José Blanco, the outspoken director of sales for Aurora S.A., is leaving the Dominican cigar company after nearly three decades working with the organization or its former parent company. Blanco, 61, is retiring from Aurora, effective today.
joined Grupo León Jimenes, Aurora's former parent company, in 1981. He
began as a salesman, working on the company's best-known brands,
Presidente beer and Marlboro cigarettes. A longtime member of Aurora's
test-smoking panel, in 1999 he moved full-time to Aurora as its sales
director. He has not only been heavily involved with the company's marketing efforts, but he has
been part of the blending process, working on such Aurora 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.
Last month, Guillermo León, purchased La Aurora from E. León Jimenes. In a statement, León called Blanco a big part of the company's success and wished him well in the future.
Blanco, a huge fan of the New York Yankees, made mention of his age, saying: "The number 61 has always had a special meaning to me. In 1961, Roger Marris hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth's single-season record. As a young boy and Yankee fan, that was huge. 1961 also marked the end of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic and allowed me and my family to return to Santiago. Now that I am 61, it seemed to be a natural time to make a transition."
Blanco is scheduled to lead a blending seminar at next month's International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show in Las Vegas, and he said he would still do that event. He also said he would be at the Aurora and Miami Cigar booths during the trade show. He intends to take a long vacation beginning next week.
"After that, who knows?" said Blanco, "but tobacco and cigars are in my blood."