We, at least all the cool kids, were excited when Rick Rodriguez stepped out on his own with West Tampa Tobacco. Rick worked at General/CAO/STG for over 20 years, helping to blend some well-known and very popular cigars, such as the Flathead and the Amazon Bason, which made quite a splash with its re-release.
West Tampa Tobacco came out of the gate strong with the West Tampa Black and West Tampa White, both great cigars. With the release of the third and latest cigar, the “Attic,” he begins a series of releases under the “Attic Series” label, inviting us to share his and his family’s journey in tobacco.
Rick is one of the folks whose cigar lineage skipped a generation. His grandparents, both master cigar rollers, came to West Tampa, Florida, from Cuba in 1953 and continued to practice their craft. His father pursued other passions, as did Rick, until he was given the opportunity to get into the cigar business. Rick’s journey through the industry was one that most people could only dream of.
He was lucky enough to study under and work alongside some of the cigar greats, most notably Benji Menendez, who was one of, if not the last of the pre-Castro era Cubans working in the cigar industry until his retirement from General Cigar Company at the end of 2013. He also worked with Ernest P Carrillo at General until his departure to create his brand, EPC. After Ernest left, Rick stepped up and filled his enormous shoes.
During the twenty-two years, he spent at CAO/General, quite a bit of that time was spent on the road as the brand ambassador. I have had the opportunity to chat with him several times, and he is one of the most humble, knowledgeable, and fun people to be around. With his mastery of tobacco and charisma, Rick Rodriguez and West Tampa Cigars is one brand you should watch.
SIZE: 6″ x 54
FACTORY: Gramendia Cigar Company, Estelí, Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Mexican San Andreas
BINDER: Nicaraguan Condega
FILLER: Condega Viso, Estelí Viso, and Estelí Ligero
STRENGTH: Medium-full – Full
West Tampa Tobacco Co.
Smoke shack on the river.
44° outside, 68° inside
HOW MANY CIGARS SMOKED:
RELEASE TYPE Limited
ORIGINALLY RELEASE DATE December 2022
Typical Box Size: Boxes of 14
Production Totals: 2000 total boxes
o Toro (6″ x 54)
The very elegant and simple band is almost a dark grey or putty blue in color with gold trim on top and bottom of it. Attic Series is also embossed in gold with Attic in smaller white type below it. The West Tampa Tobacco logo is placed where the band overlaps and is glued, adding a nice touch.
There is also a gigantic foot band. Close to an inch and a half in height, and this is where the action is. Trimmed and printed in gold as the upper band, but the main image of the band is a chavetta, a tool used by cigar rollers to cut and trim wrapper leaves framed in a molted beige background. A QR code on the back of the label will take you directly to a video of Rick Rodriguez describing his vision for the Attic Series.
A Mexican San Andres wrapper puts a showroom finish on what I hope to be another treat from Mr. Rodriguez. All of the cigars smoked for this review were found to be expertly crafted. I could find no real construction issues. Each cigar was firm to the touch and had a wonderful toothiness to the wrapper. The firmness left me curious about how they would draw.
The wrapper aroma was straightforward; light barnyard with a bit of mustiness.
I found a decent draw on all but one of the three cigars smoked. One was a bit stiff in the draw, with light notes of barnyard, pepper, and letters of coffee.
LIGHT & DRAW
Cut: Straight Cut
Fire: Three-Burner Vertigo
The first draws produce mouthfuls of rich, creamy smoke with straight black pepper on the retro-hale.
A steady whisp of smoke comes from the cigar while it is at rest in the ashtray, but upon the first hint of taking a puff, we are back to the generous amounts of creamy and flavorful smoke.
>> Pepper, Coffee, Herbaceous
The draw throughout the first third stayed pretty consistent in all of the cigars. One was a bit tighter than the other two, but while noticeable, it was not tight enough to distract from the smoking experience. The ash is a beautiful grey and is compact and departed the cigar on cue at the end of the 1st third on its own accord. I get lots of pepper, coffee, and zesty herbaceousness. There are also slight hints of caramel and leather building through this third. Adding complexity to the experience. The pepper remained on the retrohale, with some floral notes appearing towards the end of the third.
>>Leather, Coffee, Caramel
Well, hello there; the transition was smooth and almost took me by surprise. Not that there was a dramatic shift, but the flavors are progressing so smoothly that it could be easily missed if you were smoking and chatting with friends or just not focused on the cigar. Notes of Leather are front and center, with coffee and caramel coming through. The Leather lingers onto the retrohale adding to the pepper from the first third, producing a very smooth retrohale experience. The zesty herbaceous note from the first third has mellowed into just a hint of dried lemon peel. A small amount of woodiness in the form of cedar and charred wood adds deep complexity to the smoking experience. The burn continues to be even. The ash has a lovely color with excellent compactness to it.
>> Coffee, Leather, Cedar
Again, the Attic made a smooth, even transition into the final third. The coffee and leather stayed constant, with the coffee taking the driver’s seat. Leather remained one of the primary flavors, with cedar moving more into the forefront. Caramel shifted into a supporting role with charred wood and dried lemon peel. Baking spice and coffee were present on the retrohale, although in moderate amounts, to continue a smooth retrohale experience. The ash remained as it had in all the other thirds, compact and a great shade of grey, showing good, even combustion of the tobacco.
RATING & FINAL THOUGHTS
The thirds of this cigar transitioned subtly throughout the course of each. The flavor profiles were all complementary and transformed smoothly into each other from the beginning to the end of the cigar. This is a showcase of Ricky Rodriguez’s blending abilities.
The construction of each of the three cigars smoked for this review was excellent. I found one that was rolled firmer and thus was a bit tighter of a draw. And they had an uneven roll of some of the heads. The burn line was crisp and well-defined. There was never a need for a touch-up or re-light.
0.70 / 0.80 … Craft & Aesthetic
0.45 / 0.50 … Pre-Light Characteristics
0.50 / 0.50 … Lighting Process
7.60 / 7.70 … Smoking Experience
0.40 / 0.50 … Personal Enjoyment
COMPLIMENTS & CRITIQUES
THIS COULD BE THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP.
Almost all of us have partaken of something Rick Rodriguez has been part of in the past. His long and storied tenure in the industry has exposed him to some remarkable individuals and probably every tobacco produced for premium cigars.
The West Tampa White and Black cigars, the first two he produced on his own through West Tampa Tobacco, were good solid cigars. The Attic is a giant leap forward for Rick and West Tampa. It showcases all he has learned and is a masterpiece in flavor transition and complexity.
With the “Attic” series, Rick has told us he is taking us on a journey. His and his family’s journey. I, for one, can not wait to take the trip with him.