Welcome back, CAO
If you know me, you know I’ve always been fond of CAO. Brazilia, Sopranos, Black, Italia....hell, I’m man enough to admit I’ve even burned through a fair share of Moontrance and Bella Vanilla over the years. Bottom line is, CAO makes a damn fine cigar, but more importantly, CAO cigars are among the most consistent and reliable in the boutique realm. There’s a reason why CAO maintains 13 different brands with a rating of ‘90’ or better. Seriously, this brand was receiving 93s in 2001, when an ‘87’ or ‘88’ was considered high.
Good start, eh? Well, here’s the reality check. If you know I’ve always been fond of CAO, you likely also know I enjoy the older CAO releases when compared to the latest offerings. OSA never really did it for me, Concert missed the mark with my palate, and La Traviata is brick and mortar only so I never think of it.
But this....THIS....is why I stuck with CAO all these years. Waiting for and wanting something new from CAO that hearkens back to the old days, when Brazilia stole our taste buds and Sopranos set new standards in super-premiums. The something new is CAO Extreme, and I suggest you give it the long, hairy eyeball.
Everything about this cigar is oldschool CAO to the core. The simple box made complex through modern, eye-catching design elements. The oversized band and in your face branding. And then, the most important thing, the blend. Four different ligero varieties were used to create this blend, including a thick and flavorful Habano ligero wrapper from Ecuador. CAO has always been known for using rare or unique tobaccos in blends, and these ligeros – and the amount of them – is no different.
By now, you likely know how this review is going to go. I can’t lie....I’ve been burning CAO Extreme for a few weeks now....and by that I mean 1-2 a day, at least. I can’t get enough of them. The flavor isn’t revolutionary, but it’s unique and eventful....and the experience is extremely satisfying. From the thick, aromatic smoke to the top-notch quality, and right on down to the ever-changing flavor....in my mind, Extreme has what it takes to out CAO the mighty Brazilia.
The cigar opens which a rich, roasted blast of dark tobacco goodness and a touch of white pepper. The smoke is thick and chewy, smothering my entire palate like a blanket and filling my room with an oily, charcoal-like scent on the exhale. There are literally clouds of smoke lingering above my head....it’s like the smoke is too heavy for the far-too-expensive ventilation system in my ceiling.
After about 10 minutes of slow-burning bliss, I begin to pick up a sweetness on the sides of my palate. An oaky, almost syrupy sweetness. Basically, if you told me these tobaccos aren’t barrel aged, I’d call you a liar. If you said it again I’d likely demoralize you publically. There’s oak, there’s toast, there’s sweet cedar, there’s black tobacco, and there’s pepper. But here’s the really interesting part. Ligeros tend to add a ton of spice and power smacking you in the teeth. This doesn’t do that. There’s no doubt pepper and power, but the blend hits you in the gut and just feels powerful, from the weight of the smoke. That doesn’t make sense, I am sure, but think on it if you happen to try this....I think you’ll understand. If you want to feel it for real, exhale through the nose and prepare for a pepper blast that’ll make you want to check for blood. Ahhh....ligero.
I am now midway through and the charcoal aroma is really coming off the cigar nicely as the smoke escapes the foot. It’s literally going right into my nostrils with each puff and I love it. A trace of black coffee has entered the fray, and the pepper has moved solely to the finish – right on the front of my palate and tip of my tongue. This is where the brass kicks in. If you’re not feeling CAO Extreme behind the eyes at this point, you’re letting it rest in your ashtray far too long. Pick it up, man up, and enjoy the fruits of well-aged, perfectly processed, and expertly blended ligero.
An inch and a half left and I’m looking at the clock to see if I have time to burn another before heading out for the evening. Oak dominates, coffee has faded, and leather surfaces. Pepper remains and shows no signs of going away. The final leg is rich, smokey, and meaty, and the strength has no doubt tipped well into the full-bodied arena. I am ending this review. There’s an inch left and I want to enjoy it. Do yourself a (big) favor and try CAO Extreme, and welcome CAO back to the limelight.
Oh, I had the Robusto.
Last thing. Had a delicious beer this past week. Finally found Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) on tap, and it was well worth both the wait and the long trip to try it before the keg was killed – which literally happened 10 minutes after my arrival. This dark, 11.2% beast is loaded with rich, roasted flavors, including coffee bean, dark unsweetened cocoa, and a trace of (seemingly charred) caramel. Delicious and satisfying, with no trace of an 11.2% backbone. If you see this, order two immediately. The flavors pop a ‘lil more as the beer warms up.