In 2008, Illusione released an exclusive cigar to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the European Cigar Cult Journal magazine, which has since been changed to Cigar Journal. Known as the ~eccj~, the 5 5/8 x 46 corona gorda was made up of a Nicaraguan corojo rosado wrapper covering Nicaraguan tobacco in the binder and filler. Only 4,500 cigars were released priced at $8 each and they were sold exclusively through New Havana Cigars.
That blend went on to become the Illusione Epernay.
Early last year, Illusione’s Dion Giolito told us that there would be another release to commemorate Cigar Journal’s 20th anniversary and the ~eccj~ 20th was shown off for the first time at the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show. The new version is a 6 1/4 x 48 cigar that is made up of a Nicaraguan Corojo 99 wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos composed of Nicaraguan Criollo 98 and Corojo 99 tobaccos.
It was rolled at TABSA in Nicaragua, are priced at $13 each, with a box of 15 retailing for $195 and a total of 30,000 cigars were produced.
- Illusione ~eccj~ (5 5/8 x 46) — $8 (Boxes of 15, $120) — 300 Boxes of 15 Cigars (4,500 Total Cigars)
- Illusione ~eccj~ 20th (6 1/4 x 48) — $13 (Boxes of 15, $195) — 2,000 Boxes of 15 (30,000 Total Cigars)
- Cigar Reviewed: Illusione ~eccj~ 20th
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: TABSA
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo 99
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo 98 & Nicaraguan Corojo 99
- Size: 6 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Corona Extra
- MSRP: $13 (Boxes of 15, $195)
- Date Released: Jan. 15, 2015
- Number of Cigars Released: 2,000 Boxes of 15 (30,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 4
Visually, the ~eccj~ 20th is stunning with the cigar covered in a golden brown wrapper that has a bit of tooth present, but a lack of any noticeable oil. There are some small bumps and veins running up and down the length, but they are far from distracting, and the cigar is quite hard when squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of pungent hay, peanuts, manure and leather, while the cold draw brings flavors of lemon citrus, grass, nuts, whit chocolate and cedar.
The Illusione ~eccj~ 20th starts off with distinct flavors of lemongrass, almonds, hay, creamy leather, dark chocolate and oak with a bit of floral sweetness that comes and goes. There is a significant amount of spice present on the retrohale and on the palate for the first 10 puffs or so, and although it begins to recede after that, it remains a major part of the profile. Both the burn and draw are excellent and the smoke production is well above average. Strength-wise, the Illusione increases gradually to finish close to the medium mark by the end of the first third.
The floral sweetness morphs into more of a vanilla bean sweetness and gains quite bit of prominence in the second third of the ~eccj~ 20th, combining nicely with the spice and pepper that are still present on the retrohale. The dominant flavor is a great creamy peanut note, but other flavors of lemongrass, leather, milk chocolate, oak and cinnamon flit in and out as well. The burn and draw continue to impress, while the smoke production remains high, pouring off of the foot like a house on fire. The strength hits a solid medium by the halfway point, but stalls out there, seemingly content to remain where it is.
The overt nutty creaminess continues to dominate the profile in the final third of the Illusione, but the sweetness shifts again, this time to more of a maple note that is quite enjoyable. Other flavors of hay, oak, cinnamon, earth, espresso and earth are present as well, but the floral note starts to gain strength as the cigar burns down. The construction remains excellent to the end and while the smoke production has declined just a bit, it is still easily above average. The overall strength does increase a tiny amount, ending the cigar just slightly above the medium mark, and the nub is cool to the touch when I put it down with a little less than an inch left.
- Early last year, we were given a tour of Giolito’s warehouse in Reno, Nev. which was housed in a plain looking building in an office park. Among the treasures we were shown was a Epernay War Chest that Giolito toyed with releasing when the line debuted in 2009. Inside would be Epernay Le Petít, Le Ferme, Le Elegance, Le Grande and ~eccj~. The chest was never released, and the one that we were shown is the only one in existence.
- I consider the original ~eccj~ to be one of the best Nicaraguan puros released in the last 15 years, and they are still going strong even after seven years, although sadly, my stock has been depleted to less than five.
- The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- In July of 2013, Giolito told halfwheel that the 9 1/4 x 49 Le Voyage would be the final vitola in the line, bringing the final number of sizes to 11.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Illusione advertises on halfwheel.
- The final smoking time for all four samples I smoked averaged one hour and 35 minutes.
- If you are looking to purchase any of the Illusione ~eccj~ 20th cigars, site sponsors Serious Cigars and STOGIES World Class Cigars and have them in stock as of the time this review was published.
I was not expecting the same cigar ~eccj~ 20th to be the same cigar as the ~eccj~—they are different blends, after all—but after smoking four of them for this review, I am a bit surprised at how close to the overall feel of the profile of the original the new one exhibits. Having said that, there are some significant differences between the two: the new version has significantly more spice on both the retrohale and the palate than the original, and also features more floral notes than 2008 version when fresh. Construction was excellent all around and smoke production was well above average with a strength that was noticeable, but played well the rest of the profile. A superbly blended, excellently balanced flavor bomb of a cigar, and I have no doubt they will age extremely well.