Interview with Ernesto Padilla

[Interview conducted January 2009]

There are a lot of brands that we consider “household” names… all solid products with a long history of quality and consistency which makes them deserving of the “household” status. And then there’s the other side… the “boutique” brands. The ones that you hear about once in a while, or read about in a magazine and start looking for but you have a hard time finding… and then finally you find one and get the chance to try it. I’ve known Ernesto Padilla for a number of years, and it’s been a treat watching him develop as a brand during that time. It’s been even more of a treat to smoke his cigars and see how they too evolve. With the recent opening of his own factory in Miami, we’re entering the newest chapter of the Padilla saga.

So how did u get started in this business??
I was born in Havana, Cuba. My family is from Spain, the Canary Islands, which have had a long tradition with cigars. Then they came to Cuba, bought land and began to sell to major manufactures in Havana.

But your father was a poet, right?
Oh yeah! He was Cuba’s foremost poet! But he was a great cigar man too. He loved cigars and the people who were part of the cigar industry. He always smoked cigars, for as long as I can remember.

And do you still have family in Cuba?
I still have some family there. They grow tobacco in Pinar del Rio as a matter of fact.

Really… are you sneaking a little of your “home grown” tobacco into your blends? They’re certainly reminiscent of some Cuban Cigars.
Ha… no. But, I try and make cigars that are reminiscent of great Cuban cigars, so I guess I’m doing something right.Tell me about your recent change in factory.I have opened the Padilla Miami Cigar Factory to create ultra premium limited cigars.

What about the cigars not made in Miami?
We’ll continue to make some of our cigars in Nicaragua and Honduras and actually hope to expand in those countries soon as well. But Miami allows me to have access to the largest concentration of experienced Cuban cigar rollers and that's in line with the style of cigars I want to make.How has your product changed with the change in factory?In my own factory I have better control of production and can maintain a higher overall quality level for my products. Plus it allows me to really focus on continuing to make cigars in the Cuban tradition. I select the best Cuban seed Nicaraguan Grown fillers and wrappers. This combined with the experience of my rollers gives me some very high quality, very unique cigars!
Did u always want to be in this business?I started in the advertising world but I always loved the culture and history of cigars. The people I remember seeing who smoked cigars seemed to always be larger than life; Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Orson Wells, hell… even Bill Clinton!!!

So do you think ‘the cigar’ was a Padilla?
What Cigar?

C’mon… y’know… THE CIGAR?......... CLINTON?............. MONICA?
OH man! I forgot about that…. I think that might have been a little before my brand, but I guess ya never know!

What's your favorite everyday cigar?
I smoke 5 to ten cigars a day always checking draw, burn, construction and flavor. I’ve really been enjoying my new Padilla Miami. It has an amazing Corojo wrapper that I’m really happy with!

Is that what we’re smoking now?
Yes. It’s a blend of all nicaraguan esteli ligero condega jalapa fillers and the wrapper is Corojo ’99.

It’s very good, man! Rich, full bodied! Lots of those classic Nicaraguan flavors.
Exactly, that classic coffee note… a little spice, but I think it still has balance. Also, I like the sweetness of the Corojo as it develops… Yeah, me too… and definitely unique! So is there a beverage you favor to accompany your cigar?I like Single Malt Scotches, some rum, but mostly when I’m home in Miami, I do like most of the other Cubans, walk across the street to the Cuban restaurant, go up to the window and order a shot of Cuban Coffee.

Are you living in Miami full time or do you travel a lot?
In years past I’ve traveled a lot, but now with the opening of my factory I’m really staying put and staying focused. I hope to get out a little more next year and travel around to smoke some cigars with my fellow cigar smokers around the country.

So you miss the traveling?
Well… I like meeting new people and smoking cigars with them. But, Miami is Miami. Beautiful weather, Brazilians girls in bikini’s… it’s not a bad place to be.

What can we expect in the future for Padilla?
I just want to continue making new, unique limited releases. I’m working on a box-pressed maduro from my Miami factory, but really the key for me is maintaining high quality… it’s not about making millions of cigars, but rather make high quality cigars!

And how many cigars do you expect to make?
About 400,000, but again… only if I can maintain the standards I want, otherwise it’s not worth it.
Do you ever see yourself expanding your brand outside of cigars?
I enjoy wine a lot. I read a lot about that industry, and find it interesting how many parallels there are between wine and cigars… especially on the manufacturing side with things like lower yields in the fields to increase quality, or the way the manufacturer has to balance tradition with innovation… it’s fascinating. So who knows maybe one day wine.

Great, well I appreciate your time… any closing remarks?
Did I mentioned I like Brazilians girls in thongs?

Uh, yes… yes you did.