An Interview with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo

Owner, El Credito Cigar Co., makers of La Gloria Cubana, La Hoja Selecta, El Rico Habano and Dos Gonzales cigars.

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CA: Let's talk about the blend of La Gloria Cubana, just to make it clear. The wrapper is from where?
Carrillo: Ecuador.
CA: The binder?
Carrillo: It's from Nicaragua.
CA: And the filler?
Carrillo: It is from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
CA: What's the mix between the two?
Carrillo: We use about 75 percent Dominican and about 25 percent Nicaraguan.
CA: Is there any particular leaf that you specialize in, in the blend that you make?
Carrillo: We use piloto Cubano, Cuban-seed tobacco from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The Dominican tobacco comes from Villa Gonzales, La Canela and Jacagua. In Nicaragua, we use tobacco from EstelĂ­ and some Jalapa.
CA: How many rollers do you have in Miami and how many rollers do you have today in the Dominican Republic?
Carrillo: In Miami, we have 30 rollers and in the Dominican Republic, we have 228.
CA: And do you plan to expand the number of rollers in either location?
Carrillo: In the Dominican Republic, we do plan to expand our rollers to about 300. In Miami, we would like to expand to about 40.
CA: Are these basically new people who have never rolled before that you are training, or are these experienced people that have worked at other factories?
Carrillo: We have some experienced rollers, but most have been people trained by us. We started that back in November 1995 and we trained over 180 people in our shop.
CA: Are there more men or women rollers?
Carrillo: It's half and half.
CA: Do you find that a woman roller is more gifted than a man roller, or vice versa? Or are they about the same?
Carrillo: In the Dominican Republic I find that the men are more gifted, especially in the bunching of the cigars. The women, however, are equal, or in some cases, better in the rolling.
CA: Do they take an equal amount of time to train, whether it's a man or a woman?
Carrillo: It's the same amount of time.
CA: How long does it take to bring someone off the street and sit him down at a training table with an instructor before he's able to roll cigars with the La Gloria Cubana brand name?
Carrillo: First of all, we send them to a program in the Dominican Republic run by Infotec, a government agency that provides job training; we support it with a payroll tax. They receive 220 hours of instruction. They just show them the basics. When they come work for us, after about two or three months, we put them up in the tobacco room to grade tobacco and to work all over the plant. We don't just sit them down right away. After about usually three weeks, we sit them at a table and they start making cigars. They might do 10, 20 cigars, 25, 50 cigars a day.
CA: Do those cigars then go into bundles?
Carrillo: No, because we use different tobaccos for that type of cigar. We sell them as seconds. "Apprentices' Cigars" we call them.
CA: How long does it take before they make a La Gloria?
Carrillo: I'd say about four months.
CA: In Miami, the newcomers are usually people that were in Cuba. Is that right?
Carrillo: Right.
CA: Therefore, you don't need a training program in Miami?
Carrillo: No, we don't have a training program in Miami.
CA: Have the 30 rollers spent their life rolling cigars?
Carrillo: Yes. With the exception of four, who have recently learned in the factory, most have worked in Cuba, in the well-known factories of Havana and Pinar del Rio.
CA: I would imagine, then, the demographics are quite different in that they're young people in the Dominican Republic and, generally speaking, older men or women in Miami.
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