José Blanco is back in business.
The former vice president of Joya de Nicaragua and sales director of La Aurora has created his own company: Las Cumbres Tabaco, which already has a first blend in the works.
Las Cumbres Tabaco—literally "the summits of tobacco"—is based in the Dominican Republic. The first line will be a Dominican-made boutique cigar called Señorial by José Blanco. He's making it with Tabacalera La Palma, which is run by his cousin Jochi Blanco, the maker of the Aging Room Quattro F55 Concerto, Cigar Aficionado's No. 2 Cigar of 2013.
"I think it's time for me to do my own thing," Blanco told Cigar Aficionado. "We have been through many different periods of tobacco and taste-profiles, and even though all of us in the industry keep evolving and learning, we thrive to reach the summits of tobacco, so this is absolutely a name reflecting upon the industry as a whole."
Blanco's new job brings him back to the Dominican Republic, where he first began working in the cigar business. He joined Grupo León Jimenes—La 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 become sales director and was part of the blending process, working on such Aurora creations as Aurora 1495 and Aurora 107.
He left La Aurora in June 2011 and joined Joya de Nicaragua that August. His main project was working with Cuenca y Blanco, which later was shortened to CyB. Blanco spent two years at Joya de Nicaragua, leaving there in August. At the time he did not have a plan but promised a return to the industry.
Though an official press release said the blend for his new cigar was incomplete, Blanco told Cigar Aficionado that Señorial will have mostly Dominican guts, including a lot of Piloto Cubano, and an Ecuadoran wrapper. "It's going to be the strongest cigar I've ever made," he said.
The cigars will initially be five sizes: a 5 1/2 inch by 46 ring gauge Corona Gorda, a 5 1/4 by 52 Robusto, a 6 by 54 Toro, a 6 1/4 by 52 Figurado and a 6 by 60.
Señorial doesn't have an official release date—in fact nothing is firmly set yet, from MSRPs to the final blend—but Blanco expects the cigars out in May or June. Blanco is still in the process of deciding how they'll be distributed.
Blanco said he also hopes to create cigars with Guillermo Léon at the La Aurora factory in the future, though there are no details on that project at this time.