I hadn't smoked a CAO Criollo in years; I remember throughly enjoying their full bodied flavor and rustic look, completed with a pigtailed cap. I more or less forgot about them, what with the zillions of other brands out there, but recently began craving them once again. My local cigar store, which carried a dozen other CAO labels, didn't stock them, and when I asked why, I was informed it was a brand sold heavily-discounted at numerous online retailers, and that in order to match the price they would have to sacrifice profit in order to compete.
Honest, I suppose. Except that I couldn't find the size I wanted online - the Pato, at 4 7/8 by 50, in a five pack. Finally, of all placed, I saw it available on Thompson's Cigar Auctions page, and I picked up a five-pack for twelve bucks after minimal bid competition. A steal, since I remember back in the mid-200's, I paid close to $5/stick for these. I let them sit in the humidor for about three months before deciding the time was right....
Click the pics for a better view:
This stick lit easily, with a draw only slightly on the tight side, which is the way I like it. The first notes - hell, the first third - were spicy. Strong at first, then mellowing a bit, but still the dominant flavor.
As I got into the second third, the spices subsided and were replaced by toasty elements, a bit on the woody side perhaps, but never descending into a "burnt" tone. The "toast" remained dominant even as an almond flavor began to slip in underneath, a complexity that quite honestly surprised me.
The ash held it's own nicely:
I said the ASH!
As the last third kicked in, the flavor switched to almost a bittersweet, dark chocolate note. Right around now I began craving a dark beer, for that is the perfect match for this Criollo. A Guinness Stout would have been perfect, but if that's too strong for your tastes, a black & tan, or even a Bass Ale, would match it perfectly.
Not a huge cigar, but I'm not a man who oft has 90 minutes for his smokes. Finished up nicely in about 35 minutes, with the cap saying solidly constructed (despite my chomping and chewing) and no bad aftertaste.
Highly recommended. I (now) can find these online for $7- per single, or as low as $22- for a five-pack (w/out shipping & handling and applicable tax). Still, that's an "everyday" smoke price for a cigar with some serious complexity, and one which smokes better than some 88-89 rated stogies in Cigar Aficionado. Put it this way - if I paid $10 for this, I still would have felt I got my money's worth.
RATING: Four out of Five Stars