CAO Italia Ciao

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CAO Italia Ciao

I know, I know, I promised to review a Gran Habano cigar this week. Well the thing is, I’ve been down with a nasty little bit of bronchitis for the past week, so I’m pulling my notes for a cigar review I planned to do on my home blog. I fact, my friends over at Tex Cigars hooked me up with a couple for me evaluate. I don’t think they’ll mind if I review it here instead.

I should note that because I planned this review for my personal blog, I took fewer pictures than normal. Size limitations and all. (The rough life of a WordPress freeloader.) OK, let’s get to that cigar!

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 56 (robusto)
Wrapper: Honduras
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Italy, Nicaragua, Peru
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$4.50

The Pre-Smoke
Of all the CAO cigar bands, I think the one that wraps the Italia is my favorite. Or maybe its tied with the Brazilia. Either way, it’s a cool looking cigar.

Under the band, I noticed a bit of inconsistency in the wrappers of the three cigars I smoked. (Yeah, I threw one of my own into the mix too.) On the very first of these I found the wrapper to be very smooth. The other two were lumpier and veinier, and the last (shown above) was actually lopsided. (The cigar kept rolling over as I tried to get a picture of it.)

Before clipping the cigars for the cold taste I gave them all a squeeze and found them to be consistently firm. On the wrapper I detected a very sweet barnyard scent and a dark chocolate aroma at the foot. In the cold taste I got chocolate and coffee flavors.

The Burn
Overall these cigars had a pretty good burn, generally even for the first two thirds before straying noticeably in the final third. All three cigars produced a great looking solid white ash that extended well over an inch before falling like a rock into the ashtray. And finally, consistent with my past experience with other CAO cigars, I found the draw to also be great, with a slight bias toward free-and-easy. Which works for me, as I prefer a looser draw.

The Flavor
The Italia opened up with a sweet coffee flavor that was quickly followed up by a smooth cocoa flavor with an herbal flavor that resembles thyme. The rest of the first third was a combination of chocolate, sweet cocoa and caramel.

In the second third, the cigar became creamier and the cocoa flavor was joined by earth and leather. And that earthiness took over in the final third and brought a little spice with it.

The Price
At $4.50 a stick, this cigar fits in at the top end of the budget range. And I think it’s a reasonable price, given the quality of the burn and the tasty array of flavors.

The Verdict
Before this review, I had only had one Italia. It was a smaller Novella in a bar in Memphis. As I recall, I got a lot more of that herbal thyme flavor, so when I smoked the Italia this time around I was surprised. I didn’t expect such a smooth, sweet cocoa-y smoke. And I think I know why the flavor was so different. In addition to the smaller size of the original, I was drinking some hoppy beers. The strength of the hops easily over powered the lighter, more subtle flavors of the cigar, but enhanced that single herbal flavor. I bring this up because I think this is a cigar you need to carefully consider what drink you pair with it.

So getting to the verdict finally, I did really enjoy this cigar. While I was smoking it, I was reminded of the three musketeers candy bars I used to like as a kid. Especially in the first third. I haven’t had a candy bar in ages, but I can see myself reaching for an Italia the next time I have a sweet tooth.

Oh hey, I almost forgot. Walt also reviewed the Italia back in 2006, why not check it out and get another point of view? Enjoy.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

The Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.

enjoying cigars since 1997

11 thoughts on “CAO Italia Ciao

  1. Thanks again for a great stogie review. I believe this was the first CAO I tried quite some time ago. I loved it, and nubbed it easily. Your review pretty much covers it all.

    On a side note… If you need help with video editing, drop me a line. I am NO expert, but for simple stogie review type of edits, maybe I can help. Just a thought 😉

  2. Once again this is another great review! I recently had the Italia and your review is spot on. It would be nice if CAO used more tobacco from Italy rather then mixing with Nicaraguan and Peruvian tobacco. This would really give the smokers a real taste of Italian leaf.

    If I may make a suggestion on your Tower of Burn (I know dissing a trademark is not always a good idea). IMHO, the Tower would look better if you keep the camera at an equal distance throughout your pics. You have a tendancy to zoom in closer when the burn line reaches the band, this makes the picture size remain the same, but you loose the effect of a cigar burning shorter. Likening to drawing a flip book cartoon, keeping the camera at the same distance, you can then print and flip the photos and see the cigar burn in action.

