Review: CAO Flathead V660 Carb

 

Okay, let’s get something straight: I’m entitled to the occasional mulligan. For the non-golfers out there, a mulligan is a do-over of an errant shot that usually lands out of play, such as landing in a water hazard, hitting a flying goose or pinging off the skull of a drunk patron ambling ‘round the 19th hole. While the mulligan is generally allowed by your fellow golfers, it is usually accompanied by lots of begging. And bribing. And on some embarrassing occasions, an apology followed by a peace-offering. The circumstances surrounding my particular mulligan? Well, last summer I intended to review CAO’s new Flathead V660 Carb. I purchased it as part of a sampler and looked forward to smoking and reviewing it with great anticipation. It was late Spring, or early Summer (in south Texas it’s just one loooooong, hot 5-6 months), and thus a time of bar-b-ques, swimming pools and backyard hootenannies. We entertain a lot and one night we invited some close friends over for drinks and cigars. It was a low-key affair. Just a gaggle of good friends relaxing, diluting the stress of the week with ports, pints and Padróns. With mood music swirling in the background among the din of clinking bottles and crinkling cellophane, I had an epiphany. I really, really wanted to smoke that Flathead baaaad! Now a little tipsy, I reasoned that I could enjoy the Flathead AND review it at the same time. Ah, denial:  like a hangover, the prize at the bottom of every Tequila bottle. To say I don’t remember much of smoking the Flathead shouldn’t come as a shock. To anyone. At the time, I thought I had a pretty good handle on it even though my palette had been subjected to hot salsa, a few IPAs and the aforementioned Tequila. Cleansing my palette would have required nitromethane and an orbital sander to say nothing of the fact that alcohol was playing keep-a-way with my intelligence. Its true, no story worth telling ever started with someone eating a salad. So, with tail between my legs and duly noted as evidenced by the heading “mulligan” in my notebook, I now bring you the CAO Flathead V660 Carb review: Unbiased and unlubricated. Sort of.

 

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Did you know: The V660 is the highest ever rated (95) 60 ring gauge cigar by Cigar Aficionado and voted #3 in their 2015 Top 25 cigars.

 Website: http://caocigars.com/the-lineup/new-age/flathead/

 

  • Profile: FullCAO2
  • Vitola: V660 Carb [Box-pressed Gordo]
  • Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″/ 60
  • Purchased: Local B&M
  • Origin: Honduras
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
  • Binder: Habano Connecticut
  • Filler:  Nicaraguan Ligero and Piloto Cubano Ligero
  • Cutter: Xikar Punch
  • Lighter: Colibri Firebird
  • Price Paid: $8.00

 

 

The CAO story began with its namesake founder, Cano A. Ozgener in 1964. The Armenian Ozgener was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1939 and soon found his way to American shores and into American Colleges. The DuPont mechanical engineer-turned-entrepreneur started the CAO brand in 1969 as a hobby distributing pipes. By 1980, CAO was distributing high-end French and Scandinavian pipes as well as Costa Rican cigars. In the early 90s, Ozgener added humidors to the CAO portfolio importing antique English varieties and manufacturing his own in Tennessee and Kentucky (Ozgener made a custom humidor for the Chicago Bulls to commemorate their 1998 Title). In 1992, CAO cigars was launched in Honduras and Nicaragua and the rest is history. Ozgener later sold the CAO brand in 2007 to the global tobacco giant, STG, who now distributes the entire CAO portfolio through General Cigar Co..

 

This big gal is fun to look at and to hold. The folks at CAO absolutely nailed the band art for this line from the font used in the name to the shape and chrome highlights representing the raised cooling fins of a vintage valve cover. Besides a great box press and squared-off cap, the firmness of the roll is solid throughout with the exception of a lone spongy spot just below the band. The dark  molasses-colored Broadleaf wrapper is semi-veiny with faint seams and offers lots of aromatic chocolate. A quick sniff of the foot foretells a slight maduro sweetness with hints of raisins and a whiff of cinnamon. The cold draw is excellent with a 9mm punch and lots of cocoa powder dance on the palate.

 

Post light, the initial impressions include leather, caramel, light chocolate notes and a toasty finish. The inhale is a bit savory and there is a wonderful baking spice on the retro leaving just a hint of spice in the nose. As the V660 settles in, she adds a little wood to the profile along with some salted caramel and dark fruit. The smoke is rich, very smooth and complex with a chewy texture. Combustion is solid most of the time, but the char line does get a bit out of kilter. No touch-ups required.

 

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There is a noticeable transition to an earthy profile with more wood and an espresso finish. There’s a delicious fun bag of graham cracker on the retro with more chocolate added to the profile as this BBC’s (Big Beautiful Cigar) character becomes one of rich wood with a maduro sweetness. Combustion remains pretty robust with the occasional uneven char line, but again, no touch ups.

 

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Coming into the home stretch the V660 continues to delight with a tasty earth and espresso profile and a buttery inhale. After about 4.5-5.0”, she does falter a bit requiring a number of touch-ups and becomes harsh leaving behind a mineral aftertaste. Hey, nothing great lasts forever, right?

 

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I knew this cigar was good and although I experienced limited enjoyment during my lubricated first outing, there was never a doubt in mind we’d dance again. I admit when I first laid eyes on this gal, my mouth watered. And that was an ad! Dark, oily and rich, the flavor seemed to ooze from that gorgeous wrapper. I’ve become a huge fan of maduros over the years and there is no question this is a top 3. My lofty placement among some of the best is justified by the sheer complexity the V660 brings. The balance and melange of flavors on the tongue and in the nose is enough to satisfy even the seasoned connoisseur, but add in a silky smooth texture and a deep richness and you’re waxing nostalgic for that one heartbreaker for whom you still carry a torch. Did I mention you could pick one of these up for less than the cost of a 24” LED bulb at Lowe’s? Adding a membership to the sub-$9 club is just part of the gift that keeps on giving. I prefer bigger ring gauge sticks so the V660 plays right into my wheelhouse. And like other sticks the size of fire starter bricks, I’m not surprised by the fact that nubbing these behemoths is usually not in their design. Do yourself a favor and smoke this beauty with limited or no distractions to your tastebuds, i.e. don’t pair it with anything initially. Save that for a subsequent outing. Remember, sometimes your first shot leaves a lot to be desired but if you’re lucky enough to be handed a mulligan, swing that baby like it was your last because very often, you know its going to be great. – In Fumo Pax!

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