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Illusione Haut 10 Churchill

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Last January, we named the Illusione Haut 10 our cigar of the year.

The 5 1/2 x 52 robusto extra was created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Illusione, the brand of Dion Giolito. Unlike many anniversary cigars, Giolito opted to put this cigar into regular production which has meant that on a monthly basis, I walk into a cigar shop and buy a cigar to smoke.

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Last month—with exactly zero hints that they were coming—Illusione shipped two new sizes of the Nicaraguan puro: a gordo and a Churchill.

  • Illusione Haut 10 (5 1/2 x 52) —2016 — $15.95 (Boxes of 12, $191.40)
  • Illusione Haut 10 Gordo (6 x 56) — 2018 — $17.95 (Boxes of 12, $215.40)
  • Illusione Haut 10 Churchill (6 3/4 x 48) — 2018 — $16.95 (Boxes of 12, $203.40)

  • Cigar Reviewed: Illusione Haut 10 Churchill
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua (Corojo)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 3/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 48
  • Vitola: Churchill
  • MSRP: $16.95 (Boxes of 12, $203.40)
  • Release Date: April 9, 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Everything looks rather familiar from the original Haut 10, though the four ring gauge difference in width isn’t as pronounced as I would expect. Aroma off the wrapper is extremely mild with potato chips and leather being the only two things I can detect. The foot smells somewhat Cuban, though I’d still peg this as Nicaraguan. There’s oatmeal cookies, raspberries, leather and key limes at a medium-full level. The cold draw is quite similar: key limes, raspberries, blueberries and cedar. It’s medium-plus, though nothing stands out other than it smells like a pie shop.

The Illusione Haut 10 Churchill starts with a lot of heavily buttered popcorn, some raspberry and a bit of earthiness. That thick and heavy butter note remains the dominant flavor through the first first, particularly in the mouth where it overwhelms everything else around it. The retrohale is nutty, leading me to think of burnt butter due to the flavor in the mouth, along with a fortune cookie-like sweetness, uncooked tortillas and a flavor reminiscent of raspberry green tea. There’s some paprika that emerges in the mouth in the finish, though the butter is still huge. Construction is okay. The ash falls off rather prematurely on two of three cigars and I find myself having to puff much quicker, leading me to believe the cigars are a bit wet. Flavor is full, body is full, and strength is medium-plus.

I would say for better, not worse, the butter note subsides quite a bit in the second third. It’s still there, though now more of a buttermilk flavor, but it’s allowing some creaminess, cherries, melon and a matzo cracker flavor to battle for the lead. For about 10 minutes the retrohale produces detailed blood orange flavors, adding a brightness that reminds me of the original cigar. Unfortunately, the construction issues are now very real and I find myself regularly touching up the cigar to keep it lit. Flavor is full, body is full and strength surges to full, though reduces a bit towards the end of the second the third.

All three cigars go through a potato chip and muted roasted garlic phase right around the two-inch mark, but it turns as the final inch and a half begins. I think this is in some part due to how the cigar is burning: not so well up until that moment. Flavor-wise, it turns to raspberry, a really clean mineral water note and a Pringles-like potato chip, less salty than before. The finish has blueberries, the aforementioned Pringles, burnt butter and a bit of a blanched kelp flavor, a bizarre but distinct vegetal-like flavor. Flavor and body remain full to the end, though the strength is decreasing until the final puff, almost as far down to medium-plus by the end.

Final Notes

 

  • I believe this is the first time a cigar that has won halfwheel’s cigar of the year has had a new size added to its blend other than the Tatuaje TAA, which is somewhat challenging to make exact sense of.
  • The last month has been a busy time for new Illusione products. Along with the two Haut 10 extensions, the new Singularé shipped while the OneOff relaunch is expected later this month.
  • This is an excellent cigar, but it needs time to dry out a bit. Burn issues not only hurt the score, but almost certainly the flavor, which was still superb.
  • Speaking of the flavors, they are extremely nuanced, but they aren’t the cleanest. Once again, I think this is a result of the moisture in the cigar.
  • I find myself smoking a lot of the original sizeof the Haut 10 in my personal time. It’s not the cheapest of preferences, but it’s a solid cigar. This will likely replace it as I think it’s a better cigar. However, reviewing this version reminded me of just how much I am missing when I smoke the cigar out and about versus by myself. There’s so much nuance and detail that can be picked up when both my mind and palate is completely isolated from outside influences.
  • I think a Prosecco would be a great pairing if you are so inclined.
  • Comparing the two cigars, this certainly is a tad bit stronger, particularly for much of the second third where it gets quite full. I suppose that could change with some drying out as I imagine my increased puff rate had something to do with the manner in which nicotine was being delivered.
  • Illusione advertises on halfwheel.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was two hours and 30 minutes on average, something that will probably be reduced when the cigars dry out a bit more.

 

92 Overall Score

If you run across the Illusione Haut 10 Churchill, buy them. If it’s within 10 days of this review, I’d recommend sitting on them for a week or so and then lighting one up. Burn issues, something I think will go away as moisture leaves the cigars, distracted from what was otherwise a phenomenal cigar. This review could have very much just been 18 words: I think this is a better cigar than the one that won cigar of the year in 2016.

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Charlie Minato
About the author

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.

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