Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta
And we’re back. Well, sort of. This review, in fact, is the last tasting we did before my 3-week bout with COVID-19 back in late January. Unfortunately, like 80-90% of those infected, one of the lingering side effects is a harmless, but highly annoying, loss of taste and smell. I go into greater physiological detail of this phenomenon in a recent article, COVID-19 Hits 99 Cigars, if you’re interested, otherwise, there’s no shortage of well-researched material on the subject throughout the internet. So, for now, this will be the last cigar review posted until I’m able to crawl out from under these side-effects which have abolished my ability to untangle a cigar’s complexity.
And when it comes to cigars with a consistent breadth of complexity and refinement, it’s hard not to think of Illusione. Dion Giolito, founder and brain trust of Illusione and proprietor of Reno, Nevada’s Fumare, is not known for blending “strong” cigars, and instead, he’s repeatedly stated that his focus is on high quality and blending cigars that taste extraordinarily good. His blends are known to utilize leaves and primings from which he’s able to coax smooth, unique flavor profiles and nuances. Perhaps an unspoken virtue may be Giolito’s passion behind the success of many of his lines, and while many brand owners proudly claim their undying love of cigars, Giolito once opined in an interview, “I’m really a brand owner second, and a fan first.” And by all accounts, his actions speak louder than words.
One of Giolito’s recent creations perhaps best highlights this “fan first” mindset, the Epernay 10th Aniversary (E10th). Giolito is big into milestones, so in 2019 he wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his 2009 release, Epernay. The tribute blend is very similar save for use of a special binder. According to Giolito, Epernay was inspired by the city in France’s famed Champagne region from whence the effervescent nectar originates, the quintessential instrument of celebration. In addition, Giolito further attributes his inspiration for the E10th after visits to his ancestral home in Northern Italy, where his vintner family have helped to put Aosta, Italy on the wine map. This cigar also is a tribute to the peak of Zino Davidoff’s success in cigars and Giolito strove to create a cigar “…in the style that he liked that made him so famous.”
Giolito’s vision paid dividends as E10th acquired its fair share of 2019-2020 accolades, including #7 honors on Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars of 2019. While the E10th isn’t going to win any beauty contests, it is still a handsome cigar featuring a tidy cap, a seamless roll and an appetizing marbled, coffee-bean finish. Rolling your fingers over the wrapper, you’ll detect some noticeable lumps and a squeeze along its length will give a reassuring firm response except for a notable hard knot in the vicinity of the band, which was a little concerning. We’d just gone through 2-3 cigars of a particular brand for this reason during a recent review which was tied to draw issues. Leave it to Giolito to come up with great tobaccos with intoxicating aromas like the enticing funnel cake scent from the wrapper. The cold draw is open but with moderate resistance.
Our toro kicks things off with a lush draw of salted cashews preceding a light, chewy mix of marshmallow notes with an undercurrent of creamy vanilla. Notes of worn leather and nougat become apparent after a crisp, warm finish of roasted coffee. There’s an interesting charring effect to the core which compliments an added woodiness and notes of hazelnut on the retro leaving a layer of spice on the tongue. There’s a noticeable transformation to the finish as it becomes richer with toasted almonds. The array of spicy flavors on the tongue is amazing.
The foundation becomes woodier as the profile transitions to a lush mélange of cola nut and breadcrust accompanied by hints of chocolate. There’s a bitter char on the finish and that mysterious charring effect returns cloaking the cigar’s center. The bitterness was temporary as the profile becomes toastier, highlighted by a rich, warm draw of toasted oats. To be clear, the charring effect is a good thing as it combines with the overall toasty, woody core to achieve almost a “comfort food” feel. E10th wraps things up with a simple profile that is less spicy and rife with fresh-cut oak at its core. But it is well balance by a peanutty draw, notes of rich cocoa on the retro and a robust woody finish with a jolt of espresso.
Nothing to worry about in the construction department as combustion was mostly even for the duration. E10th is a solid smoke producer and she’ll hold a good 1” ash. One unusual aspect I noted was how quick the cigar burned initially but slowed about midway without any further changes. E10th’s pricing is consistent for the line and given Giolito’s Davidoff reference, the hour and a half you’ll spend with the E10th makes it feel worth more. Once again, Illusione doesn’t fail to surprise or impress. Giolito has masterfully captured the essence of the champagne consonance with a unique palette of flavors, textures and subtleties that will resonate with revelers and perhaps Zino himself would fancy a couple in his suit pocket. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: Unlike the Epernay line, the names of most line names of Illusione cigars are inspired by popular conspiracy theories and secrets.
- Profile: Med-Full
- Vitola: Toro
- Length / Ring: 6.0″ x 50
- Purchased: Online
- Origin: Honduras
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan
- Production: Fabrica de Tabacos Cubanas S. de R.L.
- Blade: Xikar Xi1
- Fire: Colibri Firebird
- Price Paid: $12.00 [Box $120.00]
- Humidor Age: 2 mo.
- Box: 10
- Other Vitolas: N/A
N O T E S
Smoke Time: 1:37
Draw: Open with moderate resistance
Construction: Attractive cigar; no oil; tidy cap; simple band; lumpy; veiny; seamless; marbled, coffee bean coloring; evenly firm but with hard knot in band area; holds 1″ ash.
- Wrapper – Funnel cake
- Foot – Milk chocolate
- Initial: Lush draw of salted cashews; opens with subtle spice; hints of leather, nougat and marshmallow under layer of creamy vanilla; light on palate; roasted coffee bean finish; spice elevates with addition of wood accents accompanied by an overall charred effect; hints of hazelnut on retro; notes of toasted almonds added to finish; spicy floral essence on palate.
- Transition: Woody core with toast oats on draw; hints of cola nut and light chocolate layer; bitter char on finish; notes of bread crust noticeable; becomes more toasty and woody with return of charred texture, especially on retro; more robust and fuller bodied; finish is warm and hardy with woody, toasty accents.
- Transition: Foundation of fresh-cut oak; rich, peanutty draw with similar nuttiness on retro; also some notes of cocoa on retro; spice dissipates; bold, woody finish with espresso accents.
Complexity: Excellent – use of sweet and spicy flavors and accents; solid mix of light and bold profiles.
Touch ups: N/A
Combustion: Excellent – mostly even
Weaknesses: Temporary bitter char on the finish midway.
- 5 packer
- Yard ‘gar
- NR [No Recommendation]