2017 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to CAO Cigars

2017 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to CAO Cigars

Cigar Advisor’s Essential CAO Cigars Tasting & Buying Guide

By the Cigar Advisor Editors

Since the pivotal days of the 1990s Cigar Boom, when they were a burgeoning, family-owned, “boutique” cigar company, the CAO Cigars brand has grown exponentially, and today they’re among the bestselling mainstream cigars in the premium hand rolled market. This week, you’ll get an up-close and personal look at the CAO brand as we spotlight 17 of their most popular blends. If you haven’t smoked at least one CAO cigar by now, this Tasting Guide will get you there.

CAO Cigars is named for Cano Aret Ozgener. A longtime cigar and pipe enthusiast, he broke into the premium tobacco business by modifying pipe stems for some local tobacconist friends. Cano started making and selling his own pipes in 1980; some cigar blends would follow, but it wasn’t until the Cigar Boom – and rave reviews for his first Maduros – that CAO Cigars became a household name.

The CAO cigar lineup expanded rapidly: CAO Gold, Gold Maduro and Cameroon were added to what is now called the Classic Series, and working with Perdomo, Toraño and La Aurora offered Ozgener the chance to create CAO cigars using more exotic tobaccos – these were the early World blends, and what paved the way for what would eventually be called New Age. In 2007, CAO Cigars was acquired by General Cigar.

CAO cigars are now produced under the watchful eye of Rick Rodriguez…he’s taken the brand’s innovative spirit to heart, crafting recipes that speak not just to the taste buds but to what moves the passionate cigar enthusiast: Amazon Basin and Fuma Em Corda for those who like to explore rare and hard-to-find tobaccos; Flathead and Steel Horse for the hobbyists (cars and cigars go great together), and blends like Pilon as a nod to tradition.

For this CAO Guide, the Advisors have sampled eighteen (18) regular production CAO cigars; we left out the CAO Flavours to focus on the straight-up traditional premium smokes in their portfolio (save those for another day). The cigars are grouped by Series (World, New Age, Classic) below, and we’ve taste-tested one cigar size to give you a basic first impression of the flavors and feel of each CAO.

Remember: taste is subjective. Our experiences are unique based on the size cigar we reviewed, the time of day, what we drank, etc. We suggest you take our tasting notes as a rough sketch to describe the cigar; and if it sounds like something that appeals to you, try it for yourself and compare. If you’ve already smoked one (or all) of these CAO cigars, tell us about your experience and the flavors you found in a comment at the end of the post.

 

CAO Cigars World Series

CAO Amazon Basin Fuma Em Corda Cigar Review

By John Pullo

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Fuma Em Corda (6 x 58/Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Honduras
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil [Braganca & Arapiraca (Fuma Em Corda)] Binder: Cameroon

cao cigars guide amazon basin review fuma em cordaConstruction and Overall Appearance: Tooth and veins are very evident; wrapper is dark brown, slightly oily – and overall, pretty firm and hefty in the hand.
Draw: Nice – even in this bigger RG size.
Pre-light flavor: Heavy fermented smell off the foot. Also chocolatey, and almost a touch mesquite-ish.
Toasting & Light: Slow burner, took a lot of firepower to get this Fuma Em Corda lit. Campfire elements at the start.
Base flavors: Red pepper, clay-like earth and a mineral quality. Leather comes and goes.
Retrohale: More sweetness, plus pepper
Aroma: A mix of floral and spiced – thick and nutty, very appealing.
Burn / Ash Quality: Deep grey ash that’s a little shaggy; easy to roll off in the ashtray. Burn line is a tad crazy, but no touch ups.
Balance of flavors: Medium-to-full body, but I didn’t find every flavor to be particularly deep. Many of them were more nuanced than in yer face.

cao cigars guide fuma em corda

John burns the Fuma Em Corda: “Earth and mineral flavors are laced with a sweet note that picks up at halfway and lingers, along with some spicy pinpricks on the tongue.”

Summary: What makes this Amazon Basin one of the more special CAO cigars is how the Arapiraca tobacco is fermented. The Fuma Em Corda process is unique to Brazilian farmers, who bind and ferment the leaf as tightly wound “ropes.” The band is another twist of tobacco, and looks like it’s strangling the cigar…but surprisingly, even with the indentations in the barrel of the Amazon Basin, the draw is nice and breezy. Only hitch is that this is a seriously big ring Toro, so those who don’t smoke big cigars may find this size tough to get your mouth around.

cao cigars guide cao amazon basin fuma em corda review

The band looks tight, but it’s not affecting the draw of the cigar at all.

Onward: ginormous rips of thick, glorious smoke from this cigar. It’s actually chewy. You have to work it though, or the Fuma Em Corda will go out. Earth and mineral flavors are laced with a sweet note that picks up at halfway and lingers, along with some spicy pinpricks on the tongue. Those taper off, making way for a thinner sweetness, like a very light maple syrup (but the real stuff). THAT eventually gives way to more leather, earth, and back to mineral taste with a touch of white tea on the finish. A neat tangy sensation, too – not fruity, but more so in the mineral sense. Adds a charred steak taste, and keeps playing those flavors as I smoke through the band.

