For what many consumers might think of as a big, mainstream brand like CAO, it has been on a tear of releasing small batch, limited production cigars as of late, something generally found done by much smaller companies.

In the last 18 months or so, CAO has put out the original CAO Hurricane, the Left Coast and Right Coast, a pair of Christmas-themed cigars in Angry Santa and Evil Snowman, CAO Brazilia Carnivale and the event-only Area 9 project. There is also a Fourth of July themed cigar in the works called Sinister Samthat is Rick Rodriguez’s take on the CAO America.

In mid-April, word began circulating about CAO’s next limited release, a quartet of cigars called CAO Natural Disastersthat would be released to separate regions of the country:

  • CAO Hurricane (6 x 54) — $8.00 (Boxes of 10, $80.00) — 1,500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (15,000 Total Cigars)
  • CAO Cyclone (6 x 54) — $8.00 (Boxes of 10, $80.00) — 1,500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (15,000 Total Cigars)
  • CAO Heatwave (6 x 54) — $8.00 (Boxes of 10, $80.00) — 1,500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (15,000 Total Cigars)
  • CAO Earthquake (6 x 54) — $8.00 (Boxes of 10, $80.00) — 1,500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (15,000 Total Cigars)

Specifics released on each of the four cigars has varied, including the specific states that would get which cigar and the blend notes, while price and production are consistent across the collection. The Cyclone, which was designated for the midwest, has been reported at stores in Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana so far.

Among those who know a bit about CAO’s history and its acquisition by General Cigar Co., there has been speculation that these cigars draw from tobacco that CAO had when it became part of General Cigar and the larger Scandinavian Tobacco Group, and that these projects are an attempt to make use of those tobacco reserves while joining the limited edition trend that has been a part of the cigar industry for the past several years.

CAO Cyclone 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: CAO Cyclone
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: STG Estelí
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Binder: Honduras
  • Filler: Honduras
  • Size: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $8.00 (Boxes of 10, $80.00)
  • Date Released April 21, 2014
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (15,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2

A dark, oily and toothy wrapper covers the CAO Cyclone with the biggest veins hidden on the back of the cigar. The band actually has me thinking more about wafting smoke than violent winds, though I do like the design. It could pass even pass for a ring, as the graphic would certainly be a conversation starter. I’m intrigued by the way the tobacco lays by what I can see in the foot, as most of the central leaves lay flat while the binder and wrapper encircle them. On the foot there are notes of toffee and firewood, a very enjoyable first impression but one that fades away fairly quickly. The cold draw is on the loose side with little impeding the air flow, and flavors showing notes that remind me of a chocolate souflee with hints of coffee grounds and caramel, though it is not an outright sweet note and there is hardly any spice to be found.

Once lit, the air flow doesn’t seem quite as bad as I had envisioned it being based on the cold draw, yet it is still loose for my liking. There is more pepper to be found in the warm and almost fuzzy smoke than I would have thought given its absence from the pre-light interactions with the cigar. A medium strength profile is offered by the CAO Cyclone in its early goings marked by touches of earth, dark chocolate without much sweetness and a pinch of coffee. The lingering note on the tongue is seemingly a bit more complex than the smoke itself, though that might also be the benefit of smoking it on a completely fresh palate. The first retrohale shows a more concentrated pepper component and while manageable, is still fairly generous with the tingle. The burn line starts crisp and even before wavering just a bit; some might consider it worthy of a correctional touch-up but I opt to let it go and see if it corrects itself before needing intervention. Frequent puffing reveals a bit of a scorched earth note that is a good reminder to slow down a bit, with more leisurely puffs allowing the aroma to shine better as the flavor mellows out just past the first inch. Despite a wavy burn line and a developing crack, the curved ash does a good job holding on well past an inch in length, with a color range from that includes several shades of gray all the way to black in some spots. It’s the cracks that allow light to escape from the glowing orange core that confirm suspicions of the cigar being a bit underfilled.

CAO Cyclone 2

After a dry wood note comes in during the final puffs of the first third, the CAO Cyclone mellows out quite considerably in the second third, with faint notes of espresso as the only distinguishable note between the start of the second third and the midpoint. The burn rate also seems to pick up as the draw has loosened and now fulfills the fears developed on the cold draw of air just gliding through the cigar with hardly any restriction. Firewood and roasted earth notes start to take over for the espresso and create a drier flavor profile, with the pepper largely gone from the equation and the strength dialed back to less than medium. It’s a warm and full smoke with a good bit of flavor but much less in the way of strength. The aroma continues to deliver though with notes of campfire, a bit of light roast coffee and an overall blanket of warmth that helps it stand out.

CAO Cyclone 3

The flavors found in the first third of the CAO Cyclone return in an almost exact fashion in the final third with the dry chocolate cake and coffee notes up front and just a slight touch of pepper in the background. At points it becomes easy to see some sizable gaps in the spacing of the leaves, providing one last bit of visual confirmation that the cigar was underfilled as suspected as well as an explanation for the loose draw. Other than the draw, the cigar has burned very well with no need for a touch up or relight and commendable performance by the ash for hanging on despite not having as much raw material as is found in other cigars. The final few puffs are the warmest yet but stay very manageable, with the cigar taking an uptick in strength back to that medium to medium-plus level found earlier. The first real hit of nicotine comes out with less than two inches left to burn, with a slowed rate of puffing allowing the cigar to be smoked down as far as desired.

CAO Cyclone 4

Final Notes

  • The bands on the CAO Cyclone are surprisingly reflective though they do distort reflections. While you can see yourself in the bands, I wouldn’t use them to see if you have anything in your teeth.
  • The cyclone logo is my favorite of the bunch, though it also seems to require the most explanation as it’s not readily apparent just what is being implied by the logo.
  • While the comments on CAO’s Natural Disasters line weren’t the most positive, I wasn’t really offended by the idea. I can certainly understand where the objections come from, but it just didn’t rile me up as it appeared to have done to others.
  • If anything, it shows how at times, cigar companies can appear to be fetching for new names for cigars.
  • I almost thought about including a 50 Shades of Grey reference in regards to the ash, but opted against it.
  • Brian Burt reviewed the CAO Earthquake, while Charlie Minato reviewed the original CAO Hurricane in June 2013.
  • Final smoking time was two hours on average.
  • The cigars for this review were purchase by halfwheel.
  • Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar carries the CAO Heatwave, which is part of the Natural Disasters line, but not the CAO Cyclone.
86 Overall Score

The CAO Cyclone didn't leave me fawning over it or blown away (pardon the pun) by what it offered, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy it. Far from it in fact, as I found myself content with the performance and flavors offered by both of the samples I smoked. While the draw was a little loose it didn't become that much of an issue, nor did any part of the construction of the cigar. For what this is—or might be—I was left satisfied and more than ready to enjoy another, which I consider to be a compliment to any cigar I light up.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.