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A CAO Odyssey without an Odyssey

#1
About a month ago, I picked up a 7-cigar sampler of CAO blends that I'm sure many of you have seen. It comes with a DVD which I have yet to watch, and one each of the following:

1 - CAO Black Ltd. Gotchic (torpedo) - Smoked!
1 - CAO Black ’VR’ Moby (toro) - Smoked!
1 - CAO Criollo Pato - Smoked!
1 - CAO Cx2 Beli - Smoked!
1 - CAO Italia Ciao - Smoked!
1 - CAO L’Anniversaire Cameroon Belicoso - Smoked!
1 - CAO Gold Maduro Churchill - Smoked!

The CAO Conmemorativo Sampler


I recently read Iota's review of a CAO Criollo, which reminded me of this sampler sitting in the back of my coolerdor, and his thorough researching of others' reviews gave me the idea to add one more to the list: my own. But why stop there? I might as well review the whole sampler, one by one, and give my thoughts on a large portion of the CAO line as I made my way through this sampler. So I call this my CAO journey, or CAO Odyssey, without an actual CAO Odyssey in the mix.


******

CAO Italia Ciao
5" x 56

Made in: Honduras
Wrapper: Honduras
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Nicaragua, Peru, Italy

This cigar was my first selection out of the box, as it's the smallest of the lot and hopefully by the time I get to the longer ones, the weather will have improved a bit. It has a maduro wrapper that still has lots of reds and browns showing through, giving it a pleasantly mottled look. The stick feels good in the hand, firm but with some spring to it when one gives it a pinch. The cap is a bit lumpy and malformed, but this was easily forgiven as it still was quite receptive to my punch coring out a perfectly circular aperture.

Before lighting, I gave it a dry draw, and I tasted a good deal of spice, and tons of sweetness to it. It is reputed to be a full-bodied cigar, but the initial cold draw made me think I was in for a medium-bodied experience, which is exactly my cup of tea. The smell of the wrapper reminded me more of pipe tobacco than of cigar leaf. I lit it up with my trusty Prometheus lighter, and for once did a fairly good job of lighting it very evenly. I started to puff upon it and was smacked in the face with an overload of spice and none of that sweetness I had tasted when it was unlit. It was a peppery little demon for the first inch or so, and before I even got to the inch mark, the burn went on a serious run. I kept trying to correct it, but it would not accommodate me with an even burn no matter how hard I tried. A word to the wise, I had this humidified to 70% rh, but I believe it might smoke better with either a lower rh, or some dry-boxing prior to smoking.

The ash was very white and flaky, and kept dumping all over my lap with only the slightest provocation. Thankfully, the intense spice started to subside after the inch mark, and it began to produce copious amounts of thick, chewy smoke. It took on a pleasant meaty flavor, and I started to really enjoy it...for about another inch. The draw quickly dwindled down to almost nothing, and I had to puff furiously to get any smoke out of the thing. I recorrected the uneven burn, and did a purge, which gave off a blaze of blue flame for several seconds. But never again was I able to coax it into giving me the volume of smoke it had initially produced. It ranged all over the place from enough smoke to keep me relatively content, to almost nothing at all. This was a frustrating cigar, because I wanted to like it, but the burn and draw issues prevented any chance at it. It started to produce a foul charcoal taste, and I inspected it to make sure it wasn't tunneling, but no, it was just the flavor of the cigar.

Overall, I found this to be mediocre at best. Perhaps with better construction, and a perfect amount of humidification, this could be a good smoke, but it seems to me to be much too finicky and high-maintenance for my liking. I like my cigars the way I like my women: ready to go whenever you are. The Italia Ciao was definitely not that way. I've smoked the Oliveros El Padrino Edicion Italiana, which also contained Italian tobacco, and I found it to be distinctive and pleasant, but never during the course of the smoke was I able to pick out any flavors that I could attribute to the Italian portion of the filler.




******

CAO Criollo Pato
4.7" x 50

Made In: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Havana '98 Criollo grown in Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

After a long Presdident's Day of work, I went home to enjoy a gorgeous California afternoon with a nice cigar and I figured I might as well make it the next in my CAO sampler. With Iota's review still in my brain, and RedCorn's recommendation, I figured it was time to get out the Criollo Pato and give it a try.
This cigar was quite a surprise, I must say. It was a rich brown, with a rough-looking wrapper with a pigtail cap. There were a number of imperfections all over the wrapper leaf, giving it an ugly appearance, and I didn't have high hopes for it. The Criollo blend is made in the Torano factory, and in my experience they generally make pretty good cigars, so I really didn't know what to expect when I lit her up.

