Illusione Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo Cafe Rosado
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 50 Toro
Strength: Medium
Price: $12.30

My sticks have had 6 months of naked humidor time and 2 days of dry boxing.

Epernay is named after the town in France’s famed Champagne region.
From Atlantic Cigar Co:
“Easily considered one of the best cigars being produced today, the Illusione Epernay, created by Dion Giolito, is a balanced and nuanced smoke blended to be sweeter and slightly milder than the original Illusione line. Awarded the #7 spot of Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars of 2019 list with a 94 rating, these Nicaraguan puros combine the finest shade-grown Corojo ’99 Rosado wrapper and choice Corojo and Criollo filler tobaccos to deliver an excellent medium-bodied smoke.
These cigars are produced in the venerable Raices Cubanas factory, which is also considered one of the best in the industry. Don’t miss out on these hard-to-find boutique cigars, because you won’t find many cigars better than this one!

“The Illusione Epernay Series 2009 cigars originally debuted in 2008 through the e c c j 15th limited release. From this blend, Epernay has been made into four unique and exciting sizes with a combination of Criollo and Corojo tobaccos. The cigar is finished with a superior grade ‘A’ Café Rosado wrapper leaf. The Illusione Epernay cigar brand is a very complex and perfectly balanced cigar that’s loaded with flavor, hints of coffee, earth and sweetness and a rounded creamy floral finish. Other outstanding smoke from the people at Aganorsa Leaf / Casa Fernandez who are producing some of the finished smokes from their Miami line, Viaje Cigars and the new Los Hermanos cigars of which 4 of Cigar Aficionados top 25 cigars of 2010 was award to the good folks at Casa Fernandez.”

A bevy of sweet tidbits dominate the schnoz expedition…milk chocolate, honeysuckle, sweet orange, homemade whipped cream, hard cinnamon candy, and sweet tea. Other notes include black pepper, freshly baked bread, cedar, and malt.

The draw is wide, wide open. My PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool slinks off in disgust muttering shit about my ancestors.

The cold draw presents flavors of sweet café au lait, cinnamon rolls, black pepper, creaminess, lots of malt, cedar, black pepper, and unsalted buttered French rolls.

A spicy start with a blackened steak element. The sweetness that appeared in my nose is mostly absent now. Instead, the cigar is earthy with touches of raw almonds, some creaminess, and corn kernels.

Strength is mild. The spiciness of the black pepper gives the cigar a false presentation that it might be stronger; but the attack is low key and a little weak.

With an inch burned, subtle sweetness notes appear in the form of semi-tart green grapes.

Instead of a full-frontal assault at the start of the race, there is a very slow growth of complexity that is in no hurry to impress.

Creaminess gets a jump start. Strength advances, but oh so slowly.

I am a big fan of Illusione. A very consistent record of blends.

I smoked that inch in just 10 minutes. Unless the tube is filled better as the countdown begins, this Toro will be a mere 60-minute smoke.

And the missing in action sweetness decides to disrobe like Tony Curtis in “Spartacus” just before he gives Laurence Olivier a BJ in Caesar’s hot tub.

That tartness of the green grape dissolves into a luscious candy sugariness.
Strength is upped to a solid medium.
Caramel makes its welcome debut. The balance is forming now, and nuances appear that swirl like a country two step.

The Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta is becoming a very pleasant experience that reminds me of being a young boy with not a care in the world.

Speaking of young…If you have EPIX, there is this two-part 2020 documentary called “Laurel Canyon.” All about the music scene above Hollywood Blvd in the countrified part of L.A. Takes place in the 1960’s and has lots of videos I’ve not seen…with some still photos. Only a couple talking heads…the narration is done by the band members of each highlighted band. We’re talking The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, C,S,N,&Y, The Mamas & the Papas, and so on. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score of 100%. The reason I mention this to you young pups is because while describing the upheaval of The Mamas & Papas, they showed an ad of a 1967 concert they did along with Simon & Garfunkel.
It happened at Melodyland Theater on Harbor Blvd across from Disneyland. My best bud, Skip, and I had front row tickets for one of those shows and paid the hefty $5 for such good seats. I’ve looked for proof of that concert for ages. In those days, it was not uncommon to be allowed backstage after a concert if you were polite. Skip and I met everyone. Told them how we adored them. And then we were escorted out.

Flavors begin to coagulate. The creaminess is upfront now. The caramel and sweet orange are met with a bit of spicy ginger.
The black pepper has taken a few steps backwards allowing for subtleties to shine. The complexity is the house of the rising sun as it inches forward.

The burn was a bit wonky at first but now settles into a cemented sharp char line.

I smoked one a couple months in, and it was just too early.
Strength remains at a gentle medium.

I bet that if this blend was to be left alone, draped in its cello for a couple years, its impact would be impressive.

The good news is that the blend moves forward consistently.

Still, this is a very shy blend. There is no unexpected pie in the puss. Overall, a very subtle concoction. I have no serious complaints as it is, pure and simple, an engaging cigar. Although, I am surprised that it was rated so highly in 2019 by Cigar Aficionado and made its top 25 list.

