From aspiring jazz drummer to cigar legend, Ernesto Perez Carrillo is a venerated name in the industry, and rightly so. His path to prominence rose through hard labour and a commitment to carrying on his family’s legacy. The Carrillo family has been in the tobacco industry for generations in their native Cuba, before being forced to flee to Little Havana, Miami. Once settled Ernesto’s father opened a small cigar factory, El Credito. In his youth Ernesto would help around the factory, observing and taking in the information. At the time he would not realise how much this would aid him in his future pursuits.
At the age of 25 Ernesto was focussed on a potential career as a jazz drummer. Whilst in New York he would receive a call that would change everything. News from home was that his father was terminally ill. On top of this the Royal Jamaica Cigar Co. were wanting to buy the Carrillo’s factory, putting down an offer of $125,000. Ernesto would even attend negotiations between his father and the company.
It was during this meeting when he came to an almost immediate realisation of what was happening. He pulled his father aside and asked him to not sell the business and instead show him how to run it. It was settled, Ernesto Sr agreed on the condition that his son would join the company that day and work with him for the rest of his limited time.
In 1980 Ernesto Sr passed away leaving his son in charge of the business. This was a lot for the young Ernesto to get used to, at the age of 29 he would find it overwhelming in the beginning. The first few years were rocky, but after seeing market trends changing he decided to try something different. In the 1970s his father had registered the trademark for La Gloria Cubana.
La Gloria Cubana had existed in Cuba since 1883, but had never had a New World counterpart. It was this brand that Ernesto would decide to dedicate his attention to. Not long after creating and releasing the blend he noticed the overwhelmingly positive reception and high sales in Little Havana. His next step was to make it a nationwide brand. It would first be released nationally in 1992 and by 1996 the cigar was so popular that Ernesto had to seek new facilities in the Dominican Republic to meet the demand.
At the end of the decade Ernesto would sell his factories and rights to La Gloria Cubana to Swedish Match. After the sale was complete he would go on to found the E.P. Carrillo brand. With the help of his children they laid out a road map for the business. They would release one private label blend annually. The incredible blending skills that Ernesto displays are the reason that this brand has done so well. To this day he and his children Ernesto Perez III and Lissette Perez run the family business. Their cigars are popular across the globe, often receiving numerous accolades.
To read more about Ernesto Perez Carrillo check out the 2017 Winter Edition of Cigar Journal for a fascinating interview with the man himself. In this issue he breaks down in detail the family business, the portfolio, his successes and much more.
E.P. Carrillo – Encore Majestic
–Winner of Cigar Aficionado’s 2018 Cigar Of The Year Award
RING GAUGE: 52
LENGTH: 5⅜ Inches – 137 mm
ORIGIN: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
Released in 2018 the Encore Majestic is a 100% Nicaraguan cigar that has been rolled in Carrillo’s Dominican factory. The tobaccos are stored in special tercios (bundles) that are wrapped in royal palm leaves and tied together with twine. When stored in such a manner the royal palm leaves imbue the tobacco with a subtle flavour that can only be attained this way. The wrapper leaf is a striking brown/bronze tone that compliments the bands that adorn it.
On its year of release the Encore Majestic was awarded a 96/100 by Cigar Aficionado before going on to be awarded the prestigious title of 2018 Cigar Of The Year. It is easy to see why, when describing the flavour profile Cigar Aficionado stated the following:
“All of it comes together in the Majestic, a robusto of immaculately detailed flavor that ranges from oak and tea to caramel sweetness with tangy citrus pops of candied orange peel. It’s elegant, refined and nuanced from first puff to last, but is also the culmination of a long career in tobacco and the result of a man who was never afraid to follow his instincts.”
E.P Carrillo – Pledge Prequel
–Winner of Cigar Aficionado’s 2020 Cigar Of The Year Award
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 5 Inches – 127 mm
ORIGIN: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Ecuador
A recent release, the Pledge range only launched in late 2020 and by 2021 had been awarded Cigar of the Year by Cigar Aficionado and received a glowing 92/100 rating by Cigar Insider. This cigar is not for the faint of heart, rather it is blended for the bold and adventurous cigar smoker. A full bodied smoke that utilises some of the finest tobacco from across Nicaragua and Ecuador. The cigar is then hand rolled at Carrillo’s facility in the Dominican Republic.
For the filler a selection of Nicaraguan leaves have been expertly blended by Carrillo before being paired with an Ecuadorian binder. To top it off a special aged USA Connecticut Habano wrapper has been chosen, adding a dark, tempting aesthetic to the cigar. When it came to describing the flavour profile of the Pledge Prequel, Cigar Aficionado stated the following:
“The E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel is a delicious smoke that delivers flavor in bold, zesty parcels of spicy oak, licorice, black cherry and black pepper. Baking spices sing like a holiday chorus, and when you think you’ve tasted all the cigar has to offer, a warm, familiar note of baked apple settles across the palate.”
Cigar Journal: 2017 Winter Edition [Ernesto Perez Carrillo | The Creative Perfectionist]
In the winter issue 2017 we visited the best cigar places for you. Our journalists traveled to Hamburg, Tokyo, Dublin and St. Petersburg. We also visited the Cigar-Lounge, Villa Cora, in Florence. Our Cover story is entirely dedicated to Ernesto Perez Carrillo, he is one of the most creative blenders ever. Our editor in chief Katja Gnann met E. P. Carrillo after the Cigar Trophy ceremony. His career success story as well as his cigar creations gave him a cult status in the cigar scene. All this and much, much more.