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A Conversation with José Blanco

The gregarious sales director for La Aurora speaks about the cigar industry.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Vegas, Mar/Apr 2006

(continued from page 2)

A: I was very passionate about it. I had my two cents always to say. When they made me the offer, it was [the chance] to get paid for something I really like a lot.

Q: Not many cigar companies were doing great in 1999. Cigar sales weren't so great, right?

A: We were down eight million cigars.

Q: Now this was before 100 Años, of course. Was this before Preferidos?

A: Right when Preferidos was coming out.

Q: Tell me about the early days in the cigar business. It must have been quite a challenge, going from the beer segment where your company has 90-plus percent of the market, to going to the cigar segment where you had….

A: Nothing. Even though I had been smoking cigars for many years, it was basically Dominicans and, on and off, Cubans. But it wasn't until I really went out, saw the stores, and a lot of store owners that were real nice to me gave me cigars to smoke, that I really started to appreciate tobacco, especially from Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador. I started to catch up. And one of the things that I said was, in our factory, we were very accustomed to smoking only Connecticut, Cameroon and everything that was Dominican. There was a big horizon in the tobacco world. I'm a great believer of blending. I don't care how good a cigar is, if it's good and it's one-dimensional, to me it's just a good, boring smoke. I like cigars that are complex and change a lot.

Q: So you're talking about blending a variety of countries?

A: That's right. Just take 1495. We have a Sumatra Ecuador wrapper, a Corojo [Dominican] binder, Corojo ligero, Nicaragua, piloto Cubano and Peruvian ligero. We're working with six types of leaves.

Q: So before you started, Aurora worked with Dominican, Cameroon and Connecticut.

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