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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 5)

A: Even the new players are making something unique. They're trying to get a different shape, a different wrapper. They are making things that are not common. Unless you're a big company, there's no way that on a Cameroon wrapper or a Connecticut wrapper, you're going to make it. There has to be a story, there has to be romance behind it. A lot of store owners say they want new things, but from old companies.

Q: So what are we going through right now? A boom? A mini-boom?

A: I don't even want to mention the word "boom," to jinx it. I think consumers are appreciating the good cigars that are coming out in the industry. And I do have to give credit to a lot of retailers. There are a lot of retailers out there who are doing great jobs.

Q: What does a cigar company today have to do that's different from five or six years ago? What do you do now that wasn't part of the business before?

A: Before, you could have anybody go out and take orders for cigars. During the boom days, there were order takers. Today, there are people going out there to sell.

Q: Let's talk about this cigar that we're smoking now, the 1495. You said this is your baby.

A: I took a very old Sumatra Ecuador wrapper we had for a project that didn't go through. Because of the yield on Corojo, we had a lot of wrapper we couldn't use. So I took an Ecuador wrapper, put a Corojo binder on it, and put different leaves, and on the third blend we got it right away. A lot of people said it's one of the best cigars we have done, and it was a big hit at the [Retail Tobacco Dealers of America] show. People didn't even ask price.

Q: It hasn't always been like that for La Aurora.

A: Never. Not even for 100 Años. It really went through the roof after the rating. [The 100 Años Belicoso was rated 93 by Cigar Aficionado in 2004 and was named the magazine's No. 2 cigar of the year.] But this one, I think it has a lot to do with the wrapper, and a lot of people are starting to enjoy Peruvian ligero.

Q: The Peruvian is stuff you bought when you were short of tobacco?

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