Just Shy of a Royal Flush (CAO Five Card Stud Sampler)

caofivecardI did a video unbagging of my CAO Five Card Stud Sampler from Pipes & Cigars while on the road for my book tour.  Two of the cigars were already favourites of mine, and I had already done reviews on them recently, so I elected not to review them again, but I determined that I would make a few set-particular notes about them when I did the overall review.

By anyone’s standards this is a fine selection of CAO cigars, well worth trying if you want to sample some of the best that CAO has to offer.  Three of the five cigars were rated very highly by Cigar Aficionado Magazine.  Of the other two, one was a limited edition ended, unfortunately, by production problems; the other is the newest offering.

I have been a long-time fan of the CAO Mx2 Robusto.  This cigar was given an 88 score by Cigar Aficionado.  I said that the process of curing maduros “brings out the sweetness of the tobacco in question, giving it an element of caramel and molasses that you can taste the moment you put the cigar to your lips.  A quick sniff along its length suggests elements of chocolate, coffee, and smokey BBQ as well.”

I also said that:

To the uninitiated, the MX2 is a little intimidating.  It is very dark; a rich brown that conjures images of dark chocolate.  Its label does nothing to dispel this, being an uncompromising black with silver highlights.”

Since I did not know to do so in my initial review, I will now add that the wrapper was smooth, satiny and marked with minimalist attractive veins, and the wrapper note was of dark cocoa and pepper.  The pre-light draw was also of dark cocoa with a peppery undertone, and something meaty.  This particular stick that came with the set was of an unusually firm pack and it punched easily and with relatively little flaking.

I went on to describe the smoking experience:

The first few draws, and indeed the first third of the cigar, is surprisingly buttery.  This is one of my favourite elements of it.  Richness is something I crave in food, drink, smoke and fabric. Buttery and rich and dark, all in one?  This is, to me, a heavenly combination.  Imagine if someone served you a fabulous barbecued steak with a side of fresh homemade bread slathered in creamy homemade butter, and you get an idea of your first few draws.

After that, a lingering chocolate taste begins to creep in.  This is more of a rich cocoa than your typical chocolate bar; again, a real win for me.  I would say this is characteristic of the middle portion of the cigar in general.  It just starts to lose a little of that creamy butter taste at about the halfway point, which is where purging is generally recommended.”

2014-06-30 19.44.45The cigar simply smoked beautifully as I shared it with my partner while we were driving through the Rocky Mountains; though ash flaked all over us while we were busy watching a herd of elk in the Jasper Provincial Park.  The dark, delicious cigar seemed the perfect omen for a great journey, and with its dark richness, it was a perfect offering for the loa as we crossed the provincial border.  It took about an hour and a quarter to smoke with both of us sharing it, and finished just as strongly as it started.

I enjoy this particular cigar immensely, as does Erin (although Steven is not as fond of it as we are.)  I gave it a perfect five star rating; definitely an Ace!

The CAO Brazilia Gol! Robusto received a 91 rating from Cigar Aficionado.  This is another fine example of a double maduro; I likened her to a fine Brazilian señorita.  I said that:

The first draw was everything you might hope of a good maduro.  Picture a rich mocha with a slight touch of hazelnut or perhaps nutmeg; just a little hint, not enough to overpower it.  The buttery oil of those first few draws is probably my favourite part of a cigar. . . .Almost before I knew it I was into the second third.  As most cigars do, she lost the buttery element at that point, and ran more to coffee, with a slight floral element. . . .After purging, there was a momentary return to the buttery mocha, then back to the señorita with the Amazonian flowers . . . In the final third, the Brazilia Gol! decided to go full on with her passionate earthy side.  She was rich and pleasantly bitter to the taste.  I tend to associate this sort of flavour profile with smokey barbecued steak, maybe with patchouli underneath.  I smoked it down to the nub, which took me another eighteen minutes.”

20141122_113753This fine Amazonian lady was definitely the Queen of the set.  I smoked the stogie from the flush with my childhood friend Tamara, whom I was staying with for a few days on my book tour.  Just like the first, she cut cleanly and smoothly and with absolutely no difficulty.  She was a pristine celebratory smoke well-suited to the occasion.  If anything, she was improved considerably by the scotch we drank with it.  I enjoyed the Gol! thoroughly and I also gave her five stars.