Something different. And different is good. Nice that these newer CAO cigars are still exhibiting that creative streak. If you like experimenting with new cigars, or you’re really into Brazilian tobaccos – I’d say try it before you can’t get it anymore.

 

CAO Brazilia Cigar Review

By Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Gol! (5 x 56)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Brazilian Arapiraca Maduro
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua

CAO cigars guide cao brazilia cigar reviewDraw: Smooth
Pre-Light: Earthy
First Few Puffs: Strong coffee bean
Aroma: Char-y
Burn/Ash Quality: Solid grey
Balance of Flavors: Straight forward

cao cigars cao brazilia review

Tommy burns the Brazilia. Nice tight ash on this one…

Summary: The Brazilia has been a longtime favorite of cigar fans who like ‘em full, strong and tasty. The first thing you’ll note is that gorgeous, dark and oily Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper leaf that just begs you to cut, light and smoke it. The taste and the scent is very rich and earthy and the flavors are nice and toasty with a hint of black pepper with some wonderful natural sweetness from the outer leaf. I don’t think this cigar is very complex by any means, but there is a ton of consistent flavor from start to finish and sometimes that’s all a lover of da leaf really needs. Such a solid smoke.

 

CAO Italia Cigar Review

By Gary Korb

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Ciao (5 x 56)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Honduran Habano
Filler: Nicaragua, Peru, Italy
Binder: Honduran Habano

CAO cigars guide cao italia cigar reviewCAIConstruction and Overall Appearance: Excellent. The Honduran wrapper has a shimmery Colorado patina. Well-packed with no soft spots and a faultless, triple-seam cap. Also, despite its wide ring gauge, the cigar felt comfortable.
Draw: Excellent.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): Sweet and nutty.
First few puffs: Sweet with lots of herbal and spice notes.
Base flavors: Earth, molasses, spice, charred wood.
Aroma: Very floral.
Burn/Ash Quality: No burn issues, whatsoever. Ash was dark grey with black stippling and firm.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
Observations:

  • First Third: Lots of smooth, chewy smoke with notes of molasses, various spices, and some herbal elements with a redolent aroma. The smoke ramps up to full-bodied with mostly sweet-spicy flavors.
  • Second Third: A continuation of the first third as a hint of fired-cured, hickory-like flavor entered the mix.
  • Final Third: Smoke was at full-bore in strength with mostly dark, earthy notes, charred wood and a hint of molasses remained on the finish.
CAO cigars CAO Italia Review Ciao

One of the earliest CAO cigars to join the World lineup, the Italia has been a full-bodied stunner since Day 1. Features Cuban-seed tobaccos cultivated in Italy.

Summary: CAO has earned a reputation for using additional tobaccos from countries outside of Central America. In this case, the Italian long-filler in this blend comes from seeds that were brought from Cuba over 50 years ago and have adapted well to the soil in the southern Benevento region of Italy. Released in 2004, one of the things that first drew me to this cigar was its aroma. It’s become one of my regular go-to’s, and the flavors are still just as delectable. Due to its full-bodied strength I can’t recommend this blend to new cigar smokers, but for those who love earthy, complex cigars, the CAO Ciao is a champ. For pairing, I suggest a long-aged single malt Scotch, a fine dark Rum, or a sweeter Bourbon. Best after a full meal, too.

 

CAO Colombia Cigar Review

By Fred Lunt

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Tinto (5 x 50/Robusto)
Strength:  Medium
Wrapper: Honduran Hybrid (Jamastran)
Filler: Colombian Ica Mazinga, Brazilian Mata Fina
Binder: Cameroon

CAO cigars guide cao colombia cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Perfectly constructed, solid feel. The hybrid wrapper has a nice oily sheen, but appears very veiny.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre-light flavor: Dried fruit, toast, pepper, leather.
Toasting & Light:  Very sweet and toasty off the bat; a little vanilla sweetness and a dry woody sensation takes over after a few puffs.
Base flavors: Cedar, citrus, toast, bread, chocolate.
Retrohale: Toasty with salt, like a pretzel.
Aroma: A sweet cedar and earthy aroma on the nose.
Burn / Ash Quality: Perfect burn and a snowy-white ash.

Summary: I’ve been a longtime fan of CAO’s World Line, but this – with its exotic Ica Mazinga tobaccos from Colombia – was one I just never picked up, so this gave me a chance to really dive into this cigar. The cold draw brought notes of dried fruit, toast, pepper, and leather, a good indicator to the toasting notes which were very sweet and toasty with a little vanilla and a dry woody sensation.

An early retrohale brought on a mostly cedar flavor base while a slight sweetness and tanginess lingered, with white pepper for an aftertaste. At 1” in, things got interesting: a fruity sweetness and tang comes on, similar to lemon zest, and cedar is dominating with a slight earthiness. The second third rolls along with a distinct bready note and is underscored by a vague sweetness I can’t quite describe, more lemon zest and a nice touch of white pepper to bring the body up to speed.

cao cigars cao colombia

The Ica Mazinga tobacco seems to lend a salty taste to the CAO Colombia, especially when you get this far down.

