Last year, General Cigar Co. commemorated the Christmas season by releasing two limited edition extensions to its La Traviata line with “holiday” themes: Angry Santa and Evil Snowman. This was followed by the Sinister Sam, which was a modified CAO America blend released for the Fourth of July holiday. All of these themed releases have sold very well for General and as such it was decided to continue the series.

This year, there are again two releases for the Christmas holiday, both of which were rolled at a STG Estelí in Nicaragua. The Nasty Nutcracker is a modified CAO Gold blend that measures 6 1/2 x 52 and features tweaked wrapper, binder and filler tobaccos in order to achieve a spicier version of the original cigar. The Rabid Reindeer is a modified CAO Mx2 that is also 6 1/2 x 52 and incorporates both Nicaraguan and Honduran ligeros in order to bump up the overall strength of the original blend.

CAO Gold Nasty Nutcracker Box 1

CAO Gold Nasty Nutcracker Box 2

Both cigars have an MSRP of $8 and a production run of 2,000 boxes of 14.

There have now been five releases in the series.

CAO Holiday Series

  • CAO La Traviata Angry Santa (6 1/2 x 52) — Nov. 5, 2013 — 1,500 Boxes of 14 Cigars (21,000 Total Cigars)
  • CAO La Traviata Maduro Evil Snowman (6 1/2 x 52) — Nov. 5, 2013 — 1,500 Boxes of 14 Cigars (21,000 Total Cigars)
  • CAO America Sinister Sam (6 1/2 x 52) — June 12, 2014 — 2,000 Boxes of 14 Cigars (28,000 Total Cigars)
  • CAO Gold Nasty Nutcracker (6 1/2 x 52) — Nov. 1, 2014 — 2,000 Boxes of 14 Cigars (28,000 Total Cigars)
  • CAO Mx2 Rabid Reindeer (6 1/2 x 52) — Nov. 1, 2014 — 2,000 Boxes of 14 Cigars (28,000 Total Cigars)

CAO Nasty Nutcracker 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: CAO Nasty Nutcracker
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: STG Estelí
  • Wrapper: n/a
  • Binder: n/a
  • Filler: n/a
  • Size: 6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $8 (Boxes of 14, $112)
  • Date Released: Nov. 1, 2014
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,000 Boxes of 14 Cigars (28,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3

The Nasty Nutcracker is covered in a golden brown wrapper that is smooth to the touch with very little tooth or oil present at all. The band covers up almost exactly half of the cigar and there is very little give when it is squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of sweet tobacco, nuts, creamy leather and cedar, while the cold draw brings flavors of creamy peanuts, sweet caramel, earth and hay, along with just a touch of white pepper.

Starting out, the CAO Gold Nasty Nutcracker features a very creamy base profile, along with other flavors of peanuts, leather, earth, cedar and hay. There is a nice, generic sweetness that is just too light at the moment to identify, and some slight white pepper on the retrohale that actually seems to be increasing a bit as the first third winds down. Smoke production is quite high, and the burn and draw both are excellent so far. The overall strength is nominal and does not seem to be getting much stronger as the cigar burns down.

CAO Nasty Nutcracker 2

As the second third of the CAO Gold Nasty Nutcracker starts, there is significantly more pepper on retrohale, along with the addition of some spice on my tongue that seems to be getting stronger as well. Other flavors of grass, nuts, leather, barnyard and coffee flit in and out, while the smoke production continues to be enormous. I am noticing some interesting peppermint on the retrohale right around the midpoint, but it is fleeting and I have a feeling it won’t hang around long. There is also a slight bitterness noticeable on the finish, but it too is not overly strong at this point. Construction-wise, both the draw and the burn remain wonderful, and while the strength has picked up, it is still short of the medium mark by the end of the second third.

CAO Nasty Nutcracker 3

The spice that is present on my tongue and the pepper on the retrohale continue to increase, but finally levels out about halfway through the final third of the Nasty Nutcracker. The profile is still quite creamy overall and there are still flavors of white chocolate, sweet cedar, creamy leather, hay and coffee, with none really being dominant over the others. The construction remains excellent to the end of the cigar, and while the strength has picked up, it barely hits a solid medium by the time I put the nub down with a little more than an inch left.

CAO Nasty Nutcracker 4

Final Notes

  • As was pointed out a few times, the press and sales images General Cigar Co. used showed the box-counts on the boxes as 20, the boxes are 14-count.
  • Personally, I like the name “Nefarious Nutcracker” more, but that might have too many syllables.
  • I reviewed the CAO Hans Huber Commemorativo earlier this year, which was a reblend of the CAO eXtreme, but used a CAO Gold band.
  • As with the other releases in this series, the band is so large as to be overwhelming. The band is exactly 80mm, and since the cigar is 165mm long, that means the band takes up almost half of the total length of the cigar. It also means I had to actually push the band up almost to the cap in order to get a photograph of it on during the second third without burning it.
  • Speaking of the band, while I still enjoy the art, the two most recent releases just don’t compare to last year’s versions. The nutcracker has one eye off center, which looks more creepy than nasty in my opinion.
  • The construction on each of the samples was wonderful, with no need to even think about them during the entire smoking experience, and there was quite a bit of smoke production.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • The final smoking time for all three samples smoked for this review averaged just under two hours.
87 Overall Score

Some of my favorite releases in the last few years have been amped up Connecticut blends and if done correctly, they can be both full-flavored and medium in strength. While the Nasty Nutcracker is not good enough to be in the top tier, it is complex enough to keep me interested and fairly well-balanced. There is definitely more pepper on the retrohale and spice on the palate than a regular CAO Gold, especially in the second half. While there was a bitterness that was present on the finish at certain points, it was noticeable without being strong enough to really hurt the profile. Overall, a good cigar at a good price, and an easy one to recommend.

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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.