Two months after announcing his departure as a blender and ambassador at CAO in March 2022, Rick Rodriguez announced he would be starting a new cigar brand named West Tampa Tobacco Co. In addition to his co-owner role, Rodriguez has taken the master blender position in the new company, while Gus Martinez, another former employee of General Cigar Co., was named as West Tampa Tobacco Co.’s president.

The company launched in June 2022 with two regular production blends named simply Black and White, both of which were offered in the same three sizes: a 5 x 50 robusto, a 6 x 52 toro and a 6 x 60 gigante. Six months later, West Tampa Tobacco Co. released its first limited edition named Attic Series in a singular 6 x 54 vitola.

Earlier this year, the company announced its third regular production line named Red. Available in the same three vitolas as the White and Black lines, the Red is blended with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper covering a binder from the Condega region of Nicaragua, while the filler tobaccos are grown in the Condega and Estelí regions.

“West Tampa Red gave me the opportunity to sit down with the factory and really focus on creating a blend that I enjoy,” said Rodriguez in a press release. “Normally when I blend cigars, I don’t blend for what I like, I blend cigars for what my fans enjoy. Red will be a reflection of what I believe is the next piece to lay in the West Tampa puzzle, a full-bodied cigar that delivers the full flavor consumers have come to enjoy from West Tampa.”

Currently, the West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red line includes three different vitolas:

  • West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red Robusto (5 x 50)
  • West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red Toro (6 x 52)
  • West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red Gigante (6 x 60)

As with the rest of the company’s cigars, the Red line is being produced at Garmendia Cigars Co. in Estelí, Nicaragua, and boxes started shipping to retailers in May.

  • Cigar Reviewed: West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red Toro
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Garmendia Cigars Co.
  • Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Binder: Nicaragua (Condega)
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Condega & Estelí)
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro Extra
  • MSRP: $9.99 (Box of 20, $199.80)
  • Release Date: May 2023
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Covered in a rustic-looking, dark brown wrapper, the West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red is an attractive cigar, albeit not an unusual one from a visual perspective. The aforementioned wrapper is covered in fairly overt veins and is sandpaper rough to the touch, and while there is some oil present, it is not a substantial amount by any means. In addition, I find large soft spots on two of the cigars after physical inspections: one is halfway between the band and the foot on the back of the cigar, while the other is just under the band on the front of the cigar. After taking the cigars out of the cellophane, two of the cigars feature aromas of earth, generic nuts, barnyard, woodiness, cocoa nibs and light grass. However, the wrapper on my final cigar featured a strong aroma of what I can only describe as a combination of perfume and cinnamon, along with less obvious earthiness, charred wood, hay, barnyard and light milk chocolate sweetness. The foot of that final cigar does feature some of that same perfume and cinnamon combination—albeit not nearly as strong—but all three cigars include notes of almonds, tobacco leaves, toasted bread, coffee beans and sweet, dark fruit. Finally, after a straight cut, the cold draws on all three cigars bring much more standard flavors of dank earth, leather tack, dry straw, anise, sweet cinnamon and powdery cocoa nibs.

The feet of the West Tampa Tobacco Co. Reds light up easily, and after they get going, I pick up some espresso bitterness combined with black pepper and light spice on my tongue. As the burn line progresses, a combination of charred oak and dark chocolate takes over the top spots in the profile, followed by secondary flavors of creamy leather, wet hay, coffee beans, sourdough bread, cinnamon and a very light salted nuttiness that comes and goes. The retrohale is fairly light so far, with mild black pepper and some floral sweetness, neither of which don’t seem to be gaining any steam as the first third burns down. Flavor and strength both end the first third at a solid medium, while the body lags a bit behind at a point just under medium. When it comes to construction, the burn, draw and smoke production give me no issues for all three cigars.

There are very few changes to the profiles of the cigars during the second thirds. The combination of dark chocolate and charred oak remains at the top of the profile, easily beating out secondary flavors of coffee beans, sourdough bread, cinnamon, hay, salted peanuts and leather. There is not much difference in the retrohale either, as the amount of black pepper and floral sweetness has not increased at all. Flavor remains at a solid medium, but both the body and strength have increased noticeably to land at a bit above medium and medium-plus, respectively. Construction-wise, the draws and smoke production continue to give me no problems at all, and while one cigar does need a burn correction, it is minor in nature.

Unfortunately, the final third of the Red is like a broken record in many ways: charred oak and dark chocolate continue as the main flavor combination until the end of the cigars, edging out additional notes of leather, earth, anise, coffee beans and toasted bread. There is a slight increase in the amount of black pepper on the retrohale along with a decrease in the floral sweetness, the latter of which almost disappears by the time the cigar ends. The one major change between the second third and the final third is the strength, which increases enough to make it to a point just under the full mark before hitting a plateau. In addition, the flavor increases slightly to land at just over medium while the body increase to medium-plus. Finally, the construction gets back to its excellent path, and I once again have no issues at all with the draws, smoke production or burns on any of the three cigars before I put the nubs down with about an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • While the West Tampa Tobacco Co. name and logo are displayed prominently on the band of this cigar, the word “Red” is nowhere to be found. However, the background colors for each of the company’s main lines so far have matched their respective names: so the White line features a band with a white background, the Black line has a black background, and the Red line features a reddish—although it is really more of a maroon color, if I am being honest— background color. Having said that, the boxes that the West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red cigars have been packaged in are definitively red.
  • Speaking of the bands, they are extremely hard to remove without damaging them in some way, something to be aware of if you are someone who keeps the bands of the cigars you smoke. I ended up ripping the bands on my first two cigars just to get them off, although it should be noted that none of the wrappers were hurt in any way by the action. I had to carefully use a knife to cut the band off of my last cigar in order to get a final third smoking photograph.
  • Interestingly, the West Tampa Tobacco Co. website lists the same tobacco being used for the wrappers, binders and fillers on both the Red line and the company’s Attic Series. However, while the company confirmed that the same Mexican San Andrés wrapper is being used on both lines, the binder and filler blends are different varietals.
  • During the 2023 PCA Convention & Trade Show, Rodriguez told halfwheel that he is planning on releasing a new limited edition line called Boliche Blvd. in August. The 6 x 60 cigar is named after Columbus Drive in the city of Tampa—otherwise known as Boliche Boulevard—which has become well-known due to the many restaurants along it that serve the signature Cuban pot roast dish.
  • The combination of perfume and cinnamon aromas on the wrapper of my final cigar almost made it smell flavored. Thankfully, there was no sign of the combination in the actual smoking profile. I am unsure exactly what caused it on that one cigar: it was stored with the other two cigars I smoked for this review in my humidor, which does not—and never has—included any flavored cigars stored inside of it.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three cigars averaged one hour and 40 minutes.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red cigars, site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop and LM Cigars all have them for sale on their respective websites.
88 Overall Score

After reviewing the company's Black line last year, I was looking forward to seeing what the West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red Toro had in store for me. What I found was a bold blend that featured flashes of nuance but with main flavors of charred oak and dark chocolate that were just not engaging enough to ever push the profile past the “mildly interesting” level. Having said that, the construction on all three cigars was just short of perfect, including a burn line that rarely wavered and never had to be corrected. While I liked the Black a bit more than the Red, both are easily enjoyable enough to try for yourself to see which hits your palate better.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.