CAO cigars are on the frontline of cigar innovation and what they are producing sits among the most premium handmade cigars. The name itself is the initials of its founder, Cano Art Ozgener. Cano (pronounced John-no) did not originally plan on entering the cigar business but we’re grateful he did.

Cano came to America from Istanbul, Turkey to study engineering. Cano graduated from Columbia University in 1964 with a professional degree in mechanical engineering. During his last two years of graduate school, he worked under Professor Theodore Baumeister who shared with him a love for cigars and tobacco pipes.

Cano started his engineering career with DuPont in North Carolina. As a hobby, he fixed up a few defective Turkish meerschaum pipes using his engineering skills. Cano sold some and eventually picked up the interest of veteran tobacconists Bill Fader and Bill Martin who were involved with Retail Tobacco Dealers of America, now known as the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers association.

From there CAO was formed in 1968. Cano continued to work as an engineer with DuPont for nine years until finally devoting all his efforts to CAO.

The tobacco industry was slow in the 80’s but in the early 90’s the cigar business was booming. Cano decided to redirect focus and began crafting humidors in 1992 with local artisans from Nashville, Tennessee. A year later cigars were added to the line up.

Cano knew he needed help producing a cigar line. So he called upon Nestor Plasencia, in Honduras, and Carlos Toraño, in Nicaragua. They worked together to develop the blend for the original Honduran blend. A key factor in their process was listening to the feedback of Cano’s “young Turks”, blend testers between 25 to 40 years old.

CAO Cigars is known for their innovation. They were among one of the first cigar brands to focus on a Honduran filler blend. CAO was also the first to feature tobacco from Brazil and Italy in their sticks, such as the Cao Brazilia cigars and CAO Italia cigars.

Another outlying characteristic of CAO was its marketing. Originally they were a marketing company, meaning they did not own the production of their cigars. They often face controversy because their advertising tends to be unconventional.

The business model changed a bit in 2003. CAO acquired two factories one in Esteli, Nicaragua, and the other in Danli, Honduras. Both locations worked in partnership with the Toraño family.

The company had become a family affair. Cano’s children Aylin and Tim, a former comedian, joined the operation as Vice Presidents. Even today, when a position opens in the factory they are offered to family members of current employees first.

In 2010, General Cigar Company and CAO underwent a merger. Now the face of CAO is a master blender, Rick Rodriguez.

Rick maintains the brand’s innovative spirit with his Flathead line. He was inspired by muscle cars and found a new way of rolling to mimic their essence. Rick also continues to rely heavily on fan-based feedback to create cigars aficionados want to enjoy.

CAO is a high scoring brand among various cigar publications. They are consistently seen on Cigar Aficionado’s “Top 25”. Despite multiple additions yearly they continue to earn strong marks for excellence.

One of their finest achievements was the CAO Flathead V660 Carb. Scoring a near flawless 95 point rating and reaching the number three spot for 2015’s Top 25. Noted for its rising intensity and molasses, buttery leather, and ripened fruit. All thanks to its wonderful filler tobacco from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

While that’s one of the most recent CAO cigars to make the famous Top 25, it is definitely not the first. It will definitely not be the last stick from CAO to make the Top 25. CAO has a long history of 90+ rated smokes. The CAO La Traviata Divino was awarded a 93 point rating and reached the number fifteen spot for 2015’s Top 25.

While the La Traviata Divino is more medium bodied than most CAO cigars, it’s no less satisfying. As reviewers described it as a meaty smoke. Packed with the heartfelt taste of spice, dark chocolate, and mixed nuts.

Ever since its introduction, smokers have looked forward to the release of the CAO Vision. A special edition blend usually released annually, the CAO Vision is a massive crowd pleaser. The CAO Vision Prana even managed to make the number nine spot for 2007.

Since then its been a cause for celebration whenever a new CAO Vision blend makes it to market. One of the highlights is how recent releases have come with their own specially designed humidor. Each features a futuristic aesthetic that makes it a wonderful conversation piece.

CAO has paved their own way up to the top with a story quite unlike any other. They have a unique take on the industry and cater to tastes on both ends of the spectrum. If you’re looking for something a bit uncommon pick up a first-rate CAO cigar.


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