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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cigar Review: CAO Maduro L'Anniversaire

If you have been a fan of CAO Cigars over the past few years, you know that the brand has been one of the leaders when it comes to innovative marketing.   Cigars such as "Sopranos Edition", "Brazilia", and "La Traviata" have truly become iconic labels within the brand.   When you look at the brand, one cigar that really gets lost in the shuffle is what I call CAO's "Red Label"... namely the CAO Maduro L'Anniversaire.  This cigar has been around a while - as in 1998 it was launched to commemorate the 30th anniversary of CAO (1968).   While the CAO Maduro might not have the flashy marketing of its brother cigars in the brand, it holds its own.

Steve Saka of Drew Estates published a terrific article on Maduros.  He discusses Maduro as a process and not a wrapper.  Certain wrappers lend themselves better to this process.   The Connecticut Broadleaf that the CAO Maduro uses is one of them.   They key step to this process is obviously the fermentation process.   The best Maduros are usually the tobaccos that come out of this process the best.  The 601 Blue Label is one example of a great Maduro - and the CAO Maduro is another solid one.

Here is a closer look at the composition.  One of the most interesting things I find here is the use of Ecuadorian tobacco in the binder:

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Ecuador
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic

Here is a look at the CAO Maduros.  These are in a box press vitola shape available in many different sizes:

Tubo I: 5 1/2 x 46
Tubo II: 7 x 50
Churchill: 6 7/8 x 48
Belicoso: 6 x 54
Corona: 5 1/2 x 42
Robusto: 5 x 50
Rothschild: 4 1/2 x 50
Petite Cigarillo: 4 x 30

For this cigar experience, I opted for the Churchill.   A straight cut and a toast would be the process I would use to commence this smoke. The initial notes had salt like qualities - I typically have found these in several cigars more Nicaraguan in composition.   The salt quickly dissipates and notes of bittersweet chocolate begin to emerge.    Shortly afterwords, the chocolate notes are joined by coffee and cherry notes.   The coffee notes are the ones that will dominate - namely around the 25% mark.   As the cigar progresses into the second third, an espresso-like syrup begins to take form.   This is not a sweet espresso, but the natural notes I've come to expect from that type of coffee.    This espresso continues to build up as the smoke progresses.  By the time I was about 60% into this smoke, the cigar was now having the feel of Turkish coffee!  If you have ever had Turkish coffee, you know what I'm talking about!  

From a draw standpoint, while at times I've had issues with CAO in this category, the Maduro consistently always performs at a high level here.   Now the burn did not require touch-up, but this cigar did burn hot toward the end (given this was a Churchill, I expected a warmer finish).  It did result in some harshness at the nub, but not enough to take away from the smoking experience.

This cigar is definitely a full strength one.  I would not recommend this as your first smoke of the day.   From a body standpoint, the flavors are robust and pronounced - everything a full-bodies smoke deserves.   With much of the flavor notes in the "cacao" category of coffee and chocolate, I wouldn't say this is the most complex cigar in the world.

Overall, I definitely would love to see this cigar not buried in retailer humidors.   This is an example of an oldie, but a goodie.   For a cigar enthusiast really wanting to sample the great flavors that result from the Maduro process, this is a cigar to try.

Strength: Full
Body: Full
Complexity: Low
Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Assessment: Nice to Have 

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