Rick Rodriguez’s retirement has lasted ten days.  Today Rodriguez confirmed a story on his social media pages published by Cigar Aficionado that he is returning to the cigar industry. Rodriguez, the former CAO Blender and Brand Ambassador, will be teaming up with Gus Martinez, also formerly of General Cigar Company, to launch West Tampa Tobacco Company. In the upcoming weeks, the company is going to market with two blends, Black and White.

West Tampa Tobacco’s White series will consist of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and binder over all-Nicaraguan tobaccos. The Black series is the stronger of the two and consists of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder from Ometepe and fillers from Nicaragua including Condega and ligero from Estelí. Both lines will launch in three sizes: Robusto (5 x 50, $8.99), Toro (6 x 52, SRP $9.99), and Gigante (6 x 60, SRP $10.99). Both will be presented in 20-count boxes. Production comes from the Garmendia Cigar Co. Factory in Nicaragua. Both cigars are expected to be showcased the 2022 Premium Cigar Association Trade Show.

Rodriguez joined General Cigar in January 2000 as a sales representative in Florida. In 2005, he was selected by the late Edgar Cullman, Sr., to participate in a rigorous cigar master training program under the tutelage of Benji Menendez, Daniel Nuñez, and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. After years of studying, most notably with Benji Menendez from 2005-2008, Rick went to join the blending team of La Gloria Cubana in 2008 when Ernesto Perez-Carrillo left General Cigar to start his own company. With Scandinavian Tobacco Group’s (STG) acquisition of CAO in 2009, Rick would move over to become the blender and ambassador of CAO where he was since 2010.

In March, it was announced Rodriguez was retiring from STG, and worked right up until the end of April.

Martinez worked in marketing at STG and will now serve as West Tampa Tobacco Company’s President.