Rick Rodriguez, head blender for CAO Cigars, took a few minutes to talk to us about his start in the cigar industry.
My name is Rick Rodriguez. I’m the Head Blender for CAO. I took over the factory about four years ago. I was a blender for La Gloria and then when we merged with CAO, the opportunity for me to take over that factory came about. It was an honor for me to start to work with a company that was so well known, had some great blends. So my job today is not only to create new cigars for the company, but also maintain the great cigars that CAO launched throughout the years.
And so my story is unique, because I was just in the right place at the right time and had some passion for what I was doing and the owner, Cano Ozegener, about 10 years ago approached me and offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. And what he did was simply said, “We need to prepare for the future and we need to start to train somebody to become a cigar blender and we want you to be that guy.” So when that was offered to me, that was a shock to me, because I was only a rep for about four years. My history for cigars goes back to my grandparents. They were master rollers from Cuba, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be able to blend a cigar.
So that journey, like I said, started about 10 years ago. And I trained in the factories, did DR for about six months and I left the DR and I trained in the factory in Honduras for six months. But my real training came about when I picked up a cigar master by the name of Benji Menendez. And I rolled with Benji and I learned from Benji for about five years. And so that five years of working with Benji, he really taught me the art of blending tobaccos together. Because what the factories did for me is show me the process to get that cigar into your hands, but Benji was really the guy that taught me the art of blending cigars and all that.
So, like I said, I took over the factory about four years ago and I introduced already three lines. The OSA, the Concert, and my newest blend for CAO was a Flathead. So every cigar, if you look at those cigars, very unique in body, in taste, because I think what my main job is is to give you guys cigars that you haven’t smoked yet. I don’t want to just re-blend the same tobaccos and give you guys the same flavors or the same bodies. So I think if you look at the OSA and the creamy mellowness that cigar brings. And you look at the Concert and the Concert’s a little bit more body, little bit of a spicy cigar. And if you look at the Flathead it’s the combination of all the tobaccos working together, which was just very much a wonder for us.
So I would love to talk to you guys about any questions you have about making cigars or helping you understand what happens to your cigars after you take them home. So any questions you have, I would love to answer.