Two of the cigar industry's biggest names are joining together. Starting November 1, José Blanco will be the senior vice president of EPC Cigar Co., the premium cigar company owned by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. Blanco has turned over the operations of his Las Cumbres Tabaco and its brands (Señorial and Freyja) to his wife, Emma Viktorsson, co-founder and co-owner of the company.
"I will still have a stake and interest in the brands, but Emma has the majority share," he told Cigar Aficionado in a phone interview. Blanco cited the new regulations from the Food and Drug Administration over the cigar industry as the primary reason for making this move.
"The uncertainty behind the FDA's rules is the main reason," he said. "They are not making the terms clear and making business very difficult."
Viktorsson will operate out of Macedonia and build the Freyja and Señorial brands in Europe as well as in the United States. They will continue to be produced at Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic.
"Ernesto [Perez-Carrillo] and I are great friends and have been for a long time," said Blanco. "I have tremendous respect and admiration for EPC Cigar as well as for its blends."
As senior vice president of EPC Cigar Co., Blanco will be spending most of his time in the U.S. concentrating on building up the sales force.
"I'm really happy about this," Perez-Carrillo told Cigar Aficionado. "He has a great palate but he's also a great communicator and very good at marketing, sales and overall business. We're also the same age and it's very important to be able to communicate well with someone as old as I am."
A cigar industry veteran, Blanco has been in the tobacco industry for more than thirty years, serving as sales director of La Aurora and then, vice president of Joya de Nicaragua. In 2014, Blanco formed Las Cumbres Tabaco with Viktorsson, who was formerly with General Cigar.
Perez-Carrillo gained notoriety in the industry with his Miami-made La Gloria Cubana brand, which was eventually acquired in 1999 by cigar giant General Cigar Co. He continued to work for General until 2009. That year, Perez-Carrillo decided to go back to his roots by creating a new family-run cigar boutique called EPC Cigar Co. with his son Ernesto Perez-Carrillo III and daughter Lissette. His cigars are made in the Dominican Republic.