This week we asked our Facebook fans which cigar we should review, and CAO’s new Amazon Basin was the people’s pick by a landslide. The Amazon Basin is made using a rare tobacco known as “Braganca,” from a remote region in the Amazon Rainforest that is harvested only once every three years. These special leaves, along with a Nicaraguan-heavy blend of other tobaccos, are combined with an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper and finished off with a twist of tobacco leaf that serves as the band for this unique offering. Only 2000 boxes of this small-batch cigar were produced in a single 6 x 52 vitola, and we were fortunate enough to receive some pre-release samples that have been resting in our humidor for a few weeks awaiting review.
The Amazon Basin would stand out in any cigar line-up, thanks to its rustic-looking tobacco leaf band that looks more like something whipped up by South American natives than one of the industry’s leading cigar brands. Beneath the clever band the A.B.’s oily and textured wrapper leaf looked very appetizing. After clipping the cap, pre-light draws produced a taste of creamy cocoa and light, woody spice.
The cigar lit up to flavors of unsweetened cocoa and a dry earthiness with just a pinch of spice on the finish. After a few puffs the burn was off to a slightly crooked start, but the draw was ample and smoke production was excellent. Flavors were full, yet relaxed during this portion, and after the first inch or so a malty sweetness crept into the profile, along with a tasty baking spice component.
As I burned into the 2nd third the Amazon began to hit its stride as my palate was met with a layered taste of cocoa, cream, earth, and nutmeg-like baking spice. The burn issue from the first third had corrected itself for the most part, and I gradually started to pick up hints of burnt caramel and anise. This was slowly becoming a much more complex smoke than its initial taste had indicated. A bit further in a dominant and vivid dark chocolate note appeared, as well as new elements of white and black pepper. It was at this point that I really started digging this cigar.
Since I was smoking this Amazonian beast on an empty stomach, I found myself feeling a little woozy as I puffed into the final third. Not woozy enough to make me stop smoking, mind you, this stick was just tasting too damn good to put down. Instead I chose to slow down a bit and continue to soak up the groovy range of flavors this cigar was piping out through a cool and generous draw. This portion introduced more creaminess, less spice, and kept the flavor kicks coming with dashes of sweetness, anise, and rich and dark tobacco flavor. I wanted to test out the functionality of the tobacco band, so I opted to keep on smoking right through it. To my surprise, the stick continued to burn like a champ and the band-leaf added a bold new level of rich and spicy earth; an appropriate finale for this hearty smoke.
The CAO Amazon Basin held some definite sweet spots for me in terms of flavor, particularly in the second third when the dark chocolate/pepper vibe was in full swing. Aside from a minor burn issue that straightened out quickly in the very beginning, this stick really gave me no lip in the performance area. Both burn and draw were right on point for the majority of the smoke. I have to say that the black coffee I was sipping during the review turned out to be a perfect match for the deep and varied flavors of the Amazon, and I would definitely recommend that particular pairing. If you have enjoyed CAO’s more recent med-full bodied releases like the Concert and Flathead as I have, it’s safe to say you will like the Amazon Basin as well. Today I give it an A grade and I’m looking forward to smoking it again soon. It’s really a shame that only 2000 boxes of these darkly delicious treats were made. Maybe if we’re lucky the guys at CAO will return to the rainforest to bring us the Amazon Basin 2015 next year.