Cigar Review: CAO Criollo


The CAO Criollo cigar is the result of years of had work for Nicaraguan tobacco growers to yield a richer, sweeter tobacco. In the beginning the tobacco was met with blue mold until one year the growers got it right. Since then the CAO Criollo was a mainstay of my rotation for many years. Recently I picked up a 5 pack to see if my love for the CAO Criollo was still present and this is the review that answers that question.

Cigar: CAO Criollo
Size: 4 7/8 x 50 (Pato)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Criollo ’98
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Strength: Medium
Twitter: @caocigars

Appearance and Construction: When I first started smoking these they came wrapped in tissue paper in a vertical slide box. Today the CAO Criollo comes wrapped in cello in a gorgeous wood and leather box. The cigars still feature a band that reminds me of worn parchment with the name Criollo under the CAO logo. The stick features a pig tail cap and is rolled to perfection. The wrapper is flawless and virtually vein free. Well packed, with no soft spots this beauty has the appearance and construction of a cigar that is just right for the smoking.

Flavor & Notes : The prelight of the cigar offered some sweet cocoa notes with a rich tobacco flavor on both the draw and foot that left me eager to reacquaint myself with an old friend. As the cigar & I catch up with each other during the first third I realize things have not changed much over the years and with this I find great comfort. The notes are a mocha like sweetness with some wood and a touch of licorice on the finish. The second third the wood notes begin to emerge as the dominant taste but the sweetness of mocha remains in the background. The final third of the cigar the notes of licorice return in full making this an incredibly well rounded cigar.

Smoking Characteristics: An incredible stick to smoke that featured a flawless burn that was straight from start to finish. The medium colored ash held on fairly well for about a third at a time with only the slightest bit of flake. An exquisite draw added to the enjoyment of the CAO Criollo that produced a nice amount of billowing smoke and only the slightest bit when resting.

Conclusion: To be honest I am not sure why the CAO Criollo and I parted ways but I am glad we were able to reconnect. With all the attention on boutique blends lately I have lost track of the core group of cigars that helped mold my cigar lifestyle. While I remember the cigar being more woody in terms of notes it was nice to see this cigar had some complexity to keep me satisfied and it left me wanting to hang out with this old friend again.

Price: $20.85 a 5 pack @ Famou Smoke Shop
Score: 90

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  • Se7en_Vandalay

    Great review Barry. I have to agree with you in your conclusion. I don’t know why these aren’t more prevalent in my cigar rotation. Everytime I have one, I thoroughly enjoy it.

  • Tom Ufer

    I may have to look at this cigar again after reading your review. I know I have not smoked many of this blend.

  • dmj

    Good stuff, Barry. I find the Criollo to be one of those smokes that is solidly in the “good” category, but not so great that I would every consider buying a whole box. I have enjoyed them from time to time, but they aren’t the most memorable smoking experience out there. If the price were just a little lower, I would probably consider them much more often than I do.

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  • Chris McCann

    Thanks for the review, Barry. I’ve smoked a few of these and was not disappointed. It’s definitely an underrated stick that’s been lost in storm of new blends on the market.

  • JoshK

    Good review. I find this cigar to be a perfect example of Nicaraguan cigars that can offer a lot of spice without a pepper feel.

    The Crillo (along with the Italia) was one of the cigars that turned me on to CAO early in my smoking experiance. I still go back to this from time to time.

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