Cigar Makers

Master Blenders: Pedro Ventura and Elmer Suarez of the Grupo de Maestros

CA Master Blenders Video Podcast: Pedro Ventura and Elmer Suarez of the Grupo de Maestros

Who Are the Grupo de Maestros?

Are they a new Latin Jazz band, a political think tank, an accident case law firm? Far from it. They are five of the world’s most talented premium cigar blenders. Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo, Henry Clay, H. Upmann, Vega Fina, and Trinidad are among many of the historic cigar brands they’ve literally had a hand in creating. Translated from Spanish, grupo de maestros means “teachers group.” Masters sounds better, and that’s what they are—masters of their craft.

Flor de Copan cigar tobacco growing in Honduras
Tobacco growing in Honduras.

Working for Imperial Tobacco Group’s Tabacalera USA division, the present Grupo consists of Javier Elmúdesi, Pedro Ventura, Néstor Rodríguez, Elmer Suárez, and Joel Alvarenga. Each of the Maestros draws from their respective backgrounds, preferences, and special areas of expertise. All combined, the Grupo de Maestros have 151 years of tobacco experience between them and I recently had the opportunity to speak with two of them.

master blenders interview elmer suarez grupo de maestros
Elmer Suarez, of the Grupo de Maestros.

Pedro Ventura, with 24 years experience is the Product Development Manager and Production Manager for Tabacalera de Garcia in La Romana, the Dominican Republic. Elmer Suarez, with 35 years experience, is the Tobacco Manager at the La Flor de Copán Cigar Factory in Honduras.

selecting cigar tobacco at Flor de Copan cigar factory in Honduras
Inside Flor de Copan factory in Honduras.

Acing The Taste Test

These days, most of the Maestros’ projects are done with Rafael Nodal, Head of Product Capability for Tabacalera USA. (He may possibly be the virtual sixth Maestro). When it comes to assessing their work, the Maestros put their blends through a full-scale, in-depth tasting process which, depending on the project can range from 12 to 20 different blends. And that’s before it gets to the final phase – blind taste tests by a separate panel before the cigars are rolled and set aside for aging. It’s an exhaustive process, but one that often pays off in high rating scores.

altadis maestro cigars in boxes

During this interview you’ll hear more about Pedro and Elmer’s background in tobacco, how long it takes to create a given blend, what role the cigar brand’s history plays in creating the flavor profile, the five key blend tasting parameters, how their tasting notes compare to what reviewers say about their cigars, and more, in this unseen glimpse that takes you into their creative process.

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