CAO Extreme | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Ligero
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Honduran (La Entradas), Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 52 “Toro”
Body: Full
Price: $4.16 by the box (Twice as much for a single)
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“(La Entrada) La Entrada is a town in the Honduran department of Copán. Its name is [Spanish] for “the entrance” and the town is a gateway from coastal Honduras to the mountainous Western highlands. Close to La Entrada are the Mayan archaeological ruins at El Puente.”

CAO is a crumbling company struggling to stay afloat because their catalog is full of the same ol’ crap. New blends come and make next to zero impact. People associate CAO with mediocrity. And for good reason. Sure, they make a few good blends, but most are outdated and unsmoked.

This Extreme is the resurrection of the he CAO L’Anniversaire eXtreme that was introduced in 2000 and then in 2008, dumped the whole line.

According to Cigar.com, there are four different doses of Ligero in this blend.

The description from CI is embarrassing and I won’t hamper you with forcing you to read it. It may be a flash in the pan, it may not. Is the new Extreme the answer to a crumbling CAO? Let’s see what we think.

There is a lot of Liberace flash and dazzle. The shiny cigar band and the massive foot band that looks like someone removed a Las Vegas billboard. Once the billboard is removed, the cigar is a mess. It is lumpy, bumpy, wrinkled, a shit load of large and small veins, exposed seams, and a sloppy double cap. The wrapper is a dark chocolate candy bar color with a bit of oil and a bit of tooth….So much for the praise portion of the show, let’s move on to the aromas.

The last clang to the death knell of CAO blends is that they take an enormous amount of humidor time before they are ready to smoke.

Instant fragrances of dark chocolate, spice, cinnamon, dried fruit, cedar, and leather.
Time to light up.

The cigar is quite tasty. Lots of milk chocolate. A bit of bourbon. Lots of vanilla bean. Cinnamon and raisin.

The draw is perfect. The stick is hard with the just right amount of give.
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A nice sweetness appears. But not a tinkle of spice is to be seen. Very strong in the aroma phase of the review but nonexistent in the smoking phase.

The strength is mild/medium. It has a lot to go before it hits the advertised full body.
The chocolate and sweetness carries the cigar for the moment.

More flavors begin to pile on top of each other, such as a salty nuttiness and dark coffee.
The char line is too wavy so it requires a touch up.
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Little by little, the cigar catches my attention. I will be hones here (Please don’t alert the Cigar Reviewer’s Union) and tell you I received these cigars yesterday. I smoked one last night and was mightily impressed so I decided to review it this morning. You know how some cigars will taste like the blender’s intent for the first couple of days and then after that taste like hay? And then you wait a month or so before they are once more ready to smoke. I think this is that type of cigar so might as well get in while the gettin’ is good and I have to wait forever.

The flavor has already begun to fade a bit because I am pretty sure there was some nice red pepper. Now, I just have the dalliance of black pepper in the back of my throat.

I think CAO is trying to play catch up with the New Breed Tattooed Ones by putting out their version of the strongest cigar on the market. Last night, I had to put it down with about 1-1/2” to go because I was flying.
The chocolate is extremely (pardon the pun) strong. Every which way but loose the chocolate flavor is displayed: baker’s cocoa, hot cocoa with marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, and Three Musketeers candy bar.
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The nuttiness makes a surge to catch up and there is a hazelnut flavor. Sweet helped by the overall sweetness of the cigar.

My sunny photos of the cigar wash out the deep coffee color of the wrapper. They also do a nice PR job of hiding the lumpiness and the many levels of sloppiness of the wrapper. So what…it looks pretty.

The cigar is packed solid and thus a slow burner.

The second third starts and the spiciness shows up. The strength is a tick above medium/full. Flavors begin to blossom. This cigar is beginning to taste like no other CAO line. I’m sure with more humidor time, the blend would have become more powerful earlier on.

Here are the flavors: Cocoa, sweetness, creaminess, coffee, raisin, spice, nuts, vanilla, touch of honey and leather.
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The cigar is becoming very well rounded with a nice balance. Not a flavor bomb. Not complex but a very nice grouping of flavors.

A 5 pack runs about $5-$6 a stick. But if you go to Cbid, you can probably get this stick for just a few shekels. I got mine on Cbid on one of their specials where they have 125 units up for auction and I paid $31 for 10. CAO must be selling these sticks to the CI Conglomerate for pennies.

The second third really sees the flavor profile bloom. It is on the verge of flavor bomb status and for a cigar without any virtual humidor time, that is quite the feat.

I did expect to see some full body strength by now. But it is a very nice medium/full bodied blend at the moment. Nothing harsh or hot. Nothing bitter. A very smooth blend.