I clipped off the pigtail with my Xikar, and lit her up with ease. The flame spread on its own across the entire foot, and settled quickly into a fairly even burn with only minor variations. The flavor was somewhat nutty with some hints of cinnamon that faded quickly. What was left was just a clean tobacco flavor that was delivered by an extremely even, full draw. I realized that this cigar reminded me of some other cigars I've had, and it took me a moment to pin them down. That simple but rich tobacco flavor reminded me of a Hoyo de Monterrey or a Romeo y Julieta...but the Cuban blends, not the Honduran or Dominican. I couldn't stop thinking about how 'cubanesque' this cigar was. I realize that many will scoff at this, but that was my take. I was so thoroughly impressed with this stick, from its rich flavor, to its even burn, to its impeccable draw.

Another great aspect of this cigar was that after I lit it, I really didn't have to touch my lighter again until I had smoked it down to the nub after an hour and a half (at least). My wife commented on how far I took this one several times, with comments like 'Aren't you done yet?" and "You usually put them out by now." The draw was just flawless throughout, and it was so low maintenance, completely the opposite of my experience with the Italia. I know a lot of people have panned this cigar, but as they say, different strokes for different folks, because it really hit the spot for me.






******
Out of image space, so all other reviews posted as replies!
 
#2
This should be fun, i think my favortie of the CAO line is the Cx2 it was one of the first cigars i smoked and something always brings me back to it.
 
#3
This should be fun, i think my favortie of the CAO line is the Cx2 it was one of the first cigars i smoked and something always brings me back to it.
Thanks! I love Cameroon wrapper, so I'm really looking forward to both the Cx2 and the l'Anniversaire. That Cx2 is huge!
 

iota

New Member
#6
Hey Gavin, nice review! Keep them coming!

I have a question about that sampler box. Does the insert come out? I have a couple of boxes where that insert is glued in and it makes it much harder to reuse for other singles later.

Mike.

PS: I linked back to this thread from the Criollo thread. So now you *have* to finish the reviews. ;)
 
#7
Hey Gavin, nice review! Keep them coming!

I have a question about that sampler box. Does the insert come out? I have a couple of boxes where that insert is glued in and it makes it much harder to reuse for other singles later.

Mike.

PS: I linked back to this thread from the Criollo thread. So now you *have* to finish the reviews. ;)
I checked it out, and it looks like the insert is thoroughly glued in, so it won't be very reusable. And at least I've reviewed the Criollo now, so I'm partially off the hook, but I intend to see this thread through to the end.
 
#8
Review 3:
CAO L'Anniversaire Cameroon Belicoso
6" x 54

Made In: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Cameroon
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

I actually smoked this puppy about a week ago, when we were enjoying beautiful weather and I had the time to really enjoy it. Since then, I've had a hellish work week, so it took me a while to actually post this up. I'll try to remember the experience as best I can.

I'd been really looking forward to this one, because other than a pull from my good friend RVHguy's cigar, I'd never tried one, and I love Cameroon wrapper. He raved about him, and we generally have pretty similar taste. My expectations for this cigar were pretty high, but I was not to be disappointed. I took a picture of it inside before stepping out onto the patio, just in case the bright sun would over-expose all of my pictures:

The wrapper was toothy and a mottled light brown with a multitude of tiny veins all over it, but none that I thought would affect the burn in the slightest. The tapered head was a bit lumpy, but the length of the cigar felt well-packed and firm. I clipped the tip off the head with a double-guillotine cutter, and lit her up. It quickly took flame, evening itself out with little effort on my part. I leaned back in my chair to take a draw and found it nutty and pleasant, the Camerron wrapper dominant in every puff, just what I was looking for. The warmth of the California sun was soaking into my clothing, while a slight cool breeze kept the backyard from getting too hot. I gazed out over my backyard and just enjoyed the view for several minutes, getting that unique herbal flavor and the taste of cashews from the Cameroon, with some sweetness from the Nicaraguan filler.

The ash was very white, and extremely cohesive. You can see that it hung on for a couple of inches before dropping onto my lap and rolling off onto the concrete patio. I was amazed to watch the fallen ash roll around on the ground, pushed around by the wind, while not disintegrating at all.

