Cigar Buying Guides

Father and Son Cigar Makers

All in the Family: Cigar Makers Who Learned from Their Fathers

Updated June 2020

The one thing that has rises above all else in the tobacco industry is family. So, it should come as no surprise that many cigar makers whose forefathers began as tobacco growers, or not in some case, have seen their sons follow them into the business. Whether working together, or individually, they all appear to have had a special calling. Even under the most pressing circumstances, whether it was being victimized by a revolution in Cuba or Nicaragua, or pushed to the edge by an ever-rising tide of anti-smoking regulations, these families have done an amazing job. For when it comes to keeping the tobacco seeds planted, the harvests cured and aged, and the cigars rolled, the fathers and sons you’re about to meet will always be able to rely on the ties that bind.

Aganorsa Leaf Signature Maduro Toro

Size: 6 x 52Strength: Full
Wrapper: Jalapa Corojo

Since Aganorsa Leaf Cigars founder Eduardo Fernández began growing tobacco in Nicaragua 22 years ago, the company has taken the artisanal side of the premium cigar industry by storm. Working with his son Max, Eduardo’s dream was “to grow the finest tobacco in the world that captured the very essence of the Cuban cigars of old.” And although many of us may not have had that specific experience, we’ll take his word for it. As if guided by the spirits of long departed cultivadores, Eduardo, Max, and their team of veteran Cuban supervisors have done things with Nicaraguan tobacco that’s practically magical.

Each year, Aganorsa, which stands for Agricola Ganadera Norteña S.A., continues to churn out masterpiece–after–masterpiece, and the Aganorsa Leaf Signature Maduro Toro is a prime example. A recipe of Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99 fillers, Corojo ’99 binder and a dark, high-priming Corojo ’99 shade-grown Jalapa wrapper combine for a rich, complex smoke with superb balance highlighted by notes of cocoa, wood, dried fruit, plus sweet and peppery spices.

Alec & Bradley Gatekeeper Toro

Size: 6 x 52Strength: Med-Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano

Two names that have made an impact in the premium cigar biz are “Alec” and “Bradley,” the namesakes of Alec Bradley Cigars, and the sons of company founder Alan Rubin. Mere toddlers when Alan started the company in the mid 90’s, in the summer of 2018, Alec and Bradley debuted their first cigar, Blind Faith, on their own cigar label, Alec & Bradley Cigars.

Following their father’s act hasn’t been easy, especially when many of the world’s top-rated cigars wear Alec Bradley bands. But learning the trade from their father, plenty of hard work, and a determination to develop their own image began to pay-off with their 2019 sophomore release, Gatekeeper. For that line they teamed-up with legendary blender, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, and the result was a full-flavored selection that doesn’t taste like an EPC or an Alec Bradley cigar; rather, Gatekeeper is every bit as distinctive as the brothers themselves. Like the Robusto I featured on #NowSmoking, the Toro offers a full-flavored, medium-plus smoke teeming with well-balanced flavors of cedar, leather, nuts, and sweet spice, but with a more complex profile.

CLE Corojo 11/18

Size: 6 x 48/54/48Strength: Medium-plus
Wrapper: Honduran Authentic Corojo

Born in 1972, Christian Luis Eiroa remembers working with his father Julio on the family’s Rancho Jamastran farm in Danli, Honduras, as early as the age of eight. Going back three generations to Cuba, the Eiroa’s have tobacco in their blood, and Christian often refers to his life as “growing up tobacco.“

After receiving his Master’s degree in 1995, Christian returned to Rancho Jamastran to help his father run the business. Lighting struck in 2000 when the Camacho Corojo cigars selection was released. Using a unique mold which he also patented, Christian created the now classic Camacho Corojo 11/18, which he called “a pregnant Robusto.“ And here’s a bar bet tip for you: the numbers represent his mother’s birthday, November 18.

Oettinger–Davidoff bought the Camacho brand in 2008, but in 2012 Christian branched out on his own and founded C.L.E. Cigars. Growing authentic Corojo seed tobacco on his El Corojo farm in Honduras, the C.L.E. Corojo 11/18 quickly became one of the stars of his line-up. Medium to full in body and strength, the Corojo 11/18 offers a rich, complex flavor teeming with notes of light salt, earth, cedar, subtle peppery spices, and brown sugar.

