It’s not often that I smoke a CAO cigar, but every time I do, it’s always a memorable experience that etches itself into my mind. Today, I picked up a stick from one of CAO’s hit series — the CAO Pilon Robusto Extra. The brand’s master blenders Agustin Garcia and Rick Rodriguez, used a traditional Cuban method of pilon fermentation which their website claims to give their blends “deep, rich colors and unprecedented depth of flavor” — something that as a cigar enthusiast who constantly seeks exciting smoking experiences, I simply can’t pass on.

The brand has long experimented and — it’s fair to say — perfected the classic pilon fermentation. Unsurprisingly, the CAO Pilon was hailed “Cigar of the Year” by the celebrated international cigar magazine L’Amateur de Cigare, topping more than 400 of the finest cigars available in France.

Wrapper Origin: EcuadorShape: Robusto
Length: 5Ring: 52
Color: HabanoList Price: $155.80 (Bundle of 20)
Origin: NicaraguaStrength: Full

Pull of Cigar

The CAO Pilon Robusto Extra is a solidly built cigar. It wears an oily brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper that shimmers and glistens even when it’s not under a bright light. Underneath, an aged amalgam of premium Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos rest. The cigar has a consistent packed feel but is rather light as I held it. Its length sports hidden seams and a very delicate veining in the bottom half. A simple but classy white band with a “CAO Pilon” etching completes the presentation. I must tip my hat to the brand’s blending team for pulling this off. A medium-bodied cigar that flaunts so much potential from the get-go that it makes me want to start puffing right away.

The Habano wrapper on this Robusto gives off a wonderful mélange of earthy and woodsy aroma while the cigar’s foot carries sweet and floral notes of cocoa beans. I cut the cap clean using my double-bladed cutter and got a good draw. The aromatic notes of wood, earth, and chocolate translate into the pre-light draw accompanied by a subtle hint of pepper spice. The pull of this CAO Pilon Robusto Extra was tight in the cold draw, but it gradually rewarded me with a more unrestricted draw as I progressed through the cigar.


As soon as my CAO Pilon Robusto Extra is fired up, the flavor profile opens up with a mouthful of full-flavored smoke, with a spicy element of black pepper catching me off guard. The introductory profile consists of vanilla, rich woodsy notes, and a sweet component of aged tobacco, along with a tinge of cedar. A quarter inch in, the pepper spice shifts down a gear or two allowing the flavor profile to swim in sweetness.

The biggest surprise for me with this cigar was finding a good amount of sweetness in the blend — a lovely fusion of sweet tobacco and a slightly sweet note of fermented cocoa beans. I paired this Robusto with a latte which brought its own amount of creaminess to the party. I couldn’t have picked a better pairing, as the medium-bodied nature of the CAO Pilon Robusto Extra made the perfect match with the richness of the milky coffee.

The flavors are still pounding as I transition into the second third. A new tart punch of green grapes has arrived on the scene, while the cocoa note morphed into more of a sweet lingering aftertaste. A faint spice of black pepper is popping in every so often as wood and cedar notes faded more into the background. Meanwhile, the black pepper spice is sharp through the retrohale, while the palate is dominated by a combination of bitter tobacco and sweet cocoa. Subtle hints of molasses, ginger, earth, and warm spices sneak in the profile, giving a flavor similar to freshly baked gingerbread with a rich aroma and taste.

The CAO Pilon Robusto Extra is also a slow burner. That makes me happy — it’s a perfect pick for a smoke enjoyed leisurely with a good book or shared with a good chat among friends during a slow day. The cigar continues to unfurl more and more character as I begin to sense an increase in strength. The white smoke is rich and billowy, filling the room with a delicious aroma. I wasn’t expecting miracles when I lit this Robusto, but can I just say, this is a stunningly good cigar blend.

