|CAO Amazon Basin|
At the 2014 IPCPR Trade Show, CAO Cigars unveiled a limited edition cigar called the CAO Amazon Basin. It was one of two new cigars launched with a South American theme with the other being a new regular production cigar called the CAO Colombia. The Amazon Basin is a small batch, limited production cigar due to the use of a rare tobacco called Braganca from the Amazon rainforest region of Brazil. Recently, I’ve had an opportunity to smoke the CAO Amazon Basin. Overall I found this to be an excellent cigar – and one that showcases the creativity that the CAO brand has long been associated with.
The Bragancia leaf used in the CAO Amazon tobacco is low yield. As a result, this is not something CAO can offer on a regular basis. Back when we previewed the CAO Amazon Basin, we recapped why the Bragancia tobacco is rare tobacco:
This cigar incorporates rare tobacco from a remote region of the Amazon rainforest known as Bragança. This tobacco is organically grown on unspoiled tropical land and harvested only once every three years. The seedlings are transplanted directly into the soil a full yard apart. As a result, this results in a small yield which is half of other tobacco plants. All of these factors lead to Bragança being a rare tobacco.
The harvested Bragança leaves are then rolled into tubes known as “carottes” where they undergo six months of fermentation. The tobacco is transported out of the Amazon via canoe. Eventually they are brought to the CAO factory in Esteli, Nicaragua.
Without further ado, let’s break down the CAO Amazon Basin and see what this cigar brings to the table.
In addition to the Bragança tobacco, the CAO Amazon Basin is a multi-national blend. More details of the filler have been disclosed since the 2014 IPCPR Trade Show.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filer: Domincan Republic, Colombian, Brazilian Braganca
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
The CAO Amazon Basin is being launched in one size – a 6 x 52 Toro. The cigars are packaged 18 per box. Production has been limited to 2,000 boxes.
The Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper is a thick, dark colored one. It has a rich mocha color and upon closer examination, there is some darker marbling that can be seen. The wrapper itself is somewhat oily. While most of the wrapper seams are well hidden, there are some visible veins. The cigar itself has somewhat of a raisin-like aroma from the footer.
There is no paper band on the cigar. A tobacco stem is tightly coiled around the cigar that almost has the appearance of a rope. This gives the cigar a very rustic look that goes very nicely with the rustic looking packaging of the CAO Amazon Basin. The coiled tobacco stem is firmly attached to this cigar and I advise not trying to remove it. It is something that can be smoked through if desired.
|CAO Amazon Basin Packaging; Photo Credit – General Cigar Co.|
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
Prior to lighting up the CAO Amazon Basin, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut to remove the cap. After successfully clipping the cap, I proceeded with the pre-light draw. The cold draw provided a mix of chocolate, raisin, and a cedar sweet-spice. Overall, I considered the pre-light draw to be excellent. At this point I was ready to light up the CAO Amazon Basin and see what the smoking phase would have in store.
The start to the CAO Amazon Basin provided a mix of chocolate and mixed pepper spices. There also was a slight earthy component early on. During the first third the chocolate notes became primary and the pepper and earth notes became secondary. I also detected a raisin-like flavor in the background that added a subtle sweetness. Meanwhile on the retro-hale, I picked up a white pepper spice.
During the second third, the earth notes moved into the forefront. These notes were balanced nicely by mix of sweetness and spice from the raisin, chocolate, and pepper notes that were in the background.
As the Amazon Basin moved into the last third, I found an increase in the pepper spices. The pepper notes didn’t quite take over as a primary note, but played more of a key role in the last third. The chocolate and raisin notes remained secondary. There is a point during the last third where you will either have to smoke through the tobacco stem band or end the cigar experience before reaching the band. I opted to smoke through it each time. There was a little harshness from the tobacco stem, but I didn’t find it to be pungent. This is the way the cigar experience came to an end. The resulting nub was slightly soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
Overall I found the burn to perform quite well on the CAO Amazon Basin. The burn path remained relatively straight from start to finish. The actual burn line was relatively straight. I didn’t find any problems burning through the tobacco stem as I went into the last third of the cigar. The resulting ash was not overly firm, nor was it on the loose side either. The ash had a silvery, gray color to it. There was some minor flaking along the way, but nothing that was problem-some. The burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.
|Burn of the CAO Amazon Basin|
The draw performed excellent as well. It was not a snug draw, but it was not a loose one either. This was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavors from.
Strength and Body
In terms of strength and body, I found both to really hit a sweet spot for this cigar’s flavor profile. I found this to be a medium to full strength, medium to full-bodied cigar for the majority of the smoking experience. I found both attributes to increase slightly during the cigar experience and toward the end, both attributes crossed into the full range. Overall I found the CAO Amazon Basin to maintain a good balance between the strength and body from start to finish.
In terms of whether we will see more Amazon Basin cigars down the road, I think this answer is unknown. It sounds like a lot will depend on the availability and yield of the Bragancia tobacco. I certainly applaud CAO taking their time on this one.
Overall I did find this to be an excellent cigar experience. In terms of the uniqueness of this blend, I will say that this is not your ordinary “earthy” type of cigar. There is a nice balance of sweetness and spice mixed in with these earthy notes that make this a very enjoyable flavor profile. I can’t assess exactly how much the rare Bragancia tobacco is contributing to this blend, but I can say the blend works well. I also liked the Toro format of this cigar. This is a cigar I’d probably steer more toward an experienced cigar enthusiast, but I certainly would not discourage a novice from trying this. As for myself, this is worthy of a box split and a cigar I certainly would smoke again.
Strength: Medium to Full (Full at very end)
Body: Medium to Full (Full at very end)
Assessment: 3.5 – Box Split