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CA Review Panel: CAO Bones Cigar Review (Video)
CAO’s roots go back to 1977 in Nashville. At that time, owner Cano Ozgener was an importer of Meerschaum pipes. He wasn’t thrilled with their quality, so he improved designs and sold them to pipe shops throughout the U.S. In the early 90s, Cano added humidors to his catalog, and then in 1995, his first cigar lines. His Maduros received the most acclaim, and to this day, remain the backbone of CAO’s portfolio.
Their latest Maduro – CAO Bones – gets its name from one of the most popular cigar lounge games: dominoes. Each size is named for a dominoes variant, but for CAO master blender and brand ambassador, Rick Rodriguez, Bones is about much more than a game.
“Bones is about kicking back with your friends with a cold beer in your hand, playing a game, smoking, grilling, talking a little trash, and having the time of your life,” said Rodriguez. “And that’s what CAO is about, too. It’s about being yourself, enjoying the people you’re with and not having a care in the world while you’re having your cigar. Most of us need a break right now and Bones is just the cigar for that.”
Still, the game is important, too. That’s why CAO included two regulation dice and a felt-lined lid inside each box. That means you can steal a few quarters from your buddies in a friendly game of craps no matter where you’re smoking.
CAO Bones is presented in boxes of 20 across four popular sizes. We’ll be reviewing the Blind Hughie, a large-gauge Toro. We remind you that taste is subjective, and that’s why we make it a point to keep things simple, tell you who we think it’s for, and why we never give a numeric rating. Those ratings are up to you.
For now, check out what we thought and drop us a line in the comments below!
CAO Bones Cigar Review – Blind Hughie (Toro)
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: 6” x 54 Toro
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: U.S. Connecticut Shade
Filler: Honduran Jamastran and La Entrada, Nicaraguan Estelí, Dominican Piloto Cubano
John’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: Right on the money for a CT Broadleaf Maduro – beautifully oily wrapper has a chocolate brown coloring and a bit of raised tooth. Well packed, too.
Draw: Firmly rolled, so the airflow has some resistance.
Pre-light flavor: A subtle taste of raisin, balanced by oak and tannins.
Toasting & Light: Lightly earthy, with a pinch of pepper – plus a twist of black cherry (I think) liqueur.
Base flavors: Bittersweet chocolate, coffee beans, earth and cedar.
Retrohale: A strong, almost-oaky note.
Aroma: Peppery, and a little bready.
Burn & Ash Quality: Burns remarkably straight, leaving a light grey ash with black edges.
Some artists work in oils or clay, but it’s become pretty clear that Ricky has found his preferred medium in maduro wrappers. And he’s hit the sweet spot once again, with an approachable, honest-smoking Broadleaf called Bones.
Light it and all the things you’ve been told to expect from a Connecticut Broadleaf turn up: a crack of pepper, some earthy smoke, a hint of sweetness. The pepper and earth eventually fade; by 1/3 of the way, Ricky’s blend puts some meat on the bone, adding bittersweet/baker’s chocolate, cedar, and eventually some vanilla spice toward the band. Huge rich coffee notes help it across the finish line.
Bones puts out a thick, chewy cloud of smoke, so there’s a good amount of body and strength that never gets past medium. It also versatile enough that you can pair it with just about anything – we rattled off about a half dozen drinks we could enjoy with Bones – so there’s no secret sauce or science to matching this one.
In sum, CAO Bones is a “talking cigar” (go to 31:30 in the video and you’ll see what I mean by that). We always say that cigar smoking is a whole experience, the sum of many parts: what you’re doing, where you are, who you’re with, what you’re drinking…so when it comes to what you’re smoking, I think – especially the Maduro crowd – will find that CAO Bones plugs into that spot just fine.
Jared’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: Dark like a chocolate bar. Well-constructed, no soft spots, and a solid triple cap.
Draw: Not too firm. Not too airy. Just right.
Pre-light flavor: Somewhat nutty with spices on the lighter side.
Toasting & Light: A faint coffee note with nutty overtones.
