After a two-year relationship with Joya de Nicaragua, the company today announced that José Blanco is stepping down as senior vice president. However, Blanco, a true tobacco man who has worked in the industry for a little more than three decades, says he plans to return to the industry he loves in due time.
"I am definitely planning on getting back in the industry," said Blanco via email. "... I have no exact plans yet; I like to keep my mind open and not close any doors. But the nearest thing coming up [pertaining to cigars] is a trip in the next couple of weeks, a cigar-related trip, some seminars, but all on a personal level and not in relation with any company. Like I said my mind is open and plans are not clear, not even to myself, yet. But one plan is sure—that is to stay in the industry!"
Blanco joined Joya de Nicaragua, which is based in Estelí, Nicaragua, in June of 2011. He is best known for collaborating with chairman and CEO Alejandro Martinez Cuenca to create the CyB cigar brand. CyB, rolled at the Joya de Nicaragua factory from a blend of Nicaraguan, Peruvian, Dominican and Ecuadoran tobaccos, debuted with the name Cuenca y Blanco but, due to potential trademark conflicts, was shortened. Cigar Insider conducted a vertical brand tasting of the CyB brand (then called Cuenca y Blanco) in the September 25, 2012 issue. Two of the five cigars scored 90 points, and the brand scored an average of 88.8 points.
"We are very grateful for Jose's company over the past two years," said Martinez Cuenca in a press release. "It's been another big learning experience for all of us at Joya, as much as we hope it was for him, and we thank him for his contributions and for helping spread the love for Nicaraguan cigars, especially during his tireless trips in the United States. We wish him and his family the best in their future endeavors."
Before joining Joya de Nicaragua, Blanco enjoyed a long career with Dominican-based E. León Jimenes (formerly Grupo León Jimenes), the one-time parent company of La Aurora S.A., which was purchased by Guillermo León in May of 2011, shortly before Blanco left.
Blanco joined Jimenes in 1981 as a salesman, working on the company's best-known brands, Presidente beer and Marlboro cigarettes. In 1999, after being a longtime member of Aurora's test-smoking panel, he was promoted to be the brand's sales director. He was not only heavily involved with the company's marketing efforts, but was also a part of the blending process, working on such creations as Aurora 1495 and Aurora 107.
Blanco has smoked cigars nearly his entire life. "My father grew tobacco," he told Cigar Aficionado during an interview in 2006. "I had my first cigar at 15, but really I started to smoke at 16. And rarely did I ever smoke cigarettes, as it was always cigars." His cousin, Jochi, is a tobacco grower in the Dominican Republic.
The 63-year-old Blanco, who said he is not bound by a non-compete clause of any kind, moved back from Nicaragua to La Romana, Dominican Republic in March of this year with his wife and newborn son. Throughout his time with Joya de Nicaragua, Blanco said he often traveled between the two cigar countries for cigar events, seminars and other business-related reasons.