I have to be honest with you. I haven’t burned a CAO ‘VR’ Full Fathom Five in a long time. Actually, it might have been since its initial release 2 years ago – this cigar was initially produced in a limited production run of just 500 boxes (each hand signed by Tim Ozgener), and they sold very quickly. Fortunately, I secured 2 boxes before it sold out. Well, this 5.5”x55 box-pressed cigar has returned to the CAO ‘VR’ lineup, much to the delight of the hundreds that sent in emails asking for more. Today, the reason why I am burning this cigar is because it is part of September’s Cigar of the Month selection. That right there is some insider info for all the members – scary part is, this cigar ain’t even the ‘best’ in the bunch! So, I thought I’d double-dip on this cigar and bang out a Staff Review and the newsletter write-up. Efficiency. Cutting costs on cigars and saving time....please tell my boss!
The Full Fathom Five was the first of CAO’s 5.5”x55 box-pressed vitolas. The cigar was a huge success, which quickly spawned the same vitola in CAO’s Brazilia, Italia, and Mx2 lines. However, it is the original that still maintains the limelight due to the rich, amplified flavors it brings to the table.
As I said before, CAO ‘VR’ Full Fathom Five is a 5.5”x55 cigar finished with a soft, “Spanish” box-press format. The thicker ring creates room for more of the bold Nicaraguan and Honduran long-fillers utilized by this blend, promoting more complexity and a slower, cooler burn. Despite the additional tobaccos, the dark Brazilian Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper hardly plays second fiddle....which makes me happy because I love this leaf.
The cigar opens with a dense blast of toast and pepper, but the finish is surprisingly smooth and clean. This smooth aftertaste hints of a mellow bouquet to come. Would you know it....the cigar mellows almost instantly. The spice is all but gone, allowing the palate to detect subtle complexities with each puff. The toastiness remains, but I am picking up a rich, leathery element, dark tobacco flavors, and a touch of cedar. After the first inch the spice returns as I exhale, tickling the back of my palate. This spice is delayed though, allowing me to fully appreciate the other flavors at play. The leathery influence grows more intense as I approach the halfway point.
Note: if you’ve ever wanted to know what people mean by ‘leather,’ CAO ‘VR’ is a great way to discover this flavor. It’s almost unmistakable.
I’d like to touch on the wrapper a bit. In my opinion, the Brazilian Arapiraca leaf produces one of the finest maduros out there. The flavor and smoke texture it creates is genuine maduro. The smoke hits your palate in a heavy, chewy fashion. The flavor is dark and toasty, showcases optimum balance between sweetness and spice. The aroma is dense with a deep charcoal-like scent. The leaf itself is thick and juicy....something you can really chew on without it breaking. To me, that’s a maduro wrapper....and that’s a part of the reason why I enjoy CAO ‘VR’.
So....we have a lot going on here. The smoke is chewy and thick. The flavor starts out peppery, only to mellow into a smooth, leathery core with rich notes of dark tobacco, cedar, sweet notes, and a touch of pepper on the finish. The aroma is charcoal-like goodness. Through the nose I pick up heavy spices and cedar. All this and I still have the final third to go. By this time my head is spinning a little bit. I think I am puffing on this chunkster too often – it burns far too slow for this.
People often ask me for CAO’s best maduro. I always say ‘VR.’ Don’t get me wrong, I love the Brazilia, but the Arapiraca wrapper on this ‘VR’ offers a level of flavor not found in most maduros. It’s just plain unique and I love it. If you want smooth and chocolatey....go with the Brazilia. Otherwise, take the ‘VR’ for a test drive. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.