CAO Zócalo | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Morron
Binder: Cameroon
Filler: Nicaragua
Size: 5 x 52 Robusto
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $8.00 (Around $6.00 online)

I rarely review CAO blends. I remember liking the brand in the early 2000’s but became bored with all of them soon thereafter. The Flathead series has been a hit for them.
So, why am I reviewing a CAO catalog brand cigar? Because my friend, Aaron, gave me a couple sticks and won’t leave me alone about reviewing them. So, I either love this cigar or throw Aaron under the bus and he’ll never speak to me again. He likes the cigar.

The cigar got some decent reviews back in 2018 when the only size available was the 6 x 60 and was a limited edition. Now, CAO provides three sizes. Could not find any info on when this occurred. Therefore, I am guessing that the Robusto I am smoking is not a vintage 2018 stick. Plus, the online cigar shops make no mention of this cigar still being a limited edition.

One thing I found odd. The esteemed cigar industry reviewers seemed to be on the same page as far as declaring this a more than decent blend. But, at the same time, no one had the same experience. Flavors were thrown into the wind like a 5lb bag of flour.

Sometimes, once a cigar is accepted by its customers, the blend gets tweaked to make it cheaper to produce. No idea if this is the case here. I’m just saying that I’ve smoked plenty of cigars that were brilliant 10 years ago and now, I swear, the blend has been cheapened and still sold as the original blend. I love the Pepin Garcia blends but I smoked a JJ Series yesterday and it was nothing more than just OK. Why is that Garcia folks?

CAO has made a big deal on the original release that this is the first blend they have made with the Mexican San Andrés wrapper.

Released April 2018
From (5-14-2018):
“CAO has nearly 25 years in the cigar market, consecutively at least, and yet, the brand’s library of releases has never included a cigar with a Mexican wrapper. It’s not entirely that challenging to believe, even five or six years ago, there were still large concerns by big manufacturers about the receptiveness of the American consumer towards the Mexican cover leaf.

“Those concerns were part of a reputation that developed after the cigar boom. Largely based off the poor tobacco and more recently, poor sales, of brands like Te-Amo. Whether or not those notions were exaggerated by cigar companies, it’s quite clear that many consumers are willing to buy cigars with Mexican wrappers, and shortly before the mostly American holiday of Cinco de Mayo, CAO shipped its first cigar with a Mexican wrapper: Zócalo.
“The CAO Zócalo comes in a single 6 x 60 vitola with the aforementioned Mexican San Andrés Morron wrapper over a Cameroon binder and fillers from Nicaragua. It’s priced at $8.49 and limited to 3,500 boxes of 20 cigars.”

6 x 60 Gigante $9.00
5 x 52 Robusto $8.00
6.2 x 54 Toro $8.50

The first thing I notice is that the cigar is light in the loafers. This ain’t a jam-packed stick. There could be burn problems…or not.
The stick is lumpy and bumpy with the expected appearance of an inexpensive catalog cigar…lots of veins, seams are decent, triple cap a bit sloppy, and has an acceptable amount of oily sheen on the wrapper. Lastly, this baby is smooth…no hint of toothiness.

An ordinary mix of floral, dark chocolate, espresso, mesquite, black pepper, black licorice, cedar, and barnyard.
The cold draw presents flavors of baking spices, red pepper, dark chocolate, a hint of mint, nuttiness, molasses, and some vegetal stuff going on.

The cigar’s lack of being a packed tight sausage shows in the very loose and airy draw.
My PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool is merely an advertisement in this review. But then if I like it, I might use it as a roach clip at the end.

First puffs are mighty spicy. Black and red pepper takes my palate on a roller coaster ride…wiping out any possible chance of tasting anything else.

There is a meatiness that the array of spices turns into carne asada. Which isn’t that bad. If I have a craving for cilantro, this reaction will be confirmed.

But I get an immediate $7 taste from the cigar. I know right now that this is going to be nothing more than an ordinary cigar. Which makes me think the original release of 6 x 60 sticks may have had better tobacco in it for the industry reviewers to give the cigar an average of 90.

Buffalo Springfield on Pandora. I saw them live in 1966 at Melodyland Theater in Anaheim. First row seats for $3.50. Loudest band I had heard. But damn, the energy flying off that stage was nearly spiritual. I was in love.

The spiciness has calmed a bit allowing some minor flavors to emerge. Strength is a straight ahead medium. Others reviewing this cigar mention that the cigar hit medium/full immediately. Betcha’ a buck this ain’t the same blend.
What you say? The cigar industry may not be on the up and up? No. Impossible.

Getting rid of the onslaught of peppers helps out big time. There is a natural sweetness that is dearly appreciated after my lips became numb from the fire. Some creaminess appears. Yes, that helps too. But an inch in, the cigar is bland. Nothing special to it at all.

Now you’d think that CAO’s first foray into Mexican tobacco would be cause for blessing them for moving into the 21st Century. But no…Instead of making it a stunning blend, they settled for ‘Meh.” Dumb asses. It’s all about the mighty dollar. And the suckers who buy into it.

