Nashville, Tennessee 1968, Cano Aret Ozgener started his cigar business out of his garage. He sold meerschaum and briar pipes and humidors. For his company name he simply used his initials: CAO.
In 1995, the company jumped head first into the US cigar boom by first moving their cigar production facilities and by bringing Cano’s son and daughter into the fold. Nestor Plasencia rolled the first CAO cigars and they arrived in US stores by 1997. By 2005 the CAO cigar brand had exploded producing over 8 million stogies selling in 70+ countries.
Cano retired in 2007 and quickly his Brazilian and Italian tobacco started getting attention. One more than any other the Dutch group Scandinavian Tobacco (STG).
CAO master blender Rick Rodriguez recently said, “It’s important for our company to know all the characteristics of the places where it cultivates tobacco to avoid imposing systems that would go against local tradition. We are not McDonald’s: for us, it’s a question of cultural heritage, know-how and singularity,”. Rick would know too as he learned the art of blending in the Dominican Republic, working alongside Benji Menéndez for five years.
For his first blend Rick had a stroke of genius. Always in search of new tobaccos Rick stumbled across a wrapper from a plantation in San Agustin in the Honduran province of Olancho. Rick remember saying, “After trying a few samples, we realized that we could use this wrapper to make a highly fragrant, powerful cigar,” he remembers. “But first, we had to find a home for this cigar, that is to say make room for it in our factory in Nicaragua. It took two years before we were ready to start production.”
These new Nicaraguan-Honduran blend cigars were christened CAO OSA SOL, three cryptic-looking acronyms with simple explanations: formed by the initials of the founder Cano, followed by those of the famous Olancho San Agustín plantation and those of the growing method used for the wrapper leaves (Sun Grown Leaf). Next to be released were the famous Pilon cigars, named after their method of fermentation.
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