Moving in the last third and the retrohale had me hooked, incredibly toasty and salty – reminding me of a soft-pretzel. This last third seems more balanced, the sweetness is now more chocolatey – it’s also the main flavor. Bread and lemon zest are backing things up and the aftertaste is slightly peppery; a nice little spice peeks up for a pleasant surprise. Overall a nice smoke, and accessible to a smoker with any given amount of experience.

 

CAO America Cigar Review

By John Pullo

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Potomac (5 x 56/Robusto)
Strength: Full (Medium+, actually)
Wrapper: Broadleaf over CT Shade
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Italy, USA
Binder: Brazil

CAO cigars guide cao america cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Nice lines on the wrapper pinstriping, with the slightly-veined Maduro taking prominence. Has a regal look – a solid stick. Heavy, too. There’s a separation on the layer of the leaf (like a skin) or a heavy dollop of roller’s glue on the barrel, for whatever reason.
Draw: Met with much resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Faint chocolate, earth with muted pepper.
Toasting & Light: Salty undertones to an otherwise peppery start, plus a base of leather.
Base flavors: Coffee, leather, pepper, salt, wood, sweet.
Retrohale: Pepper and leather.
Aroma: Rich, nutty and toasty all at once – a light muted pepper here, too.
Burn / Ash Quality: Burns true. Has a nearly-white ash that’s tight but for a few cracks, but holds well.
Balance of flavors: Medium plus in body, strength and flavor intensity.

Summary: Barberpole is an impressive thing to witness. Pinstriping like this on the America is even nicer. Bonus points for CAO Cigars here, because the layered dual wrappers didn’t cause any burn issues at all. Some say otherwise, but this is NOT a gimmick smoke.

cao cigars guide cao america review

Nice pinstriping, nice burn. John says, “A slow, rich burn with nicely aged flavors that are really subtle in their transitions.” There’s that beauty mark we talked about.

Even with a tight draw, the America offered decent rips of smoke – and some good production while at rest. The smoke is thinner, a little peppery and less creamy…and leather smacks me like an old saddlebag across the chops.

Those initial flavors lead to coffee and weathered firewood; leather and pepper are still in the mix. Sweetness and earth eventually force their way back in the form of a taste that reminds me of caramelized brown sugar. It’s a dark, warm and sticky sweetness that hangs on until the end.

The CAO America is not full bodied – more like medium plus. But bottom line is that the Potomac is a slow, rich burn with nicely aged flavors that are really subtle in their transitions. Meant to be savored with an adult beverage, I think.

 

CAO OSA Sol Cigar Review

By John Pullo

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Lot 54 (6 x 54/Toro)
Strength:  Medium – leans mild
Wrapper: Honduras OSA (Olancho San Agustin) Corojo
Filler: Nicaragua/Honduras
Binder:  Connecticut Broadleaf

CAO cigars guide CAO OSA Sol cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Mine had a striated Rosado wrapper. Look is a bit rustic, though rugged may be a better term – has a firm, leathery feel.
Draw: Tight.
Pre-light flavor: Herbal and floral; very green and fresh in its earthiness.
Toasting & Light: Fruit, like pear – plus a grassy, “fresh” flavor.
Base flavors: Green wood (think sapling) along with clean sweetness, green tea, green pepper and something that’s flinty.
Retrohale: Fern, with a bit of spice.
Aroma: Sweet n’ mellow – and either macadamia or pine nuts.
Burn / Ash Quality: Mostly grey and stacked ash; burn line was pretty rough and ragged throughout, but didn’t need to “coerce” it with my torch.
Balance of flavors: Comparing flavors vs body, it’s pretty even for medium body.

cao cigars guide cao osa sol review

The OSA Sol has a very “green” set of flavors; that’s “fresh” as opposed to “young,” or underfermented. A very unique smoke.

Summary: OSA Sol is one of the most intriguing CAO cigars I’ve smoked. It starts with uncommon tasting notes, and an almost exotic and a zesty-fresh set of flavors. Things escalate quickly: leather and black pepper come on in a hurry, the green pepper turns to ginger, and the green wood transitions to hickory.

Halfway through, the OSA Sol gets nutty with a light roasted flavor that is occasionally laced with a tangy citrus note – my mouth waters the same way when I cut a grapefruit (I often get this sensation from better sun-grown wrappers). Then, the pepper is out and I get a flashback of the thinner, greener tastes. By greener, I mean fresh. Wet. Juicy. Retrohale adds a leathery flavor. Pepper returns for a background appearance, and finishes out on leather, tart and sweet. Eventually, it all settles in with a semi-sweet flavor laced with tea. Then it drops out altogether at 2” left as just “burning tobacco.” Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride…bizarre.

Smoke is very cool – it’s thick, but not necessarily chunky; over time, the finish behaves like a red wine…longer, and sticks to the sides of your tongue.

