CAO Brazilia Carnivale

The CAO Brazilia Carnivale is a limited release cigar that was released by CAO in 2013.  This release follows a strategy we’ve seen by several of the larger cigar companies by reinvigorating some excitement into their existing brands.  In this case, CAO turns to its Brazilia line. With the Brazilia Carnivale is actually a different blend, in which blender Rick Rodriguez put his own spin into things.  Rodriguez has gotten a solid reputation when it comes to doing things “out of the box”, and the CAO Brazilia Carnivale is no exception.  This is a cigar that offers a nice option to the core CAO line.

In the months following the 2012 IPCPR Trade Show, CAO has been a busy brand.  The 2012 IPCPR saw the release of the CAO Concert (our #12 Cigar for 2012).  Late 2012 and 2013 saw the release of the trapezoid-shaped CAO Left Coast and CAO Right Coast.   The 2013 CAO Wrapped Up Event Tour has seen the appearance of the event only CAO La Traviata Mochado and La Traviata Mochado Maduro – cigars with a partially exposed binder and footer.  The release of the Brazilia Carnivale continued the momentum the brand has had for 2013.

The name Brazilia was nod to the Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper used on the core line. The Brazilia Carnivale is the first new addition to the Brazilia line in almost three years.  It was in 2010 where CAO added the 4 1/4 x 60 Brazilia Corcovado (our #2 Best New Vitola for 2010).  In the press release for the CAO Brazilia Carnivale, Rodriguez explained what he did with this project:

 “We haven’t changed any CAO blends since we took over the brand. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t put our spin on one of them. That’s exactly what we did with Carnivale…it’s my and my team’s take on Brazilia. We added a new wrapper, made the original wrapper the binder, and cranked the whole thing up with more ligero.

Without further adieu, let’s break down the CAO Brazilia Carnivale and see what this cigar brings to the table:

Blend Profile

The new wrapper is known as Habano Grueso.  In the press release for the Carnivale, CAO describes the wrapper as a rare leaf cultivated in small quantities.   The binder leverages the Brazilian Arapiraca leaf that was used on the core Brazilia line.   The fillers differ too – using more ligeros from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Wrapper: Habano Grueso
Binder: Brazilian Arapiraca
Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua (featuring more ligero)

Vitolas Available

The CAO Brazilia Carnivale is available in one size – 6 1/2 x 60 box-press.  The cigars are packaged in boxes of 12.  The slide top yellow boxes are different from what is packaged on the core line.

CAO Brazilia Carnivale Packaging
(Photo provided via General Cigar Press Release)


The Habano Grueso wrapper to the Brazilia Carnivale is dark roasted espresso color.  The wrapper definitely is oily in complexion.  There are some visible veins and the wrapper seams can be seen upon close examination.  The box-press is a well-packed.

There are two bands on the Brazilia Carnivale.  The primary band is the same band found on the core Brazilia fline.  It features the old CAO diamond shaped logo in the Brazilian flag colors. Under the logo it says “BRAZILIA” in gold letters.  To the left of the logo it says “Feito” and to the right it says “a mano”(also in gold) – which is Portuguese for “made by hand”.  There is also some gold trim around the band.

There is a second band on the footer unique to the Carnivale.  It is also in the Brazilian colors of yellow, green, and blue.  The front of the band features the text “CARNIVALE” in gold scripted font with green trim on a yellow background.  There is a “carnival” like design above it in gold and green.  There is darker green with gold designs going around the back of the band.  On that darker green, there are diamonds with lighter green, gold trim, and a blue circle (almost like a Brazilian flag).

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For my cigar experience of the CAO Brazilia Carnivale, I opted for a straight cut to remove the cap. After the cap was clipped, I proceeded with the pre-light draw.  The cold draw provided a mix of coffee, cherry sweetness, floral, and light pepper spice.  Overall, this was a satisfactory pre-light draw.  At this point, I was ready to light up the Brazilia Carnivale and see what the cigar experience would deliver.

Flavor Profile

The start to the CAO Brazilia had some notes of leather, pepper spice, and must. I don’t consider the must notes to be a negative as it actually provided an interesting spin on things. As the cigar experience moved through the first five percent the flavor profile became leather, coffee, and cherry.  These notes were complemented by some exotic spice and floral notes in the background.  On the retro-hale there was a combination of grass and floral spice – a definite unique retro-hale.

By the ten percent mark, the flavor profile continued to evolve. Some chocolate notes replaced the leather joining the coffee and cherry as primary flavors.  The exotic spice and floral remained secondary flavors.  This flavor profile held for the remainder of the first half.

There was a change in the second half of the CAO Brazilia Carnivale.  The primary flavors changed to earth and grass notes.  The chocolate and coffee notes now joined the floral and exotic spice in the background.

In the last third, the spice joined the earth and grass in the forefront.  The spice had less of an “exotic” feel to it.  The floral notes were distant in the background.  The chocolate and coffee notes had pretty much dissipated.  This is the way the flavor profile held until the end.  The end of the cigar had a little harshness, but nothing too over the top.  The resulting nub was cool in temperature and soft to the touch.

Burn and Draw

The burn to the Brazilia Carnivale did tend to meander a bit in the first half.  It required more touch-ups than I would have liked in the first half.  By the second half, things settled down and the burn remained straight.  The ash had a salt and pepper color with a slight grayish tint to it.  There were a couple of points where the ash got loose, but this tended to be an isolated case and proved not to be a major problem.  The burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.

The draw was outstanding.  This was a low maintenance cigar to puff on from start to finish.

Strength and Body

I wasn’t sure what to expect from strength and body given the filler had more ligero in the core blend.  This is because of the wildcard factor of the Habano Grueso wrapper.  In the end, I actually found the cigar had a little less in terms of strength and body than I expected.  The strength starts out medium and by the last third it does progress to into the medium to full range.  As for the flavors, they also start out medium bodied.  By the second third, the flavors progress to medium to full-bodied – and stay like that for the remainder of the smoke.  Overall there is good balance for the majority of the smoke between the strength and body.

Final Thoughts

The original core CAO Brazilia blend is one of the great ones out there.  It’s a blend that is often forgotten about with so many new cigars hitting the marketplace.  The Brazilia Carnivale is a different blend.  It’s a little unfair to compare it against the core blend.  While I feel Brazilia Carnivale doesn’t quite match up to that original blend, it still is a nice cigar.  I like the fact that since General Cigar has taken over CAO, they have kept up the reputation for doing things out of the box.  Overall I consider the CAO Brazilia Carnivale to be a good change of pace cigar from the core CAO Brazilia.  It’s a cigar that the novice or experienced cigar enthusiast can appreciate.  The fact that it is medium/medium to full in terms of strength and body can appeal to many.  As for myself, it’s a cigar I’d smoke again from time to time, but I’d still go for the original CAO Brazilia first.


Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Body: Medium (1st third), Medium to Full (Remainder)
Finish: Good
Assessment: Nice to Have
Score: 88

Source: One cigar for this assessment was gifted to me by a friend (thanks SB), the other cigar was purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.