In my ongoing quest to discover new and interesting cigars, I’ve learned one important lesson. You should never buy a box of cigars based on a single smoke. I came close to making that mistake recently with the CAO Sopranos Associate.
I love the Sopranos show, so a cigar-themed gimmick had a cheese appeal to me. The appeal was not enough to get me to lay down $10 a cigar, but it was enough to get me to look around and see what other cigar smokers thought about it. I found mostly positive reviews of the cigar online and it was even featured in Cigar Aficionado. In some testimonials the smokers lamented that they only bought one after a surprisingly good smoke. Good enough for me, it looked like it was worth a try, so I kept an eye out for it.
When I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I found a small supply in a local tobacco shop and I bought a few. That evening I smoked one with a young tawny port on a balcony overlooking the Oregon coast. It smoked like a dream. It had a beautiful draw, each puff rewarded me with a huge volume of smooth chocolaty smoke. I loved the hell out of it and made immediate plans to go back tobacco shop and buy the remaining 10 or so cigars.
A few nights later, some friends and I got together at Greater Trumps in Portland, Oregon for some cigars and some old port. Earlier that day I picked a bunch more (I didn’t quite clear them out- clearer heads prevailed) so I passed a few around, thinking I was really treating my friends. We were all in for a surprise. The cigars where strikingly lackluster. Good draw, as before, but the smoke was almost flavorless. Wow, did I feel like an idiot.
On a side note, it turns out the mildness wasn’t such a bad thing. My friends didn’t smoke cigars often, and this gave us the opportunity to have another completely different cigar later without being completely overloaded and hating life the next day.
A week or two later, I smoked one while watching the Sopranos. The cigars I had left over from my trip had spent the weeks in bottom of my humidor. This time it smoke seemed filmy (pun not intended, but heck, I’ll take it). Given my past experience with the cigar, it seems likely that the mouth feel was due to the unimpressive wine I decided to pair with it.
The point of all this is that I made a very amateurish mistake. I assumed that a single cigar was a good representation of the line, and I bought more of them than I should. (Fortunately, I didn’t spring for a box online. There’s still out there, and I was thinking about it.) Sometimes a line of cigars is that consistent, but I’ve run into too many cigars where this isn’t the case. (An Onyx experience comes to mind here.)
What really clinched the lesson for me was remember Walt from Stogie Review mentioning in one of his video clips (I think it was the Gurkha X-Fuerte review) that he didn’t like doing review based on a single cigar. He didn’t elaborate, but the truth is that cigars are so influenced by their environment a cigar from one humidor may be very different from another. Or even more importantly, cigars often have slight flaws that have a big impact on the quality of the smoke. The only way to get a good feel for a cigar is to sample several.
Because of these potential inconsistencies, before you buy a box of cigars, or decide to never smoke one again (hey, it could go either way) buy one more cigar and try it again. (Or at least go for the 5 or 10 pack instead of the full box.)
As for the cigar, I don’t think its a bad cigar. It’s a mild cigar that needs a good drink pairing. I would recommend carefully selecting that accompanying beverage. It’s quite pleasant with a ruby or young tawny port, or perhaps a stout or porter beer. Possibly a coffee drink (I’m thinking Spanish coffee, but that’s probably because I love Spanish coffees). Dark and rich is the key here. Lighter beers and wines may wind up making it an unpleasant experience.
Oh yeah, do me a favor- if this post prevents you from making an expensive cigar mistake, let me know! :)