General Cigar Co. has not gotten credit for the job it has done with CAO.
When the company took over the brand in 2011, the belief was that CAO as we knew it was dead, something most believed was a bad thing. The first few years were a bit rough at times, but within the last three years, it has been quite clear that General has found not just its own stride with CAO but also a good bit of success. The star of the portfolio is the Amazon Basin, a cigar the company launched at the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show as a limited production release using Brazilian Bragança tobacco.
Earlier this year, General Cigar Co. announced that the company would create a trilogy of cigars surrounding the CAO Amazon Basin, with the two new cigars coming this year.
The first of those two releases was Fuma em Corda, the second is the Amazon Anaconda, a 6 x 52 toro that combines the Brazilian Bragança tobacco from the Amazon Basin and Fuma em Corda tobacco, from the second release.
We’ve described the Brazilian Bragança tobacco before:
Unlike traditional tobacco plantations where the plants are arranged in neat rows, these seeds are planted wherever there is available sunlight. Once harvested, the leaves are rolled by hand into tubes called carottes and undergo six months of natural fermentation, a technique similar to that of Andullo tobacco. Once fermented, it takes four to six weeks to get them from forest to factory, a process that involves being hand carried to the river, put into canoes and rowed to the mainland, then driven to the port and shipped to Nicaragua where they are made.
And Fuma em Corda:
The name translates into smoke on a rope which is also the name of the fermenting process for the arapiraca tobacco from the Brazilian state of Alagoas. It is literally twisted into large ropes of tobacco, then fermented that way as opposed to how we’re more used to hearing it done in large piles, or pilones.
Like the other two cigars, General says production is not capped, however it is limited because of the unique tobaccos. While it is on the market now, it is likely to disappear for a period of time.
- CAO Amazon Basin (6 x 52) — $10.25 (Boxes of 18, $184.50)
- CAO Amazon Fuma Em Corda Robusto (5 x 50) — $8.99 (Boxes of 20, $179.80)
- CAO Amazon Fuma Em Corda Toro (6 x 58) — $10.49 (Boxes of 20, $209.80)
- CAO Amazon Anaconda (6 x 52) — $10.49 (Boxes of 20, $209.80)
- Cigar Reviewed: CAO Amazon Anaconda
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: STG Estelí
- Wrapper: Brazilian Bahiano Habano Ligero
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Brazil (Bragança & Fuma Em Corda), Colombia & the Dominican Republic
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $10.49 (Boxes of 20, $209.80)
- Release Date: August 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
To my eye, the CAO Amazon Anaconda is probably the most disappointing looking of the trio, with the extra strand of tobacco that serves as the band spiraled around the top portion of the cigar. It’s still unique, but I find it just boring, particularly compared to the way the other two cigars look. Aroma off the damp wrapper smells like cinnamon candy; it’s only medium, but the flavor is quite developed. There is a really bizarre aroma coming from the foot that smells somewhat like an artificial lavender scent, but not particularly well done. In addition, the cinnamon candy and some sweeter spices surround the relatively full flavor on the foot. I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out the aforementioned lavender, which makes an appearance on the cold draw as well. It’s soapier—similar to a hop flavor—but also sweeter, with hints of passion fruit and cantaloupe.
For better or worse, the weird flavor is not present once I take my first puff. Instead, it’s semi-sweet with a fair amount of developed wood flavors—most notably cedar—along with barbecue pork ribs and acorns. The first third develops flavors of pancake mix, burning oak, and some cantaloupe sweetness, though without any of the bizarre flavors from the cold draw. Cinnamon and white pepper are mixed in the back half of the mouth with the cinnamon being the more dominant of the two flavors. Flavor is medium-full and good, although not particularly smooth. Body and strength are both medium. Construction is good, but the burn is slow with one cigar taking 50 minutes to get through the first third.
Cinnamon remains, but the rest of the profile takes a pretty sharp turn in the second third of the Amazon Anaconda. There’s some cornbread, caramel apple, Life cereal, a generic meatiness and lots of black pepper. The smoke itself almost smells like an orange candle, which adds an interesting depth to the flavor profile, which is medium-full. I am really struggling with the burn of one sample and find myself touching it up every half inch or so through the second third. As for the other two, construction is pretty good.
Earthiness takes over the final third in front of peppermint, Persian limes, creaminess, and a touch of orange. I’m somewhat curious as to how much orange is actually coming off the top of the cigar versus the amount of orange based off the burning aroma, but whatever the case, it’s part of the flavor profile. I expected to be done with recording flavors after I hit the final inch of the Anaconda, but then the profile shifts. The CAO smooths out substantially with a flavor reminiscent of a raspberry Nutri-Grain bar as well as some pralines and then an exploding black pepper. This ends up meaning the cigar ends up full and building with flavor, not just in intensity, but also complexity.
- There is a part of me that wonders if General Cigar Co. shouldn’t try to offer cigars within the CAO Amazon Series with more regularity, as the cigar has legitimate national popularity. However, I give the company a ton of credit for putting the quality of the cigar over the bottom line. As such, supplies of the cigar have so far been limited, but the quality of the cigars has been great.
- I smoked though the bands on one sample and would not recommend doing it. It added a bitterness and certainly made the burn a lot tougher.
- I was surprisingly not that annoyed with the tobacco hitting my lips. I find myself getting annoyed quickly when bands touch the top of my lips, but for whatever reason, this was an afterthought.
- One sample had some burn issues in the second third that took three touch-ups to fix, but after that it was smooth sailing. Construction was otherwise fine.
- Final smoking time was two and a half hours.
Somewhat out of nowhere, General Cigar Co. has stumbled upon a bonafide hit. When Brooks Whittington praised the original Amazon Basin there wasn’t some immediate response, or confirmation. Six months later and all of a sudden people were asking for a cigar that was no longer on shelves. That picked up more and more steam until the cigar returned last year and I think the bookend on the trilogy might be the best of the bunch. This is a plethora of flavors—some super smooth and others rough—but they combine into a highly enjoyable symphony of flavors.