As CAO cigars go, this is a dark horse smoke: very interesting twists and turns. I’ve heard some say that the Robusto is the go-to size here, but the Lot 54 didn’t disappoint at all. The OSA Sol has always been under the radar; this was the push I needed to try it. I say it’s time you tried it at least once to see if it’s for you.

CAO Cigars New Age Series

CAO Consigliere Cigar Review

By Gary Korb

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Soldier (6 x 54/Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Nicaragua, Colombia, Dominican Republic
Binder: Honduras

CAO cigars guide cao consigliere cigar review sopranos cigarConstruction and Overall Appearance: Very good. Well-made with no apparent soft spots. Rolling was virtually seamless. Wrapper is toothy, bordering on rustic, yet even in color with no annoying veins and a well-applied triple seam cap. The cigar also had some nice weight to it.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): Dry with a little woody and leathery taste.
First few puffs: Sweet, creamy and woody.
Base flavors: Earth, sweet spice, cedar, espresso.
Aroma: Sweet.
Burn / Ash Quality: Even burn with a miniscule carbon line. Ash is almost entirely light grey, quite firm, and came-off at 3/4 of an inch revealing a perfect cone.
Balance of flavors: Very good.
Observations:

  • First Third: A smooth and creamy start offered mellow flavors of earth, wood, and sweet spice.
  • Second Third: Smoke became earthier and fuller in body, losing some of its sweetness, while notes of dark roasted coffee entered the fray.
  • Final Third: The smoke transitioned to a very dark, earthy mix of chary wood, spice and espresso.
cao cigars guide CAO consigliere soldier

Gary reviews Consigliere: “this longer, wider Soldier [Toro] offered a more robust experience than expected.”

Summary: Every time I smoke a CAO Consigliere I come away with a different vibe from it. That’s not to say they’re inconsistent; it probably has more to do with my mood and where I’ve smoked them. Also, I usually smoke the 5″ x 52 “Associate,” and this longer, wider “Soldier” offered a more robust experience than expected. It starts out smooth, creamy, sweet and spicy with a medium-plus body. During the second act, the cigar opened up revealing a much darker, earthier profile with a lot more body and strength. The most notable flavor I picked-up in the latter stages was espresso. Since flavors are subjective, I’ll leave it there; but in terms of the construction, burn and aroma, this Toro is all aces. I would recommend it to experienced cigar smokers with a preference for bold Nicaraguan cigars. I also suggest pairing these CAO cigars – and this Soldier size, specifically – with a fine Port, a Honey Bourbon, or Cuban coffee.

 

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Cigar Review

By Fred Lunt

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Apehanger (5 ½ x 58/Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Habano Grueso (Oscuro)
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic
Binder: Brazilian Arapiraca

CAO cigars guide cao flathead steel horse cigar review apehangerConstruction and Overall Appearance: For a near-60 gauge it still has a nice mouth feel to it, not too large. The construction feels solid.
Draw: Had to punch cut this big boy but the draw is nice and easy.
Pre-light flavor: Very woody, mostly cedar with some coffee, leather and a little hay.
Toasting & Light: Very sweet, toasty, and woody. Loads of cedar and butter.
Base flavors: Cedar, oak, general sweetness, tart, and cinnamon.
Retrohale: A tart-like tang, cedar, oak, pepper.
Aroma: Wood and earth with a slight meatiness.
Burn / Ash Quality: A pretty straight burn line and a solid, light gray ash. Tunneled very hard though.
Balance of flavors: Favored flavor over strength, mostly woody and sweet with both contrasting and complementing flavors.

CAO cigars steel horse

The CAO Flathead Steel Horse, ready to burn…and yes, that’s a flat cap. Use a punch.

Summary: I love the CAO Flathead line. But Steel Horse has eluded me, so I jumped at the opportunity to snag this rough rider. The Apehanger’s construction seemed spot-on: solid feel, the 58 gauge wasn’t too awkward in my mouth, and the wrapper looked handsome. At first, I was blown away by how smooth and buttery the smoke was – loads of cedar wood, coffee and leather, with a little hay. Through the first third the sweetness develops into honey with a slight pepper and toasty note. While Steel Horse starts mild, it gradually builds in intensity. An early retrohale brought a tart tanginess that reminds me of green apple as well as cedar, oak, and a lot of black pepper.

By the second third, this CAO was really shaping into a smoke I could fall in love with, woody and sweet with some complexity to keep me guessing. The tart flavor moved toward the back of my throat while the sweetness intensifies, a cinnamon-like tang attached itself to the sweetness and oak and cedar run strong with toast and coffee in the background.

CAO Cigars guide cao steel horse

Steel Horse shrinkage. Otherwise, it’s woody, sweet and a pretty complex smoke.

But here is where things got… weird. The foot shriveled on me like an old couch – turns out there was a huge soft spot toward the head, and that solid ash was hiding the fact that this cigar was tunneling harder than a Carbondale coal miner. I snipped most of the 2/3 and skipped ahead to the last (the issue came from a large soft spot toward the head). The flavors reminded me of a toasted marshmallow, very sweet and smoky – but those were short-lived. It’s a shame to put down a cigar that has so much potential, but that’s the nature of a handmade product. Hopefully I took one for the team and smoked “that one,” so no one else had to.