I have 8 more of these and I won’t touch another one for 3-4 weeks and then come back with my observations about how the humidor time affected it.

But it is good enough to smoke ROTT. I’m sure that this is a ticking bomb waiting to explode in a few weeks. I never recommend smoking a cigar the same day or soon after but the chocolate experience makes it all worth it.
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This is what a chocolate flavored cigar should taste like; not those cloying infused sticks of crapola. Real cocoa blended into the stick by blenders that know what they are doing. I tried the DE Java a couple times and it was horrible. I almost went into a diabetic seizure.

I begin the halfway point. This is a delicious cigar. I am so glad that it is cheap and available on Cbid. I checked and I’m betting these cigars can be had for no more than $3 a stick. It is a good stick to keep on hand in your humidor. It’s flashy looking and cheap and a great stick to hand out to your mooch friends. And they will be happy because it is a good tasting stick. Just don’t tell them it is full bodied so you can watch your wimp friends turn green. And not with envy.

The last third begins and the strength zooms to full bodied. The cigar is now a flavor bomb. Flavors encircling the chocolate base.
8

I think that CAO might have pulled itself out of the mire with this blend. It is a good start.

This was a fluke that the cigar was ready to go immediately. I got a hint of the blender’s intent and its potential. I’m sure by tomorrow, it will taste like hay. I like it when a cigar performs right off the bat so that it gives me something to wait for. Most cigars don’t do this. They start off tasting like hay without giving any hint of potential. So when the infrequent cigar teases you, you strike.

The char line has been near perfect since the early on touch up. No issues with the construction of the wrapper. The cap stood up to my chomping.
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This is a nice little cigar. It has great potential. It is cheap. Very flavorful. Potent. And behaves nicely.
None of the A List reviewers will review this cigar; just us little guys.

The wrapper cracks at the cap are my fault. Comes from me snipping little bits of it so you don’t see the drool soaked cap.
You can probably come close to spending half the retail by using Cbid. Well worth it.
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One last note…Through the help of John Starr..a reader and now a friend, brought my attention to a fairly new shop that specializes in rare and hard to get cigars. And in most cases, much cheaper than anyone else around. It is called Small Batch Cigars. The owner, Andrew, is uber customer oriented and provides free 2 day Priority Mail. You should check out his inventory. All the stuff that is back ordered everywhere else, he has in stock.
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And now for something completely different:
A Primer on Producing Artists…Or..The Fool on the Hill.

I owned a recording studio in Long Beach, CA back in the early 80’s. It was all analog back then. We used a giant recording machine that was reel to reel and used 3” wide tape. We managed to buy the recorder from Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco. Heider used that very machine to record Jimi, Janis, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and a million other 60’s icons. We paid $800 for it in 1982. And it was already 20 years old.
recorder

The 3” wide tape was very expensive. A roll cost $180. I don’t remember how many feet were on each roll. And if we ran it at 30ips, the tape lasted only an hour or so. We, of course, made the clients pay for the tape, but we never gave it to them. We would just record over it. We also had a pricing scale that it cost this much if you wanted the fast 30ips or this much if you wanted the slower 15 ips. Of course, the 30ips, being faster, recorded a more true to life sound. It was all bullshit because the magic occurred in the mixing and producing.

If a group insisted on buying the tape, we would sell it to them for $250. And then make a run to Hollywood and buy 3 or 4 more. We eventually got the tape cheaper as we became return customers.

Strangely, in a town (Long Beach) of more than 500,000 people, we were only one of two recording studios in the city. And the other studio was a dump. So we got a lot of business. Plus we advertised every week in those counter culture newspapers. We would always buy the entire back page.

I had a partner who did the engineering while I produced the session. I was able to work the 24 track board perfectly but I needed to focus on what was being recorded and help the artists get their best performance possible. Having done sessions, played in Curved Air and mentored by one of the greatest producers of all time: Rick Tunstall, I had the knack. So word went out there was a new hired gun in town and people asked for me to produce them. At an extra charge of course. Bands that didn’t have a pot to piss in, I did for free.
board

But some assholes would come in, swaggering and sashaying with a wad of money in their hands. We made sure to get all of it.

My great mentor, Rick Tunstall, taught me everything about producing. I would get taken aside by a singer or a guitarist and told that no one had been able to get a performance out of them like I did. This made me very happy. Not just for my ego, but it was gratifying to help another artist get what they heard in their head. It didn’t matter if I liked their music; I wanted a fine product coming from our studio. Word of mouth was a big deal for us.

Over the years, I produced thousands of groups…all kinds…you name it..from punk bands to an orchestral harp player to string quartets and everything in between.

