cigar review

Cigar of the Year 2020: E.P Carrillo Pledge vs Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus

At the beginning of 2021, I heard mention of ‘Cigar of the Year‘ across my social media. First, I heard that the E.P Carrillo Pledge Prequel came in at #1 on Cigar Aficionado‘s top 25 cigars of 2020. I then heard about the Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus taking the #1 position on Cigar Journal‘s cigar of the year.

I had many questions about this; what makes a cigar the best cigar of that year? is it whoever pays the most for advertising space in a magazine? or is it genuinely about quality, flavour etc.? how on earth do they work this stuff out?

I decided to do a bit of digging around and found the following info…

Article in the latest edition of Cigar Aficionado magazine about ‘The Best Cigars of 2020’

Cigar Aficionado follows this step by step process…

Step by step process explaining how Cigar Aficionado find the top 25 cigars of the year.

Cigar Journal state:

“Every year, the members of our international Cigar Journal tasting team rate hundreds of cigars in blind tastings. As the end of the year approaches, we take the time to look back and compare our favourites. The results are the Top 25 of that year, a list of the cigars we loved and that made a lasting impression.”

The panel members for Cigar Journal are listed here; interestingly, the only folk based in the UK on the list are Edward & Eddie Sahakian.

After reading all of this, I decided to buy both cigars and try smoking them to identify my winning preference. I realise this is a diversion to the cigar challenge I have set myself, but that is what’s exciting for me about this blog. The more I learn about cigars, the more diversions I want to take, trying out a whole heap of other cigars that folk online are recommending and talking about.

E.P Carrillo Pledge Prequel

The stats:

Length: 5″
Ring Gauge: 50
Strength: Medium – Full
Country of origin: Dominican Republic

The E.P Carrillo Pledge Prequel cigar


The E.P. Carrillo Pledge is part of a trilogy of cigars that started as a tribute to Ernesto Perez-Carrillo‘s family. Ernesto, the guy behind this cigar brand, has been making cigars for almost five decades. During that time, he has owned factories big and small, worked for a major corporation, and has been making cigars on his terms most recently – find out more about Ernesto in Cigar Aficionado.

Ernesto Perez-Carillo at the E.P. Carillo factory in Santiago. Credit: Cigar Aficionado

The first set of cigars as part of this trilogy was the La Historia, which ranked No. 2 smoke of 2014 by Cigar Aficionado. The second set of cigars were the Encore, which came out in 2018, and named Cigar of the Year. The Pledge was the third in this series and went on sale in September 2020 – this topped last years poll for being ‘the most sublimely rich, structured and interesting cigar’ of the year.

Article in the latest edition of Cigar Aficionado magazine about the E.P Carrillo Pledge Prequel

Hear David Savona talk about the E.P Carrillo Pledge Prequel…

Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus

The stats:

Length: 5 ¼”
Ring Gauge: 52
Strength: Medium – Full
Country of origin: Nicaragua


Plasencia Cigars is named after the brand’s owner, Nestor Plasencia Sr, a key figure in the new world (also known as the non-Cuban cigar) industryNestor is a tobacco grower and cigar maker of Cuban descent whose factories in Honduras and Nicaragua produce over 30 million cigars a year. 

Nestor Plasencia Sr

A familiar trend across these cigar brands, Nestor’s sons are actively involved in the family business.

Nester’s sons

Alma means ‘strong soul’ and is said to ‘reflect the core knowledge of the family – to cultivate excellent tobacco’.

Advert promoting the Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus ‘Cigar of the Year’ 2020 in the latest edition of Cigar Journal

My experience:

To make these smokes more interesting, I have decided to compare these cigars in a blind taste test, a process of judging, where the judged product’s identity is kept hidden from the taster.

E.P Carrillo Pledge Prequel
Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus

Luckily my flatmate is going to help me out. Both cigars will have their cigar bands removed, and I will be handed each cigar to smoke. I shall wear shades to block some of my vision, so I cannot see what I am smoking. I will then review each cigar, picking a favourite once I have smoked both. The cigars will be revealed when I have been shown which cigar I smoked first and which cigar I smoked last.

Cigar #1

This cigar instantly proves to be a rich smoking experience. Nicely constructed, very strong and full in flavour. I can taste some pepper, possibly black pepper. It becomes a little spicy and develops cedar, nutty and coffee aromas. Towards the final part of the cigar, I can taste either a fruity or caramel/cinnamon sweetness.

Cigar #1 – Blind taste test

My rating: 8 out of 10

Cigar #2

This cigar is not as strong as the first cigar, a mild, medium flavour. I can taste some fruit in there, which is a surprise. I can also taste some wood and pine flavour notes. There’s a bitter taste towards the end of the cigar.

Cigar #2 – Blind taste test

My rating: 7 out of 10

My favourite cigar is…

Cigar #1 for its strong distinct flavour, this one had a real punch to it. Cigar #2 didn’t feel that special, quite average in fact.

The big reveal…

The Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus was Cigar #1, the winning cigar!

That was fun, but time to get back on track with my cigar challenge… the next cigar I will be smoking will be the Diplomatico cigar.

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