 

CAO Flathead Cigar Review

By Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: V554 Camshaft (5 ½ x 54/Robusto)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Filler: Nicaragua/Piloto Cubano Ligeros
Binder: Connecticut Habano

cao cigars guide cao flathead steel horse cigar review apehangerDraw: Perfect
Pre-Light: Chocolatey sweet
First Few Puffs: Slightly peppery and coffee.
Aroma: Sweet
Burn/Ash Quality: Solid, perfect, light gray.
Balance of Flavors: Complex with excellent balance.

cao cigars guide cao flathead review

Tommy burns the CAO Flathead V554 Camshaft: “so [email protected]#&ing delicious that it’s stupid.” So there’s that.

Summary: If I can speak in terms that the common man can understand: this cigar is so [email protected]#&ing delicious that it’s stupid. Fans of full-bodied, full-flavored cigars with balance and complexity are going to love this one long-time. Rick Rodriguez and the blenders at CAO have stepped it up with the introduction of the Flathead line, and this 554 is a great accomplishment. The box-pressed shape shows off the sheen of the Broadleaf wrapper and it is rolled impeccably with a perfect draw. Notes of dark chocolate, earth, pepper and black cherry run throughout as this complex stick changes and the flavors intermingle. Did I mention that I love this cigar? Si…

 

CAO CX2 Cigar Review

By John Pullo

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: “Rob” (5 x 52/Robusto)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Cameroon (Africa)
Filler: Nicaragua, Colombia
Binder: Cameroon (Africa)

CAO cigars guide cao cx2 cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Veiny, with a few color imperfections – water spots, maybe. Wrapper is less oily, more silky. Solid stick, very well packed.
Draw: Packed a little tight, but still a decent draw.
Pre-light flavor: Nuts and a bit floral – very mellow.
Toasting & Light: Opens with a very woody flavor – think softwood, like pine.
Base flavors: A mix of herbs, wood and a slight earth in the beginning; later, add drier flavors like cereal or grains, mixed with some softer flavors like a barely – noticeable dried fruit.
Retrohale: Charred wood and a whiff of geraniums.
Aroma: Mild, warm room note – roasted nuts.
Burn / Ash Quality: Not the greatest-looking dark grey ash…somewhat flaky, with a wavy burn.
Balance of flavors: Linear – favors consistency over complexity.

cao cigars guide cao cx2 review

Get close, and you can see the toothiness of the CX2’s Cameroon wrapper. They’re tiny pockets, formed by the leaf’s natural oils.

Summary: One of the “New Age” CAO cigars that doubles up on the best part of the cigar – in the case of CX2, it’s Cameroon tobacco for both wrapper and binder. The look of the leaf is somewhat silky with moderate toothiness. Cameroon is, by its nature, very delicate; but this double Cameroon held up to the test, with no cracking or similar issues.

There is no shortage of smoke pouring off this one: somewhat creamy, but not as buttery as I’d expected. The smoke is also noticeably cool, without much punch. Flavors lead with bread, plus a thin honey – like a glaze that gets brushed on a pastry. All of it hits the taste buds in the back, while leaving a sweetness on the lips for good measure. A bitey leather works its way in from time to time, and there’s a grassy note that returns from the beginning of the cigar. Finish is pretty light; the burn got a little wily at the end, so I dropped it with 2” to go.

CAO CX2 Hot Take: I think you’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it. Cameroon fans will like this, and so will you, if you’re looking for something that isn’t so in-your-face as fuller cigars tend to be. Worth a try to see if it’s in your wheelhouse.

 

CAO LX2 Cigar Review

By Fred Lunt

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Toro (6 x 50)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Nicaragua Habano
Filler: Dominican Republic and Nicaragua Ligeros
Binder: Honduras

CAO cigars guide cao lx2 cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Nice, solid construction. There is one soft spot toward the head.
Draw: Easy.
Pre-light flavor: Cedar, leather, earth, black coffee, black pepper, cloves.
Toasting & Light: Initial flavors are heavy with black pepper, leather, earth, a heavy sweetness and charred wood.
Base flavors: Oak, cedar, orange, cocoa, leather, coffee, black pepper, earth, brown sugar.
Retrohale: Orange zest, earth, oak, leather, black pepper.
Burn / Ash Quality: Perfect burn and a snowy white ash that holds tight, albeit slightly flaky.
Balance of flavors: The LX2 fought to balance the flavor intensity with nicotine strength a bit; darker flavors of cocoa, brown sugar, earth, leather, and black pepper prevailed.

