It’s the 2018 Cigar Journal Cigar Trophies: Read as we reveal to you – and give our take on – the winners for “Best Brand,” “Best Cigar,” “Best Value” and more, along with a few reasons why each cigar earned its trophy.
CA Review Panel: CAO Signature Series Cigar Review (Video)
Dressed in a dual ring, the CAO Signature Series cigars are a more full-flavored step up from CAO’s popular CAO Gold cigars selection. They even share one of the same bands, but the blends are miles apart.
While the Gold Series has been a long time recommendation for new smokers, the Signature Series is sort of a follow-up cigar. It takes that rich-tasting CAO flavor to another level offering bigger, smoother flavors in a medium-bodied, full-flavored smoke that will satisfy both new and veteran cigar smokers.
The blend consists of tobaccos from every major tobacco-growing nation, starting with a core of Nicaraguan, Dominican, and Honduran long fillers. The binder is a naturally sweet, Connecticut Broadleaf, and the wrapper is an attractive, glossy Sumatra-seed leaf grown in Ecuador.
In addition to its zestier flavor profile, the CAO Signature Series also delivers on balance, quality, and best of all – affordability – as it’s exclusive to Famous Smoke Shop.
CAO Signature Series Robusto
Country of Origin/Factory: Nicaragua
Size: 4½” x 50
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Honduras
Binder: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf
John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: A rustic looking Sumatra…bumpy, slightly toothy and oily with a reddish-brown color.
Draw: Nice and open.
Pre-light flavor: Tannins, oak and black cherry.
Toasting & Light: That Broadleaf binder takes a while to get started…
First Few Puffs: Char and dark coffee quickly give way to leather and grains.
Base flavors: Salt, wood, dried fruit and a roasty-toasty sensation.
Retrohale: Mellow, but has a tinge of pepper and wood.
Aroma: Woody and slightly sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: Spot-on burn with white ash.
Balance of flavors: Somewhat muted – so they’re not BIG flavors, but they are in balance with each other.
Summary: The CAO Signature may remind you of the CAO Gold, based on the band – but this cigar is a step in a much different direction.
Though it burns like a champ, there’s not a lot of smoke coming off the CAO Signature as it rests – give it a puff and it returns a thick rip of creamy smoke that offers a snap of dried fruit, before a bit of bite comes across your tongue. By the time the Signature Series band comes off, the flavors get straightforward: musty, floral, wood – but a spicy boost, which you notice by the development of a little prickly heat on your tongue as it finishes. If you were at a Mexican restaurant, this would be the medium salsa.
By the end, some of the pre-light’s tannin sensations come back, but the dominant flavor is wood, like oak barrels – so we’ve come full circle. Drop it with an inch to go, as it put itself out.
This CAO Signature is what I call a “red wine cigar” – that mouth-drying sensation makes this great with a glass of red. A bone-dry wine like Tempranillo or Montepulciano (my preferences) would be overkill; so if you choose to match this cigar with a red, I’d suggest something with tasting notes of ripe fruits, vanilla, floral, herbs or slight spice on that fancy little label. I should do more “research” to know for sure…
In all, the CAO Signature keeps it interesting for what we’ll call a “petite robusto” (actually, Rothschild) – I will say, step up to the next size up, the 5 ¾ x 54, and this blend really jives. Remember: red wine, medium salsa bite. With the nice even burn, this ends up as a good performer for the money – a CAO for every day.
Gary Korb’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: Seamlessly rolled with no soft spots. Wrapper is dark brick in color with a slight glossiness and an attractive vein pattern.
Draw (airflow): Excellent.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): Graham cracker and leather.
First few puffs: Sweet and woody.
Base flavors: Earth, cedar, nuts, sweet spice.
Retrohale: Light pepper, cedar and a wine-like tannin.
Aroma: Sweet and earthy.
Burn / Ash Quality: Burn is mostly even with a thin carbon line. Ash is more flaky than firm and mostly grey in color.