Transitioning into the final third, the strength of the cigar ramped up to full-bodied. The CAO Pilon Robusto Extra had a resurgence of cedar and pepper spice, while the notes of grapes and gingerbread diminished in equal measure. The flavors are all melding together as sweet and savory on the palate. As the CAO Pilon Robusto Extra neared its finale, a smoky cedar note re-enters the mix along with a pleasant sliver of earthy tobacco. The cigar started to heat up a little, telling me to smoke it slower and relish the experience.

The blend settles into a smooth ride and steers clear from any dramatic shift as I take my final puffs. The blend is now savory, sweet, and balanced. A few bursts of heat and subtle spice tease the palate into a well-rounded finish, leaving a lingering light pepper on my tongue.


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For the most part, the CAO Pilon Robusto Extra had an even burn line and only required a single re-light as I neared the nub. The balance was impeccable, and the transition of flavors couldn’t be any smoother. Its light gray ash was a bit flaky but held firm for more than an inch. Overall, this Robusto is a great value — an excellent cigar for a reasonable price tag and an enjoyably sumptuous flavor profile. I took this cigar down to the nub and will certainly purchase more to smoke. I give this a 90-point rating.

Other Cigars Reviews

Other CAO Cigar Reviews

CAO Gold Maduro Corona Gorda

CAO Gold Maduro is the result when you get one of the best-selling cigars in the market and have it wrapped in the best Maduro wrapper. It features the Nicaraguan long-filler tobacco blend that CAO cigars are known for. CAO Gold Maduro cigars offer an outstanding creamy smoke added with the tastes of cocoa and nuts and the aromas of earth and wood, resulting in a complex flavor profile cigar. This cigar is great for a smooth Maduro experience or a cigar lover who is looking for a milder yet flavorful cigar experience.

CAO Signature Series Robusto Extra

The CAO Gold Signature Series is a testament to CAO’s renowned reputation, enhancing the beloved mild-medium body of the original CAO Gold with richer, more nuanced flavors, thanks to its aging process. This series strikes an impressive harmony between taste, excellence, and cost-effectiveness, appealing to both novices and aficionados who appreciate superior classics at reasonable prices. This evolution marks the blend as a go-to option for a diverse range of cigar enthusiasts, prompting a review of CAO Signature Series Robusto Extra for those seeking a mature yet accessible smoking experience.

Other Nicaraguan Cigar Reviews

Liga Undercrown Maduro Gran Toro

Born from a spontaneous decision by Drew Estate rollers, the Liga Undercrown Maduro Gran Toro emerged as an innovative solution to supply issues preventing these artisans from enjoying their beloved Liga Privada. This cigar, meticulously crafted in Nicaragua and sheathed in a Mexican San Andres wrapper, offers a rich tapestry of flavors, evolving from initial notes of cocoa and cedar to a robust blend of earthy undertones, dark cocoa, and subtle spiciness, all underpinned by consistent sweetness and a creamy texture. Its complexity is matched by its aesthetics, with an elegantly simple box, a delicate royal blue and gold band, and an oily, veiny wrapper that speaks to its quality. The smoking experience is equally commendable due to the cigar’s solid construction, straight burn, and consistent flavors, making it a worthwhile investment for enthusiasts seeking a full-bodied, intricate smoke. This comprehensive review of Liga Undercrown Maduro Gran Toro underscores its value, complexity, and the inspired craftsmanship behind it.

Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Robusto Grande

The Joya de Nicaragua brand, once favored by US presidents for its distinct Nicaraguan puro flavor, underwent a significant revival in 2002 with the introduction of the Antaño 1970, a nod to the brand’s heyday before the country’s political turmoil. The Antaño 1970 Robusto Grande, meticulously aged and cured, has consistently earned high ratings for its rich, complex flavors that evolve throughout the smoking experience, featuring notes of cocoa, spice, dried cherry, and more. This full-bodied cigar, not recommended for novices due to its intensity, has been praised for its construction, burn, affordable price point, and particularly its nostalgic connection to the brand’s esteemed past. Connoisseurs and veterans alike acknowledge the cigar’s sophisticated profile, underscoring its standing as a vintage classic that continues to mature gracefully, which is aptly reflected in this comprehensive review of Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Robusto Grande.

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