While the temperatures are still dropping I find myself turning to some shorter cigars to keep me out of the cold. This weekend I take a look at the Illusione Garagiste paired with Stone’s Xocoveza.
The Good Stuff:
Making it’s debut at this year’s IPCPR show in Las Vegas, the Garagiste is one of the newest blends added to Illusione’s already extensive portfolio. The term “Garagiste” is in reference to a small group of renegade winemakers in Bordeaux who produce “garage wines”. The Garagiste is the first blend to come from Illusione to features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The rest of the blend is composed of Viso Corojo and Viso Criollo Aganorsa Nicaraguan tobacco. Created at the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A (TABSA) factory in Nicaragua, the Garagiste comes in four sizes: the robusto (5 x 50), the short robusto (4 1/8 x 48), the toro (6 x 52), and the gordo (6 x 56). Each come packaged in boxes of 20 and run between $8.35 and $10.80 a stick. The first shipment of these are pretty much sold out all over the U.S., but more should be on it’s way soon. I scooped up a handful of these over from our friends at Atlantic Cigar.
Size: 4 1/8 x 48
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Pairing: Stone Xocoveza (Spiced Stout 8.1% ABV)
The Illusione Garagiste starts out with a very deep, dark brown wrapper which isn’t very consistently colored. There are lots of scattered splotched of reddish-brown as well as darker brown found throughout the cigar. The texture of the wrapper is very smooth with only a tiny bit of grit to it and a good amount of oils. There are very few, small veins running through the cigar’s body as the wrapper is laid seamlessly over itself leading up to the round, triple cap. The cigar is polished off with a very simple brown band with the words “Illusione” and “Garagiste” printed modestly across the front. As a whole the Garagiste feels very firm, with no softspots, and no give as I press the cigar between my fingers. The wrapper does feel a bit thin a brittle so I won’t apply too much pressure as I inspect it.
As soon as the Garagiste is taken out of the cellophane a rush of deep musk, oak, and spice aromas are unleashed from the wrapper of the cigar while the foot of the cigar carries more spice, oak, and honey scents. The cap cut clean and easily using my double bladed Xikar cutter. The cold draw produces some great raisin, oak, spice, and sweetness.
The Illusione Garagiste starts out with a big black pepper zing right out of the gates which begins to fade and take a step back after the first few puffs revealing some rich spice, sweetness, musk, oak, cocoa and honey flavors. The draw is absolutely perfect. Each tiny puff kicks out a massive cloud of thick, white smoke which hangs around for a good amount of time before dissipating while the Garagiste gives off a decent amount of stationary smoke as it rests in my ashtray. The burnline is dead even and razor thin leaving behind a compacted trail of black and dark gray ash which held on for almost an inch before falling into my ahstray.
The black pepper is still lingering around as I venture into the second third of the Illusione Garagiste. Lying underneath is still the bold sweetness and spice, honey, cocoa, and some vanilla while the oak and musk have began to tone it down a bit. The retrohale pours on the spice as it brings the musk back to the forefront of my palate. The burnline is still dead even and sharp as I close out the second third with only a very minor nicotine bite.
The musk is back in full force in the final third of the Illusione Garagiste. The leading flavors are cocoa, espresso, musk, and spice with a good amount of sweetness and some soft oak and honey. While the flavors have been consistent for the most part, I am impressed with the amount of changeups in the strength of each flavor. For such a small cigar the Garagiste actually took a while to take down. Clocking in at a total of one hour and forty five minutes I experienced absolutely no harshness, nor any extended heat from the cigar. It burned like a dream from start to finish. I close out the cigar with only a small nicotine kick.
I’m a very un-biased fan of Illusione. I love most cigars in Dion’s line, but that doesn’t ever stop me from giving my honest feedback. With that out of the way I think that the Garagiste is an absolutely stellar cigar. The cigar provides a ton of complex, yet balanced flavors with a flawless burn at a great price. Never once did the cigar get too strong, more did the body become too much for me while the complex flavors kept me on my toes from start to finish. This is a box worthy purchase for sure and one that will easily find its way into my regular rotation and might just make an appearance on my best cigar of 2016 list (which I haven’t put a lot of thought into yet to be honest).
Stone’s Xocoveza is on my “must have” winter beer list every year. Brewed at the Stone Brewery in California, this 8.1% ABV stout is brewed with cocoa, coffee, peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. What an intense mixture that works out incredibly well. The Xocoveza leads with the pepper which seem a bit more potent this year, backed by sweet spice, cocoa, vanilla, and malt with a pretty light mouthfeel before finishing with very heavy milk chocolate, sweetness, spice, coffee, and oak while the booziness is completely masked by the sweet flavors in the beer. The flavors in the beer were almost identical to those found in the Illusione Garagiste and I knew the second I smoked this cigar for the first time that this would be the pairing I’d end up with. It’s almost as if they melted the cigar down to liquid form, tossed it in a stout, and released Xocoveza.