Anyone who’s been smoking cigars for a period of time is familiar with the CAO Brazilia line. Before General Cigar took over manufacturing and distribution for CAO, the Brazilia line had already risen to top-quality status with such vitolas as the Gol, Amazon, Piranha, Samba, Anaconda, Corcovado, and Cariocas. Then they released a series of box-pressed robustos. Now, fast-forward to earlier this week where we shared the official press release for an all-new updated Brazilia vitola for 2013. Under the tutelage of Rick Rodriquez of General Cigar, the company now proudly presents the all-new 6-1/2 x 60 box-pressed Carnivale.
For starters, the Carnivale takes the familiar Brazilian Ariparacan wrapper and uses that as the Carnivale’s binder. Fillers hale from Dominican, Honduras and Nicaragua with amped up Ligero throughout. The wrapper is all-new, known simply as Habano Grueso. So, without further hesitation, let’s get started and take a look at what the all-new CAO Brazilia Carnivale has under the covers:
Brand: CAO Brazilia
Company: General Cigar Company
Size: 6-1/2 x 60 Box-Press
Wrapper: Habano Grueso Maduro
Binder: Brazilian Ariparaca Maduro
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican
MSRP: $8.00 – $9.00
Production: Limited Release 12-count boxes
VISUAL: Carnivale comes in a dark, rich, chewy-looking wrapper that is as oily as any cigar I’ve seen. Slight veins are present and no seams visible. The primary band is the standard Brazilia logo in blue, green and yellow. The foot of the cigar sports a second band in yellow with shiny lettering containing the ‘Carnivale’ name. The cigar is fairly firm to the touch with slight soft spots towards the foot.
FLAVOR: Prelight: Smelling the cigar’s shaft reveals a distinct note of semi-sweet chocolate married nicely with earth - the foot reveals a slight barnyard scent and more semi-sweet chocolate. The dry-draw is decent, revealing even more chocolate mixed with a hint of spice. Light: Upon setting a torch to the foot the chocolate quickly morphs in to a mixture of coffee and cocoa. A cinnamon-like spice is also present but sits in the background alongside the coffee and cocoa. Overall flavors are rich, thick and chewy – living up to the look and feel of the wrapper’s appearance. There is a really nice sweetness to this cigar blending perfectly with the spice and other flavors. As the smoke progresses, flavors remain constant although the nicotine levels steadily increase but never get too overpowering. The mix of flavors play off of each other extremely well, each taking center stage for only a spell before giving way to the other. Overall strength started out dead-center medium and transitioned to full strength, full flavor and fully body.
EXPERIENCE: Burn: The burn on both cigars smoked for this review started out with a slight unevenness to them. After a few minor touch-ups, things settled down and evened themselves out. The burn line was also slightly uneven and the black line was of minmal size. Compared to the flavors, I found the burn to be of lesser quality – which I attribute to the vitola’s size, amount of tobacco and the actual box-pressed shape. As evident by the photos, the ash was mostly a light grey mixed in with small hints of a slightly darker shade of grey. Working my way down to the nub, the cigar did turn slightly soft, but never got too hot – a testiment to the construction and quality of tobaccos used. Draw: The draw was decent for being a large box-pressed ring-gauge, but far from effortless. At times, the draw would distract from the overall enjoyment of the cigar and its whirlwind of flavors. Don’t get me wrong this wasn’t a terrible draw, it simply wasn’t up to snuff with what I recall experiencing with the box-press robusto or 6 x 60 Gol. These minor issues are reflected in the cigar’s over-all score.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It was clear from the initial press release that Rodriguez is very proud of the latest Brazilia encarnation; “We haven’t changed any CAO blends since we took over the brand. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t put our spin on one of them. That’s exactly what we did with Carnivale…it’s my and my team’s take on Brazilia. We added a new wrapper, made the original wrapper the binder, and cranked the whole thing up with more ligero.”
I think its safe to say that messing with a good thing is often times dangerous. You just never know how reactions will be from those who faithfully follow an existing line. With this cigar just now hitting retails shops across the country, the jury is still out on what the final word will be by the masses. But as for me and my palate, I was very happy with the flavors and transition nuances provided by Carnivale. In fact, had it not been for the burn issues experienced, this would have easily been one of the best large ring-gauge cigars I have had to date. I believe Carnivale brings something new to the table, while at the same time holding true to the original Brazilia’s blend and flavor profile. I will definitely be picking up more of these cigars, they’re a nice add to any humidor collection. That being said, I present you with my final score. Final Score: 88
Source: All cigars for this review were purchased by Leaf and Grape at Charles P. Stanley’s Cigar Lounge in Saint Louis, Missouri. If you’re ever in the St Louis area, be sure to stop in and give 4th-generation owner Patrick Stanley a visit. Stanley has surrounded himself with a wonderful team of people – all of whom provide excellent service with a smile.