E.P. Carrillo La Historia El Senador

Size: 5 3/8 x 52 box-pressed ToroStrength: Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Maduro

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo has become one of the most respected personages in the premium cigar industry, and he has his late father, Ernesto Sr., to thank for it. Had he not returned to Little Havana, Miami in 1976 to help his father run the El Credito factory, who knows what he’d be doing today. Starting with the Cigar Boom 90s, he took the La Gloria Cubana brand to iconic status and never looked back.

After the La Gloria brand became part of STG (they acquired General Cigar in 1997), Ernesto stayed with the company into the new millennium. But upon urging from his son, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo III, and his daughter Lissette, Ernesto returned to the business in 2009 to start a new family-owned label, E.P.C. Cigars.

And it really is an all in the family business. An attorney by trade, Lissette is a co-founder and oversees all U.S. operations, company finances and legal matters, as well as distribution and marketing. Ernesto III, who currently runs his own hedge fund, is a co-founder, a member of EPC’s Board of Directors, and consults on various aspects of the company.

In 2014 EPC released the box-pressed La Historia cigars selection, a tribute to the Perez-Carrillo family, past and present. The Churchill-sized La Historia E-III (named for Ernesto’s son), received a “classic” 95 rating and took the #2 slot in Aficionado’s Top 25 of 2014. However, the 90-rated El Senador above, which pays homage to Ernesto’s father, offers a smoke with a rich, chewy texture, and teems with flavors of espresso, cedarwood, myriad spices, and a smack of caramel on the finish.

Espinosa 20th Anniversary

Size: 6 x 46 Corona ExtraStrength: Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Rosado

Erik Espinosa‘s father Orlando was a farmer who came from the town of Vega, Cuba. He grew some tobacco, but his primary crops were fruit. Erik was also born in Cuba and came to the U.S. with his family in 1967 when he was three months old. Growing up in Florida, Erik says it was his father’s cigar smoking that got him interested in going into the business. But not right away. . .

“My dad would smoke about 10 cigars a day, mostly Cubans,” said Erik. I hated the smell of them at first. The whole house was his man cave, and I mean every room. But when I was old enough, I tried one of his cigars and loved it.”

Erik add that his father was a big influence on him, and in more ways than introducing him to cigars. Today Erik heads one of the leading small batch cigar brands in Estelí, Nicaragua: Espinosa Cigars and its factory, La Zona.

Erik began working in the cigar industry in 1997 and carved his path to success by starting in sales with companies such as Alec Bradley, Rocky Patel, and Drew Estate. He’s done just about every job there is, including owning his own cigar shop. Having built a wide network of colleagues, in 2004 he co-founded E/O Brands where cigars such as 601, Murciélago, and Mi Barrio made him an industry force. In 2011 he launched Espinosa Premium Cigars in Estelí, Nicaragua with his son Erik D. Espinosa. Erik D. started in the shipping department, and eventually became part of the company’s creative team, but his duties also included visiting brick and mortar retailers and participating in industry events. In 2017 he was promoted to Vice President and continues to wear a number of different hats.

Moreover, it was also on the insistence of his son that Erik Sr. released the Espinosa 20th Anniversary cigar. Capped with his favorite wrapper leaf, Nicaraguan Habano Rosado, the puro is rolled over a robust Nicaraguan core issuing rich, well-rounded flavors of oak, pepper, and sweet spices. Rolled to a Corona Extra vitola, it’s a magnificent tribute to a very rewarding father and son career.

Gran Habano Black Dahlia Gran Robusto

Size: 6 x 54Strength: Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Shade Grown Corojo

Hailing from several generations of tobacco farmers dating back to 1920s Colombia, in 1998 George Rico entered the business by joining his father Guillermo. It was in 2003 that the father and son team introduced the now classic Gran Habano core selections, #1 Connecticut, #3 Habano, and #5 Corojo, to critical acclaim and retail sales victory.

