Illusione ~88~ The “Robust”
It’s been over a week since I have been able to sit down and write up a review, and I apologize for that. Work has been pretty demanding not to mention I’ve been finishing up a project at home. But I am happy today, to bring you a joint review with my review partner Daniel ofIllusione’s ~88~. Let us know what you think of the joint reviews. If we get some good feedback we’d be glad to roll these out more often!
(Tony) The ~88~ was the first Illusione I had ever been able to find on store shelves. For whatever reason El Paso isn’t too keen on boutique blends, or so I thought, until I stumbled into a little shop called Tobacco rd. The shelves are full with hard to find boutique blends, and pretty much every Illusione made. Needless to say this is a rare gem, and I’ve been sold on this shop ever since.
(Daniel) In Canada, the Illusione name is pretty much unknown. I’ve asked Dion on Twitter about distribution here and he thinks it’s just not fair to see his productsell for such outrageous prices so he has no immediate plans to get it here. Bascially, my only option to get some of these is from a select few online stores or friends. This particular stick was sent to me by none other than Tony Casas himself (Thanks bud!).
The Good Stuff:
Honestly, I don’t have whole lot of information on this cigar. Basically this is a Nicaraguan Puro cigar produced by Dion Giolito, of Illsuione cigars using pure Nicaraguan tobacco farmed from fields in Jalapa Valley and Esteli. The cigars are then hand-made in the Raices Cubanas factory amongst a Dream Team of tobacco experts. A lot of care and hard work goes into each Illusione cigar and it shows.
Each Illusione carries with it a cryptic name which represents anything from cult followings to specific pin point’s in Dion’s life. You can view these on the Illusione website here. The ~88~ has a simple and straight forward story:
No secret here. It harkens back to 1988 when I made that fateful decision to transfer from Oklahoma and come to Reno for College. “Robust” was just something different than Robusto. It speaks more for the body of the cigar than the nature of its size.”
Size: 5×52 - Wrapper: Café Colorado - Filler/Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo and Criollo - Body: Medium/Full
(Tony) The ~88~ carries an extremely consistently, medium chocolate brown wrapper, topped off with yet another beautifully round triple cap. There are tons of little veins throughout the cigar, none of which are big enough to cause any concern. The 88 is extremely tightly packed and very firm to the touch with little bounce back. All Illusione carry similar, striking bands. The ~88~ is very simple, and stands out with its simple white background, and black print stating only “illusione” and “~88~”. The wrapper on the ~88~ gives off mainly a strong, tobacco smell with hints of leather. The aroma off the foot gives off a similar, more pronounced tobacco scent with earth undertones.
The ~88~ cut easily with my Palio double bladed cutter. The cold draw produces very leathery tastes with bits of spice, and even honey.
(Daniel) The wrapper on my ~88~ had a delicious oily sheen and a dark brown wrapper. The triple cap was cleanly applied and the whole cigar was even, symmetrical and had a slight springiness to it. The wrapper itself was flawless with no large veins, it also had an aroma of spice and sweet tobacco. The foot did not seem tightly packed but was nice and even. The cut was a little messy for me but didn’t cause any major problems. It did have a very open draw but produced some nice floral notes and sweet tobacco. The flavor on the lips had a nice touch of spiciness.
(Tony) The ~88~ lit up very easily under my triple flame butane torch. Instantaneously I am greeted with a touch of pepper, followed up with strong woodsy and grassy flavors back by tons of little spice notes. I am getting an almost fruity after taste. The draw is perfect, and effortless, producing a massive cloud of thick white smoke. The burnline is razor sharp and leaves behind a beautiful, striped light/medium grey ash. The ~88~ doesn’t produce a lot of stationary smoke, however what little smoke it does leave behind is extremely inviting and smells of burned wood and grass. The ash held on well over an inch before giving way.
