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Staff Reviews

CAO Pilón Staff Review

Zack D. D's picture

Zack D.

I’m smoking a CAO Pilón in a 5-by-52 Robusto. The cigar is named for the heavy circular piles, or pilóns, the tobaccos are assembled in during a labor-intensive fermentation process before they’re sorted and sent to the rolling gallery to be rolled into cigars by skilled cigar rollers.

CAO cigars belong to cigar-making giant General Cigar Company, the parent company of Macanudo and several Cuban-heritage brands sold in the U.S., including Punch, Partagas, and Cohiba. CAO isn’t a Cuban-legacy brand, but it’s been a staple in many premium shops for twenty-five years. General has organized the CAO portfolio into four lines: Classic, World, New Age, and Flavours. Pilón is part of CAO’s Classic series.

When I crack open a new box of Robustos, a whole row of oily, milk-chocolate-brown cigars rests in a tidy layer. CAO Pilón shows a bit of tooth, too, which I believe is a sign of rich flavor. When I take a closer look at the Robusto I’m about to cut and light, it appears to be a densely constructed smoke as I pinch it gently. Woody aromas with a hint of applewood and cayenne pepper make their way through my nostrils when I sniff the cigar before lighting it up. The cold draw is also woody and a bit gritty with notes of cocoa powder, black pepper, and raw tobacco.

CAO Pilón is blended and produced in Estelí, Nicaragua, from an Ecuador Habano wrapper over vintage Nicaraguan long-filler tobaccos. The cigars come in wooden 20-count boxes. Pilón ignites without fuss despite its tightly packed frame. Charry and spicy notes of wood and grilled peppers overpower the first few draws while a touch of sweetness sneaks into the finish. As the binder, filler, and wrapper settle into a smooth, even burn, semi-bitter-sweet notes of espresso bean begin to develop.

CAO Pilón offers a stiff but intriguing profile throughout the first half. I wish I had more access to the sweet aroma I encountered when I first opened the box, but the blend becomes more peppery as time goes by. Charry notes of cedar and mesquite linger at the end of every draw – and the finish is unusually long. I would choose a peaty Scotch if I were pairing CAO Pilón with a spirit. I get hints of gunpowder and anise in my nose.

As the Robusto progresses into the final third, the construction and draw remain superb and stop short of producing an abundance of smoke. The cigar’s density encourages a slow burn overall. Surprisingly, the ash was flaky and messy in a few places. CAO Pilón is medium bodied and good enough to keep my palate engaged right up to the final puffs of the nub, although I wouldn’t say the finish is overly complex.

CAO Pilón is worth smoking. It’s different from other CAO cigars I’ve reviewed before, like the creamy and mild CAO Gold or the earthy and peppery CAO Flathead. Sometimes I view CAO cigars as being on the gimmicky side, as far as how they’re marketed. But CAO Pilón is a straightforward smoke you can scoop up for under ten bucks when you’re craving a name brand Nicaraguan. I think it’s fair to count it with some of the best CAO cigars I’ve enjoyed before too.


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