Bite Size Review: Illusione Haut 10
We’re big fans of complex, flavorful cigars and of course, we’re not alone. A cigar’s tobaccos work together in harmony offering varied aesthetics, aromas, flavors, nuances, texture and character. Combined with intensity and body, these aspects deliver an enjoyable, multi-sensory experience. In order to take advantage of everything a cigar offers, we employ all our senses, yes including hearing, as in when we hold the cigar up to our ear and gently roll the cigar between our fingers and listen for the loud crackling noise a cigar makes when it is dry. Other than sight and tactile impressions, arguably the most important is our taste and sense of smell, or olfactory abilities.
With our taste buds, we can distinguish sweet from sour, feel the bite of spice and experience tangy, dry, chemical and bitter elements, but without the ol’ schnozola, our experience is going to be lacking. As an experiment, take a bite of chocolate, but hold your nose while you chew. Other than texture qualities like creaminess, you can taste the sweetness and perhaps some bitterness if it’s dark chocolate, but most flavor is lost because your sense of smell is blocked. Enjoying a cigar’s flavor wheel is no different. In fact, the art of the “retrohale” is paramount in order to reveal a cigar’s hidden beauty.
The retrohale is the process of moving inhaled smoke from your mouth up into your nasal cavity and expelling the smoke slowly through your nose, thus allowing you to combine the senses of taste and smell. You will need to hone this skill to get the full Monty of any cigar and that includes stogeys crafted by Nevada’s finest cigar purveyor, Illusione’s Dion Giolito.
Illusione has built its reputation around making very complex cigars that focus on using particular tobaccos to coax unique combinations from the flavor palette. A fine example of this is Illsione’s critically acclaimed Haut 10. The Haut 10 – “haut” in French translates to “top” or “high” – is a Nicaraguan puro created to commemorate Illusione’s 10th anniversary. Debuting at the 2016 IPCPR show, the Haut 10 was showered with praise and was credited #1 honors on several cigar of the year lists.
Our Haut 10 has been languishing in our Bullpen humidor for over 16 months and yet the wrapper is noticeably dry. The matte appearance doesn’t detract from the peanut butter-colored café wrapper, but there are some lumps, veins and teeth. The feel is solid throughout and while the cap is nicely done, the pigtail was more for show as when I snapped it off, the draw was not near sufficient. Thank goodness for sharp blades and after a slice, the draw was mostly open. The sweet and sour nature of the aromas, with a barnyard essence from the wrapper and cocoa powder and vanilla emanating from the foot, was an odd yet pleasant dichotomy.
Initial impressions of the profile are that it’s somewhat muted, but bursting with complexity highlighted by delicious notes of vanilla, caramel, peanuts and black pepper. The creamy texture is really nice as is the crisp, toasty finish. There’s a light spice on the tongue which increases as you smoke. Foundationally, it settles into an oaky core with a semi-sweet woody draw and adds black coffee to the finish. Hints of graham cracker are not far away. Transitions feature less complexity, but more spice. Our Haut 10 still delights with bold helpings of chocolate and residual black pepper and graham cracker balanced with a prevalent semi-sweet woodiness.
While complexity and flavor are the story, hallmarks of a Giolito creation, combustion of our Haut 10 was uneven throughout, but not bad enough to require a correction. A solid smoke producer, we found the ash to be weak which would fall at the slightest provocation. Surprisingly, I thought the age might emphasize the complexity experience, but instead it began rather soft spoken. I can’t emphasize this enough – this cigar requires lots of retrohaling to experience the wonderful mélange of flavors that are otherwise lost, so start working on it. Why not get a box and practice? – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: Tobaccos sourced for the Haut 10 hail from the fields of Aganorsa.
- Profile: Medium
- Vitola: Toro [aka Robusto Extra]
- Length / Ring Gauge: 5.5″ x 52
- Purchased: B&M
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Claro Corojo
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99
- Blade: Xikar Xi1
- Fire: Xikar Exec. II
- Price: $14.22 [Box $170.64]
- Humidor Age: 16.5 mo.
- Box: 12
- Other Vitolas: Churchill [6 .75″x48], Gordo [6×56]
N O T E S
Smoke Time: 1:06
Draw: Mostly open
Construction: Lumpy; toothy; veiny; peanut butter coloring; matte appearance; triple cap w/pigtail; solid throughout; holds 1″ ash; wrapper dry after 16.5 mo. in humidor.
- Wrapper – Barnyard, light floral
- Foot – Cocoa powder, vanilla
- Cold Draw – Green tea
- Initial: Subdued wave of vanilla, caramel and peanuts (retro) along with hints of creme and black pepper (palate); spice on tongue; settles into oaky core and a crisp finish of toast; hints of graham cracker late; creamy texture; semi-sweet, woody draw; more black coffee on finish.
- Transition: Bolder woody profile; complexity wanes; notes of chocolate and black epper on retro; spice ratchets upward; sweet overture to toasty and woody finish; notes of graham cracker ebb and flow; hints of molasses.
- Transition: More spice; nucleus of charred wood; smoky character; notes of caramel, earthy and espresso on retro; savory wood finish; intensity softens.
Touch ups: N/A
Weaknesses: Uneven burn throughout; weak ash
- 5 packer
- Yard ‘gar
- NR [No Recommendation]