The 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show brought news of a unique new release for General Cigar Co. Named CAO Amazon Basin, the blend included a type of tobacco called Bragança, which is grown in the Amazon rainforest and harvested just once every three years. The rest of the blend included a Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from the Amazon and Nicaragua released in a single 6 x 52 viola.

Our original booth coverage during the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show included some expanded information on the unique tobacco used in the cigar:

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.

Last month, General Cigar Co. announced it would be rereleasing the Amazon Basin, using both the same size as well as the same blend as the original release. However, with an MSRP of $10.25, the newest incarnation comes in $1 higher per cigar than the version sold in 2014.

Here is what I said in my first review of the CAO Amazon Basin back in August 2014:

After being surprised with how much I liked the Cohiba Nicaragua, I was looking forward to seeing what General had in store for the CAO Amazon Basin. Quite a fuss was made about the unique tobacco in the blend, and while I enjoyed the cigar as a whole, I just did not taste that much uniqueness in the flavors that were present. The first two thirds are easily the best, and the final score would have been higher if the harshness had not been present in the final third. Having said that, overall the profile of the cigar is quite enjoyable, enough to recommend it.

Almost a year later, here is what I said for my first redux review of the Amazon Basin in July 2015:

This is one of those cigars that I knew I wanted to redux the minute I finished the original review. Would some significant time tone down the harshness in the profile that hurt it so significantly the first time around, or would it turn out that was just a part of what makes up the cigar? Thankfully, I can report that the former is the case, as the overall flavors in the cigar are slightly more complex, but more importantly, has the added bonus of not featuring the same harshness at any point during the smoke. While I still think it could be improved in any number of ways, 10 months of age has done wonders for the CAO Amazon Basin, and I can easily recommend picking some up if you can find them.

  • Cigar Reviewed: CAO Amazon Basin
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: STG Estelí
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Brazil & Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $10.25 (Boxes of 18, $184.50)
  • Release Date: October 10, 2016
  • Number of Cigars Released: n/a
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1

Today I’m reduxing the newest version to see how it compared to the original. As with the first samples, the new version of the CAO Amazon Basin is strikingly unique with a dark espresso brown wrapper  braided strand of tobacco wrapped around the cigar in place of the band. There is an abundance of oil present, and the wrapper is slickly smooth to the touch. Aroma from the wrapper is an interesting combination of earth, sweet raisons, black pepper, sweet cedar and slightly spoiled milk, while the cold draw brings flavors of chipotle peppers, popcorn, yeast, golden raisins, creamy leather and black pepper.

Starting out, the CAO Amazon Basin features a couple of flavors that are easily more dominant than the rest, including a huge cotton candy sweetness as well as rich mesquite note, followed by lesser flavors of bitter chocolate, ground coffee, anise, espresso beans, leather and almonds. There is plenty of black pepper on the retrohale and spice on my tongue, but both are well integrated, and are somewhat mollified by the aforementioned sweetness that is present in profile. Around the start of the second half, an interesting orange citrus begins to become noticeable, becoming more and more prevalent in the profile until it takes over one of the top spots around the start of the final third. The final half of the Amazon Basin also sees the black pepper on the retrohale recede just a bit, although it remains fairly obvious unit the end of the cigar.cao-amazon-basin-2016

Construction-wise, the CAO Amazon Basin is fantastic, exhibiting both an excellent draw that features just the right amount of resistance as well as a razor sharp burn line that never wavers off course. In fact, the ash held on for close to two inches before falling for the first time, and there is plenty of dense, white smoke that smells quite a bit like barbecue. The overall strength is noticeable without being unmanageable, ending up just north of the medium mark by the time I put the nub down with a little less than an inch left after one hour and 45 minutes of smoking time.

92 Overall Score

I have now smoked five samples of the CAO Amazon Basin over a period of 27 months, and the differences between the three versions could not be more obvious. The newest sample is like a whole different cigar compared to the previous two, with an ever present combination of cotton candy sweetness and black pepper on the retrohale, as well as orange citrus and mesquite on the palate, all of which add up to profile that is not only immensely complex, but also quite enjoyable. In fact, the profiles are so different from the first two samples that I would not be surprised if CAO had changed the blend a bit before releasing the newest batch, perhaps by adding—or taking away—more of the Bragança tobacco. Whatever the case, the latest incarnation of the Amazon Basin is excellent in just about every regard, and I suggest you run, not walk to get one to smoke.

Original Score (August 2014)
Redux Score (June 2015)
Redux Score (November 2016)
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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.