I'm grabbing another one of my prior reviews from Facebook so I can repost it here. I was given a box of CAO Amazon Basin Toros recently by some totally fucking awesome friends, and these things are absolutely incredible. Before I get into talking about the construction and flavor, a few things about the CAO Amazon Basin and what makes it so completely unique and rare. Rather than the typical, plantation-grown stock tobacco most commonly used in cigars, CAO uses a completely virgin-grown Bragança leaf from a remote region of the Amazon Rainforest, which is harvested only once every three years. The tobacco is then hand-rolled into tubes known as "carottes" and pressure-fermented for six months before being hand-carried to the Amazon River and transported by canoe to port, where they can then be shipped to the CAO factory in Nicaragua. There, they are blended with tobacco from five different countries into a unique, and highly-limited blend, packaged, and shipped to retailers. That's an awful lot of hype, even before cutting and lighting. But does the cigar live up to it?
Cigar: CAO Amazon Basin
Vitola: Toro (6” x 52)
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler: Brazil & Nicaragua
Rating (out of 10): 9.8
The wrapper is Ecuador Sumatra Ligero (Sumatra wrappers are a personal favorite of mine), which is nice and oily, with plenty of veins. Expertly triple-capped, it punches perfectly for a smooth, open draw. They have a very rustic look, complemented by a tightly-rolled twine "band" made entirely of tobacco leaf, and a rough, unsanded box that rounds out the "fresh from the jungle" look.
These things are quite well constructed. No soft spots, no cracks, maybe the occasional wrinkle in a cap where the veininess of the cigars makes a clean capping difficult; but never so bad as to compromise the physical integrity of the stick.
The Amazon Basin smells of earth and dried fruit, with an especially fruity aroma at the foot.
The initial, pre-light taste is sweet and fruity, like molasses and... plum, maybe? It's definitely a wonderful flavor unlike anything I've tasted in a cigar before. Once lit, the first few draws take on an earthy, tobacco flavor, with a light saltiness to it, and a fruity, grape-like undertone. The aroma is floral and woody, and highly pleasant.
Moving into the second third, the rich smoke takes on notes of chocolate, while maintaining a continuous soft grape flavor. Nearing the halfway mark, subtle notes of red and black pepper become apparent, without detracting from the overall fruity sweetness of the smoke.
In the final third, the grape flavor takes to the forefront once again, along with an overall fruitiness that's difficult to describe. Typically, this would be the ideal point to remove the band from the cigar, as the heated tobacco has begun to break down the adhesive used to keep the band on, allowing it to be easily peeled off without risking damage to the wrapper leaf; however, because the tightly-rolled tobacco leaf "band" on the Amazon Basin is tightly woven around the stick and does not use adhesive, it is much harder to remove. On the other hand, it's also tobacco, so... it can actually just be smoked. When I smoked my first of these last night, the band gave the smoke a much spicier pepper flavor-- but during today's tasting, I'm getting a much bolder sweet grape flavor at this point. I'm not sure of the reason for such a drastic difference, but both were highly satisfying in their own way.
This cigar packs a lot of flavor, and the subtle changes as it burns are phenomenal, yet it also retains a consistent overall profile that is sweet and fruity, with a distinctive grape taste to it. I wanted to do my initial review of this cigar by itself, to be able to focus entirely on its own flavors, but I suspect it would pair very nicely with a good Sangria. At some point I'll have to give it a try.
I'm torn as to whether or not to give this one the strong recommendation I know I should give it-- because I also want to be selfish and tell you all NOT to buy whatever boxes remain, so that I can stock up for myself. But in all seriousness, this is well worth buying by the box-- due to the rarity of the Bragança, and the difficulty of harvesting, fermenting, and transporting it, there is an extremely limited supply of these smokes, and once they're gone... well... you might not have the opportunity to get them again.