Summary: One of the stronger CAO cigars, LX2 is a double ligero that’s heavily laden with black pepper, leather, earth, a heavy sweetness, and charred wood. Perfect, as lately my palate has been craving full body – and I may have found a new favorite in the LX2. Ligero gets to work early with a bite; once the front-loading is through I’m left with a cool, sweet, and woody smoke. About an inch in, the sweetness defines itself as brown sugar while oak and cedar ring home…a lemon zest tang hits the tongue. A quick retrohale really changed the game: the lemon zest turned into orange, the oak and cedar combo grew strong and an earthy undertone developed.

cao cigars guide cao lx2 review

Arguably, the most intense of the CAO cigars we reviewed: LX2, which stands for “Ligero x 2” – or double Ligero. Big, full flavors here…

While transitioning from the first to second third I get a punch in the gut of nicotine strength and pepper, which quickly dissipates. The smoke has a dense, bready mouth-feel. The orange zest remains but has taken a backseat to darker flavors of chocolate, coffee, earth, leather, and a nougat sweetness. One last retrohale in the final third hit the nail on the head with rich tobacco, cocoa, leather, earth, black pepper and an oaky aftertaste with a huge nicotine rush. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity and smoothness of this cigar. If you love full-bodied smokes, the heaviness of the CAO LX2’s flavors would stand up nicely to a dark ale or stout.

 

CAO MX2 Cigar Review

By Gary Korb

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Robusto (5 x 52)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, Dominican Republic
Binder: Brazil

CAO cigars guide CAO MX2 cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Excellent. An oily patina marks the dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper on this well-packed cigar, topped with a triple seam cap. The dark chocolate color is even through-and-through with no obtrusive veins.
Draw: Good.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): Strong flavor of leather.
First few puffs: Sweet, peppery and spicy.
Base flavors: Earth, tart fruit, cedar, sweet spice.
Aroma: Sharp
Burn/Ash Quality: Burn was very good with a thin carbon line. Ash was almost solid dark grey and very firm.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
Observations:

  • First Third: A sweet, peppery start gives way to a mellow, woody component. Chewy smoke continues carrying with it notes of tart apple and cedar. The first ash burned to just over an inch before dropping-off.
  • Second Third: The smoke increased in volume and body, offering mostly earthy-woody flavors with an undercurrent of tart sweetness that increases as the cigar transitions to the final third. A subtle note of white pepper lingers on the long finish.
  • Final Third: The smoke was exceptionally smooth and creamy at this point and didn’t feel like the body had strengthened. Very enjoyable with a dark, earthy, woody character, while some fruity tartness remained in the mix.
cao cigars guide CAO MX2 review

MX2 is a true Double Maduro: Broadleaf wrapper and Brazilian binder combine for one of the richest CAO cigars in their lineup. Smooth, creamy and full.

Summary: Between the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and the Brazilian binder, I expected this cigar to be on the sweet side, and it didn’t disappoint. I also expected it to be more complex, but I was satisfied with the core flavors. If I had to describe this cigar in one word it would be “solid.” Additionally, it reminded me of the more robust Cuban cigars. I recommend smoking this cigar slowly to get the most flavor out of it. I would also save this cigar for late in the day or after dinner. It may be a bit heady for some new cigar smokers, but the creamy-smoothness makes it a worthwhile “must-smoke” for anyone who loves top-grade Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The MX2 should also pair nicely with a dark, long-aged Rum, Irish coffee, or cafecito.

 

CAO Vision Cigar Review

By Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Prana (6 ¼ x 52/Torpedo)
Strength:  Medium
Wrapper: Honduran OSA (Olancho San Agustin) Corojo
Filler: Dominican Olor, Nicaragua & Brazil
Binder: Corojo

CAO cigars guide CAO vision cigar reviewDraw: Very smooth
Pre-Light: Woody sweetness
First Few Puffs: Very woody with a floral component.
Retrohale: Woody & smooth.
Aroma: Light & pleasant.
Burn/Ash Quality: Gray and white, solid.
Balance of Flavors: Several core flavors – but not overly complex.

cao cigars guide cao vision review

Tommy calls this “a change of pace smoke.” Wood flavors dominate, shopwing up in the pre-light, in the first few puffs and in the retrohale.

Summary: The CAO Vision is pretty much a straight-forward smoke – I wouldn’t label it as overly complex, but that sure doesn’t mean it’s not without some serious flavor happening. The first thing that hit me was the natural sweetness that I’ve recognized before, and sure enough it stems from a luscious Corojo wrapper and binder. While I got hints of cocoa and cedar, there’s a delicious hit of floral notes that is reminiscent of better Cuban made smokes. This stick is a nice change of pace because I can’t always smoke a cigar that grows hair on a bowling ball.

 

CAO Cigars Classic Series

CAO Pilon Cigar Review

By Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Robusto (5 x 52)
Strength: Medium/Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Binder:  Nicaragua

CAO cigars guide cao pilon cigar reviewDraw: Smooth
Pre-Light: Wood & sweetness
First Few Puffs: Very woody with a nice sweet component
Aroma: Rich & woody
Burn/Ash Quality: Gray and white, held up nice for a while at the start
Balance of Flavors: Several core flavors balance nicely throughout.

cao cigars guide cao pilon review

What makes this cigar special is the circular stacking method used to ferment the tobaccos. Pilons are typically square, or rectangular; this round method is an old Cuban method, used only for these CAO cigars.

