Each year some of the cigar industry’s most prominent independent owners meet with a few dozen manufacturers as part of the annual Tobacconists’ Association of America’s Meeting & Convention.

As with everything 2020, this year’s meeting didn’t take place as planned.

It was originally scheduled for March 22-26 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The organization opted to postpone and then cancel the in-person event, opting instead for a virtual meeting in late March. The good news for consumers is that the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic didn’t wipe out all, or even most of the new exclusive cigars as part of the TAA’s Exclusive Series Program.

Each year, as part of the meeting, manufacturers are able to release exclusive cigars for the group of roughly 80 retailers. In exchange for the privilege, the manufacturers pledge a portion of profits from each cigar—usually 25 cents to $1—to be donated back to the organization.

This year, 14 companies announced TAA exclusives:

General Cigar Co.’s entry is the CAO Expedición. Unlike most CAOs, the CAO Expedición is being produced at General’s factory in Honduras instead of Nicaragua. It’s a 6 1/8 x 50 toro that uses a Connecticut broadleaf oscuro wrapper over a Connecticut shade binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua.

It is priced at $9.49 per cigar and limited to 1,200 boxes of 10 cigars.

  • Cigar Reviewed: CAO Expedición
  • Country of Origin: Honduras
  • Factory: STG Danlí
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro)
  • Binder: U.S.A. (Connecticut Shade)
  • Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras & Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 1/8 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $9.49 (Box of 10, $94.90)
  • Release Date: July 16, 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,200 Boxes of 10 Cigars (12,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

I’m a big fan of the way the colors pop on the CAO Expedición, with the pattern reminding me of the historic Santa Fe Railways paint scheme, albeit with different colors. As for the cigar itself, it’s a chocolate bar-style cigar with a very dark and oily wrapper in a rectangular box-pressed cigar. The aroma from the wrapper smells a bit like Elmer’s glue with some mud, leather and the smell of powdered cocoa, right around medium-plus. The foot is closer to full in terms of intensity with chocolate, a generic sweetness, bark and white pepper. Cold draws produce sweet cocoa, a fruity sweetness that reminds me of Capri Sun and a slight amount of pepper.

My first notes say that this is a “pretty traditional start to a cigar” with an evenly balanced mixture of leather, earthiness and pepper. It’s still pretty traditional at the one-inch mark, as there’s coffee on top of a mixture of nuttiness and Pringles. It finishes with creaminess, leather and pepper. I was hoping that the retrohales would provide a bit more detail, but they are milder with a mixture of Pringles and some toasty flavors. While it’s not the most complex of profiles, it is quite flavorful. Flavor is full, body is medium-plus and strength is medium. Construction is fantastic.

The second third of the CAO Expedición adds a bit of depth, which given how the first third is going, is a major improvement. There’s toastiness, Ritz crackers, creaminess, sunflower seeds and some lemon. The finish is dominated by Ritz crackers with toastiness behind that. While the retrohales are stronger than the first third, it’s still a long way form what I’d expect it to be in terms of intensity. There’s a Capri Sun-like sweetness that reminds me of the cold draw, as well as  leather and something that sparks memories of the smell of granite. Flavor is full, body is medium-plus and strength is medium-plus.

Things continue to get more interesting with cedar and orange peel adding themselves to the existing second third profile. Unfortunately, with an inch left the sweetness dissipates and is replaced by some toastiness. The finish is basically just toastiness and continues to weaken as the cigar progress until the end, though there’s some oak and a bit of pepper at times. Retrohales are also toastier with some more of the Pringles-like flavor. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Smoke production decreases a bit, but construction remains excellent until the end.

Final Notes

  • Tobaccos are generally sorted to be either wrapper or filler tobaccos. From there, the wrapper tobaccos are aged and classified as either wrapper or binder. Despite this, there’s not a lot of cigars using Connecticut shade as a binder. I don’t really know why this is the case.
  • This is the third consecutive year General Cigar Co. has released a CAO as a TAA exclusive following the CAO Estelí and Brazilia Select.
  • Typically I find the retrohales to be more concentrated in flavor than the regular smoke, that was not the case here. There just wasn’t a ton of flavor to be found and outside of the second third, I’m not sure how much of it was helpful to the profile.
  • I’d recommend stopping smoking this with around 1 1/2 inch of the cigar left.
  • General Cigar Co. advertises on halfwheel.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsors Corona Cigar Co. and STOGIES World Class Cigars carry the CAO Expedición.
90 Overall Score

In many ways, the CAO Expedición is what I’ve come to expect from the brand over recent years. It’s well-made with a logical flavor profile that rarely has faults, though isn’t the most complex of profiles. As is typically the case with General Cigar Co.’s releases, the price is more reasonable than most new releases hitting the market. It might not be anything special, but there’s little to complain about here: just a solid cigar—nothing more, nothing less.

Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.