CAO Orellana | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Brazilian Cubra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Colombian, Dominican, Brazil ~ Bragança, Fuma em Corda
Size: 6 x 52 Toro
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $10.99 (A buck less online)

Today we take a look at the CAO Orellana.
I got a fiver from a low friend in high places back in September before the official release…I’ve had the sticks a mere two months…probably too early for a CAO to shine. Yet, some of the big cigar industry folk have already reviewed this blend and no one went head over heels over the blend.

Factory: STG Estelí
Limited release
According to Cigar Aficionado:
“CAO has once again ventured into the Amazon for its newest limited-edition release, and this time inspiration has come in the form of a new wrapper called Cubra.
In stores now, CAO Orellana is the fourth smoke in the brand’s Amazon Series, which premiered in 2014 with the release of CAO Amazon Basin and was followed up by two smokes in 2017, CAO Amazon Anaconda and CAO Fuma Em Corda. The series is an homage of sorts to the unique and interesting tobaccos that are cultivated in Brazil.

“CAO Orellana comes in only one size, a 6 inch by 52 ring gauge toro that carries a retail price of $10.99 and comes packed in 20-count wooden boxes.

“The new cigar is named after Francisco de Orellana, the first European conquistador to navigate the entire Amazon river. CAO Orellana is rolled with a Nicaraguan binder and a three-country filler mix of tobaccos from Brazil, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. The red-hued wrapper is called Cubra and is said to be grown in the Bahia region of Brazil in the open sun.

“Like the other Amazon series cigars, Orellana uses a unique tobacco called Bragança from Brazil. Bragança is not fermented in curing barns like other cigar tobaccos, but instead is packed tightly into tubes called carottes. The leaves are naturally compressed for six months in this fashion.”

Not exactly the jewel of the Nile. Big exposed seams. The veins would make Frankenstein’s Monster blush. The triple caps are kind of a mess. But the cigar does feel evenly distributed with the right amount of resistance.

The stick is oily with a rusty brown hue. Very pretty.

I do have to say that the twisted leaves used to provide some sort of primordial example of what we think of when we envision the indigenous people sitting there at rolling tables would do to make a cigar. When, of course, it is merely a marketing ploy to give the blend some cred so we believe the origins of the blend are legit. The Bragança leaf is a tiny portion and CAO has not released how much is used in the filler. In the original Amazon Basin that I reviewed in 2014, stated it had 40% of the mystical rain forest tobacco. CAO ain’t saying nuttin’ this time about the amount. So, for the most part, this is merely a 4-country blend.

I do need to add that the reviews I read describe a multitude of different flavors. Each reviewer finding some similar elements but as palates differ greatly, they each found some interesting flavor components. I don’t remember this cigar getting a rating close to 90 though. But then the cigar industry reviewers tend to be harsher on blends than I am. I shall add my list to theirs.

First off, dark chocolate followed by a big dose of barnyard. After that, a touch of red pepper, espresso, licorice, cream, cedar, caramel, and a shrunken Amazonian head.

The cold draw presents flavors of caramel, malt milk chocolate, floral notes, creamy coffee, licorice, barnyard, cedar, citrus, and assorted spices I can’t quite make out yet.

The draw is impeccable so no need for my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool this time.

Before I start, I gotta say I hate the twisted leaves. Every variation of this cigar that has those blasted things cause a real burn issue. I don’t remember the other reviews taking them off and no mention of a burn problem. And honestly, any added flavor they might add is so minor that they need not be explored. So, I remove the twisted rings where a cigar band should be. The twists running down the bottom half of the cigar are embedded and must be removed very carefully…a different burn experience with every cigar.

The cigar ignites with plumes of smoke surrounding my work area with a mushroom cloud.
Nice, acceptable start. It’s very peppery and dominates my first impressions.

It’s nutty with a bit of sweetness from unknown sources. I must be honest and convey I expect to find potential rather than a finished appropriately rested blend. But these are limited production sticks and no one will want to read my review 4 months after they’ve sold out.

Strength is a potent medium.

Chocolate is the sweetest thing going on. Flavors are very subtle and hard to discern at this early point. But I do find the cigar starting as an enjoyable entity…so far.

The thing I liked about the 2014 Amazon Basin was that super prevalent grape flavor. Never had anything like it before. No one is reporting that this time around…which makes me question how much the Bragança contributes to that flavor and then question how much was actually used in this blend.

The cigar kicks in and becomes very creamy. The savory portion consists of a meaty presence…a salted meat. The aromas translate to flavors now.

“All Along The Watchtower” is playing. My all time fave song by Jimi and there are plenty to pick from.

This two-month rested cigar tastes a whole lot better than the last one I smoked a month in. Could there be great potential hiding behind this indigenous species?

The burn is spot on…most probably because I removed the twists. The first two I smoked with the twists on burned like shit and I had to rip the twists off to even out the burn.

Complexity kicks in now. Transitions are in ghost mode. The finish is short and abrupt.
There are no real distinct flavors. A mélange of influences but mostly deferential to the flavor sitting next to it.

