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Staff Reviews

CAO Cameroon Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

When you’re in search of a dependable cigar with approachable taste from a tried-and-true brand, CAO Cameroon is worth a look. This versatile smoke has been around for over twenty-five years, and I’m exploring its nutty, rich taste in a chunky 5.5-by-55 box-pressed Toro.

CAO cigars are named for the initials of brand founder Cano A. Ozgener, an engineer by trade, who got into the tobacco business in 1968. The brand achieved a good amount of recognition before the Ozgener family sold it in 2007 to the Scandinavian Tobacco Group which, in turn, folded CAO into the portfolio of General Cigars, the parent company of Macanudo, Cohiba, and several other name brands. Some of the most popular CAO cigars include CAO Flathead and Brazilia, but old standbys, like the Cameroon blend, enjoy a consistent audience and deserve consideration.

Cameroon cigar wrapper is grown in the nations of Cameroon and the Central African Republic in Africa. The luxuriant, tropical landscape of Central Africa is home to a series of remote tobacco farms operated by locals. Political and economic instability and a lack of infrastructure has made exporting Cameroon wrapper a dangerous and difficult enterprise. However, the crops grown there are unlike any other tobacco in the world due to the soil and the climate. Cigar-makers who blend with Cameroon wrapper prize it for its nutty, sweet, and spicy taste as well as its toothy complexion. Cameroon wrapper is also thinner and more fragile than other varietals. It must be handled carefully by the rollers. Cigars finished in Cameroon leaf are best smoked indoors to preserve their structural integrity and ensure an even burn.

The CAO Cameroon Toro I’m firing up features a blend of premium Nicaraguan long-filler tobaccos on the inside, and this boxy vitola fills the mouth with its thick 55 ring gauge. Also called, CAO L’Anniversaire Cameroon, the blend debuted in 1999 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the CAO brand. The folks at General Cigars recently updated the packaging for CAO Cameroon cigars with shiny teal-and-white cigar bands and dark-green boxes.

When I choose an oily specimen from the neatly pressed top row of a fresh box, subtle notes of coffee bean and cinnamon offer a satisfying preview after I snip the cap and savor a few cold draws. Air flows through the cigar’s squared-off frame with perfect resistance. After toasting the foot for a couple minutes, CAO Cameroon delivers soft and woody flavors of cedar and vanilla bean. Sweet nuances round out the aftertaste in the initial minutes while the cigar’s pleasant aroma leaves a welcoming impression in my nostrils.

CAO Cameroon develops with nutty notes of almond, chestnut, and hazelnut as the cigar advances. A moment or two of bitterness eventually subsides in favor of a balanced profile cocoa and pepper. Hints of fresh bread make their way through. The ash flakes off at times, but that’s not surprising considering the delicate vein structure of Cameroon wrappers.

Twenty-five minutes in, CAO Cameroon grows in intensity but stops short of overpowering my palate. Notes of leather, pistachio, and coffee bean obscure the Toro’s original nuances, but underlying hints of brown sugar and saffron sustain its sweetness. Overall, the texture and flavor are approachable and versatile.

With a shallow cut to the cap, you can savor a CAO Cameroon Toro for an hour. The draw is navigable throughout the entire nub, which imparts a mellow finish with notes of cedar, cocoa, and spice. CAO Cameroon is often cited as one of the best Cameroon cigars alongside other famous blends, including Arturo Fuente Hemingway and Don Carlos. I wouldn’t classify it as an earthshattering smoke, but it’s certainly reliable and you can save a good amount of cash off the MSRP when you order a box.


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