La Traviata by CAO

La Traviata is the Top 25 cigar that didn’t make the cut. So many people noticed that this cigar wasn’t on Cigar Aficionado’s “best of” roster for 2009 that it was thought to be an oversight. The objections were so widespread that CA issued an explanation: the new CAO blend was released too late in the year to be eligible for inclusion in their list. This is how you get attention by being overlooked.

So it’s safe to say that a whole lot of people have been digging this cigar. I finally found a couple boxes at the tribal smoke shop and grabbed a handful for “analysis.”

La Traviata is an old Cuban brand name and an even older Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The opera tells the tragic tale of a consumptive courtesan (la traviata literally means a “strayed woman”) who falls in love, with somewhat predictable consequences.  The first production of the opera was a failure in part because the woman playing the courtesan was hardly consumptive — she was in fact obese — and a close examination of the woman on an old box of Cuban La Traviata reveals a similar misconception. It would appear that the cigar and the opera share little aside from the name.

But the folks at CAO wanted to “harken back” to the era of pre-nationalization Cuba with this blend, so the name fits. On the other hand, I’m a little skeptical that it’s possible to replicate the flavor profile of a late 19th century cigar. (Maybe they have some seriously aged cigar blenders swimming in the factory’s Cocoon pool.)

The cigar features an oily Ecuadorian Habano leaf wrapped around a Cameroon binder and filler comprised of ligero from both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The blend was released late last year in three parejo sizes, and two more have just been announced: a corona gorda and the first figurado for the line, a petite belicoso.

  • Divino – 5 x 50
  • Radiante – 6 x 52
  • Intrepido – 7 x 54
  • Animado – 5 5/8 x 46
  • Favorito – 5 1/2 x 52  (belicoso)

For this review I smoked the robusto-sized Divino, with samples drawn from two different boxes.

Construction Notes

The wrappers on these sticks are thick and oily, though the texture seems to vary from smooth to quite grainy. The color is a very dark colorado maduro, or perhaps even straight maduro. Veins are prominent but not unsightly, and the head is a little irregular but solid. The cap is pasted on, not wound, but shears away nicely.

The roll is rock solid to the touch but the draw is excellent. The ash is solid and the burn is even. All this cigar lacks is the perfect Cuban-style triple cap. Other than that, there’s really nothing to complain about here.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

A hard woody flavor combined with a peppery overtone opens this cigar. The smoke is smooth, but a tad tannic on the palate. The sweet spicy aroma reminds me a little of hickory, similar to what I find in Illusione Original Document and other cigars that utilize Aganorsa Nicaraguan tobaccos. The flavor here is not quite as clean as that, but it’s bright and tasty.

The tannins even out in the middle section but never disappear entirely. The foundation flavor remains woody, at times veering to leather. Light caramel-coffee flavors and notes of malt show up in the aroma.

Up to this point I found little to substantiate the Cubanesque aspirations of La Traviata, but in the last third I did find a fleeting muskiness reminiscent of cuban cigars. It didn’t last long, but for those last few puffs about half an inch from the band I could have been fooled. Unfortunately the flavor becomes a little dirty after this point, somewhat carbonized and burnt tasting, but this is after a very eventful three quarters.

Conclusion

Now I understand what the rumpus is all about. This is a dandy smoke. La Traviata is medium to full in body with a rich and complex woody flavor that finishes up with leather and a momentary glimpse of the forbidden isle. All of the cigars I’ve smoked from this line have had rock solid construction and burn beautifully.

But wait! There’s more! CAO has set the price point for La Traviata alluringly low, right around 5 USD per stick for the Divino. I can think of many cigars in the 10 dollar range that pale by comparison to this smoke.  This could be the best buy of the year, and for what it’s worth, I think it’s the best blend CAO is making right now.

Final Score: 90

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12 thoughts on “La Traviata by CAO

    • The only CAO I smoke with any regularity is the Brazilia. Their other lines are okay, but none of them really stand out for me. Until now, of course. I think you’ll like this one. I’ll look forward to your review at Cigarpalace!

  1. I think you nailed it. This is a good smoke and the price tage boosts it up to terrific. Like you, I’ve never been a big CAO fan because, while I find several of their lines enjoyable, I’m usually disappointed by a lack of consistency. I’ve got my fingers crossed they can keep pumping out La Traviata with the same quality. I wouldn’t want to end up with the TB Blues!

  2. Spot on review of this cigar. The key to its future success is whether all of the other sizes live up to yummy taste profile of the Divino. This is the problem that has faced the Alec Bradley Tempus. The CA rated [94] AB Tempus Centuria deserved its high rating but the other Tempus sizes have not been nearly as good(with the exception of the excellent AB Tempus Magistri “Maduro”.

    I let my Divino’s sit in the humi for about three weeks after purchase before I fired up a couple. Cannot attest to the taste of one lit up right after purchase, but again, mine were yummy when I did finally get around to lighting one up. Also the gorgeous color of the wrapper really complements the very nice color scheme and design of the band.

    Also, you are 150% correct on the CAO Brazilia. A very unique yet delicious taste profile vitola.

    • Thanks for your comments — I’ve only smoked one other size, the Radiante, and it seemed pretty similar. But the Divino is getting a ton of attention, so maybe this one truly is the Line King.

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