Illusione *R* Rothchildes

Illusione Rothchildes A

According to Richard Hacker’s Ultimate Cigar Book, the first Rothschild cigar was produced by Hoyo de Monterrey in the late 19th century in response to a request from the London-based financier, Leopold de Rothschild. He wanted a short cigar with a large ring gauge that would smoke like a full-sized cigar, but in a shorter amount of time. Since then, many cigar makers have produced cigars in this size, though stumpy cigars have often been assigned the moniker “Robusto” instead. Nevertheless, the Rothschild persists — sometimes as Rothchild, or Rothchilde, or in the case of Illusione’s entry: Rothchildes.

Due to their power and wealth, the Rothschild family has been the target of numerous conspiracy theories over the years, from currency manipulation to presidential assassination. And as we know, the Illusione mystique relies in part on the shadowy world of conspiracy theory. Therefore we should ask the question: why the misspelling? Why Rothchildes, and not Rothschilds? What is the significance of the missing S, and the added E? Is there a hidden meaning?

But we also know that the Illusione mystique does not rely on conspiracy theory alone; it also relies on premium quality Nicaraguan tobacco, specifically Aganorsa tobacco. This quality is apparent from the first puff on the *R* Rothchildes, and the flavor is quintessential Illusione. The binder and filler leaves are Aganorsa grown, and the wrapper is a nicely processed maduro leaf from the San Andres Valley of Mexico.

Illusione Rothchildes 2

Construction Notes

The Rothchildes are rustic in appearance with rough maduro wrappers and single caps slapped on heads that are sometimes a little uneven. The throw-back bands blend well with the rough appearance of the wrappers. The roll is solid, though the cigar feels a little light — perhaps it’s this desert winter air, the nemesis of my humidor. But any worries about underhumidification are dispelled by a draw that offers the right amount of resistance and an even, steady burn.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The first third of the cigar is marked by the clean crisp flavor that is Illusione’s stock in trade. Hardwood smoke with a cherry edge. If I didn’t know what this cigar was and had to guess, I might have to say La Riqueza.

A peppery spice builds as the cigar grows in complexity.  The flavor on the palate gradually loses its crispness and becomes earthier, and the cherry on the nose transitions to cocoa.

In the final stretch the cocoa loses its sweetness and the earth turns darker and sharper; the smoke bites a little, but doesn’t bitter.

Illusione Rothchildes 3

Conclusion

The Rothchildes bear more than a passing resemblance to the veteran blends in the Illusione family: the clean woody flavor of Aganorsa tobacco is prominent and distinguishing, and the subtle cherry flavor that appears in the first section is an unexpected bonus.

And while they’re not quite as complex as the pedigreed Original Documents, they have a particularly redeeming characteristic: a price tag under $5 USD.  A tall price is frequently an indicator of premium quality, but it’s not a requirement, as Illusione *R* Rothchildes ably demonstrate.

Final Score: 91

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Illusione Maduro cg:4

It doesn’t seem possible that the Illusione cg:4 could be improved upon, but that’s no excuse for not trying. Last year, Dion Giolito went back into the lab and emerged with a new species. By replacing the inimitable corojo wrapper on the “original document” with a maduro leaf from Mexico’s San Andres valley he has essentially re-engineered the cigar.  But can the younger sibling can escape the shadow of its glorious brother? Maybe… if it can do something that Big Brother cannot.

Like all the other Illusione (with the exception of the Singulare) they are made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras.

The Maduro line does not cover the entire spectrum of sizes, but most of the classic vitolas are covered:

~hl~ lancero 7 1/2 x 40
~88~ robusto 5 x 52
~cg:4~ corona gorda 5 5/8 x 46
~888~ churchill 7 1/2 x 48
~mj12~ toro gordo 6 x 54

Construction Notes

The maduro wrapper on the cg:4 is not much darker than the natural, but the fermentation and aging process results in the leaf appearing much more mottled. The oily texture of the cigar is still quite appealing, but maybe this impression is the result of experience more than aesthetics.

The roll is firm, the cap is picture perfect, and the draw is right in the zone. It burns beautifully (even for a maduro) and leaves a long dirty gray ash. Pretty typical for Illusione.

Overall construction: excellent.

Tasting Notes

The maduro cg:4 starts in much the same way that the natural does: it’s bright and zingy, establishing the flavors that the “original document” made familiar many years ago. The difference with the maduro is the hallmark of San Andres maduro leaf: the distinct flavor and scent of chocolate and dark-roasted coffee.

The core of the cigar is earthy with some cedar notes sneaking in between the coffee and cocoa bean flavors. The sharp acidic and woody flavors with which the cigar opens gradually fade without disappearing altogether. The maduro incarnation of this blend seems to be a little smoother than the natural while remaining in the medium-to-full bodied range.

