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A Modern Cigar from Pre-Columbian Tradition


By: Lindsay Heller

I think it goes without saying that the brand name CAO is one that’s instantly recognizable regardless of how many cigars you’ve enjoyed within your lifetime. Some of you may remember that nearly 30 years ago, CAO was predominately a pipe and tobacco company, and that their initial foray into premium cigars didn’t make much of a splash, but since then? There’s no denying how much CAO has grown, and it’s even more incredible when you take a look at how large and varied the company portfolio has become without sacrificing quality.

Released this spring, the Mortal Coil is part of CAO’s Arcana Series, which sets out to “uncover the rarest tobacco forms and techniques from all corners of the world,” according to its packaging. When one considers the meaning of the Latin word arcana — denoting secrets or mysteries — the concept begins to make a lot more sense. For the Mortal Coil blend, however, it just so happened that in the Dominican Republic, CAO’s blending team uncovered a secret that had basically been lost to time, but thankfully not forgotten: andullo.

Andullo is the oldest method for processing tobacco in the Dominican, and its creation is attributed to the native peoples of what was once Hispaniola. Although not commonplace today, instead of placing the leaves in traditionally large piles (or pilones), the andullo tobacco is coiled together in long rolls called yaguas protected by palm tree pods. These pods are then bound tightly, anchored to the ground, and undergo five different pressings to allow for a homogenous fermentation completely devoid of heat. Due to the amount of natural oils exuded by the tobacco, after the fifth and final pressing, the leaves must be left to age until they dry up. If you wonder why the andullo method has survived for centuries despite its time-consuming nature, the answer is simple: this fermentation process imparts incredible properties to tobacco, namely strength, a heady aroma, and with this CAO blend, a unique sweetness.

Although my aforementioned explanation of andullo was a bit simplified, it does help denote why the Arcana Mortal Coil was made in a single vitola, and is a limited-edition blend. (Only 5,000 boxes of 20 were produced, and all were allocated to select vendors.) You’ll find the andullo within the long-filler recipe amongst Honduran leaves from the Jamastran Valley, Nicaraguan tobacco from Estelí, and Dominican Piloto Cubano. The tri-country interior gets bound by Connecticut Shade, and finished with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, resulting in notes of chocolate, earth, wood, black pepper, and molasses in a medium to full-bodied package.

The trajectory of CAO’s blends since the “cigar boom” of the mid-1990s often exuded a desire to be innovative and unique, so it’s even more intriguing to see this storied brand look to the past to be able to accomplish that task with the new Arcana Mortal Coil.

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