Balance of flavors: Very good.
Summary: This Robusto (actually a “Rothschild” by its dimensions), starts-off with a sweet, nutty flavor. The smoke is smooth, balanced, and mellow to medium in body. The most dominant flavors are earth, cedar, nuts, nutmeg, some sweet tobacco – most likely from the broadleaf binder – and a faint note of tannin.
The cigar offers copious amounts of smoke, and moving into the midsection the sweetness is nudged out of the way by a sharper, woodier flavor. Yet, in the last act, the flavors round-out again to a bolder, earthier, dark cedar character. I would definitely recommend this cigar for newbs ready to move up from mellower cigars, and veteran smokers looking for a well-made, rich-tasting value.
This cigar goes great in the morning with coffee, and I think this cigar would pair well with a good Port or bourbon later in the day for those who want to add a little more sweetness to the mix.
Fred Lunt’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: The body feels like it could be made of bricks – solid and perfect. The wrapper is a reddish-brown mahogany color, toothy and very oily.
Pre-light flavor: Slightly salty upfront, crackers, earth, and a light fruity sweetness.
Toasting & Light: A little tough.
Initial notes: Very toasty, lightly spicy, hints of saltines, tobacco, and cream dominate.
Base flavors: Orange zest, cedar, fruit, leather, cream.
Retrohale: Lightly peppery and woody with a pleasant, crisp aftertaste. Got the hang of this smoke now.
Aroma: Sweet cedar and earth.
Burn / Ash Quality: The burn line is nice and thin, though slightly wavy. The ash is a grey/white and builds solidly in marbled stacks.
Balance of flavors: Leans toward toasty, fruity and tangy flavors; a solid body but not strong.
Summary: A lot of cigar smokers cut their teeth on CAO Gold for years with their creamy blends of super-smooth tobaccos. This new Signature Series represents the next ‘step-up’ for those same smokers. Though the blend is a diverse one, there’s a lot to look forward to in the Signature Series with a creamy, toasty, and woody start. Early on I picked up a distinct saltine-cracker note that leaves the mouth with a dry sensation.
About an inch in is where things get interesting; the main notes are very toasty, with a building fruity sweetness and a healthy dollop of orange zest tang. Notes of cedar and leather continue to chime in as well. Over time a zesty-sweetness and creaminess take over followed by notes of cedar, coffee, and leather with a zippy tang on the finish. From here to the finish line this CAO clung to these notes and finished with that same zesty tang.
Final thoughts: Very well constructed and well balanced, the medium body makes for an accessible smoke to any experience level. Pair with a red sangria or rye Manhattan.
Tommy Zman’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: On the slightly rough and toothy side.
Draw: Smooth with lots of smoke.
Pre-light flavor: Earthy.
First Few Puffs: Earthy,woody.
Base flavors: Earth, cedar, sweet dark fruit.
Aroma: Sweet woody aroma.
Burn & Ash Quality: Nice burn and solid long ash.
Balance of flavors: Pretty straight forward.
Summary: This is an interesting new cigar by the boys at CAO for a few reasons. While they make well-known beefy offerings like the Flathead, Amazon Basin and Brazilia, they obviously went for a different approach here. This one is basically a step up in oomph and flavor from the CAO Gold line, and a nice move forward for those who generally go mellow but want to experience more flavor.
I think this one is a pretty straight-forward smoke, not really a complex stick, even though the blend features a nice little complex blend of tobaccos. But there are some distinct flavors in the profile that carry you from start to finish. There’s a slight earthiness at the start which goes into some strong notes of cedar and a pronounced smack of dark fruit, like a nice black cherry that hits your palate and stays there. The burn was excellent, and the samples I smoked had a long white ash. And the aroma is quite woody and very pleasant.
OK, so is this the next Padron 1926? No, no it’s really not. But it is a cigar with nice consistent flavor that comes in at around $5 a stick, and that alone is good reason to keep these on hand in the humidor.