Best Handmade Cigars - 2006
El Crédito Cigar Company
The smoky-sweet scent of tobacco permeates the air at the El Crédito Cigar Factory. It's an aroma that Ernesto Perez-Carillo Jr. has breathed all of his life. As a young boy in Cuba, he toured his father's tobacco farms. The family's factory was among the island's finest. But the clan moved the business to Miami after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution and now the business Perez-Carillo Sr. began on the island in 1948 continues under the strong, capable leadership of his son. To honor his father's memory, Ernesto has outfitted the factory with mahogany humidors, rolling tables, and cabinets in the old Havana style. "Times have changed, but we try to keep the atmosphere that my father had in his factory," Perez-Carillo Jr. says. This little place on Calle Ocho has earned an international reputation. The four brands that the factory turns out -- La Gloria Cubana, La Hoja Selecta, El Rico Habano, and Dos Gonzales -- each has a distinctive flavor and shape. Employees are encouraged to experiment with the tobacco, to marry complex essences and aromas from Ecuador, North America, and the Dominican Republic in order to create a unique blend. La Gloria Cubana cigars are considered among the nation's best, ranging in price from $1.15 for the panetelas to $2.65 for the fat, pyramid-shape piramides. Cigar aficionados including Robert Goulet, Bill Cosby, and (ahem) Bill Clinton have visited the factory to watch the proud Cuban workers sing traditional songs while twisting stogies fit for royalty. Whether you're a tobacco addict, a curious newbie, or a connoisseur, you can stop by the adjacent retail outlet to buy a cigar, or call to schedule a tour and watch expert roleros from the motherland practice a longstanding island art form.