Although Guillermo and his son George have had a tumultuous relationship at times over the years – George and Guillermo parted ways in 2008 – that legacy continues today in Gran Habano with a strong sense of family tradition embedded into their cigars.

As for George, he eventually moved on to the small batch cigar production side of the business with his S.T.K brand. One of his finest examples of George’s blending skill is his Black Dahlia selection, which is produced at the Gran Habano factory in Honduras. Rolled in a blushing, Nicaraguan shade grown Corojo wrapper, the Gran Robusto has twin Nicaraguan binders that tether Colombia and Costa Rican fillers. The smoke is rich, creamy, and full-flavored revealing notes of roasted nuts, cedar, coffee, and spice.

Padrón Dámaso No.15

Size: 6 x 52 ToroStrength: Mellow-plus
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut seed

Most cigar smokers are familiar with Jorge Padrón and his late father José Orlando. But not many know about another family patriarch, Jorge’s great-grandfather, Dámaso. Dámaso emigrated to Cuba from the Canary Islands during the late 1880s and began farming tobacco on a rented plot in Las Obas in the province of Pinar del Rio. Eventually, Dámaso purchased his own land, and one of his 12 children, Francisco Padrón, fathered José Orlando who continued the tradition. Orlando left Cuba in 1961, and having settled in Miami, it was in 1964 that he founded Padrón Cigars. In 1970 Orlando moved the business to Estelí, Nicaragua and that’s where the success story of this talented family really begins.

Released in 2015, a tribute to Dámaso was a long time coming, but it was also quite different in several ways from the “traditional” Padrón selections. It was round, rather than box pressed, and it was rolled in an Ecuador Connecticut shade wrapper – a first for the company. This milder blend was also intended to attract new cigar smokers to Padrón which, by reputation, has generally had a full-bodied image. The Padrón Dámaso No.15 offers a creamy, medium-plus profile with a combination of earth and pepper (to start) followed by cedar, some nuttiness, floral notes, and sweet spice.

Perdomo Estate Selección Vintage Connecticut Prestigio

Size: 6½ x 54 TorpedoStrength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut Shade

The early Perdomo family saga is filled with the stuff of a good novel. Nick Perdomo Jr. is the grandson of Silvio Perdomo, who was born and raised in San Jose de las Lajas, Cuba. Silvio began working as an apprentice for Cuesta y Cia during the early 1930s, then moved on to H. Upmann, and later to Partagas. His son Nicholas Perdomo Sr. followed with an apprenticeship at Marin & Trujillo in 1948, and later joined Silvio at H. Upmann. After the 1959 Revolution, Silvio’s anti-Marxist stance got him 15 years in prison. Nicholas Sr. also joined the fight taking a bullet in his chest, but he miraculously survived. With help from the Catholic Church Nicholas finally made it to the U.S. and settled in Miami to raise his family. Many years later, in 1992, his son, Nick Perdomo Jr., went all-in and revived the Perdomo family tradition starting in his garage.

“Our family had this heritage in cigars that I wanted to continue.” said Nick in a 2019 Tobacco Business cover story, and today, Perdomo Cigars is one of the most formidable premium cigar companies in the world. Moreover, Nick’s son, Nicholas Perdomo III, is now working alongside his father as the National Director of Sales.

“I never pushed my son to be in our family’s business,” said Nick Jr. “He gained a priceless education absorbing and learning at the hip of my late father, Nick Sr. He embraced everything, and simply loves every aspect of premium cigar manufacturing.”

To that end the Perdomo Estate Selección Vintage line is a fitting tribute to the Perdomo family’s work ethic. It’s also the most accessible in terms of its medium-bodied, full-flavored profile. Built on meticulously fermented and aged tobaccos grown on Perdomo’s Nicaraguan estate farms, the Torpedo-shaped ESV Prestigio is capped in a golden Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. The smoke is dense, chewy, and teeming with well-balanced flavors of earth, leather, cedar, oak, and sweet spice.