The CAO Italia Ciao Robusto received a 91 (in Novella variant) from Cigar Aficionado and it was rated one of the best cigars of 2006.  A chocolate maduro instead of a double maduro made from a newly minted limited supply   I loved the opening sweetness changing into nut and earthy tones, the clever bitter cocoa blend of the second third, and the finish:

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.”

Unfortunately, she kept going out; so I was obliged to only give her four stars.  Still, she was definitely the Ten of the flush.  Erin was rather fond of this one also.

The CAO Black Ltd. Bengal Toro was perhaps the proud King of the collection.  It had a beautiful presentation and a winning complex flavour profile:

The wrapper note was of light golden tobacco and clover, with perhaps a dash of vanilla. . . . The pre-light draw was of hay and clover with a dash of vanilla. . . . The first draw, which I began at five after ten in the morning, was deliciously of buttery cream and sweetness – mmm!  There was a noticeable nut and honey element mingled in there, apparent with the first couple of draws.  It released beautifully voluptuous clouds of smoke and left my mouth gently tingling with a tasty almond aftertaste. . . . I noticed the cigar progress nicely into more almond, nut, and woody elements with a lot less butter. . . . I saw then where the “Bengal” may have come from: it’s a bit like Chai spice or Bengal spice tea, with its particular combination of flavours. . . . I also noticed some spice elements – perhaps nutmeg – that I had not noticed before.  It finished with an absolutely delightful and complex smokey, buttery, almondy flavour and a leathery undertone, and it left just a dash of pepper in the mouth.”

20141216_095742If I hadn’t had a problem with it flaking and going out, I would have given this fine cigar a perfect five stars.  But since I did, I was obliged to only allow it a four and a half star rating.  Flaking and going out irritates me, so you know I must have been impressed to allow it that much. 😉

It would have been a Royal Flush for sure, but for the CAO ’VR’ Moby Toro.  Picture, if you will, a hand holding all the cards, and all of them are spades . . . except for this one, which was a club.  It started off quite well, with a delightful presentation and a fascinating flavour profile:

The initial draw was everything that was promised: peppery, sweet and rich, and slightly oily, with some earthy undertones.  As we progressed into the cigar, I noticed that the sweetness remained but it was a sort of “meaty” sweetness, something like sweet and sour meatballs.  It also developed a bit of orange and cocoa flavour that was not unlike those orange-shaped chocolates that you smack down on a table to break into slices.”

But:

Unfortunately I can’t tell you about the rest of it, because in my state of slight inebriation it simply smoked down to the nub without it changing enough for me to notice.  I can’t even say for certain exactly when it was finished other than it was around midnight because that’s when I went to bed.  I can tell you that the wrapper peeled off at the end because that’s how I found the nub in my ashtray.

It wasn’t the worst maduro I’ve had by any means; but nor did I find it the best, and all the things that were good about it I like better in other cigars.  It reminded me a little of the MX2 (but not as smoky or as peppery); and its citrus reminded me a little of the Osa (but it didn’t have as much citrus.)  It tasted a little as if the rollers at CAO had some end bits lying around from other cigars – but not enough to make any particular one – and thought, “I wonder what would happen if . . . well, what the hell.”

I know all of this because I made notes about it; but the smoke was utterly unmemorable; so much so that I didn’t even remember smoking it until I went to look for it, found it gone, and searched my notes until I found where I had written about it.”

20141130_184418[1]So it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.  Maybe it was just the wrong Jack for the set.  I only gave it two and a half stars.  If you offered me one I would smoke it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one and I probably wouldn’t spend my hard-earned money on it myself.

Still, one mediocre cigar does not diminish the overall value of the set!  You can probably bluff your way into that Royal Flush, and certainly at the amazingly low price-point of $22.45 USD, it’s worth it to try.  I will probably keep a set or two of these in my humidor on a regular basis, because one okay cigar is well worth putting up with for the sake of four great ones; especially when you consider Canadian and American price differences (even with duty and shipping.)

So I am proud to recommend this award-winning combination as a great value for cigar aficionados everywhere, and I rate it at:

Stars - 4 and a half

And that is a lady’s perspective!

 

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