Cigar Review: Illusione '888' (Maduro)

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~888~ Maduro…yummy!

There were tons of great cigars that were shown at the IPCPR this year, and I was excited by so many of them. There was one line though that really just knocked me out of my seat and was eager to try them. I pay attention to all the new releases from manufacturers on the market, and with that there are a couple manufacturers that are on my A-List that I am always following closely, and this cigar and manufacturer was on that list. I am sure you could guess who they are from my site and this review, but I will be the obvious one and tell you that one of them is Illusione Cigars. I think Dion has been making awesome cigars from the beginning with Illusione, and I can’t find a cigar of his that I would not buy a box of. I know he has a great relationship with Casa Fernandez and Raices Cubanas, and because of that he is able to use such great tobacco. This year one of his newest blends was an addition to the core Illusione line with a maduro wrapper, Illusione Maduro. He isn’t releasing a maduro wrapper on all the vitola in the line, and currently there are only five that will be available in a corojo and maduro wrapper. (The vitolas are the ~88~, ~888~, ~cg4~, ~mj12~ and the ~hl~.) The great thing about that is that all those sizes are my favorite from the line, so I can smoke my favorite sizes in two wrappers. I am typically not one who likes cigars that have several wrappers for a line with the same blend, but in this case I am shutting the hell up.

The Illusione Maduro still features a Nicaraguan binder and fillers that are first generation tobacco seed Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98 from Esteli and Jalapa,Nicaraguan, but instead of the Colorado Cafe Corojo wrapper, it is finished with a beautiful Maduro wrapper from San Andres, Mexico. I for one love San Andres tobacco, and Dion is absolutely correct in saying that San Andres maduro’s really capture those traditional flavors associated with a maduro. I feel it adds a lot of lovely spices and rich earth characteristics to a cigar that is great in either the filler or wrapper. When choosing a maduro cigar that is not for review I typically grab a cigar that has either a Pennsylvania Broadleaf or San Andres maduro wrapper. I find the two offer great flavors and complexity, and are not as overpowering as some maduro wrappers can be. The ~888~ is a fabulous vitola in the line, and I love the saying he has for the cigar, that it is necessary and sufficient. The ~888~ measures 6 3/4″ and has a 48 ring gauge. The cigar probably falls between the lonsdale and Churchill vitola range. I really love this size of the cigar because it offers my favorite ring gauge, and it gives a great length to the cigar as well, making it a longer smoke than a typical Corona Gorda.        The cigar has a beautiful dark wrapper that is is like dark chocolate, and it is definitely a maduro. Some of the cigars I had were very dark almost oscuro, and others were straight up maduro. The cigar is rolled wonderfully and is very firm in hand. There are really no veins present throughout the wrapper and it is finished with a beautiful triple cap. The band on the cigar is a nice change up to the original core line and when I hold the wrapper and foot of the cigar up to my nose I get lots of lovely aromas. Barnyard is a prominent aroma with this cigar, but I am also getting notes of coffee, nuts, chocolate and wood.

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Beautiful San Andres Maduro wrapper

As I let the cigar work its way into the first third I immediately begin to pick up those wonderful flavors from the San Andres wrapper. It has a lovely amount of rich earth to it, and there accompanying warm spices. There are bits of coffee, cocoa and nuts with those flavors, and it has a sweet finish of stone fruit. The draw is perfect for me, maybe a little tight for others, and I am getting a great amount of smoke that is very concentrated. The burn is incredible on this cigar, and it is leaving a nice solid gray ash. The cigar is probably between a medium and medium full, and so far this cigar is rocking.   In the second third the cigar really opens up more, and there are an abundance of flavors. It’s always great to see a cigar just explode with flavors in the second third and this cigar did that and more. I am beginning to get a lovely amount of Christmas Spices up front, that are accompanied by chocolate and nutty notes.  Along with those chocolate bar flavors I am also picking up some wood, plum, dark cherries and leather notes. If cigars were chocolate bars this would be the king of them. The cigar is so flavorful, complex and balanced that it is hard to get better than this. The burn was still perfect in this third and the draw was perfect as well. It is still smoking around medium full in body, possibly even medium. I am in the final third now, and this cigar is still smoking wonderfully. The flavors have stayed very similar to that of the second third and I do not want this cigar to come to an end. I would say the four biggest flavors in the final third are that of spice, cocoa, rich earth and dark cherries, but there are some subtle flavors in the background as well. The cigar has returned to being medium-full in this final third, and the smoke has become very thick and is great for rings. I have had no problems with the burn throughout this smoke and I smoke it down to the nub. I put the cigar down after my toothpick can do no more for the cigar, and it became a little hot. Just a wonderful maduro, great last cigar of the day.

This was a great cigar, and I did not expect anything less from Dion. In some ways I found this cigar to be very similar to that of Padron Family Reserve No. 45 and 46 Maduro in the since that it captured all of those great flavors and strengths that each offer. The cigar has a great burn throughout, and I thought the draw on these smokes was awesome. Sometimes the draw can be to loose with cigars, but these smokes had enough resistance to really give off the perfect amount of smoke, and I was able to control where I wanted it to go in my mouth. I think the Illusione Maduro is going to be big hit on the market, and along with the E.P. Carrillo Core Line Maduro, I would say they are up there in being my favorite maduro smokes right now.

As to whether or not I prefer this cigar to the regular Illusione core line it is hard to say. Both are made incredibly well, and each show great flavors that are very both similar and very different. I think on a daily basis I will smoke the regular Illusione line vitolas, but this will be a great alternative in the evenings or weekends. A maduro cigar for me is typically going to be a late evening smoke, and a cigar that I will have on a Saturday afternoon, don’t ask me why, but I typically don’t smoke maduros during the week. I give this cigar a 93, and I look forward to reviewing the other new maduro installments in the line. I know that I will see these cigars again in the coming months when I begin my smokathon to find the Top 25 Cigars of 2011, and I am sure they will deliver just as well then as they have now. Great job Dion, and great job Illusione Cigars.

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~888~ Maduro
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