The smoke was extremely flavorful, though never over-bearing, and it drew and burned very easily. It was the perfect morning smoke, waking me up with its woody and nutty flavor that remained consistent throughout. It may not be complex, but if you like a good Cameroon wrapper, then you have to try one of these beauties as a way to start your day. I took this cigar down to the nub, and it was delicious!

VR is next!
 

Kid Montana

Well-Known Member
#9
Review 3:
CAO L'Anniversaire Cameroon Belicoso
6" x 54

*snip*

VR is next!
Amazing coincidence! I'm +8 hours from you (in Iraq) so I chose this excellent cigar as a late afternoon smoke but our conclusions are exactly the same! I just came in from smoking my Cameroon Anneversarie ed. and like you, I smoked it down to a nub, maybe even futher than a nub; there was only about 1.25" remaining when I set it down to let it go out. I will be looking for a box of these for my long term rotation, I think.
 
#11
CAO Black VR Moby
6" x 50

Made in: Honduras
Wrapper: Brazilian Arapiraca
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan, Mexican

I didn't like it! I'm not a huge maduro fan in general, so it should come as no surprise that this one wasn't my favorite, but it goes far beyond that. I smoked this cigar about a week and a half ago, when we had a brief bout of rain, and I was forced to smoke in my garage. I took the dogs out there, and fired this one up while I typed up a letter on my laptop and read a copy of Cigar Magazine. This was a beautiful-looking cigar: coal black, not very veiny, and well-constructed. When I punched it and first lit up, the tastes coming off of the VR were relatively tasty, with coffee-like notes and a bit of pepper.

I was just settling in to enjoy it, when I started picking up the faint hint of ammonia. I did a quick purge, and was amazed by the gouts of blue flame coming off of the foot of my cigar. Subsequent puffs tasted really good, so I figured that the problem was solved. Only a minute later, I was picking up ammonia again! So I purged again, and it would return to tasting half-way decent, but only for a couple of puffs. This went on for the remainder of the cigar. Perhaps these are just too young, and they could benefit from a LOT of downtime. Ammonia is not my favorite taste, so I definitely cannot recommend these. I spent more time trying to get my cigar to taste good than I did enjoying the cigar.
At least I had some good company:
 
#12
CAO Gold Maduro Churchill
7" x 48

Made in: Nicaragua
Wrapper : Brazilian Arapiraca
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras

It's been over a month since the last time I smoked one of my CAOs from this sampler, so I figured the next one was overdue! I'm working the grveyard shift these days, so I woke up around 4:15 this afternoon, and after a quick cup of tea, I headed out to the patio for the CAO Gold Maduro Churchill. Since I had such a poor experience with the VR, my hopes were not very high for the other CAO maduro in the set. It was a bit overcast and windy here in Murrieta, so I bundled up a bit, but I had plenty of great reading material on my phone as I was surfing CP the whole time.

Upon inspection, I wasn't very impressed by the cigar's appearance. It had some huge veins, and was very lumpy. In a couple of places along the length of the cigar, it seemed like the filler was trying to burst through the mottled wrapper. I clipped the head and took a prelight draw, finding it a bit tight, but chocolaty and tasty. Both of my butane lighters are on the fritz at the moment, so I was lighting up with matches. I was inordinately proud of myself for getting this cigar lit with just one match on this windy afternoon. The draw turned out to be just fine, and I was soon puffing contentedly away.

The taste of this cigar was quite good, and I was surprised at how mild it was. I'd had the Gold in its natural version before, and the natural was far more peppery, while this maduro was just creamy with occasional hints of coffee and chocolate. My major complaint with a lot of maduro cigars is that I feel like the taste from the wrapper dominates everything else, and one misses out on many of the nuances that one would taste with a natural wrapper. This was not the case, as the buttery tastes of the filler shone through well.

The ash was a light gray, and dropped off after about an inch every so often. The burn was quite even and I didn't feel the need to correct it once during the hour and a half it took to smoke. With approximately two inches left in the cigar, there were some bitter notes, but after a purge, these disappeared, and it resumed its mild creamy flavor, with only a slight hint of coffee and wood. If I'm in the mood for a maduro, I may consider picking another one of these up. It was pleasant, and low-maintenance, a good 'morning' cigar for me, even if it's late afternoon!

I'm having some issues posting my pics, but I'll try to get that resolved soon. Two to go!
 