I like the maltiness and nuttiness. The creaminess and chocolate give it a chocolate milk shake feel. The red pepper is strong black pepper now. I’m sure with the proper aging, the spiciness will lessen considerably.

Gotta be a densely rolled stick as the ash is now 1-1/2” long and can’t be removed with a gentle tap.
No sign of grape.

As a kid, I always stopped at the local drug store on the walk home and got a Nehi Grape Soda. Back then, you had to leave a 3-cent deposit on the bottle…shit, I’m fucking old.

The salted caramel is potent now; engaging in a partnership with salted nuts.
Some hint of cinnamon toothpicks enters stage right. And just a hint of café au lait.

I am beginning to realize that I like the CAO Orellana. It appears to be a solid blend. With 6 months rest, it is going to be an excellent smoke.

Complexity deepens. Transitions make their debut. The finish is full of pepper, sweet things, malt, nuts, and cinnamon. Small tinges of citrus appear and then go away.

One reviewer mentioned dried tea but I don’t taste it. Ahh…the palate. What a mysterious thing it is.
I believe the other reviews were written a week or two behind this one so I really don’t know their timeline for acquisition of the sticks…and their resting time.

There is an AJ influence. Very reminiscent of his best Man O War sticks. It also reminds me of the Alec Bradley Magic Toast. Anytime a manufacturer uses a lot of PR to raise the status of a new blend and its exotic nature, I grimace. But CAO could have socked it to their customer base with a ridiculous price point and they did not. It is the now widely accepted staple price of $12 for a boutique blend. The number 12 must have mystical qualities as so many cigars are sold at this price.

The CAO Orellana is a nice slow smoke. Not a lick of harshness. The pepperiness no longer lingers at the back of my throat. I personally do not like when black pepper sits there for the entire duration of a smoke. Annoying.

The nuttiness is more defined now: peanuts and raw cashews. The saltiness is all but gone now. I don’t like salt either.

Creaminess seems to be the leading edge of the flavor profile; followed by chocolate, café au lait, caramel, malt, tiny bit of licorice, a vanishing cinnamon, citrus is gone replaced by a berry element I find pleasing, and a new arrival of honey.
No grape.

Construction is excellent thanks to ridding the stick of the twists at the burn point.

I watched “Brian Johnson’s: A Life On The Road” last night on AXSTV. He had Mark Knopfler on as his guest. I looked this up…did you know this guy is worth $100 million USD?

A reviewer mentioned a cardboard element. Up til now, I had not experienced this but now I do. It seems to impact the over all flavor profile. Hopefully, this is transient.

The 3 cigar industry reviews I read gave the cigar ratings of 83, 86, & 89. One review occurred at the exact time of release so even if the reviewer got it early, it still may have been smoked too early. It was given the 83.

While, at this point in the cigar’s life, it ain’t going to receive a 95 from me, I do believe it deserves a better rating than the others gave it. I wonder what it is like to be deluged by a constant flow of free cigars because you are in the cigar industry? How exactly does that influence your palate?

Cardboard turns to musty. Nicht gut.
The aforementioned flavors by me are all still there but the added addition of manmade industrial products flavors doesn’t do the cigar any favors. It must be that the cigar just ain’t ready to smoke at 2 months or less. Still a little green.

Medium/Full strength has been attained as I feel the woozy effects of nicotine. Sometimes this is good…especially when you are dieting and you want to eat breakfast after the review; but having your head in the toilet puts the brakes on your hunger reflexes.

Halfway point. It’s taken a good hour to get here. Nice.
I’m very near the point where I must wrestle the twisted leaves off the cigar where the cigar band should be. I like to use a K-Bar for this.

Fruitiness makes a big splash now. Berries, peaches, and strawberries. But no grape.

I dug the original release of this cigar 5 years ago. The blends put out in the Amazon header have not been very good. But they did use the twisted leaves as a selling point.
The Orellana is better than the earlier releases but not the original Basin. It must be due to a lesser amount of the Bragança leaf.

Now that the cigar is warm, the faux cigar band twists come off with ease.
The cigar now looks like the cankles of a 400lb woman. Those twists were really applied tightly.

The complexity has reached a stalemate. It progressed to a nice point but then stopped dead in its tracks. Transitions are just OK. The finish is delicate.
But the balance of savory v. sweet is doing just fine.

I take my first sips of water and the flavors all rush to the forefront.

Going to be a lovely 50 degrees today. But a week from now…10 degrees will be the high. Welcome to a Wisconsin winter.

The blend becomes extremely bitter. WTF?

The bitterness is terrible. I’m going to let the cigar rest for a bit and come back to it.

On Friday, a whole cadre of cop cars came racing to a stop in front of my apartment building. Apparently, one of the residents refused to accept the eviction order and law enforcement was called. The 35 year old guy is a strange dude. He is a meth junkie. No teeth. Skinny as a rail. And now and again has his brother stay with him as the brother gets released from jail over and over. And then they have a female guest who is a mid 30’s junkie. I heard she OD’d a few times on the premises and this was the reason for the eviction. I just love apartment living. We must find a new place to live when our lease expires.