Plasencia Alma del Fuego Candente

Size: 5 x 50 RobustoStrength: Medium-Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Jalapa

The Plasencia family history is also a rich one that begins in 1890, when Sixto Plasencia Juarez began working for his uncle Eduardo Plasencia who was growing tobacco in Cuba.

“That was my great grandfather,” said Nestor Andrés Plasencia, vice president of Plasencia Cigars and Plasencia Tobacco, in a recent Cigar Journal story. “He got his own farm in 1898. My grandfather, also named Sixto, continued the tradition and they had a good reputation of being good tobacco growers.”

Not unlike many of their tobacco industry peers, the Plasencias fell victim to the Castro regime, and in 1965 Sixto moved the family to Honduras. Nestor Andrés‘s father Nestor Plasencia Sr. was only 15. Three months later, they moved to Nicaragua. Nestor Sr. went on to study at the agricultural university and returned to work with his father in 1969. Ten years later, the Sandinistas drove them back to Honduras, where Nestor Sr. took over.

But as Nestor Andrés says, “Persistence is in our blood. I’m proud of what my grandfather and father have accomplished. It’s amazing how they survived all of this.”

Today, the fifth generation of Plasencias have moved into the position. Still inspired by their father’s precious knowledge, the three brothers, Nestor Andrés, Gustavo, and José Luis are taking the company to a whole new level of success in the retail cigar market. Already renowned as the biggest supplier of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobacco in all of Central America, the cigars they’ve been making under their Plasencia 1865 imprint such as Alma Fuerte, Alma del Campo, and Cosecha 146 have opened an entirely new chapter of success. Take the Alma del Fuego (“soul of fire“) Candente above, a puro which Nestor calls “a love letter to Ometepe,” for example. A dark Jalapa wrapper encases a blend of seven-year-aged fillers including some zesty Ometepe leaf. The result is a medium to full flavored salvo of nuts, oak, roasted coffee, and sweet spice, with a peppery finish.

Romeo y Julieta House of Romeo Toro

Size: 6 x 52Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano

Rafael Nodal, the man responsible for the #1 Cigar of 2019, the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Maestro, came to the U.S. from Cuba as a teenager during the Mariel boatlift. After his arrival, he studied music with the aspiration of becoming a composer and conductor. But things change. As an adult he found work in the psychiatric field as a hospital administrator, where he met his future wife, Dr. Alina Cordoves.

Things change again. Rafael didn’t develop his passion for cigars until he enjoyed his first with Nick Perdomo Jr. and his future business partner, Hank Bischoff, in Little Havana. In 1998 he and Hank began selling cigars online, and in 2002, Rafael, Hank, and Alina bought the Habano Cuba Cigar Co. The business eventually evolved into Boutique Blends. More years of hard work took the brand to even greater heights of popularity, and eventually Boutique Brands was acquired by Altadis USA.

More success followed. In 2017 Rafael was named Head of Product Capability for Tabacalera USA, a subsidiary of Altadis, USA. Working with such recognized talents as the Grupo de Maestros, Nestor Plasencia, and AJ Fernandez, he’s worked on cigars for H. Upmann, Montecristo, and Romeo y Julieta, to name but a few.

Rafael’s son, Rafael A. Nodal Jr., is also the current Territory Manager and In-House Specialist for Altadis USA. After graduating from Miami Dade College in 2005, he began working in sales for Oliveros Cigars, one of the brands his father and Hank sold through Habano Cuba Cigar; then later, for Boutique Blends, also in a sales and marketing role.

Among the numerous Altadis labels Rafael has helped find an even bigger audience for since he signed on has been the classic Romeo y Julieta brand. This includes the Romeo “House of” series. Exclusive to Famous Smoke Shop, it includes the Romeo Capulet, Montague, Verona, and the most recent selection, House of Romeo. With the help of the Grupo de Maestros, the cigars are made at the Flor de Copan factory in Honduras. Rolled in a dark, oily Ecuador Habano wrapper that surrounds a Connecticut seed binder and Dominican and Honduran fillers, the smoke is bold, remarkably creamy, and rife with flavors of earth, leather, sweet spices, and berry notes, with a peppery finish.