After a career with General Cigar Co. that’s spanned more than 20 years, Rick Rodriguez, blender and ambassador for the CAO brand, is retiring at the end of April. He is 62 years old.
Rodriguez joined General in January of 2000 as a sales rep when the company was still owned by Edgar M. Cullman’s Culbro Corp. Five years later, he was given the opportunity to learn the tobacco end of the business, training under industry veterans such as Benjamin Menendez, Daniel Núñez and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo.
The training brought him to Team La Gloria in 2008, the group of blenders behind General’s La Gloria Cubana brand.
When General acquired CAO in 2009, Rodriguez stepped into the role of blender and brand ambassador for all CAO lines. For the past 13 years, he’s been inextricably linked with CAO, working alongside the team in Nicaragua where CAOs are produced. His concepts for CAO have included Amazon Basin, the Arcana Series, CAO Bones and CAO Flathead, a squarely-pressed smoke that was named Cigar Aficionado’s No. 3 cigar of 2015, for the V660 Carb size.
“This job has been a dream come true for me and so much of it seems like fate. From the moment Edgar Cullman Sr. offered me the job to study under the company’s cigar masters, I knew how lucky I was,” Rodriguez said. “When I write my life story, and maybe now I will, my time in the cigar business will be a huge part of that story.”
His last day with the company will be April 29.
General Cigar Co. is owned by parent company Scandinavian Tobacco Group, which is based in Denmark.