Cigar Blog 101

Cigars and cigar aficionados discuss their favorite cigars, humidors, cigar accessories and more.

Monday, December 18, 2006

3 Regular Guys Cigar Review - CAO Criollo Mancha

Super 8 Cigar Sampler Review Courtesy of the 3 Regular Guys at Thompson Cigar.

We like CAO a lot. All three of us are big fans of the company for our individual reasons; not just because of the Flavourettes they definitely don’t hurt the average. Rather we like CAO because they do an all around great job. They’re not really the new kid on the block; they’ve been in the game since Cano founded the company as a pipe-maker back in 1968. They are kind of the unique kid on the block though; with the headquarters of CAO International in Nashville of all places. But that sets them apart and they seem to like it.

CAO is responsible for testing the waters if not entirely redrawing the borders of the world cigar empire. We all know about the SopranosTM cigars with the sedan trunk styled box and Tim Ozgener’s development of the Brazilia that edged into the ashy-gray area of creating a cigar that showcases Brazilian tobacco instead of merely using it as a component (we’ll get to the Brazilia two reviews from now). Speaking of Tim, we’re sort of blog brothers with him anyway. We write for Cigarblog101; he writes for OzBlog. Or he did, back in the day –however now that he’s president of CAO (kudos!) I’m guessing he’s quite busy and his blogmaster can’t really bribe him with Dominican samplers to write faster since he’s got the key to the top-secret CAO product development humidor.

Back to the real matter at hand -the CAO Criollo Mancha 5 5/8 x 46. Criollo was the first tobacco strain selectively developed by Cuban scientists in the Pinar del Rio region. It was the optimal cigar tobacco. The only drawback was the difficulty in getting good wrapper leaf from the plant. That spurred the development of Corojo leaf. However, this CAO has a Nicaraguan grown Criollo ’98 Seed wrapper. If you think the Criollo is a little bit pricey this is the reason why. It’s a real pain to get criollo wrapper but CAO pulled it off anyway. And that folks is the long version of how this neat little Nicaraguan puro came into being. Oh and we smoked it too.

First off we all really dug the pigtail cap. It’s the cigar equivalent of a pocket square –you don’t have to have one, but it definitely adds distinction and sets you above the crowd. It’s a nice accent and doesn’t get in the way. You can use any type of cutter and it holds up great.

The criollo wrapper is a medium brown color; smooth with few veins. Scott thought it looked a bit like smooth suede; Colm said “fantastic looking cigar;” and Dave zeroed in on it being a solid and well made cigar that smelled rather spicy pre-light. Once we had smoked them for a while we noted a broad variety of tastes. Dave thought the flavor was slightly bitterer than anticipated, even going on to say that it was chalky as was the medium finish (for having a Mother of All Humidors in his dining room –full mind you- we’ve got to listen to his thoughts). He also found the draw to be a little tight which is understandable because this cigar is packed with tobacco –noted by Scott as “uber slow even burn leaving a dense light gray ash.”

Scott strayed considerably from Dave, instead finding this stick to be diverse. The taste was a little tangy and spicy on the tongue. The smoke was woody and hinted at nutmeg and the body had a leathery chewiness to it. The finish was medium in length with a touch of peppery spiciness.

Colm wandered down his usual path of wanting every cigar to be the close kin of a Fuente or a Padron. He thought the Criollo was very smooth and slightly complex with well-balanced flavors. Ending in a perfect ash, this cigar was well liked by Colm except he wished it were fuller bodied like a Padron. Aside from wanting a bit more of everything it is, Colm cited the Criollo as exhibit 4,382 why he’s a huge Nicaraguan cigar fan.

We like the Criollo. It’s not at the top of the list but this cigar certainly occupies a solid spot when we want a spicy and varied smoke that promises consistency and dependability. True to its Nicaraguan pedigree this cigar does have a bit of muscle to it. Scott learned firsthand thinking that it’d be no problem to smoke it standing up. He pulled through but the Criollo gained an extra measure of his respect. So maybe the CAO Criollo doesn’t settle into the annals of history as an epic journey, however it does serve as one hell of a fun detour in the meantime.

Get your Super 8 Sampler by clicking here >>.

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  • At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    CAO is a great smoke. I would love to order some, but Indiana went communist and disallowed mail order tobacco.

  • At 2:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love Criollo. One of my fav smokes. Come down south, we are still free. CAO knew what they were doing by putting their headquarters in dixie. Cheers!


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