The last third of the cigar is spicier and comes with a sneaky punch.  It feels like being the last one at the bar. (I know this feeling from reading only the best dimestore detective novels.) It’s last call and the doors are swinging shut. Even the regulars have stumbled out into the misty early morning. Your glass is dry, your wallet is empty, and the bartender is giving you the evil eye. The sweetness of the maduro has made a hasty escape and now it’s time for you to do the same.

Conclusion

The Maduro version of the cg:4 is an immensely satisfying cigar, but the question that always arises is the one that nobody really wants to answer: is it better than the natural? It’s like choosing who is the favorite of your children. You don’t want to do it, but in the deep recesses of your crooked little heart you do it anyway.

I guess for me it’s still the natural. The Maduro is priced the same as the natural, around 8 USD per stick. Not an everyday cigar for me, but not out of reach either. In any case, the price to value ratio is about right. It’s an excellent smoke.

Final Score: 90

Illusione Epernay

Wine and cigars.  I like them both, but not usually together because the robust flavors of black tobacco almost always conflict with the more delicate qualities of wine. It could be that I’m pairing wines of insufficient strength with full-bodied stogies, but the result in my case has been invariably the same: a wine that tastes like ash.

Dion Giolito wants to convince us that this is not always the case. His Illusione Epernay series, which was blended specifically to complement the flavors of champagne, has its origins in the 15th anniversary cigar commissioned by the European Cigar Cult Journal (ECCJ).  That blend has now been expanded to four sizes and has been christened Epernay.

Since the original blend was created for European cigar aficionados, it makes sense that the Epernay series is blended for what Giolito calls the “European palate.” I’m not precisely sure what that means, but assuming  European cigar enthusiasts are smoking mostly Cuban cigars it would make sense that this is going to be a lighter, more aromatic and elegant cigar than the average Nicaraguan.

The Epernay series is like other Illusione cigars, a corojo-criollo blend of tobaccos from Nicaragua, also made in the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras. The wrapper is a sun-grown corojo leaf described as “Cafe Rosado.”

Four sizes are available (and it looks like there are still some ECCJs floating around as well) :

  • ECCJ 15th – 5 5/8 x 46
  • Le Petite – 4 1/2 x 44
  • Le Ferme – 5 1/4 x 48
  • Le Elegance – 5 3/4 x 40
  • Le Grande – 6 x 46

Construction Notes

When I finished tallying my scoring sheet for this cigar I found that the Epernay Le Grande achieved nearly perfect marks for construction. This is pretty rare, but this is a rare smoke. The wrapper on this cigar is not flawless, but the mostly fine veins that track through the dark golden leaf aren’t distracting in the least. The cap is wound with nearly seamless precision into a rounded head. The roll is solid and the draw is perfect. It burns slowly and evenly, leaving a solid but slightly streaky gray ash.

Overall superb construction.

Tasting Notes

Since we had opened a bottle of champagne for the Thanksgiving Day festivities, I took the opportunity to smoke the Epernay along with a glass.  I was prepared to be disappointed, making sure that an alternative beverage was readily at hand.

The Epernay Le Grande opens with a mildly acidic zing familiar to those who smoke Nicaraguan corojo-criollo blends. After half a dozen puffs I hesitatingly tipped the glass to my lips and fully expected the wine to taste tainted. But it did not — the zing of the tobacco actually blends with the carbonization and the tannins in the wine! The flavors of the champagne weren’t affected at all, at least not yet.  In the first third the smoke itself is buttery smooth with some cedar and something like toast. The flavor is mild enough to pair well with the champagne, but the smoke texture is closer to medium-bodied.

Some tartness enters in the middle section, but it is nicely balanced by the woody sweetness on the nose —  the smoke leaves an oaky impression, a little tannic with a touch of honey. (I have to wonder how much of this is attributable to the champagne.) The finish is pleasant but has a salty tang.

The final third tastes more like a traditional Illusione blend — the familiar flavors of cocoa bean with a smattering of black pepper. At this point the smoke seems to interfere with the champagne, but the bottle had already been drained by my thirsty guests anyway. I was more than content to finish this cigar with coffee after bidding the oenophiles good night.

Conclusion

The Epernay Le Grande is an even-tempered, medium body cigar with a lot of class and a good deal of refinement. It also had nearly perfect construction — probably the best of any cigar I’ve smoked this year, scoring 49 out of 50 points. The cigar it reminded me of the most was Tatuaje’s Cabaiguan — perhaps because the Epernay stands in the same relation to Illusione’s original line that Cabaiguan stands to Tatuaje — it’s a mellower, more subtle, but equally complex cigar.

And it does in fact complement champagne; I’ll be interested to see if it can pair up with other types of wine as well. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Illusione’s Epernay line is only available cabs of 50, but individual sticks retail for around 8 to 9 USD per stick. A little pricey, but definitely worth the experience.

Final Score: 93