Among my presents from PIpes & Cigars was the CAO Five Card Stud Sampler. I have already reviewed two of these excellent cigars recently: the CAO MX2 Robusto (and so did Steven); and the CAO Brazilia Gol! Robusto (and so did Erin). So I chose to simply smoke those and to review the rest of the cigars individually in the set, then add any notes about the individual cigars that came in the set to my overall review once I’ve finished them.
The CAO Italia is a medium-bodied cigar that uses a Honduran wrapper and binders, and its fillers are from Nicaragua, Peru, and Italy; which is its selling point. Cigar Aficionado magazine named it one of the best cigars of 2006 and gave it a 91 rating.
Says CAO’s website:
Travel to the south of Italy, to the Benevento region between Rome and Naples, and you’ll find a new world flavor flourishing in the old world. CAO Italia’s Habano seed was brought to Italy from Cuba nearly fifty years ago. It gives a unique and earthy sweetness to this full-bodied cigar, a smoke that proves Italy can do more than produce some of the world’s finest wines and cuisine−it can produce some of its greatest cigars as well.”
According to Cigar.com, prior to CAO’s World series, Italian tobaccos were used only in machine-rolled cigars because “the climate and soil only allowed for a very limited number of premium leaves.” So it appears that CAO has gathered enough premium Italian leaves to make it worth the effort!
This fine diva was a delicious chocolate colour that hovered somewhere between maduro and Colorado maduro, almost seamless, but with clear, smooth veins and a double cap, which punched easily with my handy dandy bullet punch. Her pack was sturdy and moist. She was presented with an attractive label which, like all the other World series, featured the suggestion of the appropriate country’s flag in Italy’s red, white and green with gold accents on a bright blue background. The wrapper note reminded me of the taste of a Pot-of-Gold Brazil nut chocolate and BBQ. Needless to say, I was excited! The pre-light draw was an intriguing combination of sweet and some sort of toasted nut. The overture caught my attention.
I lit the cigar at almost noon and the first few draws were everything that had been promised; buttery with chocolate elements and the smokey BBQ undertone. Unfortunately ten minutes into the stick it went out. I re-lit after a few minutes and was again treated to a rich and complex full flavour. So I would say that aside from some technical difficulties with the lighting, the opening aria was exquisite and sweet. I puffed at it steadily while I socialized in my kitchen. There was a copious amount of smoke which filled my whole kitchen; I imagine that to have been the natural consequence of the unusually (and pleasantly) moist texture. It seemed our diva liked to put on a big show!
By the end of the first act, which probably finished at about half past noon, the flavours had metamorphosed into sweet and nutty tobaccos with a subtle earthy tone, and the bitterness characteristic of the second third of a cigar manifested as cocoa undertones, which I thought was an exceptionally clever way to harness what seem to be inevitable forces and make them work for our coquettish leading lady rather than against her. However, she proved to be a bit temperamental, and leaving my seat to make coffee, and thus diverting my attention from our diva for a moment, caused her to wink out again in a huff. She did it beautifully, however, leaving a delicate white ash behind.
I left her to her own devices this time for a few minutes; clipped and re-lit at five to 1 pm. Whether due to the previous burning or due to careful planning, the Italia now offered her third face to me; one of nuttiness, earthiness, smokey barbecue and cocoa, with an unplaceable sugary bit. The final act was powerful, emotional, and complex, finally drawing the curtain and shutting down the lights at a quarter to two. So the total length of the opera was about an hour and a half, with an intermission of a little less than half an hour.
I think perhaps this is what I was looking for with the Earth Nectar and didn’t find there; a fine balance of sweet and earth and nut and chocolate; so much going on in one cigar that can hardly be believed. She’s rich, robust, and complex. Do be cautious, however, that this leading lady has a phlegmatic temperament, and she will need constant attention.
Brava, Italia! In this lady’s perspective, your performance rates:
You can get the Italia Ciao pretty much anywhere; Thompson Cigar has them for $54.19 USD in a box of 20 or $7.50 a single; Cigars International has them for $26 USD for a five pack (and they have a shipping deal on now for the holidays); and wonder of wonders, you can even order them in Canada at Cigar Chief for $149.10 Cnd for a box of twenty or $7.93 Cnd for a single (not bad!)
(If you’d like to compare Erin’s review, you can do so at this link.)