Tonight’s Tasting: CAO Sopranos Edition and Budweiser Black Crown

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Choosing the cigar for tonight’s tasting was a no-brainer. I reached into the humidor to see what I could find and spied a CAO Sopranos Edition. Given the recent death of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), I had no choice but to select this stick as my small tribute. As to the beer, well, let’s talk about the beer.

Budweiser Black Crown

The things I do for you. I really took a bullet on this one.

I was intrigued before Budweiser released Black Crown, by what had to be the stupidest ad campaign ever created. Before any details of the beer were released, Budweiser had billboards proclaiming: “taste arrives on October 15.” I’m making up the date, because I don’t remember what it was, but the obvious message was that previously, Budweiser had never offered taste.

Not being one who is up-to-date on what Budweiser has to offer, the next time I was in a store after the big release date, I picked up a bottle of Budweiser Platinum, thinking that was the great new beer. Doing a little research, I determined that Platinum was not the great, new Budweiser. (Incidentally, just to show I’m not an automatic Budweiser hater, Platinum actually isn’t too bad. It’s pretty much like drinking water, but it’s tasty water, and doesn’t invoke the gag reflex of traditional Budweiser.)

Having figured out that the new beer is Black Crown, I picked up a single bottle at my local store this week and committed to reviewing it, even though Budweiser almost always gives me a screaming headache. I went into this with a completely open mind. Indeed, with the major breweries wanting to be perceived as craft breweries, I anticipated that this might actually be a decent beer since Budweiser was claiming it is its “crown” achievement.

I was so wrong. It tastes just like a Budweiser, with a little less carbonation and with perhaps a touch more hops. I can almost see the executives at Budweiser holding a meeting. “Everyone seems to be going crazy over these IPAs, let’s add some hops to our Budweiser.”

I remember in my college drinking days, Budweiser was usually the beer of choice, but a discriminating beer party host would serve Coors. If you wanted to really impress your guests, you would serve Michelob or perhaps even Heineken. I think that is what Budweiser is going for with its Black Crown. The party host will still be serving Budweiser to keep all the Budweiser drinkers happy, but it will be the perceived high-end Budweiser. Really bad stuff. I give it a 15 on the Morris Scale. Here is how Budweiser describes its Black Crown:

Just as the outfit makes the man, the ingredients of Black Crown are at its heart. Black Crown is a golden amber lager brewed with toasted caramel malt, a variety of American hops, and finished over beechwood to ensure that it is as distinctive as the people who drink it.

These “distinctive” Budweiser drinkers are easy to spot. They’ll be the ones with screaming headaches.

CAO Sopranos Edition (7 x 52″)

I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, or in this case ill of the cigar I am smoking in his honor, but the CAO Sopranos Edition did not impress. This stick made Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars in the world for 2005, but either they were crazy or this cigar has seriously slipped in the intervening 8 years.

This is a good looking stick, with a dark wrapper and a distinctive bright red ring. The construction was good, as was the burn. No technical problems at all, and draw was perfect. However, with the first few puffs, I thought tonight’s pairing was going to be a double downer, as I was met with some real harshness. Thankfully, the cigar mellowed as I smoked, and became an acceptable experience. Flavors consisted of spice, cocoa and nuts. Not a terrible smoke, and some people like them, but the CAO Sopranos Edition just didn’t deliver for me. A 79 on the Morris Scale. Here is how Cigars International describes it:

An offer you can’t refuse.

This is one of the most exciting releases of the past several years. The cigar is a legitimately fantastic premium blend. I must admit when word of this project was first heard, I assumed it would be a tad gimmicky. But this cigar is very tasty, easily among CAO cigars finest blends.

Made in Honduras with a dark and chewy Brazilian wrapper leaf, The Sopranos Edition cigar boasts an intoxicating blend of Nicaraguan, Dominican and Columbian tobaccos with a Honduran-grown binder. This hearty combination works wonders and caters to those looking for a bold, but smooth smoke. Thick clouds of smoke float above as you enjoy a variety of pleasant flavors. Hints of coffee and toasted wood swarm the palate, and are complemented by a sweet, syrupy note on the finish. Complex, balanced and totally satisfying.

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