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Cigar Insider: Tim Ozgener of CAO International, Inc.

5 Mar 2008

I am proud to report that today’s article is a very special one here at Tim Ozgener, president of CAO Cigars, has graciously donated his time to answer my questions for the latest edition of our Cigar Insider series.

As the purveyor of such notable lines as America, Black, Brazilia, and Criollo, Tim likely needs no introduction. But I will say this: I met him at last year’s Big Smoke Las Vegas (pictured below), and I was pleased to see him right in the thick of things, mingling with fans and lighting their CAO samples. In the following exchange, which occurred via email, I ask Tim about his favorite cigar, CAO’s biggest challenge, and much more.


Stogie Guys: Can you pick a favorite CAO cigar, or is that like asking a father to pick a favorite son? What’s your favorite non-CAO stick?

Tim Ozgener: Choosing one CAO over all of the others is, in fact, quite like asking a father to pick a favorite child. That said, a lot just depends upon my given mood at the time I select a cigar or the time of day I’m smoking. For example, this morning I reached for a CAO Gold Lonsdale because I wanted a nice, smooth, buttery cigar to accompany my morning coffee. Later in the afternoon I might go for something with more body and spice like a CAO Sopranos or CAO Vision. As far as the non-CAO choice goes, I don’t really have a “favorite,” per se. I do believe in smoking other brands and often times do; to not be aware of what the market is doing is a mistake. But the honest truth is that, to me, one brand doesn’t really stand out to me as a “favorite non-CAO.”

SG: With two contrasting wrappers, was it difficult to blend America, the newest CAO line?

TO: America was very difficult to blend, actually. I spent a good deal of time at the factory working to get that blend to where I wanted it to be. Sometimes, you’re fortunate and nail the desired flavor profile within the first three or four samples, but America took a good deal of “tweaking” and adjustments to get it just right.

SG: Do you think today’s barber pole phenomenon is just an industry fad, or is it a sincere attempt to uncover new flavor combinations?

TO: A “barber pole” style of cigars is nothing really new and, in fact, has been around for years and years. In the case of CAO, we don’t perceive the barber pole as a fad in the least. America is a great example of how two wrappers can yield an incredibly unique but flavorful blend that you just wouldn’t be able to duplicate without that second contrasting wrapper leaf.

SG: What new lines can we expect from CAO down the road?

TO: We’re working on several new items and developing various new blends that we plan on bringing to market this summer at the IPCPR trade show in July; however, I can’t really divulge anything at this moment.

SG: In the near future, what is the greatest challenge facing CAO? The cigar industry in general?

TO: I think the greatest challenge for us is and always has been to create new brands and blends that will not only bring something unique to the market but that don’t compete with any of our existing lines, as well. As far as the greatest challenge to the industry as a whole goes, I would definitely put legislation towards the top of that list. With so much anti-smoking legislation going on, and with movements such as SCHIP, it’s an ongoing struggle for today’s cigar smoker to make their voices heard and stand up for one’s individual rights to continue to enjoy a premium cigar.

SG: How has Henri Wintermans’ acquisition of CAO changed your business?

TO: ST Cigar Group’s acquisition of CAO hasn’t really changed our business a great deal. There has been an element of greater corporate structure, reporting, and accountability, but that was a direction we were headed in prior to the acquisition anyway.

SG: What one fact about CAO do you wish more aficionados were aware of?

TO: I would want aficionados to have a better understanding of exactly how much time, effort, and labor really does go into producing a cigar. I think that often times there’s a real lack of respect for the product, but once you’ve actually been down at the factory level and you witness firsthand how much time and labor goes into each step of the process – from planting to harvesting to fermentation to curing to sorting to bunching, rolling, ageing, etc. – you acquire a whole new level of respect for the product that I think too many “aficionados” often take for granted.

Many thanks to Tim Ozgener for taking the time to speak with us. For more information and to find a CAO retailer near you, please visit

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

9 Responses to “Cigar Insider: Tim Ozgener of CAO International, Inc.”

  1. Don Carlos Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 4:41 am #

    Way to score such a fantastic interview, Patrick! continues to entertain, inform, and impress me. Keep up the good work.

  2. Uncle Richard Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 4:56 am #

    This is what we in the industry call "a good get." Well done. I particularly liked his discussion of the challenges facing CAO and cigars in general.

  3. Jon Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    A very good get, indeed. He's absolutely right, in that legislation is by far the biggest unknown right now in the cigar industry. However the legislation pans out, it will determine the future of the business.

  4. furious Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 10:45 am #

    I think he was withholding a bit on the non-CAO favorite smoke. Even Castro liked Padrons!!

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