Editor’s Note: On April 22, 2024, we published a redux review under the name “CAO Amazon Basin (2024)” that was actually a review of the CAO Orellana and not this newest release. When we realized the error, that review was removed from the site and the review of the actual CAO Amazon Basin (2024)—the review you are reading now—was scheduled. — Brooks Whittington.

During the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show—now known as the PCA Convention & Trade Show—General Cigar Co. showed off a new cigar, the CAO Amazon Basin. Not only was the cigar visually interesting—it featured a coiled rope of tobacco in place of a standard paper band—but it was also made with a very unique type of tobacco.

For that initial release, 40 percent of the filler blend was made up of Bragança, a type of tobacco grown in the Amazon rainforest that is harvested just once every three years. According to the company, after being harvested, the leaves are rolled by hand into tubes called carottes and then undergo six months of natural fermentation. The process of getting that tobacco to the factory takes four to six weeks and 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.”

In addition to rereleases of the Amazon Basin in 2016 and 2022, General Cigar released a version of the cigar in 2023 named Amazon Basin Extra Añejo that was aged in a Spanish cedar-lined aging room at the STG Estelí factory for two years before being shipped to retailers. The original Amazon Basin has also inspired multiple offshoot releases, including the CAO Amazon Fumo em Corda, CAO Amazon Anaconda and CAO Orellana.

Earlier this year, General Cigar began shipping the newest batch of the standard Amazon Basin. As has been the case with past releases, the cigar is a 6 x 52 toro that incorporates an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper covering a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos grown in Brazil, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. Interestingly, when the cigar debuted in 2014, the blend was described as having Nicaraguan tobacco in the filler.

“When we launched Amazon Basin a decade ago, we debuted Amazonian tobacco to the world and created a smoking experience that was completely different from anything on the market,” said Ed Lahmann, senior brand manager for CAO, in a press release. “We’re pleased to release the special blend again this year. And while we are not disclosing production figures, the number of boxes we’re releasing this year is down from 2022 because of the scarcity of the tobacco and the care it requires. My advice to CAO fans is if you see Amazon Basin, be sure to get your hands on it.”

The MSRP for the 2024 release is $14.29 per cigar—up from a $12.99 MSRP when the cigar was released in 2022—and the cigars are packaged in 18-count boxes. General has not said exactly how many cigars are shipping, though has said that it is “slightly less” than the 6,000 boxes of 18 cigars it shipped in 2022.

Here is what I wrote in my first review back in 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.

This is what I wrote in my first redux review in 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 (2024)
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: STG Estelí
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Sumatra)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Brazil, Colombia & Dominican Republic
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $14.29 (Box of 18, $257.22)
  • Release Date: January 2024
  • Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

Editor’s Note: This is one of the rare cases when we are doing a redux review of a new version of a cigar and not of an aged sample of a cigar we have already reviewed. — Charlie Minato.

The coiled ropes of tobacco used as a pseudo-band make the Amazon Basin instantly stand out from most other cigars, and the cigar’s gorgeous dark brown wrapper only adds to its attractiveness. There is quite a bit of oil present—more than I remember from my first review—and the lack of tooth and any protruding veins accentuates the suppleness of the wrapper. Aromas from the wrapper are dominated by a slightly sour earthiness, but scents of baker’s spices, barnyard, sawdust, wood and generic nuts are also present. Bringing the foot to my nose allows me to smell strong black pepper and oak as well as some brown sugar sweetness, leather tack, cinnamon, espresso beans and gritty earth. Finally, after a straight cut, the cold draw brings a strong and interesting note that I can only describe as varnished oak, with secondary flavors of nutmeg, roasted peanuts, black pepper, dark chocolate and dry hay.

Spice, black pepper and a massive toasted marshmallow sweetness are the first flavors I take note of, and all three flavors stick around for about five puffs. At that point, main flavors of creamy oak and powdery cocoa nibs take over the top spots in the profile, followed by secondary notes of nutmeg, roasted peanuts, anise, toasted bread and bitter espresso. There is a significant amount of black pepper on the retrohale through the first half, but there is also a large raisin sweetness that is aggressive enough to make itself known easily. Flavor ends the first half at full, while the body is at a solid medium and the strength hits a point just over the medium mark. In terms of construction, there is a massive amount of dense, gray smoke emanating from the foot every time I take a puff. The draw is virtually perfect after a straight cut and the burn line is close to razor-sharp.

There are some noticeable changes, the main flavors shift to a combination of dried tea leaves and sweet bready note. Additional flavors of dry hay, anise, leather, coffee beans, cocoa nibs, creamy oak show up at various points, and while I taste a fleeting mint leaf note on the finish, it does not stick around long enough to make much of an impact. There is still plenty of raisin sweetness on the retrohale, but the amount of black pepper has been reduced by at least 50 percent compared to the first half. The flavor remains at full until the end of the cigar, but the body increases to just over medium and the strength reaches medium-plus. Finally, the smoke production remains copious and the draw gives me no issues, and while the burn line does become a bit wavy at times, it never becomes problematic enough to need a correction with my lighter.

93 Overall Score

Lively and complex, the CAO Amazon Basin features a profile that is full of distinct transitions and rich flavors, including creamy oak and powdery cocoa nibs in the first half that shift to a combination of sweet readiness and dried tea leaves in the second half. Then there is the retrohale, which features a combination of jammy raisins and intense black pepper, both of which are strong enough to hold their own against each other but not strong enough to overwhelm the rest of the profile. I have long felt that the Amazon Basin is one of General Cigar Co.’s best blends—at least since the line’s second release—and that trend continues in a big way with this newest incarnation.

Original Score (August 2014, Original Release)
85
Redux Score (June 2015, Original Release)
89
Redux Score (May 2024, 2024 Release)
93
Avatar photo

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.