Summary: While it’s part of the Classic line of CAO cigars, this is kind of an unusual smoke for them, as it is really different from a lot of their offerings. I think it appeals to a wider audience of both the medium and the full-bodied fans with its blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos inside and that gorgeous, oily brown, Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. It’s got some nice spice, it’s very nutty and there’s a real smack of chocolatey cocoa on the palate. The circular pilon fermenting method that’s used for curing the tobacco in these cigars is a rare one in the industry, as it takes more time and costs more to produce. Basically what it does is it brings out deeper, richer flavors in the tobacco at a slower fermenting rate than normal. If you’re looking for something new and tasty to try, I would really recommend giving this stick a shot.

 

CAO La Traviata Cigar Review

By John Pullo

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size:  Radiante (6 x 52/Toro)
Strength: Medium (listed Full)
Wrapper: Ecuador Havana (Habano) – also available in Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Binder: Cameroon

CAO cigars guide cao la traviata cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: La Traviata’s Habano wrapper has a silky sheen and feel; a little bit of tooth adds texture, as do a few raised veins. Consistent brown color, pretty well packed.
Draw: Moderate resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Strong leather essence with a soft fruity twinge; a smell of dry leaves and cocoa at the foot.
Toasting & Light: Leather, wood and nuts to start, before some big time pepper comes in.
Base flavors: Clean spice, a very mild charred wood, along with some bite. Dried fruit, too – like raisins or jam.
Retrohale: Bright flavors – fruit and floral, laced with a twist of pepper.
Aroma: Dry, like cereal or grains.
Burn/Ash Quality: Nice burn line; ash is white and chunky.
Balance of flavors: Flavors come through with a bang; balance is good, transitions are smooth. More consistent than complex.

Summary: We have a throwback – a revived Cuban brand, La Traviata is one of those CAO cigars that embraces tradition rather than disrupting it.

Pretty much from the opening puff, there’s pepper, leather and underlying woodiness hitting the taste buds. Some tangy sensations, too, like currant and the tannins you taste when drinking wine; these all make my mouth water a little, and last through the first half of the cigar.

Then, the spice drops away – the La Traviata gets very mellow and somewhat earthy, with an unroasted nut taste. There’s a nice sweet and buttery undertone, too – this might be the Cameroon binder at work. The aroma gets floral, and brings a bready/cereal vibe. Closer to the band, that fruity jam returns, along with the leather and another twist of pepper. Deeee-licious.

cao cigars la traviata review

“Cubanesque” is a cigar word that’s thrown around a little too freely – except in the case of La Traviata, where we think it fits that vibe nicely.

Based on what we’ve been told about Havanas from “back in the day,” this CAO smoked almost like an old Cuban blend would smoke. The Radiante’s tastes are richly satisfying, and the whole thing gives off a very refined feel overall. Hearty, but not bruising or overpowering; there are supposedly some ligeros in the mix, though I’m not sensing a ton of strength from them. The smoke is pretty thick, slightly creamy, and the whole thing burns at a pretty slow pace.

This was my first La Traviata, believe it or not…but it certainly won’t be my last. Damn fine smoke.

 

CAO Gold Cigar Review

By Gary Korb

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Corona Gorda (6½ x 50)
Strength: Mild-Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut-seed
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua

CAO Cigars guide CAO Gold cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Excellent. Well-packed; no soft spots. Wrapper is darker in color than U.S. Connecticut and even throughout. Seamlessly rolled with no veins and a perfectly-applied triple seam cap.
Draw: Very good.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): Woody and leathery with some nice sweetness.
First few puffs: Similar to the cold draw. Notes of cedar, leather, and sweet tobacco.
Base flavors: Cedar, sweet tobacco, nuts, citrusy notes.
Aroma: Sweet and aromatic.
Burn / Ash Quality: Excellent. Burn was a little “off” at the start due to some rigid filler leaf, but evened-out nicely after the first inch and remained so to the nub. Ash was mostly grey-black and very firm.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
Observations:

  • First Third: Exceptionally creamy, toasty, and mild, yet flavorful, mostly with notes of cedar, a nice amount of sweetness, plus a faint citrusy note of lemon zest on the finish.
  • Second Third: Flavors intensify, while the body moves more toward medium. Base notes remain virtually the same offering cedar with less sweetness and some nutty flavors. Citrusy note is still present on the finish.
  • Final Third: Pretty much like the middle section, but flavors darken and intensify while the sweetness and citrusy notes are gone – leaving a mostly cedary-nutty smoke.
cao cigars guide cao gold corona gorda

Gary calls the CAO Gold “ideal for the new cigar smoker seeking more flavor in a mild cigar, as well as more experienced smokers who either prefer milder smokes, or want a good ‘change of pace’ cigar with plenty of flavor.”

Summary: A wonderful morning or late afternoon cigar. Not complex, but the base flavors of cedar, sweet tobacco and some citrusy notes prevail all the way through the final act. The sweet, relaxing aroma plays a nice role, too. Ideal for the new cigar smoker seeking more flavor in a mild cigar, as well as more experienced smokers who either prefer milder smokes, or want a good “change of pace” cigar with plenty of flavor. Try pairing with any form of coffee, or a dark aged rum to bring out more of the citrus and sweetness.

