The roots of the Perez-Carrillo family are in Cuba, where Ernesto Sr. was born in 1904. He began learning about tobacco and cigars early in his childhood from his father who rolled and sold penny cigars in the streets of Havana. After working as a tobacco buyer for many years, Ernesto Sr. launched the family cigar dynasty in 1948 when he purchased El Credito, a small cigar factory in Havana. The Perez-Carrillo family became well-respected in Cuba, and Ernesto Sr. was elected to the Senate in 1954 and 1958.
But, as the Cuban Revolution took hold and Castro gained control of Cuba, the Perez-Carrillo familys life changed forever. Ernesto Sr. was arrested several times for his political beliefs, and the government confiscated the familys properties including the beloved El Credito factory. Fearing for their safety, the family fled to Miami, but not before leaving Ernesto with a lasting impression of his homeland. During a Cigar Aficionado interview taken in the early 1990s, young Ernesto (Jr.) recalled the events around the time of the Cuban Revolution, I remember when Castro came into Havana. I looked up in the sky and saw warplanes. Tanks were in the streets. It was a wild scene. I was only six at the time. I didnt think it was the end of the world, but there was a sense of insecurity.
Ernesto Sr. expected the move to be temporary. The Master Blender and cigar maker envisioned moving his family back to Cuba once the political climate settled. While he waited, he took every odd job he could find to support his family. As it became increasingly clear that returning to Cuba was not to be, Ernesto Sr. focused on making Miami his home, eventually realizing that the talents for which he was known in Cuba were the key to the familys future in their new home. So he returned to what he did best: making cigars. Nine years passed, but finally Ernesto Sr. was able to purchase a cigar factory in Little Havana, fittingly naming it El Credito.
But his son and namesake, Ernesto, had a passion for jazz; not cigars. He had always dreamed of being a jazz drummer, and when he turned 25 he even moved to New York City to try his luck with some of the great musicians and bands at the time. Hustling from audition to audition, gig after gig, Ernesto was determined to make it as a drummer. But after failing to catch on with the famed Stan Getz and his band, he finally returned to Miami, and began his journey toward cigar immortality.
Working alongside his father, Ernesto made cigars for the locals in Little Havana. It wasnt until his father contemplated selling El Credito in 1976 that young Ernesto realized that this was his calling in life. He convinced his father not to sell, and for the next four years, he shadowed his father to see how a master created a cigar. When his father passed away in 1980, a 29-year old Ernesto took over the reins of El Credito, but was not prepared for the financial difficulties that ensued. Bills piled up and demand for cigars cratered, but Ernestos friends in the Miami cigar trade carried him through these tough times, confident that this promising craftsman would eventually succeed. And succeed he would.
Today, Ernesto gives credit to his father for teaching him most of what he knows about cigars. As young as 4 years old, he would spend countless hours with his father in the tobacco fields in Cubas prime growing region, the Vuelta Abajo. It was in Cuba where Ernesto began to appreciate the art of growing tobacco. The most valuable lessons Ernesto learned from his father were from the examples he set in his everyday life dedication to work, humility, patience and respect. These are the same principles behind each cigar created by Master Blender Ernesto Perez-Carrillo.