Cigar Review: Illusione Garagiste

  • Garagiste_straightVitola: Toro
  • 6” x 52 ring gauge 
  • $11.50
  • Purchased from Embassy Cigars

Background

Language barriers…important to know they are there. In preparation for reviewing this cigar, I went to Google Translate to figure out what “Garagiste” means. Based on the fact that 99% of the cigar world seem so speak Spanish, I started there. “You gagged” was a translation I wasn’t quite prepared for. I looked at Cigar-Coop’s news story on the 2016 IPCPR introduction of this cigar and saw that the name refers to a group of winemakers in the Bordeaux region of France and that they produce “garage wines.” So I switched the language to French and got “mechanic” as the translation. That made a lot more sense.

Like pretty much everything else from Illusione, these cigars are made by TABSA, Casa Fernandez’s factory in Nicaragua. It uses Nicaraguan fillers and binder, specifically Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99, “with an emphasis on Ligeros from 2 regions.” The wrapper is a “Capa Fina grade AAA Colorado Habano Ecuador” leaf.

I found this stick at Embassy Cigars in Anaheim Hills on my recent visit to southern California. If your local shop doesn’t carry Illusione, you can order Garagiste from h, a sponsor of this site.

Prelight

Garagiste has to be one of the most under-designed releases from Illusione. No flair, no fanfare…just simple wooden boxes within minimal type on them. Simple brown bands that almost disappear into the color of the wrapper leaf, with “Illusione” and “Garagiste” and framing pinstripes…and “Hecho en Nicaragua” in really tiny type. I understand that you don’t smoke the band and there is such a thing as overdoing presentation…but this just goes too far to the minimalist side. It is likely to get completely overlooked in a crowded humidor, unless someone is specifically looking for Illusione releases.

The wrapper was a rich brown color in between milk and dark chocolate. It had a pleasing oiliness to the touch. The wrapper leaf had a lightly earthy and cedary aroma to it. The foot of the stick was richer in earth with notes of coffee and cocoa powder in the mix.

I cut the Garagiste and got an excellent cold draw that had flavors of cocoa powder, baking spice, and earth.

Garagiste_angleFlavor

Lighting up would be a challenge…firstly, this was a slightly larger than medium ring gauge…secondly, the day I reviewed this was the first real “fall” day we had this year. It had rained in the morning, clearing out to sunny skies and finally very breezy, with occasional strong gustiness in the late afternoon. I waited patiently for a break in the winds and then burned…the initial flavors were of semi-sweet chocolate and rich black coffee, backed up by a bit of cinnamon and anise, and finishing with a nuttiness and earthiness. The retrohale had a little red pepper flake, but was mostly nutty, too. Through the first third I continued to get a very smooth, almost velvety, dark chocolate note, with continuing accents of baking and pepper spice, as well as a little nuttiness from time to time. It was really quite complex and different from every other Illusione I can remember.

The second third featured an increase in earthiness and espresso bean notes, while the sweetness ebbed away a bit. The pepper was a constant low-level burn and cinnamon hung around in the background.

The smooth richness of coffee and cocoa powder continued in the final third, with a little increase in pepper and a solid earthiness underneath.

Construction

Even with windy conditions, I had an even burn line. The draw was excellent and the ash was solid.

Value

I ended up paying the elevated California price for this, but regular retail pricing is right around $10 per stick, which is more than fair for the experience it delivers.

Conclusions

I really enjoyed Garagiste. It’s the best Illusione I’ve had since the Fume d Amour and a fantastic addition to the catalog. Garagiste is a medium-to-full bodied blend that really showcases the flavor that Nicaraguan tobacco can have without having so much pepper and strength that it would turn off folks that don’t like that much heat and intensity. Smoke this one…smoke it often.

By-The-Numbers

Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4.5/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 9.5/10

David Jones

David has been smoking premium cigars since 2001. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leaf Enthusiast. He is a full-time retail tobacconist, working for Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, where he has also organized the Chattanooga Tweet-Up for the last four years. He is also an independent graphic designer and typesetter. Twitter: @dmjones1009

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