Brand: CAO Country: Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic
Size: 6 ½ x 60 Wrapper: Habano Grueso
The Label Factor:
As far as I can tell, the only difference between the Carnivale and the original Brazilia is the additional of the yellow and green band on the foot, which reads, “Carnivale.” I’ve always been a fan of the CAO flag labels and the addition of a secondary band only enhances the appeal. A fine looking cigar, to be sure.
What We Liked:
I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s difficult for me to notice the subtle flavor differences between vitolas in cigars. For that reason, I don’t review a cigar by it’s vitola unless there is a good reason. Enter the CAO Brazilia Carnivale. I’ve talked about the CAO Brazilia being my “gateway cigar” in the past, so when I heard there was a new size on the horizon AND it included a tweaked blend, I was all-in.
What’s different about it? Well, according to CAO’s Rick Rodriguez:
“We haven’t changed any CAO blends since we took over the brand. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t put our spin on one of them. That’s exactly what we did with Carnivale…it’s my and my team’s take on Brazilia. We added a new wrapper, made the original wrapper the binder, and cranked the whole thing up with more ligero.”
Having read that quote, along with the fact the Brazilia Carnivale is only available in a 60 ring gauge, I was expecting a very powerful stick. I was pleasantly surprised to find a full flavored cigar but did not find the strength to be overpowering.
The Carnivale is all about first impressions. The wrapper is beautiful with a just a few noticeable veins throughout. Immediately after taking the first few puffs, I was welcomed with a strong chocolate flavor with a slight bitterness balancing it out. For such a hulking stick, I wasn’t expecting this kind of sweetness. It’s like when you work retail in high school and a big dude with tons of tattoos comes into the store; you expect trouble, except people with tattoos are the nicest people, so everything works out better than expected. Not that I have ever had that experience. Got a little off topic there. The chocolate sweetness continues for the first inch or so and makes for a delicious introduction.
Further in, the cocoa notes become more subtle and make way for a smooth pepper and spice. The sweetness never goes away and you can expect the remaining stick to maintain a delicious balance of spice and sweetness with a little coffee around the halfway point as well. All of the flavors mesh well for a full-bodied and flavorful stick.
What We Didn’t Like:
The first thing I noticed when I picked the Brazilia Carnivale up at my local shop was the size. It is a behemoth. This seems to be a new trend in the industry; making larger ring gauges and bigger cigars. If you are short on time, don’t even think about picking up the Carnivale. I can’t say that I am personally a fan.
Unfortunately, the size isn’t my only problem, but it may be related to my other concern; my burn was a nightmare. I know the pictures don’t show it but that’s because I touched up before taking them. Just like a model in a photo shoot, a little makeup was required to get the ideal shot. At least four or five times throughout the nearly two hour smoke, I found myself needing to apply more mascara in the form of a flame.
Should You Try/Buy It:
Definitely. I consider the original Brazilia to be a gateway cigar for the simple fact that it’s flavors are good but very mild. The Carnivale ramps things up a bit and falls more in line with what I am looking for now. The problems I had may or may not be issues for you. There is no doubt in my mind this is a better cigar than the original. If CAO made it in a more manageable size, I would be far more inclined to pick these up on a regular basis. Regardless, I think CAO has a winner on their hands.