Notable Sisters of the Leaf

Historically, tobacco growing, and cigar crafting has been a male dominated industry. But it is a well-known fact that women have also played an important role in the cigar industry. Whether it is in the fields picking leaves, in the curing and fermentation barns, or in the factories sorting leaves and rolling cigars, women have worked alongside men. In fact, when it comes to sorting wrapper leaves by color, women are known to have a keener eye than men. Overtime, women have moved up the tobacco/cigar corporate ladder into positions that were once held by men. 

At Neptune Cigars, we recognize the important role women have played in the cigar industry. While countless of women have made an impact in the business and will continue to do so for years to come, we have compiled a short list of some of the more notable sisters of the leaf. 

Lissette Perez-Carrillo, Co-Founder of E.P. Carrillo Cigar Company  – As a fourth-generation cigar impresario, Lissette has tobacco flowing through her veins. She and her brother grew up around tobacco fields and cigar factories. While working on her undergraduate degree, Lissette worked in her father’s cigar factory. After graduation, Lissette pursued a law degree and eventually became an attorney for a prominent law firm. However, after a few years, Lissette teamed up with her brother, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo III and their famous father Ernesto Perez-Carrillo II and founded the E.P. Carrillo Cigar Company in 2009. Since its inception, the company has appeared in Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars of the Year several times, and it has won Cigar of the Year on two occasions: the E.P. Carrillo Encore Majestic in 2018, and the E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel in 2020. As a co-founder, Lissette wears many hats. She is in charge of the company’s U.S. operations, cigar distribution, and manages the company’s finances, marketing, and deals with any legal issues. Recently, she started blending and soon hopes to release her first cigar.
Desiree Sylver, Founder of Drunk Chicken Cigars – On a trip to Florida, Desiree stopped by a cigar shop/factory. She asked if they could make cigars based on her preferences, which they did. Soon after she started handing them out to her friends. The cigars were well received, and this inspired Desiree to start a line of boutique cigars. In 2019 she launched her own brand and dubbed it Drunk Chicken Cigars. While the cigar industry is no stranger to uniquely named brands, Drunk Chicken stood out like a fox in a hen house. The brand and its cigars are named after the free-range chickens that roam her backyard. The cigar’s bands and boxes are adorned with illustrations of her actual chickens like the Fat Hen and the Mother Clucker. Her cigars have been well-received throughout the country. Drunk Chicken Cigars is a minority, woman-owned boutique cigar company. According to Desiree, “Drunk Chicken cigars are anytime of the day cigars so you are sure to find something you will enjoy. And smoke them to the nub.” 

Maya Selva, Founder of Maya Selva Cigars – Maya grew up in Honduras. During her high school years, she lived in France. She stayed in France while she pursued a degree in engineering. After graduation, Maya returned to Honduras where she became interested in tobacco and cigars. In the early 1990s, she met Nestor Plasencia and under his tutelage, Maya learned about tobacco growing and cigar making. In 1995, she launched her first cigar brand, the Flor de Selva, in France. The cigars became a hit throughout Europe. Next, she launched Cumpay and Villa Zamorano. Eventually, Maya’s cigars landed in the United States, where they have become a staple with cigar aficionados who are looking for a flavorful boutique cigar that captures the essence of Honduran as well as Nicaraguan tobacco. 
Karen Berger, Owner of Don Kiki Cigars and K by Karen Berger Cigars - As the widow of cigar legend Henry “Kiki” Berger, who founded Don Kiki Cigars and Cuban Crafters, Karen has carried on his brand and legacy. She met and married Henry shortly after he established his cigar factory in Nicaragua. Under his guidance, Karen learned about the cigar business from seed-to-ash. At one point, due to illness, Henry required a kidney transplant. Karen’s kidneys were a match and without hesitation she donated one of them to her loving husband. Unfortunately, Henry passed away a few years later. With a strong spirit and determined to continue her husband’s legacy, Karen took over the enterprise and even launched her own cigar brand, the K by Karen Berger in 2016. 

While it is commonly assumed that the cigar world is male-oriented, woman have always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the men in the industry. Overtime, these women have risen to key positions in the industry and have established their own brands, cigar factories and tobacco farms. Lissette Perez-Carrillo, Desiree Sylver, Maya Selva, and Karen Berger are just some of the sisters of the leaf who have made a big impact in the cigar industry. 

Published on February 22, 2023

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04/27/2023byNickolas DIt's so amazing how these women was able to follow their dreams and establish a good name for their selves and become such great icons in the cigar world.