After 20 years with General Cigars & CAO it was announced in March 2022 that Rick Rodriguez would be retiring. Beginning in 2000, Rick Rodriguez would start his career as a sales representative learning from Benji Menendez and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. In 2008 he joined Team La Gloria, the blenders behind La Gloria Cubana. When General Cigar bought CAO in 2009 he would become their blender and brand ambassador.
Only 10 days after his official retirement from General Cigars/CAO, Rick Rodriguez along with Gus Martinez would announce West Tampa Tobacco Company. A mere couple of months later, the company released its first two lines, Black & White.
According to the West Tampa Tobacco website, “The seed for West Tampa Tobacco Company was planted in 1953, when Rick Rodriguez’s grandparents, both highly respected master cigar rollers, heeded the call of the U.S. They left behind the glamour of Havana for U.S. shores, seeking to capitalize on the booming cigar business of West Tampa, Florida. The Rodriguez’s made the U.S. their home and worked hard to provide for their family, never giving up on their craft, even when times were tough. Their love of tobacco skipped a generation, gathering momentum when it was awakened in their beloved grandson Rick. Growing up in West Tampa, in the shadow of the once-bustling cigar factories, taught Rick the value of hard work and instilled in him grit and determination.”
The company is based in West Tampa, Florida while the cigars are made at Garmendia Cigar Company in Esteli, Nicaragua.
Cigar Review: West Tampa Tobacco Company Black
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano Dark
Binder: Ometepe Habano (Nicaragua)
Fillers: Condega Viso, Esteli Ligero (Nicaragua)
Ring Gauge: 50
The Look: As you would expect the West Tampa Tobacco Company Black comes in black boxes of 20 cigars in two rows of 10. The band has colors of graphite, white and gold. The evenly colored dark Habano wrapper for the review cigar has minimal veins but that isn’t alway the case. In the hand the cigar has a nice weight with a slightly porous foot. Using my HumidiMeter the cigar for review shows a humidity reading of 64%.
The Notes: The cold draw serves up a nice sweetness with brown sugar with elements of pome fruits. The aroma off the foot of the cigar is musty with touches of earth and damp cedar. Once the cigar is toasted and lit the cigar comes alive. Rich chocolate notes envelop the palate with nuances of brown sugar, caramel and mild coffee. The retrohale adds some nutmeg and black pepper while the finish is moderate in length but growing.
The second third sees notes of coffee intensify with a touch of earth. The aroma of the cigar is where things get interesting as it produces quite a bit. There are elements of oak, dark chocolate and a touch of damp cedar that lingers a bit longer than the rest. The retrohale is surprisingly smooth with notes of milk chocolate, nutmeg with the black pepper element being non-existent. The finish of the cigar is fairly long and adds to the feel of overall strength.
The last third sees some of the sweetness return with hints of pome fruits and caramel. The coffer component remains but it takes on more of a backseat where it is joined by damp cedar. The retrohale is smooth with some sweetness leather and the return of black pepper. The finish is long, but very enjoyable.
The Finish: The West Tampa Tobacco Company Black has a feel of a cigar that has been around for a while. This isn’t a bad thing, and it as a feel of a brand that will be around for a long time if they do the right thing by the brick & mortar retailer. It has a classic flavor profile and a sense of familiarity to it. It’s comfortable like a broken in pair of shoes. It’s something I see reaching for again and keeping on hand when I don’t want to overly think about my cigar.
Price: $9.19 / $161.99