|CAO Flathead Sparkplug 450|
The CAO Flathead Sparkplug 450 is a line extension to CAO’s Flathead line introduced in 2014. At the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show, CAO launched the Flathead line. This would be the third regular production release of the Rick Rodriguez era with the CAO brand. For this release, Rodriguez blended his first Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper cigar since joining CAO. Flathead would also be the first all box-press line in the history of CAO. The Sparkplug introduces a 4 1/2 x 50 box-press robusto which would become the fifth vitola in the line. Recently, I’ve had an opportunity to smoke the CAO Flathead Sparkplug. Overall, I found this to be an impressive smoke – and a great vitola in the Flathead line.
The theme of the CAO Flathead is based on cigars, cars, and girls with very much a retro-theme associated with it. In a press release issued on the CAO Flathead “Rick Rodriguez and I were talking about the great people we’ve met at CAO events across the country, and about the conversations we’ve had with them. It didn’t take us long to realize that the conversations were always about the same things: Cigars, Cars and Girls. Not necessarily in that order. So that’s what led us to come up with Flathead.”
The packaging is a little different for the Sparkplug than the other four vitolas of the line. The original four releases were put in boxes in boxes with a retro hot-rod theme. In fact. the tops of those boxes were made with a machine used to make auto parts and also use real engine paint. The Sparkplug is actually packaged differently. It features an individual box resembling a retro-style box a real sparkplug used to come in. It is packaged more in the style of a display box used to hold sparkplugs in an auto parts store. The Sparkplug comes in boxes of 20 while the rest of the Flathead line comes in boxes of 24.
|Sparkplug-like box Packaging of the CAO Flathead Sparkplug|
Without further ado, let’s break down the CAO Flathead Sparkplug 450 and see what this cigar brings to the table.
The CAO Flathead features an Ecuadorian Connecticut binder in addition to the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. When we previewed the Flathead line last summer, CAO Senior Product Manager Ed McKenna said “the binder is an Ecuadoran Connecticut, which I believe is also a first for Rick in one of his blends. Typically he favors broadleaf as a binder. In this case, given the wrapper, he chose a more neutral binder, albeit an interesting Ecuadoran (vs. Honduran or CT CT) Connecticut. The broadleaf over these Nicaraguan fillers make a great combo.”
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Ecuadorian Connecticut
As mentioned the CAO Flathead Sparkplug becomes the fifth vitola in this line. All of the vitola names have a relationship to an automobile engine part.
V450 Sparkplug: 4 1/2 x 50
V642 Piston: 6 1/2 x 42
V554 Camshaft: 5 1/2 x 54
V660 Carb: 6 x 60
V770 Big Block: 7 x 70
When we talked to blender Rick Rodriguez at the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show on the Flathead line, he told us he adjusted the blend such that the smaller ring gauges would have more emphasis on body, while the larger sizes emphasized more flavor. This was achieved by tweaking the proportions of the ligero and seco in the filler from the same leaf.
In regards to the other vitolas, the Big Block was the CAO brand’s first 7 x 70 and the Piston is the brand’s first box-press lancero (even though the ring is 42, it is being called a lancero).
The CAO Flathead Sparkplug’s Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper has a dark and rich espresso color to it. Upon closer examination, some darker marbling can be seen on the surface of the wrapper. The wrapper itself is definitely oily. There are some visible wrapper seams and a few visible veins. The Flathead is about as a close to a “square press” as I have seem. The name of the line appropriate. Like the rest of the line the Flathead Sparkplug has one of the flatter caps I have seen on a cigar. The cigar features a closed footer.
The band is lime green in color with chrome striping, trim and font. At the center of the band is a design of a spark plug. The logo contains the CAO logo, the text “Flathead” in a retro-cursive style and the number “450” indicating the vitola size.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
Prior to “firing up” my CAO Flathead Sparkplug, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut. From that point, I moved on to the pre-light draw ritual. The dry draw provided me some notes of espresso and mild spice. Overall I considered the pre-light draw of the Sparkplug to be satisfactory. At this point I was ready to light up the footer and see what the overall smoking experience would have in store.
The start to the CAO Flathead Sparkplug 450 delivers a mix of pepper and espresso notes. Early on the espresso took on some chocolate-like qualities and it becomes more of a mocha-like flavor. I found the spice to be of the black pepper variety early on – and it remained like throughout the smoking experience.
In the middle of the first first third, the mocha notes were prominent in the forefront. The pepper had receded to the background and was joined by some earth notes. Around the midway point, I saw a change with the Flathead Sparkplug. The primary flavors became more earthy and nutty. The mocha flavors receded to the background joining the pepper.
By the last third, I found the pepper flavors return to the forefront – joining the earth notes. The nut flavors now receded into the background. This is the way the Sparkplug finished up. The resulting nub was soft to the touch, but cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
For the most part, the burn from the CAO Flathead Sparkplug performed very well. While there was some minor jaggedness from time to time on the cigar, overall the cigar remained on the straight path from start to finish. I found this ash to be on the firm side with a salt and pepper color to it. The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.
|Burn of the CAO Flathead Sparkplug|
The draw performed excellent as well. Given this was a thicker square press, I was a little worried it would be a little loose. While I usually like a little snugness on the draw, the Sparkplug performed fine in this department – making this a very enjoyable cigar.
Strength and Body
For these two attributes, I definitely felt the Sparkplug was a little stronger and a little fuller than some of the larger vitolas I have smoked in this line. Therefore, I do believe Rodriguez achieved what he set out to do when he blended each of the sizes.
I found this cigar be medium to full range for both strength and body throughout the cigar experience. In terms of strength versus body, I found the Sparkplug had an excellent balance between the two with neither one overshadowing the other.
When it comes to packaging, perhaps nobody does it better than General and especially CAO. While some may call it gimmicky, I call it innovative – and it adds an element of fun into the equation. The CAO Flathead Sparkplug certainly has some of this innovative packaging I reference. The nice thing is that the cigar itself delivers – and delivers very well. I’ve enjoyed the Flathead line quite a bit, and I really like this 4 1/2 x 50 edition of the Flathead. This is the type of cigar I would recommend to an experienced cigar enthusiast – especially one who likes a Broadleaf cigar. I certainly would not discourage a novice from trying this cigar. As for myself, the Sparkplug is a cigar I’d smoke again – and its worthy of a five pack.
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Medium to Ful
Assessment: 3.0 – The Fiver