Legend Series Interview: Ernesto Perez Carrillo- Part III

Legend Series Interview: Ernesto Perez Carrillo- Part III

Ernesto Perez Carrillo is truly a legend in the industry and today we get to see his honest analysis of Cuba, his personal victories and regrets, and why he loves the Dominican Republic Welcome back, to the third and final installment in the EPC interview series!

Cigar Brief (CB):       With a career as long and as rich as yours, if you had to choose two great moments to highlight, what would they be and why?

Ernesto (EPC):     The first was when I decided to start over with a new company, and my kids decided to come on, that was a very proud year.  But I’ve got so many moments that I love. For instance anytime when I’m smoking a cigar and it hits me a certain way that I say, “Now, this one is really outrageously good.” 

Those are very important moments.  ‘Cause you know everything else is like any other business.  You have problems; you have issues with people, with tobacco, whatever, but honestly that’s just part of running a business.

But when you can sit back and say, “It’s all worth it because this cigar is really delicious, and I’m enjoying it.  And you see that people are buying it, and they’re enjoying it.  That’s a very gratifying moment!

CB:  Speaking of personal pride, it seems you well up with a fair amount of pride when you speak about the Dominican Republic. Is there a reason why you have stayed more in the Dominican Republic than going to Nicaragua, operationally or at least tobacco-wise.

EPC:    Well, I’ve been in the Dominican since ’96 so I knew a lot of people there. I have an apartment down there.  And, for me, it was easier to travel to the Dominican and be there than Nicaragua.  And also in Nicaragua, there are a lot of factories in Nicaragua with a lot of cigar makers.  And in Nicaragua it’s more expensive. A lot more expensive, but I buy it for myself if it’s the right choice. 

Also, the Dominican opened its doors for me and my family when we started.  And I mean I felt that we had to give something back on this next project that we’re doing.

The fact is that working there is incredibly easy in a lot of senses.  Getting things done, the people that are there, the cigar makers.  I think that they’re some of the best we have, I think, in the Dominican, we have a lot of talented cigar makers and supervisors that know a lot about the business.

CB:   So having discussed the positives quite a bit in your career, are there any moments you look back on in your career that you wish you could have done differently?

EPC:   Oh sure! Many, many, as far as tobacco’s concerned.  As far as living and all that, that’s part of living.  But as far as tobacco, I think needless to say, I’ve made a lot of mistakes.  And sometimes you’re buying tobacco; sometimes you’re buying it emotionally.  But it’s not a good thing because sometimes you end up buying things that you really don’t want or don’t turn into a blend.  But those are things that happen for a reason.

And the thing is – the challenge is how do you make those tobaccos or decisions or whatever somehow be a lesson, and learn from it and benefit from it.  And so, that happens once in a while.  Like if you over ferment the tobacco and your yields are low, instead of 70 or even 60 percent, they’re 40 percent.  Those moments hurt.

CB:  Speaking of lower yields, we are starting to see a lot more limited run cigars these days; how do you feel about the Limited Run niche?

EPC:   Well, I like them.  As a manufacturer I love to blend tobacco.  So if you have something out there that you think is special or you’re not gonna be able to get any more of it, or you don’t want to get any more for whatever reason, then you can make those types of cigars. In fact we make the short runs and we also make a limited edition.  And we try to make those things special. I like doing it because it keeps the people interested in your brands and it’s something different that you can offer to your customers and your friends.

CB:  Continuing in the vein of scarcity, and I’m just curious about your thoughts, is what do you think of the embargo in Cuba and if it were to be lifted?

EPC:   I think it would be very interesting if tobacco’s made available outside of Cuba, then there is going to definitely be a boom.  However, if it stays where it’s controlled by the government, that’s going to be another issue, which, really,  won’t benefit me in any way other than the fact that I still have family in Cuba.  So, hopefully, it will help them. 

But I think if it opens up, it has to open up where people that are Dominican or Nicaraguan, or whatever, can use Cuban tobacco and in return we will let them use our tobaccos.  I mean let’s make this a global type of a product where everybody’s using everybody’s tobacco.  That’d be incredible!

CB:  Now, talking about Cuban tobacco, just real quick.  Have you seen a big change in the way it smokes recently versus in the past?

EPC: I have, I have.  And I have to say I’m an avid fan of the Cuban tobaccos because they are distinct in many ways.  But what I find nowadays is that I find that the consistency is not there like it was before, like in the early ’80s and ’70s.  That’s what I find. But I think they are trying especially in coming out with so many regional additions and trying to make something more unique these days.

CB:    So in wrapping up our interview the last question I would like to ask you, is what to you makes a great cigar?

EPC:   To me, a great cigar has one characteristic.  When I light it up, it has to hit me here {points to his heart]. It should relax you. And to me that is a sign of a great cigar– it has to tell me something!

***We here at Cigar Brief would like to take a moment and thank Ernesto for his time and candidness. I loved the time that I got to spend talking with him and must say it was a true honor to hear his stories and insight into the industry he clearly loves so much.

***Click here If you would like to read Part I or Part II of the Interview series.


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