December 29, 2010

REVIEW: Illusione 88 Candela

We don't see a lot of green between December and February here in Columbus, so for today's review, I thought I get my fill by trying the new candela leaf-wrapped Illusione 88 from Dion Giolito (@vudu9 on twitter), owner of Illusione Cigars. Earlier in the year, Illusione put out another vitola with this wrapper (the HL) which received decent reviews. I smoked a few of them and thought they were very interesting; perhaps not an everyday kind of cigar, but something fun to mix it up. I asked Dion why he did the candelas via twitter and his response is below:

I've just always liked candelas. It's olde tyme flavor. Back in the day, all of the old cats that hung out in the casinos smoked them. --Dion Giolito

The "regular" Illusione 88 has been a staple in my humidor ever since I received a box as a wedding gift. It's not a vitola in the core Illusione line that gets a ton of praise around the web, but I have always been a big fan and try to keep some on hand (note to self: I am out - order some more). With all that said, this is my first time trying the blend with the candela wrapper, so let's see how it goes.

On to the review.

Vitola: Robusto
Length: 5
Ring Gauge: 52
Wrapper: Candela
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price: $??
Smoking Location: Explorer Lounge
Beverage: water
Manufacture's Website:


The waxy green wrapper color is a pretty crazy sight to behold on the Illusione 88 Candela. I smoke a lot of Illusione products, so seeing a very familiar band with a very unfamiliar color definitely made me take a extra minute or two staring at the cigar before cutting it. With that said, the color does stand out, but what also stands out just as much is the STRONG pre-lit aroma. I could be nice and say it smelled like hay, or barnyard, but really it smelled just like walking into the elephant house at the zoo. A little off-putting, yes, but we've all smoked cigars that smell awful before lighting them, and then the flavors are great after. The cigar cut easily and the cold draw tasted of natural tobacco mixed with some grassy notes.

First Third
The Illusione 88 Candela lit easily with my soft flame lighter and immediately produced thick clouds of smoke that had an interesting aroma. It was not a grassy aroma like I would expect from the cold draw, but more of a earthy aroma that you sometimes smell at your local garden nursery. The initial flavors were black peppery spice with hints of leather and earth on the front, but on the finish was where things got interesting. After blowing the smoke out of my mouth and nose, I was left with a sweet taste that reminded me of raw sugar; not so sweet that it was sickening or gross, but a nice, natural sweetness that is an unusual taste in cigars. Lots of cigars have sweet flavors, but not this flavor. When you smoke one, I think you will know what I'm talking about. The draw and filler burn of the stick was perfect in the first third, but the wrapper leaf had some issues burning straight. I'm not an expert on candelas but I would venture to say that this is common with that style of wrapper. The body was in the mild to medium range.

Second Third
In the second third of my Illusione 88 Candela, the flavor profile changed up a bit. On the front, the black peppery flavors diminished and the strong flavor coming through now was leather. I still got the tingly sensation on my taste buds that the pepper normally gives, but the taste of it was gone. The finish again was where this cigar was most interesting. Along with that natural sweetness from the first third I was now tasting some green tea flavors. I'm not sure if the color of the cigar played tricks on my flavor palate or what? But if you have ever had an Arizona Green Tea from your local corner shop, this is the flavor I was tasting. My smoking partner commented that the mixture of the sugar with the green tea reminded him of green tea ice cream. Again, just like the first third, the draw and filler burn were spot on, just the wrapper leaf needed a touch up here and there with my lighter.

Final Third and Final Thoughts
The final third of my Illusione 88 Candela was pretty much the same as the second third, except for the strength seemed to pick up quite a bit. I would put this part of the stick solidly on the medium range, if not reaching into the medium to full area. The flavors were like before, strong leathery tastes on the front, sweet sugar and green tea on the finish. Something I have not mentioned is just how clean tasting this cigar was. The smoke does not leave any heavy or thick feeling in my mouth, which for me is unusual for a cigar with a predominantly leather taste. Just something I thought worth mentioning. I nubbed the stick and never felt any heat or harshness at the end.

My final thoughts on the Illusione 88 Candela? This was a fun and easy cigar to smoke. Aside from the few touch ups to keep the wrapper burning straight, I never had any problems with the construction or getting full draws of smoke from the cigar. The flavor profile was pretty classic Illusione 88 style with that crazy finish (although I didn't get the black cherry flavor that I normally get when I think of this blend, maybe that's all in the wrapper?) . It was a nice change up from what I normally smoke and a great stick for sitting around with a friend and having a conversation.
Would I buy it again? Sure I'd buy a few of these to keep on hand. As I wrote in the top potion of this post, I am a big fan of the 88. I don't think this cigar replaces the regular 88 for my favorite in the blend, but it's still nice to have something different now and then.

Would I buy a box?  I don't think I'd buy a full box of these cigars. I did enjoy smoking it very much, but if I had to choose, I'd still go with the regular 88 in a box purchase. I hope other people review this cigar because I'd really like to read other peoples' experiences and see if they are similar.



  1. -88- is my favorite also. Have yet to see the candela HL locally let alone the -88- version. I am jealous. Will need to research these...

  2. Nice review Dan. Like you I enjoy several Illusione lines but I have to say a green cigar is off putting to me. I know it is an unfair bias and I will give these a try. Thanks.