrence, one that I seem to be doing more than ever. Prior to this, I’ve generally enjoyed the Pledge blend, though I’ve also never experienced construction issues like this. I don’t have anything else to add beyond my normal wish that if you bought some of these, you had a better time than I did.

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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 have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.