In 2019, Illusione Cigars marked the 10th anniversary of its Epernay line with the release of a commemorative cigar, the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta. The Illusione Epernay is considered somewhat of a game-changing cigar. For a long time, cigars with Nicaraguan tobaccos were often associated with strong and bold, but when it came to the Epernay line, owner Dion Giolito went in the opposite direction. He was looking for something subtle and refined in flavor. The town of Epernay is known as the capital of the Champagne-producing region of France, and the Illusione Epernay is a cigar that can be paired with Champagne. The name D’Aosta is derived from the name Valle d’Aosta in Northern Italy and it’s where Giolito still has family living. Today we take a closer look a the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta.
The genesis of the blend traces back to the Illusione ~eccj~, a limited edition project. This was a cigar originally created in 2008 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Cigar Journal magazine (then called European Cult Cigar Journal). The Epernay was considered to be a more dialed back blend compared to the ~eccj~. Epernay would go on to be a regular production line and eventually in 2016 ~eccj~ was brought back and became a regular production line. With the Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta, Giolito has created another blend that is said to be an offshoot of the Epernay blend.
Without further ado, let’s turn our attention to the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
While most of Illusione’s production has shifted to TABSA in Nicaragua, the Epernay line is still produced at Raices Cubanas in Honduras. Consistent with the Epernay line, the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta is also produced at Raices Cubanas.
While the blend is a Nicaraguan puro, specifics of the blend have not been disclosed.
Country of Origin: Honduras
Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas S. de R.L
The Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta was launched in one size – a classic 6 x 50 Toro. The cigars are presented in ten-count boxes.
The Nicaraguan wrapper of the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta had a medium brown color with a medium cinnamon tint to it. There was some mottling on the surface of the wrapper, but not much in the way of oil. The surface of the wrapper had some visible veins and visible seams.
The Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta follows the design of the core Epernay band. It is white with gold trim and gold gothic-styled font. On the front of the band is the text “Epernay” flanked by the text “Illusione” on each side.
Prior to lighting the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta, a straight cut was used to remove the cap. Once the cap was removed, it was time to commence with the prelight draw. The cold draw delivered a mix of earth and subtle notes of citrus and cedar. This wasn’t the most exciting pre-light draw, but since the pre-light draw is not factored into the final score, there was no loss of points here. Now, it was time to toast the foot of the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta and see what the smoking phase would have in store.
The Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta opened with an assortment of flavors including earth, natural tobacco, citrus, cedar, cream, and musty notes. Early on the earth and natural tobacco notes moved into the forefront with the cedar, citrus, cream, and musty notes settling in the background. The creamy notes gave the D’Aosta a smooth flavor profile. By the middle of the first third, notes of baker’s spice, black pepper, and nuts emerged. Meanwhile, there was a layer of citrus as well as a light pepper and citrus on the retro-hale.
During the second third of the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta, the earth and natural tobacco continued to be the primary notes, alternating in intensity with the earth notes having a slight edge. The cedar, citrus, must, baker’s spice, and black pepper rounded out the flavor profile. During the second third, the creamy and nut notes diminished and eventually dissipated by the second half.
The last third didn’t see a lot of changes. The earth and natural tobacco continued to be in the forefront. There was an increase in the black pepper, but it never became overpowering. There were still notes of cedar, citrus, must, and baker’s spice. This is the way the flavor profile of the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta came to a close. The resulting nub was firm to the touch and cool in temperature.
The burn of the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta performed well. This was a cigar that maintained a straight burn path and had a straight burn line requiring minimal touch-ups. The resulting ash was charcoal gray with some lighter and darker variants. This was an ash that was on the firm side. The burn rate and burn temperature both maintained idea levels.
The draw of the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta also performed excellent. It maintained the sweet spot of having a touch of resistance through the smoking experience – which I’ve said many times on this website. At the same time, there was no problem deriving flavors from the D’Aosta.
Strength and Body
The Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta started out as a mild to medium cigar in both strength and body. There was a slight increase in the intensity of the strength and body along the way. In the end, the D’Aosta remained in the mild to medium range for both attributes.
When looking at strength versus body, both attributes balanced each other with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
When the Illusione Epernay hit the market, it was a cigar that I just couldn’t get a grasp of. Perhaps I was stuck on the fact it was a very mild cigar. When the llusione ~eccj~ 20th came along, it was a cigar that really blew me away. It inspired me to go back and give Epernay another chance, and it was the refined and elegant characteristics of the line that finally won me over. With the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta I found many of those same characteristics, and the cigar was loaded with complexity. Put together a cigar that delivers on flavor, complexity, and construction and you have a perfect storm. In the end, this is a cigar that I could recommend to any cigar enthusiast. As for myself, it’s a cigar I would smoke again and buy multiples to keep in the humidor. At 91 points, the Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta exceeds the threshold for the Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence.
Key Flavors: Earth, Natural Tobacco, Cedar, Citrus, Must, Baker’s Spice, Black Pepper, Cream, Nuts
Strength: Mild to Medium
Body: Mild to Medium
Value: Buy Multiples
Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop