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Stogie Reviews: CAO Black Bengal

1 Aug 2007

Long before the Ozgeners produced such hits as the Brazilia, Vision, Mx2, Criollo, or Italia lines, there was CAO Black. Riding the waves of a perfect ten out of ten rating in Cigar Buyer Magazine, these exclusive, limited production cigars single-handedly transformed the company from a small pipe and humidor outfit to a Nashville-based cigar manufacturing powerhouse.

And that success was pretty much a mistake. As you can read in this 2004 Cigar Aficionado article, a production problem with the Black line led to a recall and, ultimately, CAO’s successful – albeit short-lived – partnership with Douglas Pueringer, owner of Tabacalera Tambor in Costa Rica.

To make a long story short, thanks to a reincarnation of the highly successful line in the late 90s, CAO Black is still readily available in hand-painted, hand-numbered boxes. You won’t find any information on CAO’s website, but they’re out there for those who look hard enough.

The building blocks of these cigars include Connecticut-Ecuador wrappers, Habano-seeed Nicaraguan binders, and three-country filler blends. Each is meticulously sheathed in a cedar strip with a thin black ribbon across the foot.

As I was looking over my six inch by 50 ring gauge Bengal before lighting, I noticed what appeared to be a small notch in the top of the cedar. I naïvely thought to myself, “What care CAO has taken to ensure the entire logo is visible.” As it turns out, the attractive red, gold, and black band is merely affixed over each cedar strip.

Once removed, the strip reveals a gorgeous, almost vein-free, oily wrapper leaf. With two wooden matches, I had an even burn and some spicy notes of pepper and clove. Those tastes quickly mingle with a creamy butter flavor to omit pleasant and distinctive clouds of smoke.

I have to admit, I had a hard time picking up specific flavors from this cigar. I chalk this up to the fact that it’s too well-balanced for any one taste to dominate. My memory is still good enough to recall the sensation is quite similar to the highly acclaimed Davidoff Grand Cru.

The only weakness of the stogie is a flakey white ash that’s prone to falling off at inopportune moments. The draw is clear and true, and the burn is as straight as any cigar I’ve had.

In all, this is a tremendous light- to medium-bodied cigar that’s well worth the price (about $6 for one or $103 for a box of 20). Even though they’re not heavily marketed anymore, make sure you don’t forget to try at least one. I give the CAO Black Bengal four out of five stogies.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A


10 Responses to “Stogie Reviews: CAO Black Bengal”

  1. Randall Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 5:43 am #

    Excellent history and review. I've always enjoyed these as great mid-afternoon smokes, but they're starting to become more and more scarce. I hope CAO plans to make more.

  2. Alexa Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 5:47 am #

    Any idea why they call the line "Black"?

    Usually manufacturers save that term for maduros or other cigars that are heavy and dark in color (i.e. Partagas).

  3. Cigar Jack Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 6:30 am #

    I don't believe I've smoked one of these cigars yet. How does it compare in flavor to the CAO Gold which I enjoy as a light to medium smoke.

  4. Paul Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 6:32 am #

    Great rundown on a great cigar, but it should be mentioned that there is only one place you can get these smokes due to an exclusive dealer arrangement with I would also highly recommend the Black VR, a chocolatey maduro version.

    To answer Alexa, if I remember correctly, the name came as a way of differentiating from the CAO Gold (which has a gold band). At the time of the Gold's release, the Black was just called CAO, but since it had a black band people started calling it CAO Black. (Again, this is based on recollection, not fact, please take it with a grain of salt.)

  5. Patrick A Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 6:55 am #

    Thanks for all the great comments, everyone.

    Paul, thanks for pointing out that exclusive deal. I should have mentioned that in the review, and I'm glad you reminded me.

    CigarJack, I wish I could offer a credible comparison, but it's been too long since I've smoked a CAO Gold. Anyone else want to chime in on that?

  6. Paul Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 4:23 pm #

    The Gold is milder and creamier. I prefer the Black, with it's hints of leather and spice, but it's been a while since I've had one.

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