Base flavors: Roasted coffee, leather, and spice. Baking chocolates and savory toward the end.
Retrohale: Pepper and citrus.
Aroma: Nutty and sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: A tidy ash with an even, dusty mix of black and grey colors. Burns straight, even outside.
I probably had more samples of CAO Bones prior to review than any cigar beforehand. To put as fine a point on it as possible…we received a lot of them. About 10. The value in that is I was able to test the blend’s consistency across multiple sizes. And consistent they were!
The only real beef is that it’s a bit ‘garden variety’ when it comes to Maduro. But that’s a good thing if you’re a Maduro fan looking for a familiar experience. Just don’t expect fireworks or something radically different, and you’ll likely find that it’s a no-nonsense smoke with a classic vibe.
The flavors I found in Bones reminded me of roasted coffee…almost black, with big wisps of leather and spice, and a citrus note that reminded me of a less intense lemon pepper on some samples. As I passed the band, the profile transitioned to baking chocolates, if they were a little sweeter, and that complemented a savory note that made my mouth water. From the nose, there’s more pepper and even some balancing citrus I was pleased to find.
If you’re looking for an epic pairing, I chose the limited-edition Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter (it’s as great as it sounds). They’ve both got a chocolate vibe that doesn’t go overboard and the creaminess of the porter smooths over the peppers and spices, making both of their flavor profiles richer. It’s like we all agreed on in the video: the best icing on a chocolate cake…is chocolate.
So…who’s Bones for? Maduro fans for sure, but also, just about anyone. Like I said, the shoe fits, and while it doesn’t have an earth–shatteringly new experience to brag about, it does have a comfortable price and a profile that’s universally inclusive. That, along with the consistency I talked about, is just as important.
Gary’s Tasting Notes…
Construction and Overall Appearance: Excellent. The cigar is skillfully rolled, neatly packed, and devoid of any soft spots. Finished with a triple cap, the toothy wrapper has a dark chocolate brown hue throughout with an oily sheen and few protruding veins. The black BONES band is surrounded by a polished chrome border, and if you look at it under light, the image of several dominoes is revealed. The dots on the dominoes also look like they’re slightly embossed. Very nice!
Draw: Excellent. This being one of several samples I smoked, I noticed that even a shallow cut offered a fairly good draw. For the Hughie I smoked in the video, I cut it just above the shoulders, since I think more surface area at the head on this cigar is a plus for opening up the flavor pool.
Pre-light flavor: Mostly leather and salt with a hint of cedar.
Toasting & Light: The cigar lights easily with a three jet torch. The wrapper is fairly thick, so it can withstand a little more heat.
Base Flavors: Leather, salt, cedar, bittersweet chocolate, light peppery spice, ground coffee.
Retrohale: Expecting it to be a bit sharper, the retrohale had more of a light peppery effect with a hint of citrus.
Aroma: Sweet with a slight wisp of coffee.
Burn / Ash Quality: The cigar burns at a good pace – not too fast or slow. The burn is crispy and even producing thick, grey, gravity-defying ashes. I tapped them off at about an inch, but they could go much longer.
This cigar checked just about every box for me: creamy, smooth, medium-bodied with a well-balanced mix of flavors. The first several puffs weren’t far off from the prelight—leathery and salty with some bittersweet chocolate. The most dominant notes overall were salt, leather, cedar, and bittersweet chocolate, all of which run the length of the cigar. There’s also a transitory note of ground coffee that drops in occasionally.
Compared to the shorter Chicken Foot, I also found this vitola noticeably spicier, especially from the midpoint on. The Blind Hughie is very linear, in that, there were few surprises during the session, except for some bitterness in the last inch.
Suffice it to say. . . It’s the wrapper that does most of the talking here, while faithfully affirming Rick Rodriguez’s blend concept. It’s a great cigar for hangin’ out and sharing good times among friends, be it the Sunday football schedule, outdoor activities, and the like. Smooth, relaxing, and having just enough of everything to keep you contented, I can easily recommend CAO Bones to smokers at every level, especially if you love prime Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.