Jose Blanco is a fourth generation disciple of the tobacco industry following in the footsteps that his great grandfather planted back in the nineteenth century. Since the original seed was sown, the Blanco family pioneered the success of Dominican cigars with their production of high-grade, premium tobacco. With the inception of his new company, Las Cumbres Tabaco, Blanco sets out to produce full-flavored, complex cigars that will help rejuvenate the lust for Dominican tobacco that seems to have dissipated in the wake of Nicaragua’s recent boom.
Blanco fell in love with cigars when he worked alongside his grandfather and father on the family farms when he was a budding youngster. He was schooled in tobacco by his kinfolk when he was just sixteen years old and has used his knowledge to blend some of the industry’s best cigars.
“I basically grew to become a Master Blender through my life with my grandfather, father and my uncle (founder of Tabacalera Palma, 1936),” explained Blanco.
Blanco began his career working for the Empreza Leon Jimenes (former owners of La Aurora) where he was a member of Jimenes’ smoking panel for the duration of his 30 year career. He was the Sales Director and Master Blender for La Aurora before he left in 2011 destined for retirement. That was until Joya de Nicaragua (JDN) offered him a position as the company’s Senior Vice President, where he remained for two years.
“I chose to make it a two-year contract because of my plan to make my brand,” said Blanco. “I wanted to experience Nicaragua and work hands-on with their tobaccos but I knew I would go back to my Dominican roots for my own cigar.”
Jose Blanco is a brilliant Master Blender with a lifetime of experience blending and producing top-quality, premium cigars. It seems that everything he blends turns to gold and his newest masterpiece, Señorial, is no different.
“It’s an amazing cigar. If it’s not my best blend ever, it is in my very top two because of the full flavors above the strength and from the smooth balance from quality aging,” stated Blanco.
The Señorial is a rich and complex cigar that packs more flavor than strength and it encompasses plenty of rich family history from seed to shelf. The name “Señorial” is a humble derivative of the English word “lordly” and was named by Blanco’s wife Emma as a tribute to him and his many years of experience in the industry. The Dominican Piloto Cubano and Dominican Corojo tobaccos used as the fillers are grown on the farm of Jose’s cousin, Jochi Blanco, and the cigars are rolled at Jochi’s factory, Tabacalera Palma in Tamboril, Santiago.
When it came to branding, Emma wanted the cigar to be all about art and culture, so she designed the logo and ring based on those two concepts. The logo, which is also used on the band, is of an old Dominican street from the Colonial zone (Santo Domingo) on the Dominican Republic and was painted by Emma’s step-mother.
“The band is like a framed painting with a classical feel, which also symbolizes my years of experience,” Blanco explained.
“Art-character-tradition-experience-family – a true romance of tobacco,” Blanco celebrated.
Blending a cigar can be a painstaking process, but that didn’t stop Blanco from setting his sights high and delivering what is arguably going to become the #1 cigar of the year for 2014. It took Jose Blanco just over 30 test blends and seven months of tireless determination before settling on the final recipe. He entered the process with a few essentials in mind but it was his experiences as a Master Blender that navigated the progression.
“My experience over the years has taught me how to choose the tobaccos and the tobaccos I chose for the filler were clear to me since, from the beginning, it would be all Dominican and Tabacalera Palma’s well-aged tobaccos,” said Blanco.
The six demands that Blanco required of the Señorial were: Top-quality, well-aged tobaccos, complexity and surprise throughout the smoke, complex flavors, strength but not a power bomb, balance, and a good, long finish that leaves the smoker wanting more.
The wrapper, like many of Blanco’s blends, is Habano Ecuador – a true compliment to the rich and complex flavors of the filler-blend. The binder is a top-quality leaf from the Estelí region of Nicaragua to add a hint of the country’s rich earth, plus it will also ensure an exceptional burn. The rollers of the Señorial are also selected carefully to ensure that all ring gauges receive the correct bunching in order for the flavors to be released appropriately and to maintain flawless construction on a consistent basis. After production, each cigar gets 90 full days of aging.
The final product resulted in personally hand-picked tobaccos of high quality and aging that is destined to mark Las Cumbres Tabaco as one of the premier companies in the industry.
“People should smoke Señorial to feel true complexity balanced up in a full-bodied cigar, but they also have to understand that the flavors are above the strength,” explained Blanco. “It is a cigar for which you can sit and ponder about the flavors and feelings and tingling on your palate.”
The company name, Las Cumbres Tabaco, which means “the summits of tobacco,” stems from a storied fairy tale written in the stars. It traces back to the name of the first home address of Jose and Emma’s son, Jasper, who was born in Managua, Nicaragua. Their address was Las Cumbres de las Colinas.
“This is very meaningful to me after all my years in tobacco – experience, blending, national and international business – I now feel like I am reaching my own summits of blending and I chose to do so with Señorial and all my future blends with Las Cumbres Tabaco,” Blanco revealed.
Ironically, Blanco’s current address is called “Los Altos,” which also means “the heights, the summits”. And, the family will be moving to Santiago this summer to an address named, “Los Cerros”, which is yet another synonym for “the summits.”
“It seems like this was the right name to pick, but it all started with, ‘let’s make it the name of Jasper’s first address’,” said Blanco.
Blanco’s professional goal is clear and concise.
“My goal is simply to be a premium cigar company recognized internationally,” announced Blanco. “I will keep blending with complexity, sometimes full-bodied and sometimes medium-bodied, but always full of flavor with complexity and balance to keep my blends interesting.”
Blanco already has some surprises up his sleeve. He is working on a “secret” project that will be released later this year, but he wants to keep it under wraps for now. He did reveal, however, that he will be releasing the Señorial in the Lancero vitola but possibly in limited quantities. Moreover, he plans to release a figurado as well.
“Señorial is what I have been passionate for my entire adult life all summed up in this one blend. It is a full experience with character in every sense of the word.”