In 2013, CAO released a new blend inspired by car enthusiasts. Named Flathead, after the engine style made famous by Ford and Harley-Davidson, the cigar incorporated a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper covering an Ecuadoran Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The line now includes five different vitolas: the Sparkplug (4 1/2 x 50), the V642 Piston (6 1/2 x 42), the V554 Camshaft (5 1/2 x 54), the V660 Carb (6 x 60) and the V770 Big Block (7 x 70).

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger Box 1

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger Box 2

At the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, CAO decided to take the Flathead idea a step further by producing a new line that shares the flat cap with the original blend, but targeted towards motorcycle fans. Dubbed the Flathead Steel Horse, each of the vitolas features a different name pulled from the motorcycle culture. In addition, the blend is completely different: the wrapper is a proprietary Connecticut habano grueso leaf, while the binder is Brazilian arapiraca and the filler tobaccos are from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua.

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger Coffin 1

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger Coffin 2


Two sizes shipped at launch, each of which are sold in boxes of 20: the Bullneck (6 1/2 x 66, $9.99) and the Apehanger (5 1/2 x 58, $8.99.)

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Vitolas

  • CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger  (5 1/2 x 58) — $8.99 (Boxes of 20, $179.80)
  • CAO Flathead Steel Horse Bullneck  (6 1/2 x 66) — $9.99 (Boxes of 20, $199.80)

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger
  • Country of Origin: STG Estelí
  • Factory: Nicaragua
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Habano Grueso
  • Binder: Brazilian Arapiraca
  • Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras & Nicaragua
  • Size: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 58
  • Vitola: Gordo
  • MSRP: $8.99 (Boxes of 20, $179.80)
  • Release Date: Aug. 15, 2015
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3

The first thing you notice about the CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger is the flat cap, then the thick red-espresso brown wrapper that is slick with oil. The cigar is quite spongy when squeezed, and while it is mostly smooth to the touch, there are a multitude of bumps running up and down the length. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of strong dark cocoa, barnyard, cedar, grass and raisin sweetness, while the cold draw brings flavors of espresso beans, cedar, hay, dark chocolate and the same raisin sweetness.

Starting out, the CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger features a very dominant earth and oak, leather, wheat, anise and dark chocolate. There is some slight vanilla sweetness as well as some black pepper on the retrohale, but both are far from major players at this point. After taking a little longer than normal to get started, the burn is decent, but the draw is a bit more open than I would like. The smoke production is massive, and there is a nice—albeit light—creaminess on the finish that continues into the second third. By the time the Apehanger hits the end of the first third, it is already close to medium, but has not pushed through just yet.

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger 2

Unfortunately, the profile becomes fairly bland in the second third starting just before the halfway point. While the flavors are all pretty much the same, the profile becomes muddied, making it difficult to discern individual notes as well. Interestedly, I am noticing a new note on the retrohale: a vegetable flavor that reminds me of raw broccoli. There is less sweetness and less pepper overall, but the finish has become a bit more creamy. The burn continues to struggle, and I have had to touch it up a couple of times to prevent it from running away, while the draw remains quite loose. The smoke production has actually increase a bit, as has the strength, and the Steel Horse Apehanger easily hits a solid medium by the time the second third comes to an end.

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger 3

Thankfully, the flavors pick back up during the final third, and there is a new dominant flavor combination: creamy cedar and dark chocolate. Other notes of gritty earth, leather, generic nuttiness and hay flit in and out, but the flavors are quite a bit more distinct then they were in the second third. The vanilla sweetness is still present on the retrohale, as is some black pepper, but both are not strong enough to really affect the profile in any major way. The construction is a carbon copy of the second third, with a draw that is looser than I would like and a burn that needs attention to keep from becoming a major issue. The overall strength does push past the medium mark by the end of the cigar, but falls far short of full before I put the nub down with about an inch left.

CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger 4

Final Notes

  • Each of the names associated with the new line pulls from the motorcycle culture: a steel horse is a slang term for a motorcycle, apehangers refers to a specific type of handlebars that are so tall riders have to reach up to use them, while a bull neck is a headlight cover that stretches from the headlight to the steering handle.
  • The combination of thick wrapper and thick ring gauge means it takes a while for this cigar to get lit, but once it does it burns like a champ.
  • The first thing I thought of when I saw the flat cap on these cigars was the Neanderthal from RoMa Craft Tobac.
  • I cut the first two samples I smoked with a straight cutter, and the draw was much too open for my tastes. For my final sample, I used a punch, and that fixed the problem immediately, so that is the method I recommend if smoking this cigar.
  • You can see Patrick Lagreid’s coverage of the General Cigar booth at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show here.
  • Some samples for this review were provided to halfwheel by General Cigar Co. at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, others were purchased by halfwheel.
  • The final smoking time for all three samples averaged two hours and five minutes.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the CAO Flathead Steel Horse cigars, site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Elite Cigar Cafe (972.661.9136), Emerson’s Cigars, JR Cigars and Serious Cigars, have them in stock.
81 Overall Score

While there was nothing inherently bad about the CAO Flathead Steel Horse Apehanger, the cigar had some significant marks against it: the profile was not overly complex to begin with and the blandness that became apparent in the second third on all three samples did not help matters. There were construction issues as well, although not enough to really impact the overall enjoyment in a negative way, and the smoke production was consistently massive. I do love the look of the overall packaging, but in the end, the blend just did not give me enough to want to smoke it again.

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.