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La Gloria Miami

Under the aegis of new owner Swedish Match, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo will debut a special Miami version of his La Gloria Cuban
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
The Sopranos, Mar/Apr 01

(continued from page 1)

"They're letting me do what I do, be what I am," he says.

Swedish Match also knows the value of Carrillo¿s Miami factory, the small but highly visible heart of his business located on Calle Ocho, the historic street in the heart of Little Havana. When Carrillo began making cigars in the Dominican Republic in 1995, critics cried out for his Miami smokes, thinking them better than the new versions. Soon, Carrillo plans to give them what they want, a Miami La Gloria packaged distinctively to set it apart from its Dominican cousin. Besides checking the box, another way to tell the difference is by checking the shape¿Miami La Glorias are round whereas most Dominican La Glorias are box pressed, with the exception of some of the newest cigars such as Serie Rs and Hermosos.

"We want to give Miami its own identity," says Carrillo. "We want to come out with new sizes for Miami, made only in Miami." Expect those sizes by this summer.

Step inside Carrillo's Miami factory and it¿s hard to believe that one of the most popular premium cigar brands in America is rolled here. It's a small room with yellowed walls crying for a paint job. The handful of rolling stations face the door, and the workers roll their cigars Cuban-style, without the aid of bunching machines. (Carrillo's Dominican factory uses the Temsco machines.) In one corner, a cigar roller sits smoking a light-colored panetela, a flower in a vase perched on her shelf.

"She likes lighter cigars," says Carrillo, who is known for his fuller-bodied smokes.

La Glorias are made with Dominican and Nicaraguan filler, with Sumatra-seed wrappers grown in Ecuador by the Oliva family. Carrillo's La Hoja Selecta brand used to be a mild smoke, but he recently reblended it to add punch and swapped its Connecticut-shade wrapper for Ecuadoran Sumatra. His original El Rico Habanos were once strong enough to make even a seasoned smoker's knees weak, but a shortage of the high-octane tobacco he relied on for that brand has kept El Ricos off the market for almost two years.

Carrillo has other expansion plans for Miami. Next door to his factory, construction workers are sheet rocking and hammering away to create a posh store for his cigars. There's even a new parking lot out back, ready for tourists.

Most La Glorias are still made in the Dominican Republic,Miami wages are too high, and workers too hard to find to allow a sizeable brand to be made in Miami. That's what pushed Carrillo to the Dominican Republic in 1995.

His Dominican operation was bigger than the Miami enterprise, but quality-control problems plagued it at the beginning. Carrillo admits that his first Dominican La Glorias were poor imitations of his Miami originals, but he thinks he's solved the early problems. "We,ve gone through a learning curve," he says.

Carrillo's Miami rollers make about 600,000 cigars a year. His workforce in the Dominican Republic makes 4.5 million to 5 million cigars a year, and Carrillo hopes to push production to 8 million cigars, bigger than he's ever been.

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