CAO Sopranos Associate: A Cigar Is Not A Box

CAO Sopranos AssociateIn 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! :)

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18 Comments

  1. Cigar Jack said,

    May 6, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    I never review a cigar I’ve only smoked once. I’ll have to admit that the Sopranos are definitely not worth the price and I’m living where I can get them cheaper. CAO’s midrange smokes are fantastic, but for me their premium lines always leave something to be desired.

  2. Brian said,

    May 6, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Yeah, that’s a good policy. I’m surprised that given the organic nature of cigars, it never occurred to me until just recently to try a cigar several times before forming an opinion. For that very reason, I have a second CAO Gold waiting for me before I say a word about it. :)

    I have noticed every CAO cigar I’ve tried has a great draw, but that’s not terribly helpful if the flavor is completely absent…

  3. May 14, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    [...] it’s their slick packaging and their gimmicky cigar lines (the space-age Vision humidor, the Sopranos line, [...]

  4. May 28, 2007 at 1:11 am

    [...] CAO Sopranos Associate [...]

  5. J Carmine said,

    June 9, 2007 at 2:56 am

    I smoked three over a period of one month- two from different box’s so there is no saying “well try another, pilot error,” it’s similar to the Excalibur but the difference is, the Excalibur is well rolled and not to mention very airry, and is worth the 8 or 9 bucks.
    The Soprano is about eight or ten dollars over priced. There is no reason it can’t fetch for eight or and even 10 tops, for the reason of pure tobacco amount. CON~ It’s a poor quality bad, bad wrapper, binder is not rolled with love, and the wrapper is thin like wood floors in mass produced track homes. Don’t get me wrong it smokes like a beast, big billows no doubt as well an even burn. But the over all quality is not there. It tastes very, very mellow, for the reason I bet that being a massed produced cigar they wanted everyone to take part.

    I’m not cheap I love Romeo and Juliet’s church hill tube and the Rocky Patel 1990 so I’m not ill, but I just think that media all wanted to be part of the Mafia show so there for you pay for media more than tobacco.

  6. Brian said,

    June 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Great comment J Carmine!

    I absolutely agree with your conclusion. Everybody wants to be part of “the family”, and you are definitely paying for that. You gotta hand it to CAO, it’s pure marketing genius! Searches for the CAO Sopranos still brings a huge volume of curious cigar smokers to my blog. That’s amazing, given it’s not that great of a cigar!

    When you think about it, the thing this cigar captures perfectly is Hollywood itself! It looks impressive, makes a huge amount of smoke and comes in a glitzy box. But when you actually go deeper looking for fullness and flavor, you find it lacking!

  7. anthony gibilisco said,

    July 28, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Would like to know the brand of cigar they smoked on the sapranos, there was a back end of a car on the box, and do they sell them in stores. Thank you

  8. Brian said,

    July 29, 2007 at 1:11 am

    Hmmm… I’m not really sure Anthony. I know Tony’s smoking an un-banded cigar in the opening credits. I guess I always assumed they were either smoking Cubans (because they were above the law) or whatever “fell off the back of a truck”. I know they got quite a few cases of wine in one episode by helping the wine fall off the truck. ;)

    Anyway, I’ve heard some speculation, but nothing official on his cigar of choice.

  9. August 2, 2007 at 7:04 am

    [...] Panza clothing or something. (If you did, I admire your duplicity! But I caught you!) Of course, as I learned the hard way a single cigar is not a box. It’s also possible that my drink pairing with the second cigar [...]

  10. September 12, 2007 at 3:01 am

    [...] I had mixed results with my earlier adventures with the CAO Sopranos Associate, I think if I were to recommend a cigar in this line to try, that would be the one. Of the two [...]

  11. Non sibi sed suis said,

    January 14, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    It almost got me…damn maketing. thanks for the heads up.

  12. Brian said,

    January 15, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Glad I helped Non sibi sed suis,

    That marketing is pretty slick, isn’t it? I would say that if you find a deal on these, give them a shot. (i.e. talk a friend out of one or something.) I’ve spoken with a lot of people who just love ‘em. I loved that first one, but I think they’re too expensive to be inconsistent, as has been my experience.

  13. Gary Wendorf said,

    March 27, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I’ve found the Soprano Boss to be my cigar of choice. A full rich flavor every time. I believe after the Soprano series is over CAO may drop the trunk (no it’s not a Cadillac) and perhaps sell them in bundles or a cheaper container to bring the price into a LEO.
    I don’t buy singles unless I see the box is freshly opened. I’ve found some humidor rooms to be not monitored very well. Always buy boxes or well wrapped bundles.
    Finally, I only drink Jack Daniel’s when I smoke a cigar so I never confuse my palate. I too love port (try Fonseca Bin 27) but not with a GOOD cigar. Port overwhelms the smoke.

    Doc. G.

  14. Brian said,

    March 29, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Doc G.,
    I did hear the same rumor about the Sopranos being sold in bundles, but the thing is that the Sopranos TV series IS over. So if that was going to be a motivating factor, I think we probably would have seen it by now, or at least heard an official announcement. I could be that they’re holding out for the rumored movie, or it could be that this rumor is just false.

    And because the topic came out, I dug into the deepest recesses of my humidor and grabbed one of these Associates to light up this morning. Yep, the very same ones I bought nearly a year ago. I thinking it might smoke nicely as the first stick of the day. We’ll see how it goes.

    Thanks for the comment!

  15. GREG said,

    August 26, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Not only amateur, but immature might I add. You don’t drink WINE with a cigar. A good cigar should be paired with a spirit!! Wine goes good with food NOT tobacco. I have bought 3 boxes of the “Soprano’s ” Soldiers and I must say that they are milder than some vintage patels or even gurkah’s and of course not even close in full body as a cuban. Next time you decide to smoke a cigar try a nice smooth cognac or Johnny Walker, but for godsakes man NOT A WINE!!! good luck

  16. Brian said,

    August 26, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Sorry Greg,
    You opinion (and it is) is incorrect. There are many cigars you can drink wine with. In this particular case, it was a poor choice, given the mildness of the cigar. (I rather enjoy a Partagas Black or a Sancho Panza Extra Fuerte with wine.) You may not enjoy the combination, but to assume that your preferences mark what is “right” is immature. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  17. Scott said,

    July 23, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Made the same mistake on a box of Omar Ortez originals. . .and they come 60 to a box. Had a few and liked them, so I shelled out the buck twenty for the box. Immediately I noticed that most of them were tunneling; at first I thought it was my storage. It wasn’t. After months of sampling them, they all tunnelled. I contacted the retailer – he ended up swapping me out for an equal amount of new (different) Omars. Needless to say, a few of them smoked ok, but even the new batch tunnelled. I’m not an amateur, it happens to the best of us. Sometimes when you got that “cigar bug” you can talk yourself into buying a box of something.

  18. July 14, 2010 at 11:11 am

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