Illusione Epernay Le Grande | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Café Rosado
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan (Criollo and Corojo)
Size: 6 x 46 “Corona Gorda”
Body: Medium
Price: $7.50/$6.24 by the 50 count box

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Today we take a look at the Illusione Epernay Le Grande.

I’m sure the more experienced smokers have smoked their share. But since I’m the only reviewer left who hasn’t reviewed it, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring.

The cigars are made at Raices Cubanas in Honduras.

From the Famous Smoke web site:
“Illusione Epernay cigars are made from a blend that debuted in 2008 via the European Cigar Cult Journal 15th Ltd. release. From this blend, Epernay has been made into four unique sizes with perfectly-aged Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo tobaccos exquisitely wrapped in a superior-grade Nicaraguan Café Rosado wrapper. The smoke is medium-bodied, very complex, and perfectly balanced, treating the palate to hints of coffee, honey, and floral notes.”

To add to its prestige, the Illusione Epernay was rated as the number #3 cigar of the year in 2011 by Cigar Aficionado.

The Rosado brown wrapper has that slight red blush. The stick is very firm but gives when pushed. Packed neatly and evenly. The seams are close to being invisible. There are a small amount of veins. And the triple cap is flawless.

I clip the cap and find aromas of orange citrus, spice, honeysuckle, a rich earthiness, cedar, and leather.
Time to light up.

The draw is a bit tight. I gently roll the shaft in my palms and that fixes it.
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The first flavors are: Honey, graham cracker, floral notes, toasty, nutty, cinnamon, cedar, salty pretzel, and coffee.

Char line trouble. I quickly touch it up. I bought 3 of the Illusione Epernay Le Grande about 6 weeks ago. I smoked the other two and they both had razor sharp burn lines and never needed a single touch up. I pick the one for review that needs help. Go figure.

Oddly, spice is only now beginning to show and it is very lazy and subtle.
The sweetness factors of the Illusione Epernay Le Grande are a joy.

I get a coffee cake component that makes the cigar blend go past a candy bar and into the French pastry arena.

The other two I smoked were not the first of the day like this one. What a huge difference. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that first cigar of the day experience with every cigar during the day?

The cigar worked out its psychological issues with its burn and is nearly razor sharp.

I am a schlock photographer. Yes, I hear you nodding your heads in agreement. For me, the worst nightmare is a white cigar band with gold letters on it…all shiny. I just can’t get the right angle to get the whole damn name to show. Meanwhile, the fucking cat knocks over my most expensive “Daylight” bulb stand and it shatters into a million pieces. And then he does it again. I came downstairs, this morning, to find my expensive Fuji mini-binoculars, that I’ve had since the 1980’s, in pieces because the cat knocked them off their place on the shelf in the middle of the night. The cat is 6 months old and still has that insane, wild kitty approach to life. That little fucker has broken so much stuff that I’m thinking of cat jerky.

The strength is classic medium body.

By the 1-1/2” point, the Illusione Epernay Le Grande finds its complexity. But by no means is it a flavor bomb. It is a smooth, relaxing cigar. The honey and graham cracker are running the show. The floral notes, cedar, coffee, and now some fruity notes are the perfect back up.
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Dion Giolito has such a knack. I wish he would bring back his Le Grand Classe cigars.

The Illusione Epernay Le Grande is a slow roll type of blend. Flavors, lazily, attract more flavors but at their own pace.
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The second third begins.

Creaminess shows up. With it, comes nougat and caramel. All these flavors accentuate the coffee element.

The strength moves up to medium/full body.

This is one of the more complex cigars I’ve smoked in a while. I can easily see how it belonged on the CA Top 25 list. There is so much going on that without divine focus on your part, you will miss half of what it brings to the table.

The balance is perfect. As I try to figure out the other flavors, I smack my lips like the dog. I sip water only with it so as not to influence any of the flavors.

There is a modest fruitiness. It is a mixture of fresh figs and summer fruit.
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The price point is absurd. Not even $8 a stick. And less by the box. Kudos Mr. Giolito.

This is box material. In fact, several boxes would be nice and is on my list for my birthday present in a couple weeks.

I reach the halfway point.

The Illusione Epernay Le Grande has been a nice slow smoke. So far, I’ve invested 45 minutes.

Due to the subtlety of the blend, I would never smoke it with a friendly crowd of brother cigar lovers. To fully enjoy what Giolito has done, requires extreme focus and attention.
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Illusione generally makes blends that are sledge hammers. Bold, spicy, strong blends. Very few are nuanced like the Epernay.
The last third begins.

The Illusione Epernay Le Grande is a cornucopia of flavors: Honey, graham cracker, caramel, floral notes, coffee, cedar, fruit, nougat, nutty, toasty, leather, and cinnamon.

I realize everyone’s palate is different and some of you think I’m nuts or going overboard. The way to understand your palate is to try and describe what you taste and writing it down as you taste it. It opens up your horizons for appreciating a good blend.

