Small Reviews of Small Cigars 6: CAO Brazilia Cariocas (4x38 )
Okay, so General got it right this time
W/B/F: Brazilian Maduro/Nicaraguan/Nicaraguan
Construction: Hand-made premium. Standard Parejo.
Related Cigars: Part of CAOís Brazilia line, which is part of their World series of cigars
Pricing and Packaging: Tins of 5. MSRP - $15.99 ($3.20 ea)
Number Sampled: 4, along with 3 Brazilia Gol! (4.75x52)
Review stick 4+ weeks rested at 65%, lit with cedar, and paired with water. Smoked on my way to work a few of days ago 
In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that CAO is far from my favorite brand. Iíve sampled 13 different varieties, and to my taste, they ranged from average to awful, and had a high incidence of construction issues. The CAO Brazilia has one of the better reputations amongst CAOís offerings, however, and I really like Brazilian tobacco, so I gave the Gol! (5x56) 3 tries. One was too plugged to smoke, and the other two were blah at best. It wasnít the flavor profile itself, but more of an overall dullness in the flavors that were there. A punch cut helped a little, but not enough.
Based on those experiences, I would have skipped the Brazilia Cariocas or left them later in this review series but I purchased them for several reasons. First, they seem pretty popular and commonly available, and Iím taking that into consideration when choosing what to try. Second, Iím optimistic about anything involving Brazilian tobacco. Third, they were on sale. Fourth, and most importantly, I just love the branding on these puppies. As a vexillology enthusiast (aka flag nerd), I like the branding on all of CAOís World varieties, and the branding and bands of the Brazilia group is a brilliant adaptation of a wonderful flag. And they just look so adorably festive! I really really wanted to like at least one type of CAO Brazilia on the basis of the band alone.
Yes, I am that much of a flag nerd.
Naturally I approached the Cariocas with some trepidation. I smoked the first one ROTT, and the second after a couple of weeks rest. Smoking them before they were fully acclimated was intentional Ė Iíll get into why below. I did find them both to be better than the full-size Brazilia. They were good solid smokes, but with nothing that made them particularly appealing. I was dreading writing the review Ė itís a heck of a lot easier to write a review for something notably good, bad, or mixed than it is to write a review for something average.
That all changed with the third stick.
Letís start with the wrapper leaf. The wrapper leaf on the Cariocas is gorgeous Ė dark brown and glossy Ė and it contrasts beautifully with the bright colors of the band.
Youíll notice that I specified that the wrapper leaf
was gorgeous. The wrapping job was not. The cap was very lopsided and there was a section that looked like the wrapper tore and was re-glued. No points off for the wrapping job, though. Believe it or not, Iíve stopped considering ugly-looking wrapping a particular flaw in cigars of this size and price range. Thatís not to say that a good wrapping job isnít a good sign Ė it is Ė but Iíve smoked dozens of small cigars at this point and Iíve found that most of the ones with bad-looking wrapping smoke just fine.
Of course the above assumes the cigar is not unraveling or showing issues other than a cockeyed gluing job. (Partagas Black Label Prontos
, Iím looking at you!)
I suspect that this sort of wrapping job is just the nature of the beast. As I understand it, the small ring gauges are much harder to hand-roll than the more standard sizes, and I figure that the manufacturers arenít using their best rollers for cigars that are going to be shut up in a tin and smoked on the fly. You may find this particular kind of construction issue more of a problem than I do, but I donít generally even notice it unless the wrapping deficiencies are especially obvious. And if it smokes well, I really donít care.
The first 2 Cariocas smoked fine, and this cigar smoked perfectly. In fact this morning was one of the only times Iíve ever smoked a cigar in the car without ending up with a lopsided burn. The smoking time was very much on the short side for a 4x38, totaling about only a half-hour, but there didnít seem to be any negative side-effects to the quick burn in terms of harshness or off-flavors. Iíd just say that this stick is a good choice for when you have an especially short amount of time at hand.
When I took the stick out of the cello, the aroma was unusually strong. It was rich and sweet and the pre-light draw offered more of the same. It only took a few puffs before the character of the smoke revealed itself.
Iíve found that to my taste, maduro wrappers tend to register as either sweet or dry. (I donít know if Iíve ever seen ďdryĒ used as a descriptor for a cigar, but I donít know what else to call it Ė it gives you the same mouth-feel as a very dry wine.) The Cariocas was perfectly balanced between the two extremes. The sweeter notes predominated at the beginning and over the course of the smoke, the balance slowly shifted over to the dry side without ever losing that essential balance. Personally, I have a strong preference for the sweeter side of the maduro world, but in this case, I really enjoyed the way the dryness slowly crept in and took control while never pushing the sweetness out entirely.
The medium-to-full body and flavor remained consistent throughout.