 

CAO Gold Maduro Cigar Review

By John Pullo

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Corona Gorda (6 ½ x 50)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Arapiraca (Brazil)
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua

CAO Cigars Guide CAO Gold Maduro cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: A sultry Brazilian wrapper. It is oily, it is smooth – and barely a fault to be seen.
Draw: Fantastic – produces a great mouthful of smoke.
Pre-light flavor: Foot has a meaty smell – more petting zoo than barnyard, with a nice floral note in the background that’s buttery sweet.
Toasting & Light: Leads with a salty pop, and opens with a fermented flavor reminiscent of a liqueur – along with some pepper.
Base flavors: Cinnamon, malty sweetness and earth.
Retrohale: I sense a bit of pepper (I’ll say white), there’s a zesty fruitiness to it.
Aroma: A little roasty – slightly floral, too.
Burn / Ash Quality: Take it slow to keep the thick burn line even; a clean, grey ash results, holding on nicely.
Balance: This CAO Gold Maduro is very easygoing in terms of strength – if we’re talking intensity of flavors, however, it’s a whole new ballgame.

cao cigars guide cao gold maduro review

This CAO Gold Maduro dispels that old cigar myth about darker cigars being stronger – no shortage of flavors, but smokes relatively mild.

Summary: The tobacco has a dark, sweet, well-fermented smell that I’ve picked up from very few Maduros…“that smell” associated with deep, rich ultra-premium tobaccos. Which is great, since this isn’t one of those CAO cigars that people tag as “ultra-premium.”

Don’t smoke a lot of Maduro cigars? You’ll appreciate the fact that this one doesn’t hit you in the gut. Overall, it’s a mild-medium smoke that won’t give you any trouble for retrohaling it a bunch of times. The smoke is thick and creamy – almost chewy – and coats the palate generously.

Flavor-wise, the CAO Gold Maduro’s maltiness moves to a taste reminiscent of coffee with cream, plus a sweetness that tastes like the honey on graham crackers. Then it flattens out into a mix of general sweetness and dark coffee tinged with light vanilla straight through to the end.

No, it’s not the most complex cigar – but when the flavors come on (especially in the first half), it’s big. This smoke is a slam dunk with coffee. Interestingly, this is listed as “retired” on the CAO Cigars site. My advice to Maduro lovers is to give it a try while you can. Even if just to say you did.

 

CAO Cameroon Cigar Review

By Fred Lunt

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size:  Robusto (5 x 50)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Cameroon (Africa)
Filler: Nicaragua
Binder:  Nicaragua

CAO cigars guide CAO Cameroon cigar reviewConstruction and Overall Appearance: Nice looking box press, the wrapper is caramel-brown with one small blemish at the foot.
Draw: Nice and easy
Pre-light flavor: Cold draw is a bit salty-sweet with oak, raisins, earth and leather.
Toasting & Light: Very toasty up front, bready, a salty tang, and subtle sweetness with a white pepper aftertaste.
Base flavors: Butter, toffee, cedar, leather, herbal, toast, white pepper.
Retrohale: Leather, toast, herbal, white pepper, and a semi-sweetness.
Aroma: Very woody and spicy.
Burn / Ash Quality: Burn is fairly straight; the ash is a little flaky but holds tight and is a nice bright white.
Balance of flavors: Favors warm flavors – very sweet, toasty, and spicy.

Summary: It’s morning; coffee is in my mug, and this cigar is calling my name. This is CAO Cigars’ original Cameroon offering, and the wrapper is gorgeous, covered in an intricate web of fine veins over a solid construction. If the CAO Cameroon tastes as good as it looks, we’ll get along fine. The cold draw is slightly salty and sweet; my first few puffs get more complex: sweet, bready and toasty, with a slight tang in the background. A slight baking spice chimes in. The smoke is just incredibly smooth and creamy, bordering on luxurious. By the second third, the herbal note is stronger. There’s a smooth sweetness that’s very rich and creamy, along with baking spice and white pepper. Cedar gradually makes its way into the profile, so does leather. A retrohale brings more leather, toast, loads of white pepper, and an herbal note.

cao cigars guide cao cameroon

One of the old school CAO cigars, the Cameroon L’Anniversaire. Fred says it’s “very sweet, toasty and spicy.”

While smoke is pouring out, my burn moves into the last third with warm flavors. The sweetness shifts to toffee while leather, earth, and a buttery aftertaste sit on the palate. The intensity goes up a notch, yet remains buttery smooth and sweet with baking spices and white pepper making a comeback. At the nub I close out with a nutty component, toffee, cedar, and a baking spice that reminds me of ginger.

Overall, this cigar was fantastic. One of the old school CAO cigars, but one that holds up after nearly 20 years as a great example of those traditional Cameroon tobacco flavors. I’d recommend this one to just about any smoker.

 

Have an experience with one (or more) of the CAO cigars we’ve reviewed here? Add your comment below…

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