8 Jan 2014
It has been said that Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars blended his refined Epernay line to pair with champagne. If that’s true, I should have gotten around to this review before New Year’s Eve—not a week after what’s certainly the biggest night for champagne consumption.
Epernay, named for the region of France known around the world for the champagne it produces, debuted in 2008 as the ECCJ 15th limited release (in honor of the 15th anniversary of the European Cigar Cult Journal). It was eventually rolled out in 2009 as a regular production series with four sizes. My colleagues have already reviewed Le Elegance and Le Matin in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
The Epernay recipe calls for Nicaraguan tobaccos of Corojo and Criollo (notably, there is no Ligero in the blend). The wrapper is Café Rosado, and the intended flavor profile is marketed as complex, subdued, and European. With a small, understated band of white and gold, a triple-cap, and that familiar Illusione font, Epernay has a classic appeal.
For this review I sampled 5 cigars in the L’Excellence format, which measures 6.75 inches long with a ring gauge of 48. L’Excellence is the tenth Epernay vitola, a Churchill that was added in 2012. I’ve heard that it’s Giolito’s favorite size in the series. It’s a solid, uniformly packed cigar with moderate oils, few veins, and a stiff pre-light draw. The foot has a gentle aroma of hay and molasses.
After setting an even light, L’Excellence yields a rounded, balanced profile with notes as varied as coffee, white pepper, honey, cream, and apple. A delicate floral taste lingers in the background. The fragrance of the resting smoke is bright and crisp, and the smoke is thick yet light on the palate. I find virtually no nicotine kick in the mild- to medium-bodied cigar, and there are few changes in flavor from light to nub.
Construction is excellent and consistent. The burn line is straight, the ash holds firm, and the smoke production is high. Even the firm pre-light draw opens considerably once L’Excellence gets underway.
Illusione makes some very fine cigars, but the Epernay line is the pinnacle—Giolito’s highest achievement. It’s hard to ask any more from a cigar that retails for about $9. With reliable physical properties and a nuanced profile that’s complex and memorable, L’Excellence is worthy of a great rating. In my book, it earns four and a half stogies out of five.
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photo credit: Stogie Guys