Origin : Nicaragua
Format : Robusto
Size : 4 1/2" x 46 ring gauge (114mm x 18.26mm)
Wrapper : Brazil Bahia
Filler : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Price : ~ € 7,00 / $ 8.40 each
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Draw : 3 out of 6 stars
Burn : 4 out of 6 stars
Flavour : 4 out of 6 stars
Aroma : 6 out of 6 stars
Strength : 4 out of 6 stars
CAO cigars take their brand name from the initials of the company's founder, Cano Aret Ozgener, born to Armenian-heritage parents in Istanbul, Turkey, Ozgener later moving to Nashville, Tennessee, USA where the company began.
A striking cigar in appearance, its very black Brazilian wrapper signalling to us Brazil tobacco fans that there is likely some of the famous Brasil tobacco natural sweetness to be enjoyed here. An interesting vitola too, in the classic 'corona gorda' 46 ring gauge, most always rolled in quite long cigars, but here in a nice compact 4 1/2" (114mm) package. In a nice bow to its Brazilian character, the colourful Cao Brazilia cigar band declares 'Feito à mão' - 'Made by hand' - in Portuguese.
Packaged in cellophane, the cigar seemed a bit over-firm at first, but a few days to mellow in the humidor with cellophane removed, readied it for a smoke. Wrapper not super-smooth, and not as oily to the touch as one might expect in this stick, but very clearly Brazil.
The aroma of this cigar was exceptionally delicious both before and after lighting. During the smoke one had the feeling of being at a ski lodge in front of a warm wood fire, with a pot of melted caramel simmering nearby.
Pre-draw brings the taste of cocoa to the lips, pleasing those of us who have a tobacco sweet-tooth. It does surprise me that these cocoa-caramel-hinting Brasil cigar wrappers, are not even more popular in the cigar world.
The oily Brasil cigar wrappers are noted for sometimes having burn problems, and this was one of those sticks where that occurred, complicated by a stick just a bit too tightly rolled in part, so the first 10 minutes were a real battle here. Initial draw was very tight, to the point I had to use the cigar-piercing tool I keep handy for the narrow-vitola hand-rolled Cubans. Burn at first was wildly irregular, needing some touch-ups, and there was at first much less flavour than I expected.
But after 10 minutes, the crisis was over, a big puff of smoke signalled a better draw, and the burn became beautifully regular, remaining so until the end. Nice white-grey ash, and one of the slowest-burning sticks I have smoked in a while, too.
Initial flavour was that of cocoa matched with some woodiness. As the initial draw and burn problems subsided, there was more of a sense of a wood fire going, co-ordinate with the sweetness, and that remained the dominant sense throughout. Tho the flavour was satisfying, it did not vary much. There was an initial burst of spice and pepper notes after the draw eased, and an occasional mild return of spice afterwards; and a bit of coffee and nuts in the final third before harshness set in at the nub. Some slight harshness also showed up in the middle, nothing major.
But very attractively, the pleasing if simple flavour combination, felt very full-bodied. The cigar was also reasonably heady and medium-strong, strength on the level of a Montecristo firing on all cylinders, tho with a less-sophisticated and simpler flavour palette. One interesting thing I could do during the smoke, was dial the flavour level versus headiness up-and-down. A gentle puff and I got more sweet flavour, like drinking hot chocolate in front of a fire ... a stronger puff and there was a bit less flavour but much more headiness, that stronger-cigar feeling.
A natural comparison of the CAO Brazilia Piranha, is to the comparably-priced, also hand-rolled long-filler, thinner but longer (37 x 139mm), Balmoral Royal Maduro Panatela, also with a Brasil Bahia wrapper, but with Dominican & Brazilian filler and Dominican binder, giving it a very different character. In the Balmoral Royal, the Brasil-Dominican tobacco combination gives a little more of a subtle and sophisticated and milder smoke, whereas the CAO Brazilia has less subtlety but more strength and headiness.
For me - admittedly biased in favour of slender sticks generally - I would give the nod to the subtler Balmoral, tho I understand many would prefer the CAO Brazilia with its more potent, even if simpler, profile. The CAO Brazilia seems to have what I often see in cigars designed for the USA market - a bit more of in-your-face cigar flavour that is consistent, but this extra flavour overwhelming the sense of progression and subtlety some of us in enjoy in Cuban sticks, or more European-designed hand-rolled cigars such as those from Davidoff or Balmoral.
Cigar Review – CAO Brazilia Piranha
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