I often close my eyes while puffing away. That rids my brain of visual distractions and allows me to focus. A cigar can be a real Zen experience. This is what I try to attain while smoking and writing. And in between writing and puffing.
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For you inexperienced smokers, try what I just described. Sit at your computer and write what you taste. It is a great way to improve your palate. Sometimes, the flavors can become infinite. Beyond description.

When I finish a review (About 3 hours), I am a wet rag. It’s like good sex or playing my bass really well. The art of the review can allow you to be taken on that magic carpet ride. Which is why I hate finding a cigar I review a dog turd. It ruins my morning.
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I look forward to my daily reviews for that Zen experience. If you can do what I described on some sort of regular basis, you will be shocked at how much your palate improves.
The Illusione Epernay Le Grande provides that ride.

I get some pretty rude comments from readers on occasion. I give a cigar a good review and the reader tells me I’m full of shit. I love those comments. It tells me a lot about that person. Usually, not very bright. Not a real connoisseur of cigar smoking. Just another shlub who smokes the same stuff over and over and doesn’t give cigars a chance.

The strength remains at medium/full to the end. I was hoping for a spicier cigar but you can’t always get what you want.

The Illusione Epernay Le Grande is a fantastic blend that is wallet friendly. Can’t ask for more than that.

And I give Dion Giolito props for not jacking up the price over the years as some manufacturers do with their popular regular production cigars.
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And now for something completely different:

I watched a TV show called “The Big Interview with Dan Rather.” Weirdly, he interviewed Carlos Santana. Yet instead of it being a fiasco, I was surprised and delighted, by Rather’s insightful questions.

Every musician and non-musician should watch this. It is on AXSTV.

Santana was able to describe the genesis of why musicians become players. Good players.

I had been a bassist for 8 years before I learned what Santana described. I have mentioned in an earlier review how I did some serious jamming with two friends. I was 6 months away from leaving for Europe. And I was living off part time jobs.

The three of us would spend 8 hours playing in the drummer’s living room full of recording equipment. Not a recording studio, but close.
We never once played a real song. Instead, one of us would start something and then the other two jumped in. Sometimes our jams would last an entire hour or longer.
Then we’d take a break and roll a doob. And then get back to it.

It was during these 6 months that I learned to let go. I allowed the music to flow through me and to stop thinking.

I remember talking with my session player cousin, Fred Selden, about this before I knew what it meant. He tried explaining it but I didn’t get it. I was young.

I am suggesting you listen to Santana explain this because I can’t put the words together like he did.

If you are lucky, you play great moments beyond your capabilities. You don’t know what you are doing. You aren’t thinking or trying to play a certain riff. You allow the surrounding music to just take you away and follow where the music takes you.

So it’s magical. Your subconscious takes the driver’s wheel. And it opens new horizons as a player. It gives you more confidence. It takes away the fear.

As a player, you can do this with rock music in long passages between vocals. But to really explore, you need to play things along the jazz path. Dissonance becomes something you are not afraid of. You play freer. And the fear disappears.

One of the worst things a musician can do is be afraid. Afraid of playing a clam..a bad note in a structured song. Playing a clam while jamming is merely finding what works and what doesn’t. But it may lead you to recognize something beyond that note. Something that is interesting and bold.

These 6 months was the most important teaching moment in my bass playing career. It led me to audition for Curved Air in London and blow them away. It wasn’t jazz but it was progressive rock. So close enough.

My best playing always occurred with my eyes closed. And boy is that dangerous when you are playing a fretless bass guitar. I also played an electric upright.

With your eyes closed, you have no distractions. It’s like taking acid. Doors open to elements you were never aware of.

This is why I miss playing. Nothing in my life can approximate that feeling of letting go while playing music.

Now, at my age, I have no patience for classic rock cover bands. I hate it. It is nearly impossible to find musicians good enough that one can explore Neverland and slip down the rabbit hole.

With Charlotte working now, I hope to buy a used bass. There is no shortage of them. I still have my amp rig. So I will be good to go.

Then the hard part: Auditioning. I do something that most musicians won’t do. If by the third song I don’t feel a connection, I tell the boys that and leave. Why waste my time and theirs?
Better to be honest than slug away for a couple of hours where you’re not having fun.

My cousin Fred told me that one should always seek out a band where the players are better than you. It gives you a chance to learn and expand your chops.

For some reason, I was gifted with a talent to play bass. So the problem is finding musicians to play with that you want to spend time with. That may happen 1% of the time.

When I lived in Chicago, I played out all the time. Here in Milwaukee, which is stuck in the 70’s, metal is the soup de jour. Finding a good blues band is nearly impossible. And that is what I like to play. Playing jazz requires you to read. And I lost that gift decades ago.

My hopes are high in spite of my surroundings. My back surgery really helped. I can play and not worry about being doubled over by the third set.
I would prefer to buy an electric upright but they are so expensive. I guess time will tell.

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