Cigar Ratings & Reviews

CA Review Panel: CAO Signature Series Cigar Review (Video)

The CAO Signature Series Back Story

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
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Honduras
Binder: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf


cao signature robusto cigar review bin

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.

cao signature series cigar review robusto 5 pk
Not overly complex, but the CAO Signature is versatile – making it easy to enjoy with just about any drink. Click to see more.

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.

cao signature robusto display
CAO Signature Series cigars: “solid body, but not strong” – and copius amounts of smoke once you get underway. Click to see more.

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.
Draw: Perfect.
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.

cao signature series cigar review robusto box
The Signature has a diverse blend, that smokes with a “bolder, earthier, dark cedar character.” Everybody tasted a hint of sweetness, too. Click for more.

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.

Cigar Advisor Staff

Cigar Advisor Staff

The Cigar Advisor Staff is comprised of three good-humored, yet dangerously unpredictable writers who share over 75 years of premium cigar smoking experience. Traversing the tobacco landscape like smoke-shrouded Avengers, they wander (mostly because the fat one ate the map) in search of new leaf adventures armed with nothing but torch lighters and runcible spoons as their weapons. Each is equally knowledgeable on the matters and pursuits of the cigar lifestyle, with his own unique and capricious insights on various luxury, sports, automobiles and entertainment affairs - all served with good counsel for your reading pleasure.

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