Smoking with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo

Apr 8, 2009 | By David Savona
I’m always happy when Ernesto Perez-Carrillo comes to New York. I’ve known him since my early days at Cigar Aficionado, and El Credito Cigars in Miami was the first cigar factory I ever visited. On that first meeting, he welcomed me with a baggie of unbanded lonsdales that blew me away with power, spice and flavor.

Ernesto is no longer at El Credito, no longer making La Gloria Cubana cigars. His last day with the company was March 15. He left to make cigars with his son and daughter, and he originally intended to take some time before getting started.

Plans have changed—he’s getting started now.

One of the reasons for the accelerated timetable is the impatience of youth—Ernesto was accompanied the other day by his 27-year-old son, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo III. (The elder Ernesto is actually Perez-Carrillo Jr.) Ernesto III, formerly with the private-equity firm of Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts, is used to working 100-hour-weeks, firing off emails on the Blackberry and wasn’t quite ready to sit around relaxing—he’s eager to get started in the cigar business. So is his sister, Lissette McPhillips, a lawyer who is now working with her father and brother.

“I wasn’t thinking of opening until March 2010. Now they’re pushing me,” Ernesto the elder said.

The two Ernestos told me their plan for making cigars over lunch. The idea is to make limited-edition cigars, utilizing special tobaccos that aren’t available in large enough quantities to draw the interest of the big companies, but something with character. One of those special releases will be on the market around Thanksgiving. Then, months later, the company’s main brand will make its debut, something that the Perez-Carrillos will make consistently, and at a lower price than the limited-edition releases. You can read more about this in the current Cigar Insider.

They’re going to open a factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic, by September, and while they don’t have a name for their brands they have a name for the company: EPC Cigar Co. The father will make the cigars, the son will handle marketing and the sister will handle finance and legal issues.

It’s hard to imagine Ernesto Perez-Carrillo making a cigar other than La Gloria Cubana or El Rico Habano, but you can see the joy in his eyes as he sits next to his son and thinks about his new venture. He’s invigorated, eager to work alongside his family. I think the whole cigar world looks forward to what he’s going to make.
EPC Cigar Co.
"How can I reach Ernesto at his company in Miami? Do you have a phone number? Thanks." —November 23, 2009 15:20 PM
"Ernie, is one of the great guys in the industry, we have been friends for a long time, we always exchange cigars and talk, we wish him luck, and as always he will do a great job, Ernesto Mucha Suerte." —April 8, 2009 10:57 AM

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