It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are so many cigars these days with conspiratorial and counter-culture themes. All things tobacco have become the target of choice for politicians looking to score easy points with their consitutents. People who are only to happy to support bans on a legal product, even in places they will never visit that are dedicated to said product. Sometimes while supporting the legalization of another popular combustable plant, and with no sense of irony. As such, cigar smokers as outcasts, or members of a secret brotherhood is an idea that appeals to many lovers of the leaf, and Illuminati is one of the latest brands to tap into that sentiment.
Though to be clear, that wasn’t officially what Jack Sanzeri had in mind when he created the brand. According to the Illuminati website, the name was selected because of his son’s interest in the Illuminati and the recent movies featuring the shadowy group. I’d still argue that if something about the name “just felt right” when he chose it, the outcast sensibility probably figured into it at some level. Or maybe I’m just searching for conspiracies.
But let’s turn our attention to what matters, the cigar. The Shield is the fullest bodied cigar in the Illuminati catalog, and like all their products, is made by Rocky Patel in Nicaragua. It’s available in boxes of 20 in four sizes, Robusto (5 x 50), Torpedo (6 1/2 x 52), Churchill (7 1/8 x 48) and Sixty (6 x 60). (These sizes are based on the information that accompanied the samples, the website also lists a Corona (5 x 46), which may have been discontinued.) The blend features a double dose of Nicaraguan ligero, and is probably not for the faint of heart.
Now let’s uncover the secrets of the stick.
Size: 6 1/2 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan Double Ligero
Smoking Time: 1 3/4 hours
Price: MSRP $8.00
I’m not a fan of the green and brass colored band (which is arguably the best of their lines), but dark, oily cigar underneath it looked enticing. The sticks had finer veins, a funky compost aroma and varying degrees of smoothness, but no real imperfections. They were firm and consistent to the touch, and the cold draw was about right, offering a slightly sweet leathery flavor.
The Shield’s combustion properties were generally good. It had mostly even burn lines and reasonably long solid ashes. But there were a combination of factors that made the burn seem a little less than optimal. No matter how I cut the cigar, the smoke struck me as being a little thinner than I expected, even though the draw seemed about right. Additionally, they smoked faster for me than other cigars of the same size. None of these issues are deal breakers, but are worth noting.
The Illuminati Shield began with a rich combination of leather and earth. A spicy quality early on faded out quickly and was replaced by pepper. There was also a syrupy sweetness that began to appear around the same time. As the cigar neared the second third, a kind of muddy dark chocolate appeared and the profile seemed to mellow for a time.
In the next third, the dark chocolate faded considerably and the syrupy sweetness returned. The leather and earth that dominated early on were also back. Pepper and some cedar notes were present, especially toward the end.
Leather, cedar and pepper carried the cigar through to its conclusion and the sweetness once again disappeared. The muddy dark chocolate noted in the previous section was still around in the background.
Eight bucks isn’t unreasonable for a cigar this size that’s heavy on the ligero. On the other hand, competition in this price range is fierce. A head to head battle with the similarly sized and identically priced Cain F Torpedo is a tough one to win.
The Illuminati Shield Torpedo is a decent smoke with good, straightforward flavor, a little power and many of the characteristics you’d expect of a Rocky Patel cigar. In fact, while smoking it, I kept thinking about how it reminded me of one of his Edge lines. And that makes the recommendation part easy. If you’re a Rocky Patel fan, the Illuminati Shield is a safe bet, if you’re not, you probably won’t find anything here to convert you. As for me, I wouldn’t rule out smoking it again, but it isn’t a one I’m going to seek out.
Liked It: It was OK.
Buy It Again: Probably not.
Recommend It: Yes, to Rocky Patel fans.
Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.