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Seed to Store with Rick Rodriguez of CAO Cigars (Video)

In our latest video Rick Rodriguez, head blender for CAO Cigars, explains to us the process of producing a cigar. Watch as he tells the story of a premium cigar’s full journey from seed to store:

And you can check out our wide selection of CAO cigars here.



Hello, I’m Rick Rodriguez, the Head Blender for CAO. Today I would love to talk to you about what goes into making your cigar. And the process that a cigar goes through before it reaches your hand.

So if you look at any tobacco, it starts with a seed. The seed is important, but not that most important component of the cigar. Because the seed is only going to give you what the plant is going to look like. So we’ll plant that seed knowing the height of that tobacco, the numbers of tobacco leaves that we’re going to be able to get from that tobacco, and also the size of that tobacco leaf. But the most important thing about any tobacco, and any seed, is where you plant that tobacco, because if you look at tobacco, it’s a weed. So we can virtually grow tobacco anywhere. But where you elect to grow the tobacco is going to dictate the flavor, and the body, that you desire from your cigars.

So the first thing we do is plant that seed. It takes about 6 to 10 weeks to fully grow that tobacco. Once that process is done, it is now the, we’re ready to harvest that tobacco. And that way is, there are two ways to harvest tobacco. The first way is priming. And what I’m meaning about priming, if you look at the tobacco plant as a row of tobacco leaves, they have about seven to eight rows of tobacco leaves. And we call these rows primings. But if you look at the tobacco plant, we’re going to cut that tobacco plant into three sections.

The first section, or the first row of priming’s going to be volado. The second three rows of tobacco, or primings, are going to be seco. And the third row of primings is going to be ligero. And so, why we do that is because those sections are going to produce different flavors and different characteristics of the tobacco.

So if you’re looking at the tobacco plant in the first priming, what we do, when that tobacco’s ready to be harvested, we’ll take, we’ll tell the pickers to pick the first priming. So they go out in the field, pick the first priming. And we’ll wait about five days to a week, and go out there and pick the second row of primings. And each priming, each row, has about three tobacco leaves. So it takes us about five to seven weeks to fully harvest that tobacco plant. And fully pick all the primings.

So once we do that, the tobacco is picked and we’re ready to ship that tobacco, freshly picked from the field, to the first fermentation of tobacco in the curing barns. That processing is called fermentation. And how we do that fermentation is a bulking. And that bulking is laying pans of tobacco down. And what we’re going to do is, with pressure, moisture, and heat, bring the temperature up, of the tobacco. And we’re naturally cooking that tobacco. So what we’re trying to achieve at that time is to be able to take some of the impurities out of that tobacco. Lower the nicotine level. And also take ammonia out of that tobacco. Ammonia is a natural byproduct  of tobacco. And we want to fully release that from the tobacco. And that takes us about six months of fermentation.

After fermentation’s done, we ship that tobacco to be aged. And we can age a wrapper from 3 years to 10 years, depending on what you want from that tobacco. If you want a mild, mellow tobacco, they’re going to age it longer and longer. If you want more body from your tobacco, you’re going to shorten that aging process.

After that, after the aging process, we’re ready to start to work with the tobacco. And that is my job, to blend that tobacco. And the blending process is unique, and hard. And everybody does it different. So my way I’ll do it is, I work with a team from marketing. The marketing team is going to give me a target. And that target is maybe a medium body cigar, a full body cigar, or a mild cigar. Once I know the target, I know the tobaccos that I want to use. So I’ll go back to the factory, and start to select the tobaccos that I want to use to produce the cigar that the marketing department wants.

And that’s the way we do it. And maybe 90% of the time we start with a wrapper. Why the wrapper? We believe the wrapper produces the most flavor from your cigar. So if you look at your wrapper, I don’t care the age of your cigar, what you’re tasting is your wrapper. And so for me, my filler is only placed there to enhance the flavor of your cigar wrapper. So after that process, after the blending process. That takes me about six months to maybe eight months. And I have a great team that I work with. And so once that’s done, we’ll turn that blend over to the area supervisors. And they can start to produce that cigar. And we’ll start to roll that cigar.

And after the rolling is done, we’re going to age that cigar for about 21 days. And that process is called marrying your tobacco. And what we’re doing is, because we have to moisten the wrapper to justify the rolling, we need to bring the moisture down. Because the fillers tend to be dryer than the wrappers. So we need to bring that humidity down. So we’re going to marry that tobacco for maybe 21 days. After that process is done, of marrying tobacco, we’re ready to ship it out. So we’re going to cello that cigar, band that cigar, and box that cigar, and it’s ready to be shipped.

So that’s some of the process that your cigar goes through to get into your hands. I just talked about five minutes, but that process, everybody needs to work together. Everybody has to be in line. And any time, from the farm, to the barn, to the processing the tobacco, to the aging, to the rolling, if anybody steps out of place, it’s going to ruin your cigar. So hopefully we do our job, everybody’s in line, and we’re going to be able to produce a great cigar for you guys.