Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CAO Italia "Ciao" (robusto)

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C.A.O. is one of the more exciting cigar companies in the world today. They like to experiment with new blends of tobacco from places other than the main growing areas we have come to know and love. One example is the C.A.O. Italia which uses an Italian grown Habano seed from the Benevenuto region of Italy (in the south between Rome and Naples) in the filler, in addition to tobacco from Peru and Nicaragua. Both the wrapper and binder is from Honduras.

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The Italia is available in seven different vitolas. I sampled the 56 by 5" robusto named "Ciao". This cigar comes boxed in 20's with a retail price around $92.50, or $5 and some change for a single.

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The first thing I noticed about this cigar was it's beautiful reddish brown hue. The wrapper had nice oils and a "toothy" appearance. The veins were thin and unobtrusive and the seams were darkly outlined but smooth all the way around. The cap was neat and had a nice rounded shape. Overall, the construction appeared top notch.

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The texture of the cigar was slightly coarse and the feel of the cigar was very solid and felt evenly packed. After clipping the end with a guillotine cutter, the resulting draw was very firm and I immediately felt a spicy tingle to my lips and tongue.

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After lighting the cigar, the body starts off in the medium range. Smoky charcoal with underlying notes of dark chocolate set in. The flavor is rich and earthy with some new wood sharpness tasted on the finish. I could not say that I really enjoyed the cigar's opening act. Some slight cedar/leather enters in but the tone was definitely on the tart side with very little sweetness for balance. The first third smoked dry like burnt toast.

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It wasn't until well into the second third that I began enjoying the cigar. The primary flavor was rich cedar with no spice thrown in. The heat that I felt on the pre-light draw must have been my imagination because I detected no pepper in the smoke. The body moved up into the full range with a long toasty finish. The cigar remained smooth throughout with no bitterness but the lack of complexity was a little disappointing.

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The burn characteristics were above average. The firm draw due to the packed filler caused the cigar to smoke slowly which resulted in an even burn line the entire smoke. The burn zone was razor sharp and the ash was very compact and light gray in color with hardly any black carbon deposits mixed in.

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My overall impressions of the C.A.O. Italia are mixed. I didn't mind the firm draw because I was still able to generate a nice volume of smoke. The flavor was too dry and woody without much balance. It really wasn't enjoyable until late in the second third when the cedar flavor deepened and took on a slight sweetness. The price is right for this cigar, in my opinion. It was well constructed and packed full of tobacco. I would recommend that everyone try this cigar just to say that you smoked a cigar with Italian tobacco. (I have a similar philosophy about trying new wines.) Afterall, you never know what YOU like until you try it.

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