A perfect stick for newbies and those still training their palates to absorb understated variations.

The halfway point finds this blend in a charming seduction. Sips of water between puffs provide some oomph. It arrives here after 40 minutes.

I’m getting some squishiness near the cherry due to its lack of being stacked with leaves until it can barely breathe.

None of the flavors I’ve described have headed for the hills. They are all accounted for with a nice balance of sweet v. savory.

Just now, I received an email asking me to approve a comment on one of my music videos on YouTube. Haven’t heard from the guy since late 1974. He repped Yamaha instruments and amplifiers. Yamaha sponsored the Curved Air reunion tour. The amps were terrible, and I had to have my bass rig replaced twice in those 6 weeks. He mentioned something I had long forgotten…a good friend, and excellent guitarist, back in SoCal worked in a print shop and made bumper stickers that said: Bass Kohn. I had no idea what that meant. But I plastered them all over England and Europe every time we toured.

The Epernay 10th Anniversary D’Aosta is in cruise control mode. No leaps or splats.

Spiciness from the black pepper ramps up. Like a dark cloud, it smothers the subdued elements that have kept the balance on an even keel.

Today is July 11. It is the 19th anniversary of the passing of my father. I must light a Yahrzeit candle and say Kaddish. The 24th will be the 54th anniversary of my mother’s passing.
The mood lightens as I listen to “Feelin’ Alright” by Joe Cocker.

The cigar finishes in stasis. Not a criticism as this has been a delightful cigar.
And sure enough, the end arrives at the 65-minute mark.
If you snag some, let them hibernate and control your impatience.


And now for something completely different:
1965 ~ Tel Aviv, Israel

I was 15. My grandfather took me to Israel and Europe for the summer. I had never left the country before and getting those outdated typhus and cholera injections every Friday for 5 weeks was awful. I spent my weekends in bed with side effects.

First stop: Tel Aviv.
Man, it was HOT! Arizona hot. Palm Springs hot. And to make it even worse: Humid!
We were right on the Mediterranean Sea.

Kirk Douglas, Angie Dickinson, Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, and Topol were all in town for the filming of the historical movie of the birth of Israel, “Cast a Giant Shadow.”

This is the summary of the movie: “An American Army officer is recruited by the yet to exist Israel to help them form an army. He is disturbed by this sudden appeal to his Jewish roots. Each of Israel’s Arab neighbors has vowed to invade the poorly prepared country as soon as partition is granted. He is made commander of the Israeli forces just before the war begins.”

I have photos of all this but in some box in the basement. I’m too old for bending over boxes for an hour for a friggin’ cigar review.

We saw Yul Brynner speak at our hotel on the patio. We saw John Wayne and Sinatra at a bar.

We were visiting the soft opening of the Museum of the Holocaust. It was weeks away from its official opening but allowed tourists to get a free look. It was an enormous setting with several buildings.

110° outside and no shade. The buildings did not have running air conditioning. I was on a synagogue tour of about 50-60 people. Five of us were teens. So, we hung out with each other and did everything together.

None of us were used to the heat. There were vendors selling cold drinks. Coke and Pepsi had not yet landed in Israel yet and the only sodas available were the local stuff. There was this lemon lime stuff that tasted a little like 7-Up. So that’s what the vendors called it to lure Americans.

We were sweating like pigs. We were beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion. Stupidly, we told our parents or, in my case, my grandfather that we would stay longer and find our own way back to the hotel.

Now what are the odds of this? None of us had any money on us. Not an Israeli penny.

There were plenty of water fountains and none of them had been hooked up yet. Same in the bathrooms.

We were standing together stressing out when one of the kids pointed a finger and said, “Look. There’s Kirk Douglas.”
Well, shit. It was him. He stood with a group of his friends. The same guy said we should approach him and ask to borrow a few Israeli Pounds so we could buy some sodas.

We all froze and then I made my move. I walked up to the group and interrupted them.
“Mr. Douglas…” I told him our sad story and how we were fellow Americans and Jews from L.A. I even promised him that we would pay him back. He laughed.

Without blinking an eye, he handed me a wad of dough and told us to go have a good time. We each bought two bottles of “7-Up” and slung them down like thirsty camels.

We had enough money to get something to eat from a vendor and then figured we had to get out of there. We took a bus back to the hotel.

We told our story to the group of adults, and no one believed us.

It was a fun month touring Israel. I got mugged once by Arab kids. We rode a boat on the Sea of Galilee. We saw buildings that were thousands of years old.

It was also the first time I had a girlfriend. Her name was Frieda and was Polish/American. Her parents survived Auschwitz and then moved to America where they became rich by owning a swanky apartment building in Beverly Hills filled to the brim with celebrities.

Frieda and I standing atop the Eiffel Tower:

I had my first make out session. And I copped my first feel. And it was caught on a dozen movie cameras as it took place in the back of the tour bus.

Young people should see the world, or at least a part of it. But even with high tensions in Israel and Europe in the 1960’s, it was nothing like today where carrying an American passport could mean your death if caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.