Rick Rodriguez’s absence from the cigar industry won’t be a long one, if really one at all, as he has announced the launch of West Tampa Tobacco Co., which will reportedly have its first cigars on store shelves in the coming weeks.

Making the announcement via Cigar Aficionado, Rodriguez said that the company will launch with two cigars called Black and White, which are expected out by the end of May or early June. The White uses an Ecuadorian habano wrapper with a Nicaraguan binder and filler, while the Black also uses an Ecuadorian habano wrapper but from a higher priming to give it a darker color and stronger flavor. Underneath that is a Nicaraguan binder from the volcanic island of Ometepe, while the fillers come from Nicaragua’s Condega and Estelí regions.

Both cigars are made at the Garmendia Cigar Co. factory in Estelí and will be offered in three sizes:

  • West Tampa Tobacco Co. Black/White Robusto (5 x 50) — $8.99 (Box of 20, $179.80)
  • West Tampa Tobacco Co. Black/White Toro (6 x 52) — $9.99 (Box of 20, $199.80)
  • West Tampa Tobacco Co. Black/White Gigante (6 x 60) — $10.99 (Box of 20, $219.80)

Rodriguez is best known for his time with General Cigar Co., where he was best known for his roles of blender and ambassador for the CAO brand. He left the company at the end of April, and has partnered with a fellow former employee of General Cigar Co., Gus Martinez, who will serve as the new company’s president.

Rodriguez has not returned messages from halfwheel about his return to the industry, and a call to the company’s headquarters went unanswered and has thus far been unreturned.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.