I expected the burn to be fast and furious XXI. It actually is taking its time. Well, my bad. But the vestiges of a light load are felt in the heat and harshness that are the platform for this cigar.

Oh lord, Aaron is going to be pissed off at me.

A mustiness shows up. Nothing big and shiny…but an example of a cigar not cherished by the manufacturer.

It sort of becomes a pleasant cigar. But nothing exceptional about it. If I had blind tasted this cigar, it could be one of a million other inexpensive blends. Nothing to stare at folks; please move away from the yellow tape.

Every other manufacturer has been putting this same blend together for years. And most did it better. The Cameroon binder is different but as far as I can tell, it has little influence.
Aaron forgets I’m a snob.

I try some morning coffee to see if I can invigorate the flavor profile.
Maybe a sip of water.
It brings the spiciness back to the forefront.
The other reviewers found a gazillion exotic flavors. I want what they smoked.
The only thing exotic going on is I’m not wearing a bra while I review.

There is zero complexity. Transitions are non-existent. And the finish is full bore hot peppers.

My new life in retail. It’s a trip. I spent a career working with professionals. This is a different environment. There are about 10 employees I call ‘Forrest.’ So far, they haven’t gotten it.

Strictly generic flavors. No intensity. If the spiciness would just go away, the blend might have a chance.

Yesterday, a nice lady in her 50’s came over to me and said that there was shit flowing out of the door to the men’s bathroom. She even mentioned that there was corn a’plenty visible. Apparently, maintenance was on break or just not there. This poor employee took it upon herself to clean it. Holy crap. Literally. Customers were walking in the detritus that had spread out while Mother Theresa cleaned. Made me gag.

Thankfully, I can’t leave the front entrance. The upside is I can tase, put in a choke hold, tackle, beat with a sap, and expose my breasts to anyone I catch stealing a dollar bag of gummy bears. Some of those 7-year-olds can be tough customers.

Shhh…the spiciness has relented. Actual flavors appear…malt, graham cracker, carne asada, green pepper, molasses, cedar, and mint.
Strange brew.
The mustiness comes and goes.
Still medium strength as I approach middle earth.

It is a better cigar now. But far from being a true premium blend.

The reviewers for the Gordo all said this was a really potent blend. Watch out when you smoke this thing. Eat something first. I’m the biggest wuss in the world and I experience none of that character.
This cigar ain’t getting no 90.

Extended aging will only kill this blend. It will fade away like your savings did during the pandemic.

There is a bready component that all reviewers mention. But the flavor profile doesn’t materialize into a cohesive blend. Everything is scattershot.
This bums me out because Aaron usually has a great palate. (Hi Aaron. I still love you).

The blend is strictly linear. It finds a path from A to Z and never steps on a crack to alter the smoker’s perception.

Creaminess leads the disabled profile. Other flavors are a mixed-up jumble. Flavors fall to the wayside like armadillos on the highway.
Another sip of water and voila! I get a nice rich chocolate. A bit of generic fruitiness. Carne asada still in play. And a hint of baking spices.

Actually, the cigar is burning quickly. Thank you, baby Jesus.
And the leap to medium/full happens.

Flavors only appear after sips of water. Left on their own recognizance, they are bland and unexciting.

I check Cigar Bid and a box is going for $80. Water does seek its own level. This is basically a $4 or $5 stick.
Another year, maybe longer, and this blend will disappear from the CAO catalog.

The blend does nothing to enrich your time spent with it. It is a good stick for mowing the lawn as grass flies into your face.

If the blend was going to hit shock and awe, it would have done so long ago. This baby ain’t going nowhere fast.

I will be forced to send an apology email to Aaron the moment I hit publish on this review.

If you like cigars…skip this one.



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7 replies

  1. Thanks for saving us from this one Phil.

  2. Hey Arless,
    My pleasure to be the victim of a firing squad for my readers.

  3. Good review. For the record, I wasn’t THAT into the cigar. It seemed pretty decent to me but not necessarily in my top three favorites. Smoking the Zocalo was sort of like watching an amateur sex video instead of a mainstream professional porn movie. It was interesting enough.
    P.S. You’re a bad influence.

  4. Hey Aaron,
    I agree. Amateurish from the start.

  5. Thanks for reviewing this cigar and preventing me of buying it.

  6. Guten Tag, Marcus…
    Vielen dank,

  7. Phil,
    Thanks for the review. I got this cigar as the first cigar after a multi-year layoff. I’ve been losing weight and was trying also learn tolerate coffee without any of my typical buttloads of cream and sugar – so I had an iced coffee. I also smoked without eating much. So, I barfed my brains out, like a thirteen year old after his first cigar, about halfway into the cigar.
    It was a rough tasting cigar (you are so right about the peppers), but I tried another after smoking some other boring cigars. This cigar is definitely bad but interesting. I used to like that about Te Amo cigars.

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