The Art of Cigar Blending with Rick Rodriguez (video)

Rick Rodriguez, head blender at CAO, took a few minutes to talk to us about the process of developing a new cigar blend. From the basics of flavor and strength to finding the right wrapper, Rick provides us with some insight into this long standing tradition.


Hi, guys. I’m Rick Rodriguez, head blender from CAO. Today, I’m going to talk to you about how I blend cigars and the process of blending a cigar.

The concept for blending a cigar is a target that is given to me by the marketing department. Once we receive that target in the factories, it’s our job to start to prepare that cigar. So how do we do that? If the target is a medium body or a full-body cigar or a mellow cigar, we know the tobaccos that we need to use. So we start that process.

Say it’s going to be a medium body cigar. We know the tobaccos are going to allow us to produce that body and so it’s now up to us to produce the flavor of that cigar. So what would do is get around and we start to sample. So we we’ll start to just play with certain tobaccos, see how they work together. Because if you look at a cigar and what we taste as just as a cigar smoker, maybe 60 to 70% of what we taste is from the wrapper.

So how do you know that? The truth, we don’t really know. But we know the importance of that wrapper because when we’re blending the cigar, sometimes we’ll take that wrapper and peel it back about a quarter or an inch, and we’ll smoke that cigar with just the binder and the blend. When it reaches that wrapper, we know there’s an explosion of flavor that comes through that cigar.

So my job and my team’s job is to produce not only the body but the flavor that matches that body. So you don’t want to ever say, “I’m going to produce a full body cigar,” and put a wrapper that’s more to blend to a mellow cigar. So that’s point number one.

So what we do is start with the wrapper and we know that wrapper. So once we know that wrapper that we’re going to use, now is what filler and what binder is going to compliment that flavor. So if you look at your wrapper and your wrapper is like a piece of steak. We all what beef tastes like, but you are never going to go to your grill and pop on that steak in your grill without doing something. What you’re going to do? You’re going to enhance that flavor of that beef and why do you do that? You’re going to add salt-and-pepper or garlic, whatever you want. That is really what my binder and filler do.

So if we know the flavor of that wrapper, we need to put together a blend that is going to enhance that flavor, not take away from that flavor. So that’s a process we go to. And so that process can take me maybe 30, 40 blends and we say this is the one. Sometimes it takes us 60 to 70 blends. Sometimes it takes us two weeks, two months. Sometimes it takes us six months to come up.

We’re never going to rush the process. What we’re trying to do is take our time and deliver a great cigar to you guys. So hopefully you understand a little bit more today than you did yesterday, and so enjoy your cigars and realize that your wrapper is very important to your cigar.

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