Visiting Humidor Artist Jose Ernesto Aguilera

11 Dec

Another highlight experience of my last trip to Havana was to visit this great artist and human being, a humble man full of passion and dedication and an extraordinary friend.

Jose Ernesto Aguilera Reina.

I have known him for the last five years and followed his ascent into the zenith of the best humidor craftsmen and artists since my friend Jimmy Ng commissioned the famous award winning Mr Punch humidor from him.

His working space was ( and still is ) incredible.

A small “hole in the basement” of a socialist housing project in the outskirts of Havana. Impossibly low ceilings and almost no ventilation. A maze of small rooms that can only be entered crouching like in the tunnels of a mine. This has been his working space for the last 12 years.

There, he and his team of dedicated artisans, among them an art/design professor, manufacture some of the most incredible pieces of art that will be auctioned at the Festival gala dinner by Simon Chase and be applauded by the elite of international merchants and collectors.

His art pieces are breathtaking and unique – here’s a selection from the gala dinner auctions :

This time I was specially happy to visit him and share his exuberant happiness at having achieved the feat of renting an empty state warehouse across the street from the government and after a thorough renovation convert it into a magnificent workshop for an enlarged team of collaborators as well as having installed a show-room cum cigar lounge for his customers and friends.

And, no small feat in Cuba, having an own website.

He was happy to share all this with me and my German friends from Hamburg. Manfred had asked me to arrange a visit and I was happy to meet the man again, as well as Pablo, his manager and Jose Ernesto’s rightly proud father.

Quite an accomplishment and most well deserved for this humble and hard-working young man.

He was suffering from a persistent cold and wearing a mask to prevent us from getting infected – a nice gesture, but we all were suffering from the same predicament, the Havana cold.

We started the tour in the old basement, nothing for people suffering from claustrophobia – it was crouching and kneeling to see the work spaces of the most qualified craftsmen, working on all kinds of materials to create the masterpieces.

Like the Edmundo Dantes humidor with an ax stuck in the centre.

Or the “Terminator” humidor he is working on for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Amazing pieces.

Talking about California – Jose Ernesto was still “shell shocked” by his first trip outside of Cuba. He had been invited to visit Los Angeles and San Francisco and overwhelmed by what he saw and the hospitality he received there.

We then crossed the street to his new quarters, all beautifully renovated and lovingly arranged, airy, spacious and full of light.

One of his main problems is procuring wood to work with. He showed us a room full of discarded old wood that he collects from crumbling old houses and that he uses for his projects.

One of his projects is to re-create the Bacardi building as a humidor-cum-bar and the animation we saw on his computer screen was amazing in detail.

Another project is a desk humidor that was being created in the background.

We received great heartfelt hospitality from this genuinely humidor obsessed genius and I was particularly touched when he presented me with a small humidor box and had it dedicated and signed for me.

He also insisted I sign my name of the “honour” wall that he keeps in his new location, an honour that blushed me.

To see such a well-deserving person like Jose Ernesto achieve the success and credit he so rightly deserves after all these years of hard work and to share his joy at all this while remaining so humble and earth grounded is what really makes coming back to Cuba so valuable to me.

Muchas gracias y mucha suerte, te lo mereces, hermano !!





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