Late last year, I was at the 10th Anniversary Tampa Cigar Bash. This is one of the best events in the state of Florida and draws a large crowd of cigar enthusiasts and brand owners alike. The party is always great as you get to meet and greet many of the names behind the cigars you enjoy. One of those names was Ricky Rodriguez, the face of CAO under the General Cigars umbrella. One of the cigars showcased at the event was the CAO Session, a cigar described by Ricky as ‘inspired by the many cigars smoked in his garage‘.
Ricky is the master blender of this cigar, and states on the CAO Cigars website:
“Medium-bodied with a full, rich flavor, Session is perfect in your own garage. Or at the bar. Or the shop. Or sitting in a chair in your backyard. Wherever and whenever you’re hanging out with good friends, make it a Session.“
Ricky started his blending apprenticeship 15 years ago under the mentoring of legendary cigar-maker Yuri Guillen. Ricky may be best known for sourcing some of the finest and unique cigar tobacco from around the world and most famous for his blending of the CAO Flathead and Amazon Basin. With the CAO Session he says he went back to his roots working with his mentor Yuri and his original team.
The CAO Session has a blend described as:
- Wrapper – Connecticut Broadleaf
- Binder – Dominican Vega Especial
- Filler – Dominican Piloto Cubano and Nicaraguan Esteli
The CAO Session is expressed in 3 vitolas representing some of Ricky’s favorite places to enjoy a cigar:
- Garage (5.25 x 55) MSRP $8.59
- Bar (6 x 49) MSRP $8.99
- Shop (6 x 60) MSRP $9.59
Each CAO Session vitola comes packaged in an eye catching 20-count flip top box and it should be noted that this is the first time in 10 years that CAO has made a cigar in the Dominican Republic.
For this review, I sampled one CAO Session Garage, and yes Ricky, I smoked this in my garage lounge otherwise known to many Brothers and Sisters of the Leaf as the Stogie Press Lounge (SPL).
To start this review off, let me say, the CAO Session is a rock solid cigar from head to foot. There is no soft spots noticeable and it is certainly well packed. The wrapper is very dark, oscuro (black) in color with a decent tooth to it and light sheen. It is a bit veiny and blotchy in color but then again it is a broadleaf wrapper. A simple cap finishes the presentation.
Two bright orange and white bands adorn the cigar. The primary band declares it as the “CAO SESSION” while the secondary band just below identifies the best place way to enjoy a cigar “SIT – SMOKE – CHILL”. It also has Ricky’s signature off the right in silver and black.
Taking it through the first date, I ran the CAO Session along the nose and my aroma sensors picked up a sweet and floral barrel joined with cocoa, nut, and raisin notes off the foot. Interesting indeed!
I sliced the cap right at the shoulder with a straight cut and proceeded to give it some cold draws that I would describe as a tad tight and offered the palate notes of savory spice and a growing pepper note as you puff a little more. This is one I would suggest chomping on a little before you fire it up.
Speaking of firing it up, I used my triple flame torch to warm the foot. It took a little bit to get things going but one glowing orange, I took in the first puffs of smoke that were a little harsh on the palate. Stay with me as I further break down the CAO Session.
Cigar Review Notes
- Initial light is bit harsh
- Pepper notes greet the palate and the nose
- Floral notes join the pepper
- White flaky ash forms on a wavy thick char line
- Hint of fruit finds its way in, to tone down the pepper
- Inviting, floral fruit aroma is also wafting off the foot
- Plum notes reveal as the early fruit midway
- Medium Volume of Smoke
- A mild spice lingers on the palate
- Starts to burn hot to the touch deep in the second third
- The pre-light savory notes start to take over the profile
- Long ash fell revealing a pointed but fairly centered burn cone
- Dry fruit nuances enters in final third
- Caramel sweetness completes the journey
- Medium in Strength
- Total Smoking Time was 1 hour and 25 minutes
Overall, the CAO Session Garage was an interesting cigar. After a rather harsh start, it settled in with peppery notes that were eventually consumed by delicious floral and fruit notes and aromas. The notes were not overly pronounced and seemed to move in and out of the profile until the final where the savoriness took control finishing with a delectable caramel sweetness. Even though the ash was flaky and there was a bit of a jagged burn it did hold for a good part of the burn without ever needing a touch-up. I would say, based on the price, picking up a fiver and maybe let a few age and see what happens. I rate it an 87.
Point Deductions:(-1) Harsh Start (-1) Flaky Ash; (-1) Jagged Burn; (-1) Medium Volume of Smoke (-1) ) Not Overly Complex; (-2) Burned Hot to the Touch in Second Third; (-1) Pointed Burn Cone
Bonus Point: (+1) Extreme Ash