We also got a lot of radio commercial work and I never got involved because it was usually a radio DJ with a project and they deemed themselves the producer. And didn’t want my help; although, after hearing their finished project, I believe they would have been smarter taking my help.

And then there were the pop, or rock acts, that thought they were smarter than me and insisted on producing. Every single time, it was a disaster. My partner, and engineer, Dave, kept his mouth shut and let them dig their own grave. It would usually end up with more money for us because they would end up re-doing the session. After they finished their debacle, I would play them things I produced and they, begrudgingly, agreed to allow me to produce their project. And everyone was happy at the end. Back then, we only charged $35 an hour.

Often, I would have to use the Phil Spector method. Something Tunstall taught me. This means getting rough with one or more musicians who weren’t on top of their game. Recording is nothing like playing live where playing a clam now and again didn’t matter. In a recording session, one had to discipline themselves so they could play the exact same thing over and over again, if necessary. Some of the best players around choked in the studio. They couldn’t handle the pressure. It is very intimidating being the only person in the studio, doing an over dub, while a gaggle of people looked on from the booth. More often than not, I had to bring in player buddies who knew how to record. This really caused a lot if ill feeling in the band. But they wanted a great finished product so they conceded. Not to mention, they had to pay an outsider.

There were times that frustration came into play. I would leave the booth and enter the recording studio area. This always intimidated the players. I would take one aside and yell at him with a big pep talk. I was yelling. I got them mad. Mad is good. It fires up the adrenaline and with enough pep talks, the players came through, playing what they were supposed to, plus more. I tried easy cajoling first, but sometimes getting rough was the only way. And it was their money and I wanted them to get the most out of it.

After the session, the band would be packing up and Dave and I would focus on one song. We would hurriedly mix it so we would have something to show the players when they finished packing and entered the booth. They always wanted to produce their own songs. But by doing one song for them, it kept the number of self-proclaimed producers down. Most of the time, they were very impressed with what Dave and I did for them and allowed us to mix their tunes by ourselves. More $$$ for us. We would shuffle them out of the studio and then mix their songs. Then, invite them back the next day to hear the finished product. We saw a lot of big smiles.

There were no DVD’s back then so the finished product was delivered on a two track reel. Basically, it was a stereo recording of their music. We had an 8 track recorder but a 24 track board.

We were ruthless about money. We bullied the bands so they would have to transfer the reel to cassettes or have them pressed into vinyl. We could copy the reel to cassettes with a myriad of copy machines in the studio. Lots of customers came to us merely to make a thousand cassette copies.

During the recording studio period, my ear was the best it ever was in all of my playing days. The amount of focus required, hearing every detail and nuance, of a song takes a lot of concentration.

As a result, I got hired out to do bands’ sound for a live show. We would use their equipment and all I had to do was show up. I sat behind the board and did a sound check with them getting all their sounds.

I had a real knack for getting a big drum sound. I used a John Bonham sound. BIG! The bands really liked that. And of course, as a bassist myself, I made sure the bass was way out front.

I miss those days. But life moves on and technology changed drastically only a few years later. No one records using analog any longer. Everything is done using computers.

So while the bedroom guitarist could produce something equally as good as my studio could, the only thing lacking was the Phil Spector syndrome telling them they can do better.

I found out during this time that McCartney did the same thing I did when laying down a bass line. A band would come in needing a bass player. I got a lot of gigs this way.

But I was too busy producing to play at the same time. So I’d come in around 11pm and stay all night in a dim booth with my bass and the equipment. I could play the shit out of a song because I could fix it and do it again until it was perfect. During the latter days of Beatles recordings, McCartney did the same exact thing. This allowed him to come up with some of the most beautiful melodic bass lines every written.

And of course, I loved the solitude. I’d have a small amount of toot there. A doob that I would take small hits from during the night. And no fear. I was alone. I could fuck up a hundred times and only need to play it right once.

But I experimented with my bass lines. I tried to think like McCartney. Providing bass riffs that the band would never have thought of.

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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1 reply

  1. Wow, finally a review for the Extreme! I grabbed a box from CI and it also came with a CAO cutter. It’s been in the humidor for over a month and I still haven’t tried it yet. If my palate tastes 10% of what you’re tasting, then I’m going to love it! If I taste mostly chocolate, I’ll be in heaven. 🙂
    About infused cigs? I agree a KATillion %. YUK! I bought a pack of DE Red Eye several years ago. I couldn’t finish the first third! I still have them and it don’t have the heart to throw them away. They smell so sweet! YUK! 😛
    I did have a LX2 the other day and it was OK. Nothing to write home about. MX2 tastes like a stinky ash tray. People rave about it, I don’t get it. The Soprano Boss was decent. BIG sucker! I have the Brazilia and the Italia that I haven’t smoked yet.