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CAO Amazon Basin (Prerelease)

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One of the most discussed cigars at the IPCPR show last month in Las Vegas was the CAO Amazon Basin, which incorporates some fairly unique tobacco into its blend. While the wrapper is Ecuadorian Sumatra and the binder and some of the internal tobacco is from Nicaragua, 40 percent of the filler is Bragança, a tobacco grown in the Amazon Rain Forest and harvested just once every three years. 

Our story on the General Cigar Co. booth at the IPCPR show had more info on the unique process it took to get the Amazon Basin to the market:

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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. 

The CAO Amazon Basin is only being released in one vitola, a 6 x 52 toro that retails for $9.25. It will be sold in boxes of 18 and is scheduled to ship to retailers today. Unfortunately, when this initial batch of cigars is sold out, it is uncertain if it will be possible to produce more, as General says it were able to purchase less than 5,000 pounds of the Bragança tobacco.

CAO Amazon Basin 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: CAO Amazon Basin
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: STG Estelí
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Brazil & Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $9.25 (Boxes of 18, $166.50)
  • Date Released: August 14, 2014
  • Number of Cigars to be Released: n/a
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3

The CAO Amazon Basin is quite distinctive from the first time you view it, with a dark reddish brown wrapper that is fairly smooth to the touch and features a noticeable amount of oil. The band is made up of twisted tobacco wrapped around the cigar about an inch from the cap, unfortunately, there was signs of a soft spot below the ban. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of strong sweet raisins, earth, leather and plums, while the cold draw brings flavors of extremely distinct raisins, nuts, cedar and a little spice.

The first third of the CAO Amazon Basin starts out with flavors of earth, leather, dark cocoa, creamy peanuts and oak, along with a pretty aggressive amount of spice on the tongue and pepper on the retrohale. The distinct raisin sweetness I tasted in the cold draw is significantly toned down in the actual profile, but there is still a little present that comes to the forefront every once in a while. The smoke production is well above average. Strength is almost a non-factor so far, ending the first third far short of the medium mark, although it does seem to be getting stronger. Construction-wise, the Amazon Basin features a draw that is a bit more open than I would like, and while the burn is far from perfect, I do not need to correct it.

CAO Amazon Basin 2

A very strong leather note that reminds me of a tack shop begins to take over dominance as the second third of the Amazon Basin begins, while other flavors of oak, dark cocoa, bitter espresso, and a smokiness that makes me think of fire cured tobacco. The raisin sweetness from the first third has morphed into an interesting cinnamon and sugar combination, and I notice a tiny bit of a floral note every few puffs, although it is relegated to the retrohale. The smoke production remains high, while the burn has evened up nicely and the draw has tightened up as well. The pepper on the retrohale remains consistent with the first third, and overall the strength has increased noticeably, easily hitting the medium mark before the second third draws to a close. 

CAO Amazon Basin 3

The final third of the CAO starts out much the same as the second third, but the profile begins to turn a bit harsh a little after that. While not overwhelming, the harshness continues to pick up strength until I hit the “band”, where the profile turns noticeably bitter as well. There are other flavors that can be picked out: leather, espresso and oak, along with a slight earthy note, but the harshness is pervasive and only gets stronger as the cigar burns down. Both the burn and draw are give me no problems until I put the nub down, and the strength ends the cigar slightly above the medium mark.

CAO Amazon Basin 4

Final Notes

  • The “band” is made up of a vein of tobacco leaf that is wrapped around the cigar four times, and is smokable, although when I tried to smoke into the coils the profile turned  noticeably bitter until it ended. I would suggest you end your smoking experience before the coils, or cut them off, which is quite easy to do with a knife.
CAO Amazon Basin Coils
  • We were told that the band takes quite a bit of time and effort to apply to each cigar compared to a normal paper band.
  • General Cigar Co. also told us that it needed to use other tobacco to balance out the strength of the Amazonian tobacco.
  • The raisin note on the cold draw is very distinct, and while there is a raisin flavor in the actual profile while smoking, it was not even close to as strong.
  • The cigar world is full of non-specific claims about tobacco used in blends, and I have to say I find it refreshing that General has given so much information about where they sourced the tobacco for this cigar.
  • You can see information on the rest of General Cigar Co. releases from the IPCPR show here.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were supplied to halfwheel by General Cigar Co. at the IPCPR show in Las Vegas.
  • The final smoking time for the samples I smoked for this review averaged one hour and 40 minutes.
  • Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar is a General Cigar Co. dealer, and will have the CAO Amazon Basin when it is released later this month.
85 Overall Score

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.

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Brooks Whittington
About the author

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.

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