C.A.O. International Inc., once a smallish company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, has been incorporated into the far larger General Cigar Co. as part of the merger between their parent companies, Scandinavian Tobacco Group and Swedish Match AB. While many things remain the same at C.A.O., several changes have taken place behind the scenes.
Cigar Insider interviewed General Cigar president Dan Carr and new C.A.O. senior brand manager Ed McKenna about what is new, and what remains unchanged.
Production of some C.A.O. brands have been moved. Previously C.A.O. operated factories in Danlí, Honduras, and Estelí, Nicaragua, in factories known as STG Danlí and STG Estelí.
The two combined to produce every non- flavored C.A.O. cigar—save for the C.A.O. Vision, which had been rolled in the Dominican Republic at Aurora S.A., the factory best known for making Aurora and Guillermo León cigars. As C.A.O. was incorporated into General Cigar and its headquarters moved to Richmond, Virginia, the Danlí operation was shut down and the cigars made there were temporarily moved to the old C.A.O. Nicaragua facility, then ultimately reassigned to General Cigar's Honduras American Tabaco S.A. factory, which is also located in Danlí. Known as HATSA, this facility is best known for producing such major brands as Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey, as well as Don Tomás and Helix.
“STG Danlí began transitioning production to STG Estelí sometime in middle of last year. Once the transaction closed in October, that production was moved back to Honduras to HATSA, and was completed by the end of 2010,” said McKenna. “All cigars that were made in Honduras are and will continue to be made in Honduras, and the same goes with Nicaragua.” McKenna said the change will “allow us to bring even greater quality and consistency to the C.A.O. cigars that are produced there.”
Carr spoke about the big picture view of incorporating such a big brand as C.A.O. into General Cigar. “C.A.O, is a wonderful complement to the portfolio,” said Carr in a wide-ranging interview slated for an upcoming issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine. “C.A.O. is a brand that has a real contemporary feel.”
For much more on C.A.O., see the May 24 Cigar Insider.