#13
It's been a while since I did one of these, as my tastes have changed, and I've been busy with moving and holidays. But with only two cigars left to review, it would seem wrong to leave this unfinished. So here's the review for the CAO Black Gothic:

CAO Black Gothic
6" x 52

Made in: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico

This is an attractive cigar with extremely firm construction. I couldn't find any soft spots, and on initial inspection, I'd say this was a very well made cigar. I removed it from its cedar sleeve, and clipped the pointy tip off with my guillotine cutter. My cold draw was very firm, and I thought I may have to cut a little more off if it didn't draw properly once I lit it, and I got vegetal flavors that were hard to place. If I had to say what it tasted like, I'd say zucchini.

I lit the cedar sleeve it came in, and used that to light the cigar with ease. I was greeted by an initial blast of pepper, but as I smoked, the pepper subsided to be replaced by wood and zucchini notes. Even with a firm draw, the cigar was producing a huge volume of smoke, which I always find satisfying. About an inch into the cigar, I found myself thinking of it as medium-bodied or perhaps even mild smoke, but then the peppery flavors roared back to life, only to subside again a minute later.


At around the two inch mark, the light grey ash dropped off, and with my cat-like reflexes, I managed to catch the falling ash with my free hand before it hit the ground. Hot! I deposited the ash in my CAO ashtray that a great BOTL gave me, and went back to puffing away. The burn wasn't quite even, but it wasn't so bad that I felt the need to correct it. A leathery flavor started to manifest, which I liked, but so far, this stick was just rating barely above average. I've smoked the CAO Black Mosaic (corona-sized) before, and I have to say that I find them more flavorful than this larger ring-gauged cousin. The zucchini taste had finally gone away, leaving only wood, leather, and pepper. After another inch, I ashed it intentionally for the first time.


I haven't had anything to eat yet today, so I worried that it might get a little too strong for me, but this wasn't the case, as it was barely in the medium-strength category. Halfway through the cigar, the pepper disappeared as well, leaving only wood and leather, even on the retro-hale, which I found a little boring. If I had been watching tv, and not focusing on it quite so much, it probably would be a fine companion, but it struggled to hold my attention on its own. With only an inch and a half or so left, I began to get a bit of a grassy taste that I wasn't particularly enjoying so I decide it was time to let this one die in the ashtray.

Overall, I would say this is an average smoke at best, though if you're looking for lots of flavor, I'd recommend the smaller ring-gauged vitolas over this one. It was not unpleasant, it just didn't impress me much either. I only have one cigar left from this sampler, the CX2, so I'll try to get that one done in the near future.

The photos I took for this review are way too big, so I decided to fore-go them.
 
#14
CAO CX2 Beli

7" x 56

Made in: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Cameroon
Binder: Cameroon
Filler: Nicaraguan and Columbian

This is the last one left from the sampler that I started reviewing a year and a half ago. Since then, I've almost completely smoked through all of my CAO cigars, which were once a staple in my humidor. This huge belicoso has been sitting at the bottom of my humidor, challenging me to smoke it and finish this little CAO odyssey of mine since I did the last one in February.

On to the review!

Did I say this thing is big? It seems much larger than the average churchill and it dwarfs the two other figurados I smoked earlier today (an Illusione ~2~, and an LFD Perfecto Habano). After an evening of sushi and watching Captain America, my wife has gone to bed, so it's time to settle in with the CX2. The wrapper is pretty veiny, and it has some dark mottled areas on it, but it smells great, and the foot gives off a pleasant pungent aroma. It's extremely firm and other than some very minor scuffs at the head of the cigar, it looks great. It looks great except for the huge band, I should say. The band is ugly. I crack open my very classy beverage to accompany this fine cigar, a Mountain Dew Throwback with at least a month of age on it.

Clipping the head with my Xikar, I decide to take off only a little bit, thinking that if the draw is too firm, I can always clip off a bit more. Despite being a behemoth, the CX2 lights very easily. I take a few moments before starting to puff away. The draw is great, with a touch of resistance. Many of the flavors I expect of a Cameroon-wrapped cigar are there, though they seem muted. It's nutty, with a touch of the same herbal quality that the L'Anniversaire had, just to a lesser degree. It may be just that I had two cigars earlier in the day and I'm just not detecting the subtle nuances at the moment. I have no complaints about the construction. The burn seems very even thus-far, and the ash is very white and firm. Something about the taste and texture of the smoke makes me think of it as 'gummy' with a nice sweetness to it. I try to slide the atrocious band off, but I damage the wrapper slightly in the process. Luckily this doesn't affect the draw.