    Just two cents I found on the street…

    Thanks for the review!

  3. Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed the review. Sorry I haven’t responded sooner, time is just flying these days, especially with the holidays fast approaching.

    Tom, I’ll keep the offer of help in mind. I may be making my first video appearance on the next YQMA.

    MonkeyDan, I have tried the Extreme, and it is a pretty good smoke. The funny thing is that my favorite size of those was the little cigarillo. I had a tin of those I blasted through, they were just delicious! I have a source for these cigars, but the supply is dwindling…

    Michael, you make a good point on the Tower of Burn. While it’s too late to do it for this week’s review, I’ll keep it in mind going forward.

    Give it a shot BadMormon, it’s a good cigar!

  4. This has been one of my favorite robustos in the past. I have had, and loved many prior to this one. Aside from the Anniversario figurados, it is my favorite CAO. It has been a while since I smoked, but I have smoked hundreds, if not thousands in my 24 years of cigar smoking.

    In regard the one that I am smoking now, the burn for the first 1/4 was uneven, but has corrected. The draw is perfect and the cigar`s feel is consistent beginning to end – superb workmanship in this single cigar. I would have to reluctantly downgrade this specific smoke for the following reasons:

    I remembered this as a heavier cigar, and the last one that I had was smoked at noon, a year or two ago (when they first came out.) I was not drinling anything at the time. This is a better earlier-in-the-day cigar for me. That is because it has gone from the fuller side of medium when lit, to the heavier side of mild at the 1/2 way point. It is now much lighter that I like, but there are nice notes of spice, cinnamon, and is a bit nutty. It is reminiscent of a slightly milder Punch Gran Puro.The flavors are now much more subtle and light than they were 5 to 10 minutes ago.

    In the beginning I noticed coffee and coco, but that had faded. I am drinking Labatt Blue, not a heavy beer in my book, so I don`t attribute the lighter flavor to being overpowered by the beverage. It is also smoking a bit faster (though remaining a cool-burning cigar) than I would expect. This is a 40 to 45 minute cigar for me.

    I am noticing now at the 2/3 point, that the flavor is again changing some. It is now closer to medium in body, and the flavors have become a bit more pronounced, though still a bit more mild that I prefer. It is now definitely medium in body and there is a nice earthiness and notes of leather.

    Given that I have not smoked in several months, I am a bit disappointed that this cigar has not delivered the flavors that I expected, particularly in the middle. The last 1/3 has definitely redeemed itself in my book though. In the future I would expect this line of cigars to be medium in body, and I would as I mentioned, smoke it earlier in the day.

    I am now at the ¾ point, and it has remained a medium smoke, but the flavors have intensified. It is not as full-flavored as when I lit it, but if not for the 10 minutes in the middle, this would be the superb cigar that I remembered. I will definitely buy another and hope that the middle section was an anomaly.

    I am a thumb and a half away from the finish and I am back to the cinnamon and spice and really loving this finish. By the way, the burn has fully corrected and is laser straight with a very slight dome to the ash – ideal in my book! I am now hoping that I don`t burn my fingers too bad when I finish this cigar!!!!

  5. Smoked one of these earlier while grilling. I love the Brazilia and this smoke was definately good! I had burn issues with it from the start, nothing that wasn’t managable but certainly irritating. Definately an earthy, almost bitter smoke at light up but mellowed dramatically 1/2 through. Picked up on the Thyme but I swear I caught hints of Cherry and Bourbon. While CAO is one of my favorite brands and I love the Brazilia, I’m not sure I would go out of my way for this one…..about an 86 in my book but hey, who am I?? 🙂

  6. I just wanted to say thanks for such a great review. I live in the UK and most of my smoking time is spent enjoying Cuban cigars, they are legal here but very expensive at about 20 to 30 US dollars for one cigar. UK taxes on all tobacco products are huge. Thanks to your review I have started to try some excellent non-Cuban cigars at great prices (CAO Italia + Brazillia, Padron and Casa Magna are some of my faves) that are not really available or promoted in the UK. You have some really high quality cigars in America that I think are just as good and some even better than the Cuban cigars we have here.

    I have just ordered two boxes of CAO Italia Ciao from an American smoke shop.

    Thanks again.

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