Sometimes what was once old suddenly becomes new again. Our long- time friend at General Cigar and master blender of CAO, Rick Rodriguez, has taken a very old concept and worked wonders with it. There are so many steps and processes in creating a fine cigar but a key step is fermenting the tobacco. You can start out with some great tobacco from the fields but if not fermented correctly you have wasted a valuable crop. The key to proper fermentation is the pilon, which is basically a big pile of tobacco. The function of the pilon is similar to a compost pile – it generates heat which helps to break down the ammonia content and sugar content. Traditionally we see these pilones as large as twenty feet long and ten feet wide and six feet tall. These massive piles can generate a lot of heat and work quite rapidly in the fermenting of the tobacco. The new CAO Pilon utilizes tobacco fermented in a very different fashion.
Nineteenth century Cuban techniques were to create a round pilon rather than the massive rectangular piles of today. These round pilons were quite small since all leaves needed to overlap each other. Fermentation took considerably longer due to the small size of the pilon since it can’t generate the same amount of heat as the larger ones. But the longer fermentation time results in greater ammonia reduction, lower sugar content, and a mellowing of the tobacco. The CAO Pilon utilizes this technique with the Nicaraguan filler and it is a winner!
This cigar uses a Habano wrapper from Ecuador over both Nicaraguan binder and filler. This is quite a firm cigar to the touch but I found it to draw very well and it burned evenly and never required a touchup. The wrapper was quite dry to the touch but proved to be very solid and held up perfectly. The beginning flavors showed some earthiness and of course the always present pepperiness found in Nicaraguan tobacco. What I found though was a very mellow peppery spice to this cigar. The initial retrohale on this smoke was incredibly smooth with no pepper burn. You knew the pepper flavor was there but it never burned. There were some noticeable flavors of coffee and cocoa as it began to reach the halfway point and while the strength began to pick up the pepper just kept lingering in the background. Still very smooth and enjoyable and definitely very complex; flavors tended to jump around and change every so often and that proved very intriguing. The final third of the cigar did see the strength begin to increase and the pepper finally start to creep out of wherever it had been hiding but not enough to overwhelm the smoke.
I totally enjoyed this cigar, lots of full flavors with a medium to full strength. What impressed me was the smoothness of the flavors and the coolness of the smoke. This is definitely a new offering you should try and I’m sure you will be impressed with this new take on an old concept.
Steve Mungeer, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Category Manager: Premium Cigars and Craft Beer and Certified Retail Tobacconist
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