On February 20, Smokin’ Joe’s in Alcoa, Tenn. announced that it had just received the initial shipment of a new E.P. Carrillo Lounge Exclusive made just for them, the first E.P. Carrillo branded lounge in the world.

The store added the E.P. Carrillo lounge in late fall of 2012, outfitting it with leather massage recliners, a flat-screen television and artwork from E.P. Carrillo. In a comment left on the article announcing the cigar, the manager of the store said, “We built this lounge to enhance the smoking experience for everyone who steps foot into it, and paired with the wonderful Carrillo family due to their phenomenal cigars and wonderful personalities.”

The cigar made its debut at a Feb. 28 in-store event that featured Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Lounge Exclusive 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Lounge Exclusive
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
  • Wrapper: Brazilian Habano Maduro
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua and Dominican Republic
  • Size: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro Gordo
  • MSRP: $8.49 (Boxes of 20, $169.80)
  • Date Released: February 28, 2013  
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

*The cigars will be regularly available at Smokin’ Joe’s. The initial production was 100 boxes of 20 cigars.

The E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Lounge Exclusive is a gorgeous cigar with a rich, dark brown wrapper that has just a bit of crystallization. It has just a bit of give but feels well rolled and has a respectable amount of heft in the hand. The foot of the cigar offers a slightly sweet pre-light aroma and shows varying notes of graham cracker and orange marmalade with just a faint bit of spice. The cold draw is spot on and cool, delivering a very subtle sweetness and little to no spice.

The initial puffs of the first third are medium-bodied and not overly peppery, though with the burn line at the quarter-inch mark it becomes apparent that there is some strength quickly building in the first third. A rich, fairly sharp tanginess starts to emerge as the E.P. Carrillo Smokin’Joe’s Lounge Exclusive develops its character. The ambient smoke is also wonderful, having a gorgeous aromatic quality of basil and marjoram that is reminiscent of sniffing through a spice rack for ideas. The burn line is sharp and the ash is a multi-hued gray that shows wonderful layering, breaking off for the first time at about an inch in length. The flavor has started to dry out just a bit and carries notes of wood and earth.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Lounge Exclusive 2

Heading into the second third, there seem to be subtle little shifts of flavor as the flavor intensifies just a bit, with the sweetness starting to coat the overall flavor just a bit more. Right at the midpoint of the E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Lounge Exclusive, the white pepper ramps up quickly and squarely nails the palate and nostrils with a hit that wasn’t seen coming. The retrohale is now much more alive than it was earlier thanks to the increased pepper that wasn’t present in this quantity or intensity. Ever so slightly, the pepper dies down as the cigar establishes a new flavor baseline, fuller-bodied and spicier than in the first third and now a solid medium-plus or full-minus. The aromatics of the cigar now have an incredible note of what comes to mind as warm beef jerky or sausage. It’s hard to describe exactly, but it is fantastic.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Lounge Exclusive 3

Another ramp up in flavor and spice begins the final third of the E.P. Carrillo Smokin’ Joe’s Lounge Exclusive, a repeat of what happened in the second third with the cigar now being unquestionably full-minus with frequent stops in the full-bodied description. The flavor picks up a slight chalk note while the backbone becomes even stronger and the pepper plays a much stronger role in the final inches. The burn line stays sharp all the way to the end, with a strong, earthy but overall clean finish, leaving just a bit of lingering spice on the palate.

E P Carrillo Smokin Joe s Lounge Exclusive 4

Final Notes:

  • The secondary band on the cigar is identical to the one used on E.P. Carrillo’s annual Edición Limitada series. The addition of the store’s name on that band is a great touch that makes it all the more personal.
  • A Brazilian wrapper has made an appearance on several E.P. Carrillo sticks, including the Atlantic Cigar 15th Anniversary, the Edición Limitada 2010 and the Elencos.
  • When he was working on the Core Line Maduro, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo toyed with the idea of using a Brazilian or Mexican Maduro, but opted for a Connecticut Broadleaf instead.
  • A while back, Carrillo gave me what I seem to recall being an Elencos Maduro. He didn’t say much about the blend, but it was an incredibly enjoyable cigar, and it makes me wonder if it was a Brazilian Maduro wrapper. A few retailers were shipped a single box of this cigar during the holiday season of 2010.
  • If you’re wondering, Alcoa, Tenn. is just outside of Knoxville.
  • The pictures of the lounge on Smokin’ Joe’s Facebook page show that it bears a striking resemblance to their 2012 IPCPR trade show booth, including display cases. It was a newly designed booth and drew a number of favorable comments.
  • The lounge is open to the public, should you be in the area and want to visit.
  • There are two other stores in the Smokin’ Joe’s family – Smokin’ Joe’s Papermill and Old City Cigar.
  • The store doesn’t sell cigars online, and generally doesn’t do phone orders. On March 3, they posted on their Facebook page that they’d take just five phone orders for full boxes.
  • My Father Cigars has a Lounge Exclusive cigar that can be found only in My Father branded lounges. We reviewed it here.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Smokin’ Joe’s.
  • Final smoking time is about two hours and 30 minutes.
89 Overall Score

Quite simply, this is another winner from E.P. Carrillo and is a fitting cigar for the first lounge to bear the company's name. The flavor progression is outstanding and keeps the palate engaged from start to finish, never getting out of control save for that one big hit of pepper at the midpoint, which was still a darn-near perfect amount at just the right time. This sits in the same class as the Core Line, Dark Rituals and Cardinal as cigars that I would go-to without question and know that I'd be enjoying a great smoke. If you get the chance to try these, do so.

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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.