The storied history of CAO is one froth with peaks, valleys, and everything in between. Once known for making pipes and building humidors, the company started the bold move into premium cigars during the infamous cigar boom of the mid-’90s. The late, great Cano Ozgener (1937-2018) had a vision for his business and incorporated the help of some unique and amazing individuals to steer the cutting-edge marketing and manufacturing of cigars. That help included men that have become intricately woven into the premium cigar industry lore. Cano’s son, Tim Ozgener, as well as Jon Huber, Mike Conder, Charlie Toraño, Fidel Olivas, & Miguel Schoedel are just some of the trusted members of the CAO team in the earlier years.
In 2007, Ozgener decided to sell CAO to ST Cigar Group. After 39 years with an Ozgener at the helm, CAO would begin a new direction. Tim was the last member of the family and famed executive team to leave the company when he departed in 2010. Today, General Cigar Company (a subsidiary of STG), appointed acclaimed Master Blender Rick Rodriguez to spearhead the brand into its new direction.
The Amazon Trilogy, Zócalo, Estelí TAA, and now CAO Nicaragua are just some of the recent innovations under the heralded brand by Rodriguez. “Nicaragua’s rich volcanic soils and ideal humidity, temperature and sunlight create the perfect growing conditions for tobacco,” claims Rodriguez.
CAO Nicaragua Granada Breakdown
- Wrapper: Jamastran (Honduras)
- Binder: Jamastran (Honduras)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Jalapa | Estelí | Condega)
- Factory: STG Estelí (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 50 “Granada” (Toro)
- Price: $6.99 (SRP)
CAO Nicaragua does indeed have many tobaccos that bear its name, however the wrapper originates from Jamastran, Honduras. The binder also hails from the same region, which, suggested by Rodriguez, was done in order to “dial-up the intensity of this homegrown smoke.” The filler is comprised of tobaccos from each of Nicaragua’s three major growing regions: Estelí, Condega, and Jalapa. This blend made its debut at IPCPR 2018 and was released nationwide shortly after.
Over the years, CAO has had a number of varying color palates, but the “A” has always been enlarged with the “C” and “O” flanking it in smaller font. The CAO Nicaragua follows suit with the majority of other CAO lines (most notably cigars in the brand’s World Series) with a sky blue and gold background. “CAO” is in red type with “Nicaragua” emblazoned below it in gold. Take a moment, whenever you do, to pull the label off; the backside has a beautifully classic topographical map of Nicaragua outlined in brown.
On the cigar itself, the dark brown wrapper has some slightly noticeable veins and a faint, yet oily sheen. The wrapper’s aroma offers very subtle, muddy notes with hints of sweet pepper on the foot.
As is my preference, I clear the cap effortlessly with my guillotine cutter and proceed to toast the foot with my S.T. Dupont miniJet. The smoke that accompanied was sweet and earthy.
My initial impression was a yearning for more spice as the first portion of the cigar certainly lacked the characteristic spicy components that one typically gets with Nicaraguan tobaccos. The earthiness in the pre-light aroma is still present, with some faint hints of graham cracker and chocolate. The retrohale’s finish is medium in intensity, with more and more sweet pepper coming forth on each puff. The draw offers little resistance and the construction is razor sharp, holding up past two inches before falling.
As the cigar continues to open up, I keep waiting for the spice level to deepen, but am left wanting. The subtle graham cracker fades with only subtle chocolate to accompany the dominant earthy flavor. The spice level even continues to lower in intensity rather than deepen. The construction and burn remain steadfast—a model of excellence. At times, there seems to be a hint of espresso that creeps in, but the delightful sweetness of the graham cracker is gone. The espresso note is enough to get my attention, but as quickly as it arrives it is gone. I confess that I may subconsciously be comparing this to the CAO Estelí TAA, a cigar that General and Rodriguez produced in honor of the Tobacconists’ Association of America’s (TAA) 50th Anniversary; which I found to have a long, spicy finish.
The cigar finishes the same way it started, with earthiness and small accompanied notes that are varying, but not consistent. The retrohale continued to be filled with sweet peppers, but the spice faded as the cigar progressed. You will, if my smoking experience is any indication, get two to three very long ashes with this cigar. The construction is impeccable, and the draw is near-flawless for my personal taste (one with slight resistance).
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I’m Ron Burgundy??? Probably, I feel like there are many more cigars in the CAO portfolio that match my palate better than this one. The price point makes it an attractive cigar and, in that regard, it has a very solid value.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Mild / Medium
- Body: Medium
- Sweet peppers
- Subtle chocolate
- Graham crackers
- Smoke Time: 1 hour
- Pairing Recommendation: Unsweetened latte, Lager beer (even a spicy lager), Blackberries, Pepper jack cheese
- Purchase Recommendation: Worth a try (1–3 cigars)
- Textbook construction
- Consistent Draw
- Good value for the price
- Muddled/subtle notes
- Short finish
- Lack of Complexity