Country of origin: Nicaragua
Length: 5 1/2"
Ring gauge: 54
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Back on August 26, 2013, Smokeasy posted the press release from General Cigar Company announcing CAO Cigars launch of their new line, the Flathead (see Smokeasy Noteworthy News - CAO Going Full-Throttle in September!). In my opinion, CAO has always done a great job with their marketing, with some pretty cool themes for the cigar lines in their portfolio. The theme for this particular line, based on conversations with people attending various CAO events - cigars, cars, and girls - inspired the retro muscle car engine look and feel with the packaging, labeling, and the collectible pin-up girl flysheet included with each box. Now, I am not a "muscle car" type of guy, nor does this particular theme fancy me at all; however, upon receiving five samples of the Flathead V554 Camshaft, I will admit that I was quite impressed and couldn't wait to smoke them.
The Flathead V554 Camshaft is an absolutely beautiful cigar. You all know that part of my smoking ritual is to take my time to observe the aesthetics of the cigar prior to cutting and lighting - but THIS beauty causes me to prolong the process further. And you all know how I love box-pressed cigars. But this box-pressed cigar has an incredible head that is perfectly flat - never seen this before, quite sure you haven't either - and the head is double-capped. The wrapper, which has a slight oily sheen, is a rustic very dark brown maduro (close to oscuro) color with small veins and barely visible seams. The cigar is pretty firm and lacks suppleness. It feels quite dense and appears to be densely packed based on how the tobacco appears at the foot. The cigar has a large black band with silver lines, embossed with "CAO Flathead 554" in a retro 1950s font style.
The aroma from the wrapper was bold and leathery, but also gave hints of dark chocolate. The aroma from the foot was equally bold and quite earthy, but also had a sweetness to it. The press release describes the cigar box as having a lid that easily removed - but the cap of this cigar is much like a lid itself. The flat cap cuts away very easily with a guillotine cutter and is much like removing a lid, under which is the second cap around the shoulder. You may find that this second cap may slip off as a perfect ring once the head becomes wet upon smoking; however, this will not compromise the integrity of the wrapper at all. This is a very well constructed cigar. But because of the flat head, you may wish to consider using a punch cut.
Cold draw was pretty easy and provided some sweet earthiness, as expected from the aroma. The cigar lights very easily and burns pretty evenly with long, firm ash production. No re-lights or touch-ups have been required with each cigar smoked.
The V554 Camshaft is a medium-bodied cigar with medium strength. The first and second thirds of the smoke were consistent in terms of flavor - laced with very rich coffee and dark cocoa flavors. There is a nice subtle caramel-like sweetness underlying the primary coffee and cocoa flavor, along with a nice spiciness that lingers on the tongue and back of throat throughout the entire smoke. The sweetness and spiciness are much better appreciated on retrohale. The flavors seemed to become increasingly more robust, but the coffee and cocoa flavors diminish during the final third and the smoke smooths out a bit and becomes very earthy. The sweetness becomes much less caramel-like and more sweet fruity or raisin-like through the finish. I've smoked each cigar down to about a half-inch nub, and walked away from the smoke with a nice leathery aftertaste that stays on the palate for a good while. This is a great slow-burning smoke - total burn time averages 1 1/2 hours.
The other vitolas of the CAO Flathead line include:
V642 Piston (6 1/2" x 42) - blue/silver label
V660 Carb (6" x 60) - red/silver label
V770 Big Block (7" x 70) - orange/ilver label
My favorites of the extensive CAO portfolio were Brazilia and La Traviata; however, the Flathead has now clearly taken first position. This is quite an enjoyable smoke. I'm looking forward to seeing this line on the shelves and eager to hear the feedback from others on this stick.
★★★★ Very Good