Back to the CAO Orellana.
The bitterness is gone.
Strength hits full.
Nicotine is palatable.
The blend resumes in normal mode.

All the reviews, including mine, were just done too soon. CAO is not exactly known for its history of being ready to smoke in quick time. I’m sure the Orellana is no different.
Still, it is a limited release and I have faith. Despite its current faults, I feel strongly it will develop into a very nice smoke.

And at $10 online, it is a solid purchase as long as you exert patience.

The cigar is very strong now. Shit. My eyes are watering. My testicles are doing the “Tighten Up.” Archie Bell & The Drells…take a bow.

Flavors are now morphed into one big giant ball of confusion. It tastes good but no real delineation of specific flavors. The transitions are somewhat of a disappointment. But the finish is very enjoyable.
The cigar is no more complex than it was before the second half.
And not a hint of grape. Sigh.

I wonder if CAO used giant bulldozers to plow through the rain forest to get to this special tobacco? Wild caught and sustainable?

I truly believe the CAO Orellana has some real potential. It’s not the original Amazon Basin but it has its own distinct personality.
My rating is going to be more for its potential. This will become an excellent cigar.
I believe a fiver is in order.


And now for something completely different:

Back around 1973, I was in a 4 piece band. Me on bass, Tim the guitarist, Jimmy on electric piano and sax, and a black front man named Kenny.
We did some pretty cool cover tunes because of our instrumentation. And we got gigs.

The singer was a very handsome man. Tall. And looked a little like Lou Rawls but better looking. Kenny also thought he was Lou Rawls and kept steering us to his songs. Not exactly rock n roll but he had a great soulful voice.
Kenny also had a great sexy stage presence.

We had this old bag of a booker. She looked 100 years old. But got us good gigs.
Somehow, we ended up playing Chino Women’s Prison a lot. It was located in Corona, CA…not far from Riverside.
It was a hopelessly gray facility.

And it was also where the Manson girls were incarcerated for a while.

Going through the gates was a nightmare when you were in an Econo van with all the musical gear. Dogs, mirrors, searches of the inside of the van, and we got frisked with extreme prejudice.

We set up our gear totally surrounded by guards who took the opportunity to smoke cigarettes and bullshit. They loved it.

It was a small auditorium. No seats but a nice big stage about 4 feet tall and a curtain.

On our first time, one of the girls sneaked backstage while we were playing and between songs asked if we had any fruits or veggies? We told we had some apples and pears and gave them to her.
She immediately got in trouble. So did we. We got the lecture.

Apparently, they take the stuff, put it into a metal bucket, cover it with gauze and let it sit for a month or two. The stuff would rot and they would pour off the juice through the gauze and drink it to get high. Yuck.

It was called Pruno. The official definition:
“Pruno, or prison wine, is an alcoholic liquid variously made from apples, oranges, fruit cocktail, ketchup, sugar, milk, and possibly other ingredients, including crumbled bread. Bread supposedly provides the yeast for the Pruno to ferment.”

I noticed that while the chicks were dancing to our music there were a bunch of guys dancing with them. During a break, I told a guard how cool it was to let the men come over.
The guard looked at me like I was an idiot. “There are no men here.”
“Those are women?” The guard nodded.
Jesus Christ.

The singer got freaked out pretty badly because as he stood near the front of the stage, the women would grab at his legs. Like the Beatles.
So, he hid next to me by the drums.

During another break, the three girls standing in the back of the auditorium came forward to talk to us. I went forward to the end of the stage and saw little swastikas tattooed between their eyebrows.
Holy shit. The Manson girls.

They were very quiet and told us how much they liked our band. And how much Charlie would like us too.
Now that gave me the creeps.
Next time we played there, the girls were gone. But we brought extra fruit for the girls and sneaked it to them.

We played there a few times until Tim and I said no more. It was a real hassle being patted down and having out equipment torn apart looking for contraband.

Sometime later, my friends and I were going through a weed dry spell. So, we found the recipe for Pruno and made some. We all threw up.
Those were the days.


Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. CAO
    Love hate relationship
    I liked the Brasilia until I gave one to a buddy and he asked if it took batteries
    And they take forever to be ready to smoke.
    I think I’ll stick with the Enclave.
    Better smoke cheaper price point and better roll.
    Just finishing up one now
    Churchill size unfortunately takes me 2.5 hours to smoke.
    That’s a big chunk of my day but an enjoyable one.

  2. I’m a big fan of the Enclave as well. I try to always keep a few handy. Straight ahead solid blend.
    Again, I thought the 2014 Amazon Basin was a great stick. CAO’s follow ups just weren’t in the same league and tried to take advantage of the original’s success without the same quality…but at the same price.
    I’m smoking an AJ Rosa de Guadalupe that I’ve had for 3 weeks and it is going to need 3-4 months before it shines. An inexpensive AJ blend. They go for $118 for 20 on CI but I paid half that on Cbid.

  3. I’m giving thanks today for Uncle Katman!

  4. Thank you Keith!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s