Overall, this cigar is not complex, but itís certainly tasty. Aside from the sweetness and dryness, the flavor profile included notes of leather and nuts and is low in pepper. The Nicaraguan filler and binder are the backup singers to the rock star of a wrapper. It took center stage, but wouldnít have been nearly as good without a strong duo backing it up. In the end, this smoke offers a big dose of pure Brazilly goodness in small package.
I did smoke another one a few days after the ďfinal review stickĒ at excellent Casa de Montecristo on 73rd and 1st in Manhattan. I had just finished a Tatuaje Reserva Petite Cazadores. I was worried that I wouldnít be able to taste the Cariocas very well right on the heels of such a flavorful and complex cigar, and indeed the flavors read a bit differently Ė but not in a bad way. The dryness was more muted and the sweetness was more prevalent, and I didnít notice as much development. The result was pure smooth yummy goodness.
So why were the third and fourth Cariocas so much better than the first two?
One possibility is inconsistency within the line. Given that Iíve run into a high incidence of construction issues in the other CAOs that Iíve smoked, this wouldnít surprise me in the least. If inconsistency is the reason, hey, at least the less impressive ones were still pretty good. The other possibility is that the latter ones had time to fully acclimate to 65%. More on the subject of resting small cigars below, but Iím going to buy another tin of these pretty soon to see if I notice any major inconsistencies.
Try these, especially if you like Brazil wrappers. Just make sure to give them a little rest first.
On Resting and Small Cigars
I set the minimum rest time for review sticks at 4 weeks instead of the usual 6 for several reasons. The smaller RG should logically allow the stick to acclimate more quickly than normal, but more importantly, it better reflects the real-world conditions in which many small cigars are smoked. it seems that many people who inquire about smaller smokes online are doing so because of a fast-approaching situation which will limit their smoking time. ďWinter is coming! Halp!Ē Yes, I know that many of you would sooner eat their own foot than smoke a cigar thatís been rested for less than 6 months (hi Rondo!), but most of us arenít that organized/patient/whatever, and even if we were, the people on this board are hardly a representative sample of cigar smokers. We can assume that many or most small smokes wonít be getting as much rest and they really need and that a lot of them are being smoked ROTT.
Therefore Iím trying to sample at least one of each within a week or so of receipt. For most that Iíve tried, Iíve found that the 4 weeks rest doesnít make a whole lot of difference for most of them. Perhaps being packaged in a tin with a plastic overwrap provides some extra protection from retailer overhumidification? In any case, I consider being decent ROTT an advantage for these particular types of smokes. A month isnít that long to wait, though, so if the relatively short rest is the reason for the difference between the Cariocas I tried, I wonít hold it against them.
I would subtract proverbial points from any small cigar that absolutely needs
a whole lot of rest in order to be palatable. Many of you may be happy to do it, but I canít image the average smoker wants to rest a cigar for a year just to suck it down while shivering in the snow. Note I am trying to limit the window in which I smoke the final review sticks to a maximum of 12 weeks from receipt in order to keep the time frames at least somewhat consistent across the reviews. Exceptions, as always, will be noted.
- The extremely knowledgeable Artie at Casa de Montecristo declared the Cariocas ďoff the hook,Ē and advised me the full-sized Brazilias are much better some with age. He also said that long resting/aging of the Cariocas size didnít make much of a difference.
- With regard to further testing of small CAOs: As far as I can see, the only other CAOs available in this size range are the Gold Karats and the MX2 Daggers. Given that the Gold and the MX2 were my absolute least favorites amongst the CAOs that Iíve tried, I think Iíll put off reviewing those for now.
Would I buy it again? Yes
Would I smoke it again? Yes
Personal ranking: Excellent
If the CAO Brazilia Cariocas was a high school kid from the [strikethrough]movies[/strikethrough] TV it would be: BARB!
If the CAO Brazilia Cariocas was a pair of shoes, it would be: The black pleather pumps with the little patent pleather bow that I got at Martyís Discount Shoe Outlet for 16 bucks. I got them to go with one particular thing, and didnít expect much from such a shoe, but they ended up being so comfortable (and cute) that I wore them out. I even got the heels replaced, which cost more than the shoes themselves. I miss those shoes.
 I was intending to smoke every final review stick under ideal and consistent conditions Ė at home at a time when I can fully concentrate and take notes. And that Iím not half-asleep. Unfortunately, Iím finding it pretty hard to find those windows of time, and I do have time on my commute, so Iíll be doing some of the final review smokes under those conditions.
 I made an interesting discovery when I dissected a supposedly long-filler CAO Gold robusto. I think it was a Cuban sandwich! Under the outer wrapper were several layers of binder-looking leaves and when I unrolled them, a big pile of tobacco confetti and one long twig fell out.
 Yeah yeah, I know Winter Is HereÖ Season 8 is supposed to drop in April. Canít wait!