CAO Italia Ciao

I know, I know, I promised to review a Gran Habano cigar this week. Well the thing is, I’ve been down with a nasty little bit of bronchitis for the past week, so I’m pulling my notes for a cigar review I planned to do on my home blog. I fact, my friends over at Tex Cigars hooked me up with a couple for me evaluate. I don’t think they’ll mind if I review it here instead.

I should note that because I planned this review for my personal blog, I took fewer pictures than normal. Size limitations and all. (The rough life of a WordPress freeloader.) OK, let’s get to that cigar!

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 56 (robusto)
Wrapper: Honduras
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Italy, Nicaragua, Peru
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$4.50

The Pre-Smoke
Of all the CAO cigar bands, I think the one that wraps the Italia is my favorite. Or maybe its tied with the Brazilia. Either way, it’s a cool looking cigar.

Under the band, I noticed a bit of inconsistency in the wrappers of the three cigars I smoked. (Yeah, I threw one of my own into the mix too.) On the very first of these I found the wrapper to be very smooth. The other two were lumpier and veinier, and the last (shown above) was actually lopsided. (The cigar kept rolling over as I tried to get a picture of it.)

Before clipping the cigars for the cold taste I gave them all a squeeze and found them to be consistently firm. On the wrapper I detected a very sweet barnyard scent and a dark chocolate aroma at the foot. In the cold taste I got chocolate and coffee flavors.

The Burn
Overall these cigars had a pretty good burn, generally even for the first two thirds before straying noticeably in the final third. All three cigars produced a great looking solid white ash that extended well over an inch before falling like a rock into the ashtray. And finally, consistent with my past experience with other CAO cigars, I found the draw to also be great, with a slight bias toward free-and-easy. Which works for me, as I prefer a looser draw.

The Flavor
The Italia opened up with a sweet coffee flavor that was quickly followed up by a smooth cocoa flavor with an herbal flavor that resembles thyme. The rest of the first third was a combination of chocolate, sweet cocoa and caramel.

In the second third, the cigar became creamier and the cocoa flavor was joined by earth and leather. And that earthiness took over in the final third and brought a little spice with it.

The Price
At $4.50 a stick, this cigar fits in at the top end of the budget range. And I think it’s a reasonable price, given the quality of the burn and the tasty array of flavors.

The Verdict
Before this review, I had only had one Italia. It was a smaller Novella in a bar in Memphis. As I recall, I got a lot more of that herbal thyme flavor, so when I smoked the Italia this time around I was surprised. I didn’t expect such a smooth, sweet cocoa-y smoke. And I think I know why the flavor was so different. In addition to the smaller size of the original, I was drinking some hoppy beers. The strength of the hops easily over powered the lighter, more subtle flavors of the cigar, but enhanced that single herbal flavor. I bring this up because I think this is a cigar you need to carefully consider what drink you pair with it.

So getting to the verdict finally, I did really enjoy this cigar. While I was smoking it, I was reminded of the three musketeers candy bars I used to like as a kid. Especially in the first third. I haven’t had a candy bar in ages, but I can see myself reaching for an Italia the next time I have a sweet tooth.

Oh hey, I almost forgot. Walt also reviewed the Italia back in 2006, why not check it out and get another point of view? Enjoy.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

The Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.