CAO Nasty Nutcracker

For the second year in a row, CAO Cigars has released a pair of limited edition Christmas season themed cigars. This year’s releases are the CAO Nasty Nutcracker and CAO Rabid Reindeer. The series made its debut in 2013 with the CAO Angry Santa and CAO Evil Snowman. What is differentiates this series is they are modifications of existing CAO releases. The modifications are meant to be edgier cigars both in packaging and their smoking style. Today, we take a closer look at the CAO Nasty Nutcracker. This is a modification of the long-time popular CAO Gold cigar. Overall I have found these releases to be interesting and enjoyable twists to these tried and true CAO brands – and I have put the CAO Nasty Nutcracker into this category.

The following is a list of the four CAO Christmas themed cigars and what they are based off of:

  • CAO Nasty Nutcracker (2014) – based on the CAO Gold
  • CAO Rabid Reindeer (2014) – based on the CAO Mx2
  • CAO Angry Santa (2013) – based on the CAO La Traviata
  • CAO Evil Snowman (2013) – based on the CAO La Traviata Maduro
CAO Nasty Nutcracker (Top), CAO Rabid Reindeer (Bottom)

There has also been one Independence Day release using the same concept – the CAO Sinister Sam. This was released in the Summer of 2014 and is based on the CAO America.

>Without further ado, lets’ take a closer look at the CAO Nasty Nutcracker and see what this cigar brings to the table.

Blend Profile

Specific blend details for the CAO Nasty Nutcracker were not disclosed.  We do know that the CAO Gold blend was tweaked to make it “bolder and spicier”. The original CAO Gold blend features an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler.

Vitolas Available

The CAO Nasty Nutcracker is available in one size – a 6 1/2 x 52 Toro.  This size is also used on the other holiday releases (CAO Rabid Reindeer, CAO Angry Santa, CAO Evil Snowman, and CAO Sinister Sam).

The Nasty Nutcracker and Rabid Reindeer come in 20 count boxes and an allocation of 2,000 boxes had been made. This is an increase from the allocation of 1,500 14 count boxes of the CAO Angry Santa and CAO Evil Snowman.


The CAO Nasty Nutcracker has a light brown colored wrapper.  This was definitely quite an oily wrapper.  The wrapper was also quite smooth.  There are minimal visible veins and very thin wrapper seams.

The band to the Nasty Nutcracker is in the style of the other holiday themed releases in this series. The band is a sheath style banding – taking up about half of the length of the cigar. The band itself is black. It has a somewhat sinister looking Nutcracker character smoking a regular CAO Gold cigar. Coming from the smoke of the cigar are the letters of “CAO”.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

As I normally do I went with my usual selection of a straight cut to remove the cap of the Nasty Nutcracker. Once the cap was removed, I moved on to the pre-light draw.  The pre-light draw provided notes of wood, nut, and a touch of pepper. Because of the name “nutcracker”, I did wonder if the power of suggestion played into the detection of the nut flavors. However, I stand by my analogy here.  Overall I considered this to be a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point I was ready to light up the CAO Nasty Nutcracker and see what the smoking phase would have in store.

Flavor Profile

Once I lit the Nasty Nutcracker, the flavor profile continued where the pre-light draw left off.  I detected a mix of white pepper, wood, and nut flavors.  Again, I did question the power of suggestion with the nut flavors, but once again I stand behind my analogy here. As the flavor profile took form, the nut flavors became more multi-dimensional taking on a toasted nut flavor. The wood morphed into more of a sweet cedar. The pepper moved to the background and was also accompanied by a slight sour citrus note. Meanwhile the retro-hale produced flavors of white pepper and nut.

Later in the first third, the toasted nut flavors continued – “layered” by the cedar sweetness in the background. The white pepper notes did increase somewhat and also nicely “layered” the toasted nut flavors. The sour citrus note was still present in the distant background.

In the last third, I found the spices increased.  There was much more in the way of cedar spice and white pepper and these flavors pretty much told control. I found the finish to be on the spicy side, but it wasn’t overly harsh. The resulting nub was cool in temperature and slightly soft to the touch.

Burn and Draw

Overall the burn of the CAO Nasty Nutcracker performed quite well. While there was a small amount of jaggedness on the burn line itself, the burn did take a straight path from start to finish. Despite the slight jaggedness, I found this to be a burn to require very few touch-ups.  In fact because Connecticut Shade wrappers (assuming this is still what is on the Nasty Nutcracker) blister easily, I held off trying to do multiple touch-ups. The resulting ash was more white-ish in color.  The firm ash did come off the cigar in clean chunks, but there was some very minor flaking along the way.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

Burn of the CAO Nasty Nutcracker

I found the draw to be ideal as well.  It was not too loose, nor not too tight. I found this to be a low maintenance cigar to puff on and derive flavors from.

Strength and Body

A common thread of these Christmas themed releases is not only to create off-shoots of existing blends, but to “amp them up” to some extent.  With the CAO Nasty Nutcracker, I definitely found this to be amp’d up when compared to the original CAO Gold. From both a strength perspective, I found this cigar to be a medium strength cigar from start to finish. As for the body, the Nasty Nutcracker started out medium-bodied and by the last third, I assessed this to be a medium to full-bodied cigar. Overall I found the strength and body to counter each other nicely, but once the body increased in the last third – the body had a slight edge.

Final Thoughts

Since General has absorbed the CAO brand, I’ve heard some say the brand lost some of its creativity from the Ozgener family days.  I couldn’t disagree with this more. I’ve found bringing Ed McKenna (Senior Brand Manager) and Rick Rodriguez (Blender) aboard has kept the brand fresh and exciting. If you look at CAO in the General portfolio, they are doing some interesting things and in the scheme of things some will be more enjoyable than others.  It’s hard to eclipse a classic cigar like the CAO Gold, and I don’t think it was the intent of the Nasty Nutcracker to do that.  I did find this to be an enjoyable cigar, but toward the end, I felt the spice (while not harsh) was a little too much for this blend. Still I’d recommend this as a cigar for novice or experienced cigar enthusiasts to try.  As for myself, this is still a nice change of pace cigar for me to smoke from time to time to have a Connecticut Shade cigar with more zip.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium
Body: Medium (1st 2/3), Medium to Full (Last Third)
Finish: Good
Assessment: 2.5 – Try One
Score: 87


News: CAO Gold Nasty Nutcracker and CAO MX2 Rabid Reindeer Mark 2014 Christmas Theme Releases
Price: $8.00
Source: Purchased
Stogie Geeks Podcast: n/a
Stogie Feed: n/a