Smoking New Cigars with Tim Ozgener

Tim Ozgener came by the Cigar Aficionado offices the other day with a few new C.A.O. La Traviata cigars in tow. Tim is the president of C.A.O. International Inc., headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, and La Traviata is his company’s latest brand.

C.A.O. released La Traviata late last year, with a trio of sizes. The brand came on the cigar scene with a bang when the robusto size (called the Divino) scored 93 points in a blind taste test in a November Cigar Insider. That was one of the higher scores of 2009, but the cigar came out too late to be considered for last year’s Top 25 ranking. (It will be a candidate for the 2010 list.) The Divino is a great smoke, meaty and spicy, with notes of nuts and dark chocolate. And the suggested retail price is only $4.95. What’s not to like?

Tim and the C.A.O. team have added two sizes to brand. The first, which just came to market, is a corona gorda (or Cuban corona) called the Animado, which measures 5 5/8 inches long by 46 ring gauge, and has a suggested retail price of $4.95. The second is a petit belicoso called the Favorito, measuring 5 1/2 by 52, which will be out in May with a $5.65 pricetag. Here’s Tim on video explaining the new sizes and the philosophy behind the La Traviata brand.

C.A.O. has been around for more than 40 years, and it’s been making cigars in earnest since the early 1990s. I think La Traviata is its best blend ever.  With the new sizes, I enjoyed both, but preferred the Favorito, which is sweet, nutty and very smokeable. It tastes more like the Divino than the Animado does.