The Hype – “One of the fuller-flavored cigars by CAO, the Criollo is a classic mix of Cuban seed tobaccos from Central America. CAO is one of the most well known names in cigars. It seems anywhere there is a celebrity smoking a cigar, there is CAO. It is the fastest growing, trendiest, and most popular brand on the market, appealing to a new generation of aficionados and seasoned veterans of the hobby alike. Top ratings and awards have brought this boutique brand to the top of its game. The word “Criollo” literally means native seed. The Criollo ‘98 was an experimental hybrid seed grown in Cuba when they were searching for a solid tobacco strand to fight mold and other agricultural difficulties. It was later picked up by CAO and debuted as the CAO Criollo. Immediately it was dubbed a cigar that could compete with the finest Cuban cigars on the market. Grown and cultivated in Nicaragua and matched with Cuban seed Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, the Criollo has a medium to full-bodied damp and earthy aroma. The CAO Criollo is another solid addition to the CAO family and a Nicaraguan masterpiece.”
The Review – “Everyone left the BBQ and I needed something fun with flavor. I broke out the CAO Criollo Pampa and two glasses: Glenfiddich 21-yr old and chilled Smart Bottle empowered water. I’m experimenting with purified and filtered water during my cigar smoking experiences and it is really interesting to observe how mouthfeel and flavors can change with high quality water as compared to my favorite spirits or even a good coffee. The Criollo is one of my solid standbys, full of flavor with a reasonable smoke time. I keep at least one brick of these fun little cigars in the humidor.
Prelight aroma is very pleasant. The alfalfa scent is prominent, but there are notes of bread and coffee in the background. Lighting this cigar is effortless and the smoke is very pleasant. It smells like a mix of cigar and pipe tobacco and has a sharp sweetness to it that is unique to Dominican puros. The first draw is spicy and tangy with a strong white pepper mouth feel; attention grabbing and a warning to smoke this one carefully and slowly. This particular stick had a slightly tighter draw than other Criollos that I’ve tried before, but it wasn’t out of control and helped to remind me to take it slowly on this one. Like a Davidoff, the Criollo seems to have a higher nicotine content, so the head rush and slight nausea is inevitable unless I pace myself.
Ash on the pampa is light gray and ran to about 1.5 inches before diving off the end of the stick. I enjoy the profile of this cigar; it starts strong mellows out for about 40 minutes and then ramps back up again approaching the nub and round things off. From previous Criollos, they can sometimes burn irregularly and if they slow down too much, the tar flavor becomes pronounced, so I did blow through this one about 2/3 through to keep it even.