Radiante, 6" x 52 ring gauge, $5.65
CAO has been known for many years for creative blends using unusual tobacco (Brazilia, Italia) and trend-setting blends (MX2, LX2) and their marketing has always been seen as contemporary and flashy. This year CAO took a turn toward the more traditional style of both cigar and marketing with La Traviata. This is a resurrection of a hundred-year-old Cuban brand which uses the original-style artwork and a blend that attempts to create a truly "classic old world Havana flavor profile." To top it off, they decided to make this smoke for the price-conscious aficionado in light of the current economic climate. The filler features Nicaraguan Pueblo Nuevo and Dominican tobacco, while the binder is from Cameroon and the wrapper is Ecuadorian.
This cigar is a dark brown color and has a fairly rustic look, with several medium to large veins in evidence and a few blemishes. There is some toothiness and quite a bit of oil. The aroma from the wrapper is chicken coop while the foot has a manure and compost quality to it. While that may not sound particularly appealing, it is the aroma that Cuban sticks famously are supposed to have.
In prelight, the draw is very good and the flavors are cocoa and some spice. The initial puffs have black pepper, black coffee and leather flavors, along with a fairly full-bodied, oily smoke. The first third of La Traviata was earthy, nutty and leathery with hints of espresso bean and loads of black pepper. The smoke had also settled quickly into the low end of the full-bodied range.
The second third was just as tasty as the first and there were even some herbal notes in there. The construction was fantastic--wonderful draw, even burn line and ash that regularly held on for an inch or more.
The last segment of La Traviata was very good, too. There was still plenty of black pepper and coffee along with more roasted nuts and leather. Honestly, I guess the flavor did not change dramatically throughout the stick, but it was all very enjoyable. This is a medium-to-full bodied smoke that held up the tradition of Cuban-style smokes very well--somewhat odd for a company that once ran the ad "Cuban Scmuban." I would like to take this opportunity to say a public "thank you" to Tim Ozgener, Jon Huber, and everyone else at CAO for producing another great stick, especially one this tasty that costs this little. Truly a gift in these troubled times.