In the world of cigars, a bit of innate restlessness can sometimes produce groundbreaking achievements. A little over a dozen years ago, in the clean and crisp alpine air surrounding the Nevada city of Reno, Dion Giolito finally decided to take an extended solo flight. Giolito, who had toiled at a local Tinder Box operation for over a decade, was convinced that a market existed for the lesser-known and super-premium cigars which were not sold at the Tinder Box—whose primary offerings consisted of cigars manufactured by the General Cigar Company and Consolidated Cigar (which is now known as Altadis U.S.A.). With the proceeds from a Small Business Association loan, Dion purchased the $30,000.00 minimum inventory requirement to become a Davidoff Appointed Merchant and opened a small store in the “Biggest Little City in the World” in 2004. He named his new enterprise Fumare. In addition to the extensive offering of Davidoff White Label vitolas, the store also carried cigars from Auturo Fuente, Cusano, and others.
Eventually, Giolito was introduced to cigars made by Pedro Martin’s Tropical Tobacco, which included the brands Cacique and Condega. Impressed by their unique and bright taste, Dion decided to develop a house brand. With the assistance of Pete Johnson, the owner of Tatuaje, Dion purchased fifty boxes of robusto-sized cigars made by Tropical Tobacco utilizing tobacco grown on Eduardo Fernandez’s AGANORSA farms in Nicaragua. He called his new brand Illusione (which means “illusion” in Italian), after the innuendos of UFO sightings, conspiracy theories, and governmental cover-ups prevalent throughout the state of Nevada. The original robusto cigar was named the “88” and it quickly became a best-seller at Fumare. Over the course of the next ten years, Giolito expanded Illusione’s distribution across the United States, while introducing a plethora of award-winning cigars—including the Fume D’Amour, Cigar Dojo’s No. 6 Cigar of the Year for 2014.
The year 2016 marks the tenth-anniversary of the Illusione brand. In celebration, Dion Giolito has crafted a special cigar—the Haut 10. In keeping with the usually sophisticated nomenclature of the marque, the word “haut” is pronounced “oht” and translates to “elevated” or “high-class” from the French.
Illusione Haut 10 Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Café Claro Corojo (Grade AAA)
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo 98 | Nicaraguan Corojo 99
- Factory: TABSA (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production / Small Batch
- Vitola: 5½” × 52 robusto extra
- Price: $15.95 (MSRP)
The Haut 10 is an ultra-premium addition to the Illusione portfolio of highly-rated and award-winning cigars. Developed to commemorate and showcase the company’s tenth anniversary, the Illusione Haut 10 is rolled in only one size to ensure strict consistency in the flavor profile—a robusto extra (5½” x 52, $15.95). This boutique release is packed in rectangular, wooden boxes emblazoned with a diagram of the architectural analysis of Egypt’s Great Pyramid. The boxes contain twelve cigars.
The robusto extra is a “puro” cigar—composed with a “Grade AAA” Nicaraguan Café Claro Corojo wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and a seco-dominant blend of Nicaraguan Criollo 98 and Nicaraguan Corojo 99 long-leaf filler. Grown on the AGANORSA farms in Jalapa, the tobaccos used in the construction of the Illusione Haut 10 were triple sorted to ensure the highest-quality smoking experience.
The Illusione Haut 10 is a magnificent looking cigar—the perfectly applied triple cap, ending with a diminutive fantail at the center of the tip—very similar to that found on a La Palina Goldie or a Cuban Trinidad Fundadore. Its Café Claro Corojo wrapper is as smooth as a freshly frozen Norwegian fjord; with subtle veins, barely noticeable tooth, and very tight seams. The color of the robusto is an even mixture of chocolate and Peruvian brown with a slight tinge of reddish-orange. A light oiliness on the wrapper produces a finespun sheen in the afternoon sunshine, like a cocoa bean fruit pod in a dew-covered field. The Haut 10 is, in fact, almost too lovely to smoke and should probably be inserted into a time capsule as “The Cigar” for future observation by the arriving aliens.
