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CAO Blender/Ambassador Steps Down after More Than 20 Years in the Company

Rick Rodriguez, blender/ambassador with Scandinavian Tobacco Group, will step down after more than two decades with the company. 

Rodriguez joined the company  in January 2000 as a Florida sales rep.  In 2005, Rodriguez entered the company’s  cigar master training program where he learned the art of blending from titans of the handmade cigar category including Benji Menendez, Daniel Nuñez and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. 

Rodriguez in 2008 joined the blending team of La Gloria Cubana. 

For the past 13 years, Rodriguez has spearheaded blend development for Scandinavian, working  with the company’s  Nicaraguan team. The group has amassed a slew of high ratings and accolades for their releases, including the Pilón, Flathead, the Amazon Basin Series, Session, and Bones. 

When not working on blends or consulting on new products, Rick has spent countless hours on the road, spreading the gospel of his team’s blends to devoted cigar enthusiasts across the world. Whether at cigar shops or special events, he has captivated fans with his tobacco knowledge, which he often peppered with a travelogue of his adventures from the road.

In a 2017 sit-down with Cigar Snob, Rodriguez said the tutelage of Menendez shaped his career as a blender, and the time he initially spent learning was invaluable. 

“I was fresh out of being a salesman and now I’m in a car driving with Benji across the country,” Rodriguez recalled in the 2017 interview. “That was where we started to share stories about who we are, what we do. It was an honor to meet him. I never dreamed he would be such a big part of my life or that I would be a big part of his life.”

When Menendez retired in 2013, it was Rodriguez who filled his shoes as the company’s big dog of blending. Again, from the Cigar Snob interview, Rodriguez said,  “When Benji first told me that he was going to retire, my question to him was, “How much longer do I have?” So I needed to prepare myself because that day was coming. Eventually, Benji says, “You’re going to have to get out from my shadow and the way you’re going to be able to do that is to do it yourself. Now you have to put what I taught you in your own words. In your own techniques.”

Rodriguez served admirably, the company said in a statement this week.  

“Rick brought a lot to the party; he was a terrific blender with a great palate,” Régis Broersma, senior vice president of Scandinavian Tobacco Group’s North America Branded and Rest of World Division and president of General Cigar said in a statement. “The word ‘passion’ gets overused in this category yet with Rick, it fits. He loved his work. He loved being around people, sharing his passion for CAO and he loved to tell a story. While we’ll miss working with Rick, he’ll always be part of the STG family.”

Also in a statement, Rodriguez said,  “This job has been a dream come true for me and so much of it seems like fate. When I write my life story, and maybe now I will, my time in the cigar business will be a huge part of that story. Looking back, I still to this day ask, ‘why me?’ Now, as I get ready to step down, I’m able to answer my own question. Thank God it was me.”

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