April 25, 2012

Review: CAO Last Stick Standing Cigars

Today I have reviewed something a little different. Over the past few days, I've smoked all three of the CAO cigars that are part of their latest promotion called "Last Stick Standing".

Info on the promotion from the press release: "CAO’s senior brand manager Ed McKenna explains, “Rick Rodriguez has been developing blends with our team in Nicaragua and has come up with three which we think are all great. So we’re calling on CAO fans to help us pick the blend that will ultimately be launched as a new CAO collection, to be released late this year, or in early 2013.

A special three-pack tin called the Last Stick Standing is now available for free with the purchase of any six CAO cigars at participating cigar shops across the U.S. Each tin contains three distinct blends, aptly named C, A and O. The cigars all measure 5 1/2” x 54, which is what Rick Rodriguez considers to be the ideal size for allowing consumers to truly evaluate each blend."

It looks to me like there will be a tour and all kinds of giveaways associated with the promotion. If you want to read the rest of the press release, Shawn & Ben from Nice Tight Ash have it posted here.

For my review, I'm going to do a three part post with one section for each cigar. Hopefully I can give a brief intro to each one and maybe just the major flavor characteristics that made them different or the same.

Vitola: Double Robusto
Length: 5 1/2
Ring Gauge: 54
Wrapper: ?
Binder: ?
Filler: ?
Price: Free with the purchase of any six CAO cigars at participating cigar shops across the U.S.
Smoking Location: My back deck
Beverage: water

Cigar C
The C had a nice medium brown wrapper with a lot of red hues thrown in. To me, it had a classic looking rosado leaf. There were average sized veins and a lot of tooth, adding a bit of a rustic look to the stick. The pre-light aroma was of walnuts and the cold draw had a interesting plum taste. The overall taste profile for the first half of the cigar was a lot of graham cracker notes on the front with some spicy cayenne pepper on the finish. It wasn't too hot that it burnt any taste buds, but it was definitely spicy. Interestingly though, the resting smoke smelled very sweet and almost candy-like. At about the half way point of the cigar, the flavors on the finish got much darker and had some strong charred, meaty flavors mixing in with the spice. The front stayed consistent with a graham flavor. The construction of the cigar was near perfect, with just a slightly crooked burn at times, but nothing that needed a touch up with a lighter. I'd put the nicotine strength at medium that built into the full range in the second half of the smoking experience.

Overall: I really enjoyed this cigar and honestly think it's the best thing to come out from CAO for a few years. I wasn't a fan of the La Traviata maduro nor the OSA Sol, so this cigar has renewed my faith in the brand.       

Cigar A
My A had a lighter, caramel-colored wrapper - a pretty big contrast to the C. What was similar was the wrapper was very bumpy and toothy, again giving it a rustic appearance. The pre-light aroma was faint but had a slight coffee with cream smell. The cold draw was pretty loose on this sample and the only real taste it had was of hay. The cigar lit with no issues and the front of the profile tasted pretty musty. Not moldy, but definitely an old type of taste. The finish had a bit of black pepper, but it was pretty muted. As you can see in the photo, the ash on this cigar was very dark which was a lot different than the C. After the cigar settled, the musty flavor dissipated and the front taste turned into some cedar and hay notes. Again, the finish was mild black pepper. The nicotine strength of the stick was in the lower full range and I could feel my heart beat pick up a little getting closer to the finish. The draw did tighten up a bit toward the end, which made the flavors a little stronger, but by that point, my smoking experience was pretty much over. 

Overall: I did finish the cigar, but I didn't really enjoy much of it. The flavor was to weak for my taste and the complexity was just not there. Don't let the lighter color wrapper fool you though. This stick still had some nicotine power in it.   

  Cigar O
Cigar O was probably the nicest looking stick out of all three. The wrapper was a dark brown color that was slightly lighter around the veins. The wrapper was also pretty oily and had a good sheen adding to its pleasing appearance. The pre-light aroma smelled of dry cocoa, especially at the open foot. The cold draw had a bit of resistance which was nice and tasted strongly of hazelnut. Firing up the cigar was no problem and it immediately produced large clouds of smoke. The texture of the smoke was very chewy and sat heavily on my palate. The starting flavors were a gritty, earthy taste on the front, mixing (unfortunately) with a sour, metallic taste on the finish. This was not so good. The stick burned very slowly, but never went out or needed re-light.. After about an inch and a half, the sourness faded away and the gritty earthy taste took over and dominated both the front and the finish of the cigar for the rest of the smoking experience. The nicotine strength was in the medium to lower -ull range, pushing further into full towards the latter part of the cigar.

Overall: This cigar didn't do it for me either. The rough start only set up what I would call a very uneventful flavor profile. I really liked the look of the stick, but in this case, looks were deceiving.

Final thoughts on the CAO Last Stick Standing Cigars? For me there is one far and away winner of these three. The C was a good cigar with a lot of flavors and some nice balance. The other two I did not care for. Since this is a voting contest for the public to pick the best cigar in the group, I am very interested to see if my tastes match up with the others who smoke these sticks. A cool concept from General Cigars. I give them props for being such a big company and still taking the time to listen to smokers of their products.



  1. Thanks for taking the time, Dan. Right now, it's a close race between C and O, but there's a lot of time left.

  2. Well, they say cigars are a matter of taste. To me, or my C, had that metallic taste, even acrid or tin, as you state. So C was my lowest although it was a great smoke. Consider that my favorite CAO's are Italia and Maduro Gold.
    A stands out, and even though the wrapper was too light for my taste, as my favorite so far. I did not get any bitterness or acrid earthy taste to it and enjoyed the creaminess of the smoke.
    O is waiting for today so I will chime in once that is done!
    I agree that this is a great kudos to General for allowing consumers to have a voice.

  3. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.