A simple, rectangular band adorns the vitola with “HAUT 10” embossed in white upon a silver background with black lattice trim. Flanking the name of the cigar, “ILLUSIONE” is embossed in black, the final “E” typeset backwards. Very firmly packed from the foot to the cap, the wrapper aroma is a bright but delicate combination of finely-aged tobaccos with a touch of hot chocolate sweetness, while the open foot smells of barnyard, bread, dry earth, and assorted hardwoods.
After the cap of the robusto extra is opened with a double guillotine cut—to ensure the maximum amount of taste from the wrapper, binder, and filler—the cold draw is virtually perfect, with just a slight, and desirable, amount of resistance. As a bit of peppery spice formulates on the upper lip, smooth flavors of cedar, dried fruits, and natural tobacco immediately touch the palate.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a double soft flame lighter, the initial draw is luxurious with a tingle of aged-tobacco mustiness, while the first retrohale produces silky aromas of cedar, mixed nuts, and white pepper. By the third puff, the robusto extra begins to produce the nuanced and rich flavors indicative of its tobacco composition—a smooth spiciness from the Café Claro Corojo wrapper, coupled wth a balanced sweetness from the Criollo 98 tobacco, present in the filler blend. Unlike the majority of Nicaraguan puro cigars, the seco-dominant tobacco in the Haut 10 (seco tobacco leaves are harvested from the middle of a tobacco plant, which naturally receives less sun that the stronger ligero leaves at the top) produces a milder and more complex taste. The combination of the two filler tobaccos delivers a mouthwatering flavor profile that proceeds in a linear fashion from the front of the tongue to the rear of the palate. Flavors and aromas of drip-brewed coffee, cedar, light chocolate, and assorted nuts mingle together in a heavenly balance. The retrohale remains deliciously smooth and is an essential component in the enjoyment of this cigar (See “How To Retrohale a Cigar”). An excellent open draw produces a rather prodigious amount of smoke output.
As the Illusione Haut 10 enters into the second third, the strength gradually increases while the body begins to transition from mild toward medium. The aromas and flavors present in the first third of the cigar continue to build, while the initial brewed coffee note shifts to the creamy taste of a traditional espresso macchiato made with half and half. Flavors and aromas of a lightly-grilled slice of Collin Street Bakery fruitcake appear, adding delicate notes of bread and exotic fruits to the overall complexity of the cigar.
Room aroma is reminiscent of the sampling lounge at James J. Fox in London—vintage Cuban cigars coupled with the almost imperceptible, old-monied scents of Echezeaux and Bay Rhum aftershave. The burn line is razor sharp, holding one and one-half inches of white and silver ash, highlighted with streaks of sable; which uncannily resembles the colors on the cigar’s label. On the retrohale, the white pepper is replaced by a mixture of red and black pepper with touches of dried fruits.
As it burns through its final third, the Illusione Haut 10 continues to provide an outstanding smoking experience—complex, flavorful, sophisticated, and smooth. The draw remains very open, requiring only single puffs to produce bountiful amounts of ceiling-clinging smoke. A chewy, meaty, and salty note begins to flirt in and out of the flavor profile as the robusto enters the nubbing phase, like a lightly-charred lamb chop seasoned with Fleur de Sel. After finishing the Haut 10, my immediate inclination was to light another. Which I did.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The answer to that question is, “Absolutely.” The Illusione Haut 10 is a formidable example of what can be accomplished with carefully-selected and expertly-rolled Nicaraguan tobaccos. While subtle at times, this complex cigar creates an exquisite and unique smoking experience, which triggers all of the five senses of taste—sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami. I smoked four cigars for this review and each time I was able to discern additional aromas and flavors.
- Smoking Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Mineral water, Champagne, Vodka Martini (no fruit)
- Purchase Recommendation: Full Box
- Overall Complexity
- Mouthwatering Flavors
- Superlative Retrohale
- High Price Point