Bite Size Review: CAO Amazon Basin
When I first dug deeper into CAO’s unique Amazon-themed trio of cigars, I imagined Indiana Jones slinking under the jungle canopy with his whip and fedora dodging ancient Tupi boobie traps in search of the last, great cache of rare tobaccos. While mum on the rainforest location, CAO has reported that the unique Brazilian Bragança (pronounced Bra’-gon-seh) filler leaves are grown naturally (no hybrid seeds or varietals) and are only harvested every 3 years or so. The 4-6 week trek to the factory begins with carriage by foot, followed by canoes and concludes with a truck ride to Nicaragua. No giant boulders or Swastikas. First released 4 years after CAO’s buyout in 2010, the Amazon Basin didn’t fare well with critics; however, it’s re-release in late 2016 stirred rumors that General Cigar may have changed the blend as its new guise has garnered high praise from reviewers and the smoking community alike. The re-release price tag is also about $1 higher.
Our Basin’s Sumatra wrapper is an oily, rich espresso-color with raised seams and some veins. The cap is messy, but the roll is tight with a firm uniformity. Aromas are a teaser tickling the senses with chocolate, pecan, citrus and dried fig. The draw is excellent and the initial tasting impressions include a delicious, crisp texture and clean palette of leather, anise and toasted nuts. There’s lots of almonds on the retro, a wonderful spice and the finish is toasty. The Basin dazzles with some zestiness, a fruity floral essence and big clouds of smoke. Transitions become thicker, heavier and balance veers down passed midway. Complexity is superb at first, but like many early Amazon explorers, trails off never to return. The Basin also becomes very hot at the cords. Combustion is solid throughout and burns cool, but the char does get wonky at times. For a 5-country blend with unique Amazon tobaccos, the Basin’s hype, at least for this reviewer, is unrealized. Even with a few months of age on it, the Basin’s charm only lasts a little past halfway where she becomes semi-harsh and hot. The $10+ price may justify its uniqueness and rarity, but after 3 to 4” there’s just not enough going on to satisfy even the most forgiving of smokers thus the recommendation for the Basin is to maybe keep one on hand. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: Some reviewers of the initial release claim that some age helps with the harshness and rough edges.
- Profile: Full
- Vitola: Toro
- Length/ Ring Gauge: 6.0″ / 52
- Purchased: Online Retailer
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Ecudorian Sumatra
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Dominican, Brazilian Bragança, Columbian
- Cutter: Colibri V
- Lighter: Xikar Exec. II
- Price: $10.25
- Age: 4 months
- Box: 18
- Other Vitolas: None
Build: Excellent: uniform girth; messy cap; espresso-colored, slick wrapper
- Shaft – Chocolate, black tea, pecan
- Foot – Citrus, honey
- Cold Draw – Black tea, dried fig
- Initial: Leather, anise, black pepper, toasted nuts on retro; almonds on inhale; toasty finish; moderate spice.
- Transition: Uptick in pepper and spice; zesty; floral and leather profile; dark chocolate; light earthiness.
- Transition: Woody profile; earthy and peppery; savory coffee finish; becomes oaky; minty overtones;
Complexity: Excellent initially then falters a little past halfway.
Balance: Excellent initially but devolves past halfway
Touch ups: None
Combustion: Very good – char line becomes irregular at times
Weaknesses: Loss of complexity and balance after 3-4″
Recommend: 3rd Stringer
- Go-to (boxworthy)
- 3rd stringer (keep 1 on hand)
- Smoke a banana instead