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An Interview with Ernesto Padilla

A conversation with Ernesto Padilla, owner of Miami's Padilla Cigar Co.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

The Padilla cigar brand is still months away from the fourth anniversary of its market launch, but already the boutique cigars have won repeated accolades. Miami's Ernesto Padilla (pronounced Pah-dee-yah) created the cigar at the end of 2003 to honor his late father, embattled Cuban poet Heberto Padilla, whose repression and torture under Castro, dubbed The Padilla Affair, was a turning point for many in the literary world of the early 1970s. Padilla cigars have earned consistently high scores in Cigar Aficionado magazine and have made three straight appearances in our annual Top 25 ranking of the best cigars of the year. In December, Cigar Aficionado senior editor David Savona met with the 35-year-old Ernesto Padilla to discuss the origins of the brand and memories of his cigar-smoking father.

David Savona: What got you into cigars?

Ernesto Padilla: I was born in Havana, left when I was six years old. My father is from Pinar del Río, the most famous tobacco-growing region there, and his family grew tobacco. They owned the land and contracted for people to work it. They would sell the tobacco in Havana, to brokers or to cigar factories. They came from Spain, from the Canary Islands, like the majority of the people in our industry. My father smoked cigars, and I always saw him smoking cigars. Wherever he went it was like a cloud of smoke. I was dying to try one. I grabbed one of his Cohibas—this was in the 1980s—and I smoked it, and I turned green and I really didn't get it.

Q: How old were you?

A: I was probably about 14.

Q: Did you get caught?

A: No, surprisingly I didn't get caught, but later on, when I got out of high school, I started smoking some with him. Cigars were a big part of his life, so that's why the Padilla brand has so much to do with him. The brand is about a guy who really loves cigars.

Q: Your father was a poet. Let's talk about that.

A: He actually became a poet because of where he happened to be born. Cubans of Spanish descent would recite poems back and forth on the plantations. At the end of the day, the workers would gather and recite poetry.

Q: So the poetry was a poem they knew, or would they make it up as they went along?

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