Bite Size Review: Illusione OneOff Corona Gorda
The Nicaraguan train continues chugging down the track with another passenger, one of Dion Giollito’s latest creations, the OneOff. The legacy of the brand and its journey is a story filled with twists and turns that begins in Italy in 2001 and includes an airline executive, a Formula One world champion and the Plasencia family. OneOff was the brainchild of Italian businessman and tobacconist, Andrea Molinari, who sought a Cuban cigar brand to sell, but fell short and resigned himself to place his idea in the very capable hands of the Plasencia family. The idea was to create a unique cigar in many of the traditional sizes, but made in very limited numbers.
Molinari was the CEO of the now defunct Lauda Air S.p.A., an Italian subsidiary of the Austrian passenger airline, Lauda Air, started by 3-time Formula One world Champion (and James Hunt nemesis), Nikki Lauda. As the Plasencia family got to work, Molinari began distribution of his new cigar with a focus in Asia and Europe. US distribution followed in 2002 and it was an immediate hit with critical praise even coming from none other than Cigar Aficionado. The cigars were expensive for the time (averaging around $15) and they were available in 16 vitolas.
At some point, the brand faded into obscurity landing in the hands of value-priced cigar sellers, Cuban Crafters, who had retrofitted OneOff with an inexpensive, rehashed blend. The brand caught the eye of Illusione provocateur, Dion Giollito, who saw a fit for the once heralded smoke with the Peace sign band. Reportedly, it was Molinari’s OneOff that originally inspired Giollito to launch Illusione in the first place. In 2017, Giolitto made an offer on the trademark, grabbed it and in 2018, relaunched the brand in an almost identical livery and packaging and in roughly half the original vitolas, including the flagship, +53 Super Robusto.
As with many of his cigars, Giolitto reshod the rejuvenated OneOff with all Nicaraguan tobacco from Aganorsa Leaf. We sourced our Corona Gorda earlier this year and it’s difficult to look past the rich, oily marbled pretzel appearance. A single vein courses through the nearly-seamless wrapper which offers a reassuring, even firmness and a solid triple cap. The wrapper imparts wonderful aromas of worn leather and sweet milk chocolate. The foot is awash with an intonation that can only be described as warm fudge brownie. The cold draw is nicely open as my taste buds recognize the familiar tang of raisins and leather.
Once again, Giollito has cast his blending magic onto the opening profile which is plush with notes of candied nuts, toasted oats and an orange zest. Leather notes appear late, all swirling over an underlying woody core. The finish has a musky leather tone with a hint of coffee. A light spice on the tongue appears at some point as the complexity and balance wisk you away to your happy place. Medium-bodied initially, our OneOff becomes more robust in transitions that maintain a rich, tasty core highlighted by notes of chocolate, oak, black pepper and a toasted nutty draw. Sadly, the last transition, while initially enjoyable, quickly devolves into a harsh gomisch as I struggled to ride it out in the hopes of something good happening.
The first couple of profiles are immensely enjoyable with heightened complexity and solid balance. Combustion is aces but OneOff does get wavy at times and she is an average smoke producer. Aside from the disappointing last transition, another knock on this cigar is the weak ash: I couldn’t even make it to the first photo without it falling and it did so repeatedly under the lightest of pressure.
Make the last transition memorable and this cigar is special, something we come to expect from Casa Giolitto. If this was only available in boxes of 20 or more, I would recommend this as a 5-packer. But, since it comes in boxes of 10, I think the excellent performance, mouth-watering aesthetics and that the majority of the smoke is highly enjoyable, even at $13.50, is worth the admission to a cigar story you shouldn’t miss. Peace out. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: The “+53” designation in the Super Robusto vitola (which was a standard vitola from the original OneOff brand) is a nod to Cuba’s country code, and is the most expensive (~$30) of the 8 current sizes.
- Profile: Med – Full
- Vitola: Corona Gorda
- Length / Ring: 5 3/8″ X 46
- Purchased: Online
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan
- Production: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A
- Blade: Xikar Xi1
- Fire: Colibri Firebird
- Price: $13.50 [Box $135]
- Humidor Age: 3.5 mo.
- Box: 10
- Other Vitolas: +53 Super Robusto [5.75″ x 48], Canonazo [6 1/8″ x 52], Cartuchos [3 7/8″ x 52], Corona [5.5″ x 42], Julieta [7″x 47], Pyramides [6 1/8″ x 52], Robustos [4 7/8″ x 50]
N O T E S
Smoke Time: 1:10
Construction: Oily; rich, marbled pretzel coloring; single vein; nearly seamless; uniformly firm w/spongy foot; average smoke producer; struggles to hold 1″ ash.
- Wrapper – Leather, milk chocolate
- Foot – Fudge brownie
- Cold Draw – Leather, raisins
- Initial: Apricot draw; leathery foundation with notes of candied nuts, toasted oats; hints of orange zest/citrus; crisp finish of leather and coffee; underlying wood notes; light spice appears on tongue; becomes more savory; settles into a core of chocolate; more oak and chocolate on finish; smooth; more robust body.
- Transition: Maintains rich chocolatey core; adds black pepper and oak notes; finish sweetens with more chocolate notes; spice increases; underlying toasted nuttiness to draw and profile.
- Transition: Heavy wood core; little change as bold oak and chocolate notes dominate; slight dissipation of spice; earthy and lightly leathery; return of oats; becomes harsh with ~ 2″ remaining.
Complexity: Very good
Balance: Very good
Touch ups: N/A
Weaknesses: Complexity falls off cliff; weak ash
Recommendation: 2. Boxworthy
- 5 packer
- Yard ‘gar
- NR [No Recommendation]