In 2008, as part of CAO’s Escaparte series, the then Nashville, Tenn.-based company released a specific line of cigars to Serious Cigars of Houston, Texas. Four different sizes of a Colombian puro were crafted, aptly named the CAO Escaparte Colombia.
After the establishment of STG Group and the inclusion of CAO in General Cigar Co.’s portfolio, the CAO Escaparte series was ended and as such, no one thought much of the older blends. That is of course until this year’s trade show, when a familiar yellow, red and blue band returned as one of the new CAO releases.
While the CAO Colombia will once again be offered in four sizes and features very similar packaging, many things have changed. The cigar will now be made in Nicaragua, as opposed to Honduras, it will be sold to all accounts and most importantly, the blend has changed.
Representatives for General Cigar Co. told halfwheel that they did not believe Colombian wrapper was ready to be used on a cigar, somewhat contrary to what the old CAO claimed about the old blend six years ago. Instead, the new CAO Colombia uses a Honduran wrapper from the Jamastran Valley, a Cameroon binder and filler from Colombia. The four sizes are Bogota (6 x 60, $7.75), Magdalena (6 1/4 x 54, $7.50), Tinto (5 x 50, $6.50) and Vallenato (5 x 56, $6.75).
- Cigar Reviewed: CAO Colombia Vallenato
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: STG Estelí
- Wrapper: Honduras (Jamastran Valley)
- Binder: Cameroon
- Filler: Colombia
- Size: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 56
- Vitola: Robusto Gordo
- MSRP: $6.75 (Boxes of 20, $135.00)
- Release Date: August 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 4
The band is familiar, but that’s where the nostalgia stops. The golden Honduran wrapper is a dozen or so shades lighter than the darker rosado wrapper I remember. Aroma from the wrapper is mild with sweet leather. From the foot, there’s much more complexity—leather, sweet oatmeal, grainy and lemon tea. Form the cold draw of the CAO Colombia I get flavor of oatmeal, orange chicken, unfinished sweetness, pepper and even a bit of floral sugar that could be confused with twang. It’s a nice buffet, but it’s not the most sensible of profiles.
Sweet grains dominate the first few puffs. Paired with the oatmeal flavor, it’s a very interesting start that has touches of sweetness and vanilla causing a ton of salivation in the mouth. Smoke production is fine, but all four CAO samples have tight draws, somewhat odd for the vitola. The aforementioned sweet grain continues to lead the profile while leather and spices sit behind it. Not a ton of complexity, but what flavor it does have, it’s quite unique. Strength is mild to medium, with a medium-plus body.
The draw is a bit all over the place across the samples I smoke—some tighten, some loosen, none really remain constant. However, the CAO Colombia remains enjoyable with the wheat notes upfront, sugar cookies, orange peel and juniper behind it. While the grain flavor is rather similar to the first third, the rest of the profile is fairly different, albeit, still very much unique.
There’s definitely a reduction in the potency of the grain notes in the final two inches, but it’s still the main flavor. Instead of surrounding both the nose and mouth, it’s somewhat restricted to the mouth. This decreases salivation, although because of just how much took place for the first two thirds, even the decreased level of salivation is above average. The leather flavor has increased somewhat, or at the very least is showing itself more, while bits of cocoa begin to make their way into the retrohales. Strength has taken the tiniest step forward, still south of medium, but a bit more noticeable.
- The obvious question after hearing the comments from the General Cigar Co. representatives is—was the first release really a Colombian puro? I don’t know for sure, but here’s what I can tell you.
- Lying about Colombian tobacco is nothing new in the cigar business. In fact, outside of fake Cubans, it’s probably the most lied about tobacco in the history of cigars. That being said, normally people deny using it, as opposed to lie about including it.
- General Cigar Co. had nothing to do with CAO when those cigars were made.
- I’ve smoked Colombian pure grades for validation purposes, the original CAO Colombia smoked similar enough to settle any doubts.
- While it might not look the case, because they are done similar to the Brazilia and Italia boxes, the Colombia boxes are actually new. The original CAO Colombia was packaged in mazos.
- Outside of Cohiba, General has been really focused on putting out cigars at lower price points. The 5 x 50 size of the original CAO Colombia was $7.95, compared to $6 for the new one.
- This is not the CAO Amazon Basin. That’s the cigar that uses tobacco from the Amazon rainforest. It allegedly involves not only a unique process for growing, harvesting and processing, but also transport via canoes.
- My biggest pet peeve with this cigar was the draw, which was varying degrees of tight and hard to predict.
- The CAO Colombia is medium-full in flavor, although the salivation is really high. I know there are some manufacturers that really aim for this effect, it definitely helped here.
- Samples for this review were provided by General Cigar Co. at the 2014 IPCPR convention and trade show.
- I found that the cigar performed best when it was rushed a bit, burning somewhat warm. Final smoking time was one hour and 25 minutes.
Like many of you, I scanned over the General Cigar IPCPR post looking at pictures. I had heard about some releases, most notably the new Cohibas and the other CAO, but I did not read the details regarding the CAO Colombia. I had no clue about the pricing or blend up until a few hours before this review is published. Towards the top of my notes lies, “definitely not a Colombian puro.” If you’ve smoked pure grade Colombian tobacco, you will know this is not it. In addition, if you smoked the original CAO Colombia, you will also know this is a much different blend.
While you might wonder if new version outperforms the original—I don’t believe so—the better question is whether this is good? It’s incredibly unique, one of the more unique profiles I’ve smoked this year and most certainly the most unique cigar I’ve smoked from General in a while. I say go for it; it’s good, not great. If you ever thought the company “could not make a good cigar”—the CAO Colombia is evidence to the contrary. And then when you look it your receipt and realize that it did not cost $10, you might just like it quite a bit more.