CAO has made a lot of cigars over its relatively short history and a lot of them have been limited editions. There have been special releases for anniversaries, events, Super Bowls and plenty of other causes, but CAO’s most famous limited edition series was named for the room where cigars are aged, the escaparte.

CAO’s former headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. featured an escaparte, one that is shown here by Jerry Cruz shortly before the company moved to Richmond, VA. The Escaparte series was a variety of blends that were released to a who’s who of retailers in limited quantities.

The CAO Escaparte Series is also known as the CAO Concept Series and the releases include:

  • CAO Escaparte #7 — Butthead’s Tobacco (Danbury, Conn.)
  • CAO Escaparte Bratalia — Old Virginia Tobacco (Richmond, Va.)
  • CAO Escaparte Colombia — Serious Cigars (Houston, Texas.)
  • CAO Escaparte Costa Rica — Corona Cigar Co. (Orlando, Fla.)
  • CAO Escaparte Ecuador — Corona Cigar Co. (Orlando, Fla.)
  • CAO Escaparte Habano — Emerson’s (Virginia Beach, VA)/Havana Connections (Richmond, Va.)
  • CAO Escaparte MX3 — W. Curtis Draper (Washington, D.C.)
  • CAO Escaparte Six One Five — UPtown’s Smoke Shop (Nashville, Tenn.)

The CAO Escaparte Colombia was introduced in 2008 for Ron Lesseraux’s Serious Cigars in Houston, Texas. It is a rare Colombia puro made in Honduras and offered in four sizes:

  • CAO Escaparte Colombia Belicoso (6 1/8 x 52) — $11.95, Ruedas of 50, $539.95
  • CAO Escaparte Colombia Churchill (7 x 48) — $10.95, Ruedas of 50 $494.95
  • CAO Escaparte Colombia Corona Gorda (6 1/2 x 50) — $9.95, Ruedas of 50 $449.95
  • CAO Escaparte Colombia Robusto (5 x 50) — $7.95, Ruedas of 50 $359.95

As mentioned above, the cigars were packaged in ruedas (see more about ruedas here) of 50, which was normal for the Escaparte Series.

CAO Colombia Rueda.JPG

CAO Escaparte Colombia Robusto 1

  • Cigars Reviewed: CAO Escaparte Colombia Robusto
  • Country of Origin: Honduras
  • Factory: Latin American Cigars de Honduras
  • Wrapper: Colombia
  • Binder: Colombia
  • Filler: Colombia
  • Size: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $7.95 (Ruedas of 50 $359.95)
  • Date Released: 2008
  • Number of Cigars Released: n/a
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 6

The CAO Colombia has a wonderful brown wrapper with some decent blacks to it. It’s actually a phenomenal wrapper, one of the better appearance-wise that I have ever seen on a CAO. There’s a bit of leather with some darkness to it, but the lack of cellophane and the time these have spent in my humidor have really demolished the strong aroma these likely once had. The foot of the CAO gives off a a deep cocoa, some wood notes and a touch of cherry. Cold draw is very open with black pepper up front and some faded wood characteristic in the mid, followed by a a real strong black licorice, cedars and tons of pepper. Lighting the Colombia Robusto is a great prerequisite to what is come: hearty and a bit gritty, very difficult to actually discern.

As for the beginning of the first third, it starts with some woods before beginning to bitter out. That is then compounded by some thick molasses and woody notes. There’s black pepper all over the throat even through the slightly sweet cedar finish. To be quite honest, not much changes for the rest of the CAO Colombia’s first third. It settles to a hearty cedar, earth with a touch of bitter and cocoa and the downpour of black pepper on the back of the throat and finish. It’s hearty, full and quite enjoyable.

CAO Escaparte Colombia Robusto 2

Into the second third and it’s differing slightly. There’s a lot of bitter nuts that have added themselves to the Colombia’s profile, but the hearty cedar doesn’t let up and the black pepper is still comfortably into the back of the throat. Elsewhere, it’s a bit of a change. The draw which has been a bit too open for my liking has now tightened to just about average and smoke production is also improved.

CAO Escaparte Colombia Robusto 3.jpg

The final third wasn’t too much of a surprise: take what was in the second third and added a thick molasses note that had disappeared since its brief appearance in the first third. The profile of the Escaparte Colombia is still best described as hearty. Burn, construction and draw are still very much the same and without about an inch left, I call it quits and end on a good note.

CAO Escaparte Colombia Robusto 4

Final Notes

  • As I’ve said, the profile is best described as hearty.
  • I’ve smoked all four sizes, this and the Belicoso are by far my favorites.
  • This features a secondary band with “Serious Cigars”, the secondary band for the store is common throughout the series.
  • Body was full, strength is medium-full.
  • With CAO’s move to Richmond, it is presumed the Escaparte Series is finished.
  • It’s unknown how many were released, which is another common trend throughout the series.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 15 minutes.
90 Overall Score

CAO is not one of those brands that I would describe as my favorite. Some people claim that the original Costa Rican Maduros were some of the best cigars created, I can't come to that conclusion. My favorite CAO is some of the older Cameroons, which have aged wonderfully. This is not a cigar that has gotten much attention and it's not one that is going to take you on an adventure. However, if you can find them (since they are now sold out), they offer a rather unique profile that builds wonderfully. If you have some buried in the humidor and have forgotten about them (like I did), pull one out, they are smoking great right now.

Avatar photo

Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.