CAO Vision Catalyst: Bucking The Trend

CAO Vision CatalystBy now, just about everybody in the cigar smoking community has heard the buzz about the CAO Vision line. A nearby brick and mortar store had 2 boxes of these cigars (the robusto and torpedo sizes) and they were completely gone within a few days. If you haven’t seen these cigars in person, you’ve probably seen this video (or one like it), or pictures on any number of cigar websites.

But in case you don’t already know, the biggest attraction to the Vision isn’t the cigars. It’s the box. These cigars come in a box that’s the cigar world’s equivalent of the iPod. It’s creamy white, and when you open it up, blue lights lining the edge of the box illuminate. Of course, that means the box is battery powered, but it gets better. The box is itself a humidor, designed to maintain a constant 70% relative humidity. And how can you tell? Why with the digital readout mounted on the front of the box, of course.

In short, the CAO Vision humidor box is marvelous. And I want one. But this post isn’t about a swanky cigar box. It’s about what’s in the box.

[UPDATE: Since I made the effort to take and upload them I have a few other good pictures of these cigars here and here.]

Cigar Stats
Size: 5 x 50 (Robusto)
Wrapper: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Secret Codes: 0014998 and 0014991 (I just don’t like calling anything to do with cigars “serial numbers.”)
Price Per Cigar: $13.40

The Pre-Smoke
At first glance, they’re pretty good looking cigars (there were some weird veins, but I’m not gonna dwell on them). I’m not a big fan of the band, but I don’t hate it either. Closer inspection revealed little, disappointing imperfections. In both cigars, the cap leaf appeared to be imperfectly stuck to the cigar. I also noticed a crack or two in the wrappers of both cigars. (I don’t think the cracks in the wrapper turned out to have any noticeable impact on the quality of the smoke.) Theoretically, I should not have bought these particular cigars with these visual impairments. However, the box I selected them from was nearly empty, and these seemed to be the least noticeably flawed of the bunch.

I was proven right in my analysis of the cap. When I clipped the first cigar, the cap leaf almost immediately came off, stucking to my lip. Talk about annoying. Fortunately, the cigar didn’t unravel or noticeably loosen. Still, annoying. Noticing similar cap construction issues in the second cigar, I opted for the punch instead. That did the trick, and proved to be the better clipping decision.

Before I lit them, both cigars had a prominent sweet smell with a noticeable barnyard/hay note.

The Burn
With both cigars, I had an inconsistent burn for roughly the first half to two thirds of the cigar. While this probably didn’t have a pronounced impact on the smoke, it was annoying. Fortunately, these issues worked themselves out in both cases in time for the final third. In one cigar, a crack that was present in the final third before lighting began to lift away from the cigar as it reached the burn line. Again, an irritation, but nothing serious.

The punched cigar seemed to have a better draw than the one with standard clip. Initially, it was almost like a jet of smoke, but as I progressed through the cigar, the smoking experience was not noticeably different. If you choose to smoke one of these, I would recommend using a punch.

I’m not sure what it means, but I noticed the wrapper actually sparking as I smoked it, particularly in the first third. And by “sparking”, I mean little flashes of fire on the wrapper. Kinda cool, actually.

In both cigars, the final third burned a bit hot for my liking, despite my conscious attempt to smoke the second cigar more slowly than the first. It’s not clear to me that this cigar smoked better at a slower pace.

The Flavor
My notes on the cigars’ flavors differ considerably. I think that’s because this cigar seems to like to wander. Some might equate that with complexity. To me, it just seemed kid of random and abrupt at points.

Generally speaking, I noted creaminess and cedar in the first quarter to third of each cigar, with occasional pockets of spice, almond and what seemed like apricot. (Seriously. I know you’re saying “B.S.”, but I swear. :) ) At this stage I also noted an unusually long, but pleasant aftertaste. The flavor transitioned toward a toastier, nuttier, leathery flavor in the middle third, again with unexpected pockets of almond and cinnamon. And finally became a mildly peppery molasses flavor in the final third.

The Price
Even though I’ve decided to start noting the price I paid for each cigar in the stats section, we still need to talk about it. Some more fortunate reviewers were able to pick up this cigar for a few bucks less than I did, but I still think that’s too expensive. The guys at Stogie Review think it would be better priced at $8. Personally, I liked the CAO Gold much better than this cigar, and that’s easy to get in the $4 range. And I can say I’ve never had as many construction annoyances with the Gold as I did with this cigar.

The Verdict
The title of this post is probably misleading. Because it isn’t the cigar that’s bucking the trend, it’s me. I’ve read a lot of reviews recently praising this cigar and recommending it to others. (To be fair, many of them complain about the price.) However, I just can’t give the Vision a passing grade. This cigar just didn’t work for me. And I’m not sure why, because there are elements of the flavor that I did enjoy. It just didn’t settle right with me for some reason.

Both times I smoked it, I was basically laboring through it. Once finished, the Vision put me out of the mood for any cigars for a couple of days. To give you an idea, it took me 3 weeks to smoke these two cigars- after the first, I didn’t want to try the second. I don’t think it’s the power of the tobacco, I’ve smoked (and look back fondly on) other cigars that really messed with my head. It’s a shame too, I really wanted to like this cigar so I had an excuse to buy the box! :)

Quick Summary
(I got the idea for this section from the reviews over at StogieCast. I told ‘em I’d give ‘em credit for it if I snagged it! :) )
Like It: Not Really
Buy It Again: No
Recommend It: No

What Other People Are Saying

My Other Reviews

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14 Comments

  1. May 28, 2007 at 2:35 am

    Wow what an indepth review and I gotta say, I love the layout of your reviews!

