Cigar Aficionado

The Ultimate Personal Humidor?

I’m jealous. I recently visited what has to be the ultimate home humidor.

Recently I flew to Nashville, Tennessee, to meet with the principals of C.A.O. International Inc. Nashville is a great place, lush and green, full of trees, with a hip downtown powered by the city’s music business. But it’s not the typical place where you would find a cigar company.

C.A.O. is the only cigar company in Nashville, and it’s there because of a woman, Esen Ozgener, the wife of C.A.O. founder Cano (pronounced Johnno) Ozgener. Cano graduated from Columbia University as an engineering major, and he fell in love with New York. But he also fell in love with Esen. “When you follow a woman in life, many strange things happen to you,” Cano told me once for a story I did on C.A.O. “She wanted to raise her family in a quiet place.”

They found their quiet place in Nashville, Tennessee, and 40 years ago Cano founded C.A.O. The company is still headquartered in Nashville, and today it’s a major player in the cigar world. Cano has sold his interest in the company, and he is no longer part of the day-to-day operations at the company, but he’s still deeply in love with the cigar business, and with cigars themselves.

After spending a few hours with Cano’s son Tim, who is president of the company, and chairman Gary Hyams and senior VP of marketing Mike Conder, we met up at Cano’s lovely home for some pre-dinner wine and cheese. Cano opened some great old bottles of Bordeaux and then showed me his incredible cigar room. Check out the video.

I can’t imagine a cigar smoker who doesn’t want a room like that! More than 100,000 cigars, artfully displayed and perfectly humidified. (Cano channeled his engineering background with the huge humidification system, which is tastefully hidden behind a semi-concealed door.) The floor is tiled, and the fact that the room is at basement level helps keep it nice and cool.

If my wife is reading this blog, take note: I want a room like this for my next birthday!

"I Bryan Riddle in southern california was amazed by the humidor i am looking to build one of my own in my house. Probably not to the extent of your but have a good amout of CAO cigars. I am also looking forward to creating my own lable if there are any pointers or any advise please respond i have been a advid cigar smoker for about 7 years and fell in love wiyth your company as well as others and as u felt u had to share your cigars with the world i want to create a world renoun cigar to share another wonderfull experience with many people and many generations to come thank you bryan" —June 24, 2008 16:25 PM
"Awesome...David I want your job." —June 24, 2008 23:52 PM
"Bryan, you've described two ambitious projects. Building a home humidor like Cano's is quite the project. Making your own cigar brand? Even tougher, but it can be done. For basic advice, focus on making a quality product, figure out a way to market it and ensure that it's consistent. And don't give up--CAO has been around for 40 years. Success rarely happens overnight." —June 24, 2008 21:39 PM
"I would absolutely love to see the blueprints/plans for such a room! The technical details, such as the humidification and lighting systems, would make a fascinating article. I now have a new "module" for my dream home!" —June 25, 2008 10:42 AM