July 1, 2010

REVIEW: Ashton VSG Illusion

The Ashton VSG (Virgin Sun Grown) is by far the most popular line in the Ashton brand of cigars. The VSG line gets consistent high rankings in all cigar media both here in the States and even across seas in a market dominated by Cuban cigars.

The story of the VSG line taken from the Ashton Website: The VSG is blended exclusively for Ashton by Carlos Fuente Jr. using 4 to 5 year old aged Dominican tobacco taken from the finest and most fertile plants. The distinct flavor of VSG comes from its wrapper grown on a private estate in Ecuador owned by the Oliva family where this proprietary wrapper leaf is grown for the Fuente Family exclusively for Ashton VSG. The leaf is taken from the higher primings and matures slowly by sunlight filtered through the region¹s natural cloud covering.

This particular stick was sent to me in a trade with fellow BOTL Joe (@jitzy8585 on twitter), Thanks Joe! Personally, this is my first time smoking a Ashton VSG Illusion size, so I couldn't wait to see what was in store for me.

Vitola: Illusion
Length: 6.50
Ring Gauge: 42
Wrapper: Ecuador Sun Grown
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Price: Around $10 each
Smoking Location: My back deck
Beverage: water

The first thing I noticed about my Ashton VSG is that it has a slight box-pressed shape. I hadn't noticed this before when I stuck it in my cooler a few months ago, but when I inspected the stick more closely, it was not perfectly round. The wrapper was very toothy with a consistent medium brown color. There was one rather large vein running up the back of this stick that was pretty ugly, but I didn't foresee it causing burn issues. The cigar was evenly packed and gave an interesting aroma when held unlit to my nose. I picked up some strong scents of sweet vanilla with just a hint of what I would describe as orange peel. The cap clipped easily and the cold draw tasted similar to the aroma with strong flavors of vanilla with some of that orange peel coming through. Needless to say, it ranks up there with interesting cold draws in all the reviews I've done.

First Third 
Once evenly lit, my Ashton VSG opened up nicely with strong flavors -- the first of which was a rich creamy mocha flavor that seemed to melt over my taste buds leaving my mouth feeling very saturated. To balance the richness of this taste, there was a spicy clove flavor on the intimidate finish that helped cut any of the heaviness that the initial flavor could have left. What was even more interesting was after sitting for around a minute between puffs and after the spice had worn off, I started to pick up a sweetened black coffee flavor hiding in the background. This Ashton VSG was starting off very complex and creating a very exciting, enjoyable start. The burn on the cigar was slow and perfectly straight with the body settling in the medium range.

Second Third
The strong flavors at the start of my Ashton VSG seemed to stay pretty true to the first third except the sweetened black coffee taste was more dominate on the finish. I was still getting a lot of creamy mocha hits on in the front of each puff, with a little of the spicy clove on the finish, but most of that spice was now covered by the coffee. One thing to note that I didn't mention earlier is the ash characteristics. My Ashton VSG had a weak ash that held on for maybe half an inch. This didn't take away from my smoking experience, but I like to note these things for anyone smoking a VSG inside. Don't try for a long ash or you could very easily make a mess of your carpet. Towards the end of the second third, the body of this stick really started to ramp up and I would place it into the full body range.

Final Third and Final Thoughts
The final third of my Ashton VSG was different than the first two thirds. Most of the flavor I was getting from the start of the stick dropped off and changed to a very strong roasted nut flavor. Most of the time I can pick up roasted peanuts and flavors close to that in cigars, but this was more of a roasted hazelnut or almond taste. Burning further into the final third, the mocha and spicy clove flavors were completely gone and left only a balance of the roasted hazelnut taste on the front with sweetened black coffee on the finish. The flavor profile was reminding me of something you could pick up at any local cafe for your morning caffeine fix. The body now sat heavily in the full range and I could feel the nicotine kick in. It was strong, but not overpowering enough to make me uncomfortable or take away from the experience.

My final thoughts on the Ashton VSG Illusion? This was really a treat to smoke. If you have read any of my reviews before, you will know I like a cigar that is complex and has a lot of different flavors. The Ashton VSG came in with flying colors in this aspect. Pair that with solid construction from start to finish and a nice amount of strength, and I say we have a winner. Do yourself a favor and grab a few of these soon and smoke them on a nice evening. I think you will enjoy yourself.

Would I buy it again? I absolutely will buy more of these sticks. They are a little pricey but picking up a handful is not out of the question.

Would I buy a box? I think these are box worthy if you can round up the cash. For me, I'll be sticking to 5 packs for now.



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