    Honestly speaking, its easy to like a cigar someone else paid for and the Vision we got were free so I’m not sure how much I’d like this cigar if it was $13 (or in this case $26 since you smoked two) came directly out of my pocket.

    Nice job on reviewing this cigar with two different cuts.

  2. Brian said,

    May 28, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Jerry,

    Thanks! I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback on this format. I’m glad you guys like it, it just happens to work out best for me too! :)

    I didn’t mean to be critical of you guys over at Stogie Review- You do a great thing, and are my single favorite source of the latest cigar info! People who have paid the full, premium price for this cigar like it also! (Nobody actually likes the price, but they do like the cigar.)

    Ah well, it looks like I’ve probably messed up my chances of getting free cigars from CAO at this point, huh? ;)

  3. marty said,

    August 10, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Brian: Your website is great plus you’re style of writing is very enjoyable.

    And, I’m not a CAO guy but I did get caught up with the “CAO Vision hype” and just last night, I experienced the stick for the first time.

    In a nutshell: At best, a good smoke for $8.00-$9.00 but certainly not for $13.00 [in LA].

  4. Brian said,

    August 10, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Marty,

    Thanks for the kind words. I think we all got caught up a little bit in the Vision hype. I’m still sort of caught up in it, as I kind of want to try it again, but I’m not going to slap down another $13 for it! I’ll take the Gold, the Gold Maduro, the Brazilia or even the Maduro any day over it.

    Speaking of CAO, I picked up a couple Americas and Sopranos at RTDA and am pleased to say both were good smokes. (My previous Sopranos experience seems to have been a fluke.) I’m planning on reviewing the America soon, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have good things to say about it.

  5. marty said,

    August 10, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    Brian, thanks. I’ll keep an eye out for your America review.

    PS: I probably missed it but … what was your thoughts/opinion on Ashton’s San Cristobal?

  6. Brian said,

    August 11, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    I hope to have that up sometime soon!

    Unfortunately, my official thoughts on the Ashton San Cristobal is: I’d really like to try one! My efforts to get my grubby mitts on one while I was there were unsuccessful. So unless a wonderfully generous Ashton person would like to hook me up, it might be a while before I get a chance to smoke and review it.

  7. August 11, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Hey man,

    I am a little surprised by the review as I really enjoyed the Vision. I smoked the Prana and was quite taken by the cigar’s different levels of flavors and impressed with the contruction. I wrote about it. But I do hear that the other shapes and sizes of the Vision are disappointing and that the figurado (Prana) is the way to go.

    But your review is certainly well done.

    I’ll keep checking in.

  8. Brian said,

    August 11, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks Matt,

    Your blog is one of the number of cigar blogs I have hooked up in Google Reader! I think you’re who I heard about Arganese cigars from, in fact. I made a point to stop by their booth at RTDA to pick up a sampler. I’m looking forward to trying them out.

    Yeah, I’ve heard both sides on the Vision. Some people love it, others seem to hate it. I don’t hate it, but I couldn’t bring myself to like it either. I’d be willing to give it another shot down the road in the off chance that I got a few from a bad box (it happens), but it’s not very high on my list of priorities.

  9. August 21, 2007 at 1:30 am

    I also enjoyed the CAO Vision Prana and am also surprised at your review. I guess most people are caught in marketing of it. You gotta admit the humidor box they come in is nice though.

  10. Brian said,

    August 21, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Hi CAO Vision Prana (Tex Cigars),

    Yeah, I’ll readily admit I like the box. It’s pretty cool. I was hoping that I’d like the cigars so I had a reason to pick up the box! Though I’ve since heard it doesn’t maintain more than about a 63% humidity from people who’ve picked one up. But hey, it still looks cool.

    It’s entirely possible I got my hands on a couple of bad sticks. If somebody really wants me to reconsider them, feel free to send me one and I’ll give it another shot. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge…) Palates change, and bad boxes have been known to rear their heads in even the finest of B&M’s. I’m just not going to slap down another $13+ of my own funds in the hopes that the third time is the charm.

    By the way, I’ve heard good things about your shop on some of the cigar boards I read! :)

  11. August 21, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Well, I’m glad you’ve heard good things. I am working very hard to keep up my customer service. Nowadays, it’s hard to find good customer service. It’s getting outsourced and impossible to actually talk to someone. It’s really annoying and bad business to not be able to talk to an actual person. In my opinion, Sprint is the absolute worst at this. I normally wait over 40 minutes to talk to a customer representative.

    This week we met with our lawyer and we will be getting our import / export licensing. This should significantly improve our pricing and availability.

    Sorry – don’t wanna hijack this thread to be about my cigar shop. As far as the Vision Prana goes, I should be getting some soon and I’ll be happy to send you out a few to try. I think you will reconsider once you taste them again. Feel free to contact me if you want to try some others, I can normally swing a few samples for such outstanding bloggers like yourself.

    J

  12. Brian said,

    August 21, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Thanks Cigar Man Tex!

    I’ll be happy to give them a second chance! And I’ll be happy to try and review any other cigars as well. My policy is “will blog for cigars!” :) While I never guarantee a positive review, I always make a point of thanking and linking to generous folks like yourself! I’ll be happy to link back to your shop at the end of the review and send ‘em over to pick up some cigars!

    “Sorry – don’t wanna hijack this thread to be about my cigar shop.” Sure ya do! ;) Anyway, no worries, people are just as curious about online cigar retailers as they are about cigars!

  13. March 1, 2008 at 2:47 am

    [...] Brian didn’t care for it won’t and probably wouldn’t smoke it again even if offered one. [...]


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