With a complete absence of new product from Illusione at IPCPR 2017, the company’s Garagiste from 2016 remains the newest regular-production line. 2016 was an uncharacteristic showing for Illusione and company owner Dion Giolito, introducing two new brands to coincide with the company’s 10th anniversary (Garagiste and Haut 10), as well as a slew of new sizes, sister blends to existing lines, and much more.
For Garagiste, the concept borrows from the winemaking world, where a select cult of winemakers of the famed Bordeaux region began eschewing the traditional and strict techniques of the Bordeaux style in the mid-1990s. These winemakers produced more intense, bolder, higher alcohol versions of conventional Bordeaux using extremely small vineyard plots and producing the wine essentially in their garages (aka “Vins de garage”). While occasionally looked down upon by purists, the garagistes have attracted a cult following for their “punk rock” approach to the craft.
With Illusione being well known for helping to pioneer a true “small batch” style within the premium cigar market, a correlation can easily be drawn between the cigar’s concept and the Illusione brand.
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Garagiste Short Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: AAA Grade Colorado Habano Ecuador
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: TABSA (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch
- Vitola: 4¼″ × 50 (Short Robusto)
- Price: $8.35 (MSRP)
Garagiste is built primarily from the Fernández family’s high-grade Nicaraguan Aganorsa tobaccos, focusing on Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99 leaves within the binder and filler recipe. The cigars are rolled at the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) factory in Estelí, with four total sizes retailing from $8.35 to $10.80.
There’s no doubt that Garagiste is an Illusione product from first glance; showing the brand’s signature thin and understated bands with bold lettering. The color of the band is brown with a subtle maroon undertone, blending in nearly seamlessly with the cigar itself. The cigar is small, yet sturdy and stout in construction. The wrapper has a leathery appearance, like an old baseball mitt—oily and mottled from head to toe in various shades of brown. The Rothschild feels dense below the surface from what looks to be a compact bunching process.
On the nose, the wrapper shows a heavy animal muskiness, as well as sweet chocolate and a nice tanginess. There are added notes of cedar, cabinet spices, and sage on the cigar’s foot. With a double guillotine cut, Garagiste shows a draw resistance on the firm side, with flavors of sweet cedar, pine, and a cool spiciness in the back of the throat.
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Unlike most Illusione smoking profiles, which tend to lean towards soft complexities, the Garagiste lights up with an assortment of spices. Raw peppercorn and chili powder race through the nostrils within the first few draws. As the cigar develops and begins settling into its intended profile, a creaminess emerges in the background, eventually joined by warm caramel and malt.
Following suit from the pre-light draw, Garagiste’s smoking draw is a bit firm (close to 8/10, if 5/10 is exactly medium), sometimes requiring double puffs to coax the desired smoke output from the small Rothschild. The cigar produces a warm smoking texture that fits nicely with the caramel-like flavor profile, but it is a temperamental balance that can easily become hot and tarry. Garagiste is stronger than your average Illusione, showing a medium/full strength, medium body, and medium flavor. As expected, the cigar is well constructed and requires little-to-no maintenance.
Flavor developments arise in the form of anise in the nostrils (especially when the cigar’s heat increases), added custard cream in the background and finish, and leather—which becomes the primary flavor ingredient. Moving from the second to final third, the profile is quite dark, with roasted and toasty notes such as honey wheat bushman bread (like you’d find at steakhouses), malt, mineral, and raw tobacco/nicotine.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Possibly, but I won’t be seeking it out. Garagiste is not what fans of the brand have come to expect—which can often be a good thing—but in this case didn’t seem to offer anything substantial enough to keep me coming back. The cigar is strong, on the dark side (profile wise), and dependable—burning for roughly one and a half hours, which is impressive for its small size. This all lines up nicely with the reasonable $8 price point, and I could see Garagiste being a real winner for a lot of smokers. Personally, I’d have to be gifted one to give it another go.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium/Full
- Body: Medium-Plus
- Chili Powder
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Bourbon, Cola, Scotch Ale
- Purchase Recommendation: Try a few sizes
- Good construction and slow burning
- Hefty strength without overpowering flavor
- Low smoke output
- Draw on firm side
- Heats up easily