About an inch into the cigar, the flavor starts to build, and is doling out the taste I expected from a Cameroon-Times-Two smoke. I hear a bit of noise from outside the open door of my man-cave and realize we're getting a light drizzle of rain. The smell of wet asphalt wafts in, which is somewhat enjoyable.

After about two inches of the cigar, it takes on a bit of an astringent taste that I find somewhat unpleasant. It just tastes a little sour. I doubt a purge will work, but I give it a try, just in case. The purge does nothing to affect the sour flavor. It's not terrible, so I soldier on.

That sour taste begins to subside at the halfway point through the cigar, but it does not disappear completely. The flavors just aren't hitting the spot for me, and I'm starting to think I won't be able to carry on much longer. If I weren't writing this review, I'd probably toss it. The pleasant Cameroon taste is almost wholly gone. I try another purge, just in case, and again, no improvement whatsoever. There's a burning at the back of my throat. I don't think this is a storage issue as I don't have this problem with any of the other cigars that were in this humidor.

I carry on until I just can't take it any more, which is with only about an inch and a half remaining. The taste...is just bad. It reminds me of some of the Macanudos I've had. Nothing good, and a few things unpleasant.

Overall, I was very impressed with the construction, but the blend was just not to my liking.

I was hoping to end this journey of mine on a high note, but it appears that in general my tastes have just changed, and other brands offer much more for me. I still wouldn't turn my nose up at the occasional L'Anniversaire Cameroon, or a Criollo, but otherwise, no thanks! I remember that when I bought this sampler, I thought very highly of CAO. I don't think that's the case now. I've tried the Traviata and hated it, and I doubt CAO's purchase by General Cigars will improve my impressions. I still have a Brazilia, and a 65th Anniversary in my collection, so maybe they'll be stellar and tip the scales towards the positive side.

Thus ends my CAO Odyssey.
 

Wurm

Bratwurst and Beer
#15
Maybe it was past its prime?

The one I had, only had a year or two on it and I thought at the time it was one of the best cigars I have ever had.

Only CAO I still really like however is the Sopranos.

*edit* And I was talking about the Odyssey coffin cigar... not any of the ones in your sampler.
 
#17
A618F767-1612-43CA-920C-254B4C267033.jpeg E4981FB3-6BD9-4851-B59F-11A7777454F5.jpeg D3F54D62-8ADB-402F-8F33-E6C75EE0EAE0.jpeg Obviously I haven’t touched this thread for a long time, but I’ve been hanging on to some CAOs for years with the intention of reviewing them, and today I reached the tipping point. I doubt I’ll be as flowery about it as I was in my newbness.


CAO America Monument
Connecticut Shade and Broadleaf ‘Barberpole’ wrappers or Dos Capas.

I’ve had a CAO Monument sitting in my stash since January 5th, 2013, so it’s definitely got some age on it. It’s the torpedo size, so I clipped the tip, and lit it up with my most trustworthy lighter.

My first impression was that it wasn’t nearly as maduro-y as I expected, which I tend to consider a good thing. It is sort of...soapy? And definitely sawdust/woody.

The tv is on, and I’m watching ‘Forged in Fire’ on Hulu which I find entertaining.

It’s burning quickly and I reach the 1/3 mark quickly. It has a bit of a whiskey flavor that’s developed, which I’m enjoying reasonably.

Burn continues to be fast. I’ve reached the halfway mark in about 30 minutes. The flavor’s gotten a bit boring and dry, which I didn’t expect from a barberpole Dos Capas cigar. I’ve gotten rid of the band, and I’ll check back in when I’m just about done.

Actually, just after the halfway mark, flavor has definitely improved. I’m not sure how, exactly. Maybe it’s the proverbial granola smoothie flavor I’ve heard so much about.

At the end, it got a pleasant nutty flavor, and I pitched it with about an inch and a half left.

It’s ok. These days I’m smoking pretty much only Illusiones and Cubans, so no, it’s not in my wheelhouse, but I see some nice qualities to it that others might appreciate.
 

oke&coke

Shut up baby I know it!
#20
The last time I smoked a CAO America was years ago after a steak dinner. I really enjoyed it. I have one more in the humi somewhere. Time to pull it out.
 
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