Every now and then it happens. The weekly review deadline looms near, and have to frantically dig through the humidor looking for just the right cigar to review. Oh, who am I kidding, that’s just about every week, and “the right cigar” is anything I have enough of to do a fair review. But this week I was stumped. Everything I had on hand had been reviewed recently. While browsing our Cigar Review Index looking for ideas, I noticed something missing from the Illusione section. Could it be that we haven’t touched on the Illusione 88 yet? I have (and have had) plenty of those!
Part of the intrigue of smoking the cigars created by Dion Giolito is figuring out the meaning is behind the cryptic Illusione names. After coming up with no good conspiratorial references, I decide to play with Google. My favorite possible meaning for “88” comes from Chinese numerology, where 88 essentially means “double happiness”. However, the actual meaning is not quite as exciting. Several years ago Dion shed a little light on where the name originated on several cigar forums:
No secret here. It harkens back to 1988 when I made that fateful decision to leave Oklahoma to 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.
So you can take the tinfoil hat off now, no references to aliens, secret government programs or religious symbolism this time. It merely commemorates an important year in his life. And now all that remains to be seen is if smoking this cigar is a conspiracy of flavor, or just a bunch of burning leaves. Let’s light up and find out.
Size: 5 x 52
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Source: Purchased by reviewer
Price: MSRP $7.80
The wrapper on the Illusione 88 is rustic reddish brown with darker streaks and a few larger veins. Looking over the cigars, there was just a bit of lumpiness to them, and a few small imperfections in the wrapper in the form of superficial holes. Despite the more damage-prone nature of uncellophaned smokes, I didn’t see any of the telltale signs at either end of the sticks.
Another side effect of naked cigars is the very faint wrapper aroma. The scent I picked up, more than the customary compost, was that of the box the cigars came in. The foot, on the other hand, had a reassuring pungent barnyard aroma.
The burn characteristics were pretty good with the 88. The draw was great, the light gray ash was solid, and while the burn line wasn’t razor-straight, it’s usually well within the margin of error. The most common problem I’ve had with these sticks is the occasional need to relight them. It happens abruptly, most commonly after the cigar ashes, and once relit, it generally proceeds without a problem. Well, at least until it ashes again.
The initial puffs of the Illusione 88 were a creamy, sweet combination of earth, nuts and a touch of coffee. As the cigar continued burning, earth and leather persisted, and was joined by sweet caramel and syrupy cherry flavors. Call me crazy, but I’d swear I tasted a bit of graham cracker in the finish during this third.
Syrupy cherry and earthy leather kept things rolling into the second third. Before long the flavor developed a very aromatic quality that is a little difficult to describe but very enjoyable to experience. Nearing the final third, aromatic cedar and spicy notes began to appear.
In the final third, the cigar got spicier and in addition to sweet earth, there was a little chocolate, and some more of that graham cracker flavor I noted earlier. The aromatic, nearly floral flavor of the second third faded significantly at this point, but hints of it were still present.
The 88 is in the sweet spot of premium cigar pricing. Neither budget priced, nor out of reach of the average cigar smoker. That invariably means this is one of the smokes used as a measuring stick for ascertaining the value of more expensive cigars. And it’s the right tool for the job, as it’s worth every penny.
Box-worthy, box-worthy, box-worthy. I stand by the words I wrote about this cigar when I put it in my latest top 10 list: “The Illusione 88 is a perfect illustration of what is possible when the best creative minds and the finest tobacco come together.” The name of the cigar may not be a reference to the supernatural, but the rich combination of earth and sweetness that evolves on the palate is about as close to a tobacco-induced religious experience as you can get. Double happiness indeed.
If you haven’t tried the Illusione 88 Robust yet, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s not always the easiest cigar to find in stock, but rest assured, your local supplier of Illusione cigars will have them in from time to time. (Keep in mind that the blends are different from one Illusione to the next.) So when you see them, stock up, you’ll be glad you did.
Liked It: Love it. Box-Worthy.
Buy It Again: Every time I see it in stock.
Recommend It: Absolutely.
Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.