CAO was once the bastion of boutique, small batch cigar companies. Their small Nashville-based operation produced some amazing early blends that helped begin the boutique cigar craze. When they were purchased by cigar conglomerate General Cigar in the 2000s, many fans feared that the massive company would ruin the brand by mass producing it and taking away its charm and its quality. As 2018 begins, the cigar industry has changed drastically, yet CAO has remained a quality, creative-driven company. Much of this is due to Ricky Rodriguez being at the helm, and returning CAO to its early greatness.
The story of Ricky is a strange one. He gained entry to the cigar industry by being friends with Dave Bullock, who he met in a Lamaze class. When Dave was named VP of Sales for General Cigar, he recruited Ricky as a territory manager for Florida. After several years as a leading salesmen and manager, Ricky was hand-picked by General Cigar owner Edgar Cullman, Sr. to be a blender for his company. Right then he began a long and arduous training process that included a 6-month stint in the Dominican Republic followed by another 6 months in Honduras, learning all he can about the cigar process.
14 years later after learning from some of the finest blenders in the world, including the man behind Partagas, the legendary Benji Menendez, Ricky has made CAO one of General Cigars’ most popular lines. He was responsible for the Amazon trilogy, which has become a massive fan favorite. The first edition, the Amazon Basin sold out almost instantly.
Ricky has the knowledge, personality and passion that made CAO an industry leader in its early days. It is this passion that has made Ricky and CAO into one of the cigar business’s finest pairings.