(Daniel) Toasting the cigar with my culinary torch was almost too easy. It lit up completely even and quite quickly. It started to canoe a bit off the start but quickly corrected itself with no extra attention needed. The mouthful of smoke I was getting was near perfect and seemed to linger in front of me after exhaling, making some interesting smoke-art in mid-air. The initial draws gave me a wonderful toasted nut flavors and some earthy undertones. The retro-hale was surprisingly smooth and and had a great tasting toasted nut flavor. The ash was slightly uneven but had no flaking and held on strongly for a good 1.5 inches.
(Tony) I’m halfway through this ~88~ and I can’t put it down. The mixtures of wood and spice, combined with the creamy, smooth smoke is forcing me to go to town on this cigar. I’m really enjoying it. The retrohale is smooth as well, leaving behind cedar and spice. Halfway through the burnline began to thicken pretty substantially, leaving behind small waves, but nothing to be concerned about. I’m not feeling much, if any nicotine off this cigar. Just tons of flavor.
(Daniel) This stick is going amazingly well. The burn has been a little wavy for me but I think it’s caused by my slightly open draw. It hasn’t required any major corrections and has stayed lit fairly well. It’s allowing me to enjoy it nice and slowly while savoring all the flavors. On top of the wonderful flavors mention at the start, I’m starting to pick up some great coffee notes . All the flavors are blending together perfectly, well balanced, and super smooth.
(Tony) Towards the end of the cigar the burnline began to correct itself, and no touch ups were needed at all. The draw stayed consistently large, and effortless all the way through the ~88~. The final portion of this cigar was dynamite. The flavors morphed into a straight forward cedar/leather mixture and picked up in body. There was no harshness despite how often I hit this cigar. The ~88~ finished as I wish all cigars would, smooth and flavorful.
(Daniel) The finish was not disappointing at all. The earthy and nut flavors disappeared for the most part but the coffee flavors have been complimented by a nice cedar note. The pairing of these two flavors is nearly perfect. The draw improved and the burn held strong till the finish. For the most part this cigar was medium but during the last inch or so I felt the body ramp up to a smooth full. I will definitely grab a few more of these ~88~’s, there was almost nothing to complain about. The was nearly no bitterness/harshness at the end and I ended up nubbing this as far as I could.
(Tony) The ~88~ is extremely smooth and consistent while the flavors switched up just enough to keep my attention, but not drastically enough to second guess what cigar I was smoking. I felt very little nicotine off this cigar, making it perfect for the everyday cigar smoker, or the novice. Needless to say I have smoked a ton of these guys, and plan on smoking a whole lot more. This is one of the very few cigars that I’ve been able to go through one, after another, after another and not get burned out. I think the retail on the ~88~ is close to $8 a stick, although it crests the upper level of similar boutique robustos, spending the money on the ~88~ will not leave you disappointed.
(Daniel) This was one enjoyable cigar, from start to finish the ~88~ kept me happy and enjoying every moment. The flavors kept my attention and the greatburn allowed me to smoke it slowly without worrying about it going out. My general exposure to boutique cigars has been limited since I live in Canada and I was honestly skeptical about them. This Illusione ~88~ has definitely put the skepticisms to rest and I will be looking further into the Illusione line. As Tony mentioned, the price of the stick is around $8 and this seems like a fair price and I would happily spend it to get more of these in my humidor.
(Tony) I decided to pair this cigar with one of my favorite Dopplebocks,Weihenstephaner Korbinian. Korbinianis a strong, bold and flavor enriched beer. The alcohol content averages at 7.4% and brings flavors such as chocolate, coffee, and fruit as well as a bit of bitterness to the pallet. This was a perfect pairing in my books as it helps pick up the subtle flavors of the ~88~ as well as match up with some of the more prominent flavors.
(Daniel) My drink of choice with this cigar was Alexander Keiths Dark Ale. This is an inexpensive dark beer with subtle hints of coffee and cocoa with an added kick of bitterness. Seems Tony and I picked very similar pairings with this and I also agree it was a great match. The cigar was pairing was well matched enough that neither one drowned out the flavors of the other. allowing me to enjoy them both equally. Some other good pairings with this cigar could be a smooth Tawny port or a fine glassof scotch or cognac.