When you think of Nashville Tennessee, you might think about country and western music or perhaps Elvis Presley, but fine cigars might not be high on the list. However, Nashville is the home of CAO cigars and there is a very interesting story which leads us to one of the most popular and successful cigars in the US today. Here is the amazing story.
The Early Years
In the beginning, CAO was all about pipes. Cano Ozgener was not raised in the tobacco business, nor did he begin his career as a tobacconist. He immigrated to the United States from the Middle East in 1961. Cano attended the prestigious Columbia University and majored in Engineering. After graduation, he moved to New York and met his future wife, Esen. At this time, CAO cigars were not even a thought.
Not wanting to raise a family in New York, the couple moved South to North Carolina and then to Nashville. Cano had a successful career at DuPont, but he always was interested in cigars and pipes, especially meerschaum pipes. These are white clay pipes which are very ornate and very popular in Cano’s home country, Turkey.
Cano worked at changing the design of pipes and he sold a few. This led to a pipe business in 1968. This company began in Cano’s basement and in 1977, he decided to quit his job at DuPont and run the business full-time. He named it C.A.O. after his initials.
By 1980, CAO was in the cigar business and it was not successful. Their first brand, Casa de Manuel turned out to be a disaster. So, Cano decided to go back to selling pipes and cigar humidors. The early humidors were antique boxes which had been turned into humidors. After a while, the company hired local craftsman to make their humidors and they even came up with their own system of humidification.
It was 1995 when CAO re-entered the cigar business. They sold a Honduran style cigar from Nestor Plasencia, called CAO. Early CAO cigars were not exactly popular. In fact, their product lacked consistency and sometimes the boxes weren’t even the same color.
The first successful cigar was the CAO Black but they ended up recalling over 100,000 due to burn problems. After changing suppliers, they came out with a black Maduro which turned out to be very popular. Since then, they have bought factories in Nicaragua to have better control over production and today they are still a family run business, with some of the finest selections of CAO cigars, including a special Amazon Basin cigar.