Smoke: My Blue Heaven
Cigar smoking is an inherently low-tech activity. The product itself has barely changed in a century; it still comprises only a roll of leaves and a tiny smear of glue, and it is made with the simplest of tools. Just as Harley-Davidson enthusiasts embrace the decades-old design touches in their machines, smokers revel in the simplicity of their pastime. Some may be rattled, then, to hear CAO International president Tim Ozgener digress into a discussion about the technology behind the Vision, his company’s latest cigar.
“People are on the go; they want the latest laptop or BlackBerry that will perform lots of functions for them,” he says. “We wanted the packaging for the Vision to have that same all-in-one concept.”
The glossy white finish of the Vision’s box attracts attention even at a distance, especially in a humidor filled with workaday cedar cigar boxes. A closer inspection reveals a digital hygrometer, or humidity meter, on the front of the box. The hygrometer allows you to monitor the air inside, to see that it remains at the 68 to 70 percent humidity level that keeps cigars in prime condition.
Lift the lid, though, and you discover the Vision box’s most arresting feature: Blue LED lights illuminate the perimeters and lid of the box and a CAO logo on the inside of the lid. “We intended our customers to use the box as a travel humidor,” Ozgener explains. “With the lights, you can see the cigars when you open the box, even if you’re in a dark area.”
CAO calls the Vision’s humidor the Sensi-Box, because, says Ozgener, “it’s sensitive to the needs of the cigars. There’s a flat chamber under the cigars that holds a device called a Humidipak. The Humidipak looks something like a ketchup pack that you’d get with a hamburger. It contains a liquid that can add humidity to the box or take it away.”
Ozgener says the Humidipak regulates the humidity within the box to 68 to 70 percent, a level he predicts the device will be able to maintain for about three months. “When it becomes stiff, it’s time to get a new one,” he says. (Replacement Humidipaks will be available at retail tobacconists.)
The Vision’s ostentatious packaging contrasts sharply with the cigar inside, which is easily the most refined CAO we have sampled. The smoke’s subtle, complex flavor comes from extended aging in an exceptionally fragrant Spanish cedar room—and from its Dominican heritage. The Vision is the first Dominican-made cigar from the 38-year-old company, which sources most of its products from Honduras and Nicaragua, countries known for more powerful, if less refined, cigars than those from the Dominican Republic. “A lot of our customers were asking for a Dominican CAO cigar,” Ozgener says. “We had been receiving samples made to our specifications for six or seven years, but we hadn’t been able to get the balance of sweetness and power that we wanted.”
The Vision finally came to fruition when CAO discovered a Cuban-seed Dominican wrapper grown on the La Atravezada farm in Navarrete, a region Ozgener says produces only a small amount of tobacco. Combining the wrapper with Brazilian, Nicaraguan, and Dominican filler tobaccos and a Dominican binder yielded the meaty, mouth-filling experience the company sought. Ozgener describes the flavor as “like a multilayered cake—it has a lot of substance, but there’s also a nice, sweet spice to it, with a nutty flavor, too. And there’s a trace of white pepper in the nose.”
CAO plans to release shipments of the Vision only a few times a year. The cigar is available in three sizes—a 5 x 50 Catalyst, a 6 x 50 Epiphany, and a torpedo-shaped 6 ¼ x 52 Prana—at prices ranging from $240 to $320 for each box of 20. CAO uses the same container for all sizes; spacers inside the box adapt it to each type of cigar. A neoprene travel bag that protects against scratches accompanies every Vision box.
How long will the Vision’s box continue to illuminate its contents? “That depends on how long you leave it open,” Ozgener laughs. But Vision owners who want to show off their acquisition need not worry: The six AA batteries that power the lights can be replaced easily.