CAO America Potomac

Well boys and girls, I have a treat for you this week. Not only did I get to smoke the new CAO America at RTDA/IPCPR, I managed to secure a few extras so I could give it a proper review. (By time I got to it at the show, I was barely able to taste anything! Half a dozen cigars a day will do that to you.) And what better place to review a brand new cigar than on the Stogie Review?

There’s more buzz and speculation about this cigar that actual information. That stands to reason, since this cigar isn’t likely to be in stores until, probably the end of this month sometime. (Don’t quote me on that, it’s just what I’ve heard.) sometime in October. (I’ve been updated! The current stock is aging awaiting shipment in the October time frame.) So it’s time we get down to the review and try to balance things out a bit.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 56
Wrappers: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro and Shade
Binder: Brazil
Filler: Ligero from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Italy, and USA
Beverage: Water
Price: MSRP $6.75
Smoking Time: 1 3/4 hours

The Pre-Smoke
The CAO America is an incredibly attractive cigar that really invites you to take a closer look. It’s a cigar that’s wants to be appreciated visually before being approached with any of the other senses. It comes double-banded, with one at the head bearing the CAO logo on a American flag patterned shield, surrounded by stars, red, white and blue bands of color and finally outlined in gold. Likewise, the band at the foot is also outlined in gold and bears white stars and a golden eagle.

In my visual inspection of the cigar itself, I noted two things. The first was that the lighter pinstripe leaf doesn’t have a consistent width. As it spirals around the cigar, it is wider some areas and much narrower in others. That isn’t a criticism, I’m actually impressed by the pinstripe effect, it’s just an observation. The other thing I noted was a small flaw in the outer maduro wrapper which revealed a small, extra bit of lighter shade leaf.

Small wrapper flaw

To the touch the cigar was consistently firm, and the cap stayed in place when I clipped it with my flamboyantly red Xicar cutter. (I breathed a sigh of relief at that, I had some troubles a while back with the cap on the Vision.) The cigar’s wrapper had a nice rich barnyard smell to it, and in the cold taste I detected some cocoa flavor.

The Burn
One of the first things I looked for in the burn was any problem or inconsistency with the two wrappers. And I’m happy to say that in both Americas I’ve smoked so far, I haven’t seen any issues. (Believe me, I was there, camera in hand, waiting for one to appear!) These leaves burned together as though they had been part of the same leaf.

Burn line near a thicker section of shade leaf

I also found the ash to be very solid and bright white color. The cigar’s first ash grew to nearly three inches before it dropped, landing fully intact in the ashtray. The burn line was occasionally problematic though. For the majority of the burn, it was nearly perfect but there were points were it became just lopsided enough to bear a mention. In all cases of uneven burn, I gave the cigar the opportunity to correct itself, and it did.

While smoking, I found it to have a fairly light resting smoke, but at the same time having no problem providing a good amount of smoke for each draw. I had no trouble with the draw either, which didn’t surprise me. I’ve noticed that one thing all CAO cigars have in common is a reliably good draw.

In the final third of this cigar, about an inch or an inch and a half in, this cigar will tell you it’s done. What I mean by that is it will try go out. And probably twice. But if you’re persistent like I was, you can push through that, and it will resume a normal smoke until there’s no finger room left. At the show, I took this opportunity to lay it in an ashtray and fire up another cigar. For this review, I pushed on through so I could get my Walt-worthy photo finish!

The Flavor
The flavor profile of this cigar is interesting. To begin with, this isn’t really a full-bodied cigar. Oh, it gets there, but it doesn’t start out there. And it doesn’t build up to it quite the way you would expect. At the beginning it started out very nutty, with a bit of coffee flavor and about a medium body. As it burned through the first half of the first third (yep, that’d be a sixth!), it continued to deliver that good nutty flavor, and for a while it even tasted very much like creamy peanut butter! (Hey, no review of mine is complete until I discover an off-the-wall flavor!)

As the cigar burns through the rest of the first third, it begins to lighten up. A lot. On the way down, I noted a toasty flavor and a faint almond sweetness followed by some wood notes and finally paper.

In the second third it continued to be light in body and a leather flavor started to appear. Toward the end of the second third the body started building back up, and the leather flavor became more pronounced and dominated the cigar. (It was around this point that my wife stopped by and took a puff. She tasted some earthiness with the leather, but it as all leather on my palate.) By the final third, the cigar is a full-bodied, leathery smoke. And it remained that way until the end.

The Price
I was very happy to see this cigar coming in well under the ten dollar mark. For what you get, I think this cigar’s price tag is very reasonable. The pictures don’t quite do it justice, it is a surprisingly big cigar, and it will keep you occupied for at least an hour and a half. (I’m a slow smoker, but other people who’ve smoked it say the same thing: it just keeps on going!)

The Verdict
I had to really think about this one. Though I think it was a bit too much leather for a little too long at the end, I have to say I like this cigar. And I’ll admit it, the cosmetic aspects of this cigar do help out a bit with my opinion.

My favorite part of the cigar was the first sixth with the rich nutty flavor. If that medium body and flavor had continued through until the full-bodied, leathery conclusion, the verdict would have been a no-brainer.

I’m a bit puzzled by the lightness of the middle third. It’s something that deserves a good crack-pot theory. And I just happen to be the right guy for the job. I wonder if this cigar was intended to be enjoyed by two different kinds of smokers. The folks that smoke it only up to the band, who will have a light to medium smoke to enjoy with their morning coffee and rest of us who smoke it to the nub and get an extra leathery kick at the end.

Liked It: Yeah, it was pretty good.
Buy It Again: Yeah, it’s probably going it be my default Fourth of July smoke.
Recommend It: Yes, if you like leathery cigars, this is a cigar for you!

The Cigar In Action

Slight burn flaw, the only issue that didn’t self-correct.