Ernesto Perez Carrillo is truly a legend in the industry and today we get to see his honest analysis of the industry, where its headed, and the what he’s particularly excited about in the days ahead. Welcome back, to the second installment of our EPC interview series!
Cigar Brief: Are there any new exciting strains of tobacco leaf that are coming out that you’re really excited about?
Ernesto Perez Carrillo (EPC): Yes, I think so. Remember, sometimes it doesn’t have to be a new seed it can just be a new farm. To be honest that would make all the difference in the world. We’re working on a couple of projects this year for next year. We’re working on Piloto Cubano. The original Piloto Cubano from Cuba, which is now being grown in the Dominican Republic. And there are two people currently that grow that.
But now, it’s finally assessable to me and other people in the Dominican Republic because there are people growing it. And then there’s a new farm in Ecuador that I’m looking into buying some wrapper from. I think that’s going to also be exciting because I’ve tried it already and I think it has a lot of potential.
CB: I know Ecuador is a big producer of Connecticut broadleaf will it be Connecticut in style?
EPC: No, this is going be a Habano Corojo style – But very well done. So I’m looking forward to that. If everything works out the way we plan, we should have a cigar out with that wrapper, hopefully, by the ICPCR.
CB: Is it going to be another Core line or is it going to be an LE?
EPC: No, it’s going to be called the Cabinet Series. We’re looking forward to that and it’s should be very interesting.
CB: So switching topics a little bit how have the profiles of cigar flavors,’ consistency, and construction changed over the years?
EPC: I have to be a little frank about this, but back in the old days – and we’re talking about the late ’70s, there were some great, great cigars coming out of Nicaragua and in the Dominican. I saw a change, let’s say starting in like 1980, you know once they had that problem in Nicaragua. What I see now is that it’s coming back to those great smokes that I remember.
I think the change in the industry has been very positive, especially in regards to the way the tobacco is being grown, the processing of the tobacco, and the way they’re being made. I remember those old days and in those olden days, they made exceptional cigars and they grew exceptional tobacco, especially in Nicaragua.
CB: Why do you think the industry is seeing such a resurgence in the production of great tobacco?
Ernesto: Well, I think right now everybody wants to make a great cigar. The competition is harder than ever now in the sense that there’s so many good cigars and cigar makers out there. You know how do you distinguish yourself from the next guy?
And the exciting thing coming from that is that there are better tobaccos and there is a lot more research and development; especially in the way of new seeds, hybrids, and that kind of agricultural engineering.
CB: So, that brings up an interesting and sometimes divisive topic. Hybrids, how do you feel about them?
EPC: I work with some tobaccos that are hybrids and think they’re excellent. They’ve very distinct in flavor and strength and aromas. And it also kinda puts you apart from somebody that may be just using Nicaraguan tobacco or Dominican tobacco. And I try to, when I make plants now, I try to use different seeds from different countries and different farms to give it a more distinct taste.
CB: So where else do you think the cigar industry is headed next? Is there a particular vein that you think that there’s going to be a lot of exploration in or that you’re excited about?
EPC: Well, I think, basically, as far as manufacturing, I don’t think there’s that much that can be made to really make a cigar taste different. I think the next area of course is tobacco ’cause that’s where it all starts. And I think with – like I said, some new farms that are coming into play in Ecuador; there’s an area – and also in Nicaragua – that we made our Limitada 2011 blend from.
We are using some of that tobacco. It’s a newer area in that it’s not as really well known as say Jalapa, Condega, and Esteli. They call it El Shango, or something like that. But it has some very interesting tobacco. And we have tried that and liked it – it’s not a big growing area, in fact it grows very little tobacco, but I think it’s very promising.
CB: Can you describe what the tobacco in that area is like?
EPC: Well, it’s – it has the strength of – how can I put this? It has the strength of Esteli. It has the sweetness of Jalapa, and the complexity and the spiciness of Condega. So you get the best of the different regions.
Honestly, it’s hard to describe you know. But I mean it’s unique. It’s unique in that sense. And it’s tobacco that when you smoke, right away you see the difference!
CB: I think this would be a good time to ask a question that many of our readers would like to know. What would you say are the defining characteristics of Dominican tobacco versus Nicaraguan?
EPC: There are some key differences. I think Dominican tobacco, is a nobler tobacco to work with. It has certain characteristics that you don’t find in Nicaragua and vice versa. Nicaraguan tobacco, I think is a more rounded tobacco. It has more strength. It has some of the spiciness, the peper that people are looking for now. The Dominican is more or less smoother and has a little bit of complexity. But it’s a good tobacco to blend with Nicaraguan.
CB: Are there any other geographic regions your currently excited about?
EPC: I think in the next two or three years, you’re going to see some very interesting things coming out of the Dominican Republic, as well as Mexico. You know, Mexico, now they’re growing a lot of cuban seed wrapper and let me say I’ve tried some and its really good.
CB: I take it your referring to the San Andreas style?
EPC: Yes, the San Andreas type. It’s different, but it’s beautiful looking tobacco and has a very nice flavor, which is great.
Stay tuned as we continue our interview series with Ernesto tomorrow and look at why he loves to call the Dominican Republic home, what some of his fondest memories are about his career in the industry, and the moments that he learned the most in.