I've never been disappointed in an Illusione product. They've got that new-school edge with old-school attention to quality.
The CG4 is a Corona Gorda; one of my favorite vitolas for any cigar; its just a great length with a ring-gauge that highlights the blend and the wrapper leaf equally . The CG meaning Corona Gorda, the 4 a reference to the 4 horseman of the apocalypse. Just a little more of that dark Illusione imagery. That dark imagery all the new brands use.
When are they going to put a 'Sunshine and bubblegum' brand on the market. With such cigars as the 'Feel Good', 'Long Walk on the Beach Cigar', but I digress.
Dark imagery seems to be a winning formula for the likes of Tatuaje, Illusione, Room 101.....there are more, I just can't think of them at the moment.
The cigar looks great. Well-made, a smooth wrapper leaf, seamless and flawless. A firm spongy, yet full feel throughout the cigar is a sure sign of freshness and nice tobacco distribution. However, one thing caught my attention enough that its worth noting....the wrapper leaf was a very light shade. Supposedly Nicaraguan wrapper leaf, this thing could have passed for a Connecticut Shade. It just looked mild. A little rugged, but mild all the same. If my memory serves me correct the CG4's I've smoked in the past had a darker hue to the leaf. Not a maduro dark, just a typical Nicaraguan wrapper color. Generally, I don't have much to say in the color dept. of Nicaraguan wrapper leaves, but this one was so damn light it bothered me.
The cigar had a grassy, hay-like scent on the foot prior to lighting it. The cigar itself also had a hay smell to it, with a little sting of pepper and strong tobacco.
Once lit the resting smoke was slightly peppery with a creaminess to it. The retrohale was creamy and a little sweet. The cigar's aroma didn't vary much, but picked up some spice towards the end.
As with most Illusione products, the cigar burnt well. No need for touch ups; the cigar burned even and smooth. But that is where my expectation of Illusione and the reality of the cigar in my hand stopped being a match.
Two years ago, even just a year ago, Illusiones were complex cigars that evolved throughout the smoke. This CG4, while good by any standard, did not meet what I've come to expect from Illusione. The flavor profile was rather one-dimensional. I tasted a little spice on the front end and some sweetness halfway in. But a hay, aka barnyard flavor reigned as the predominant flavor throughout.
I enjoyed the cigar and by no means did I dislike it, but it failed to meet my expectations of what an Illusione should bring to the table.
Decline of the Wonder Brands
The cigar, while possibly a fluke is a sad testament to what I've noticed as a trend with some newer success story brands. Basically these new 'edgy' brands that took smokers by storm in the past 4 or 5 years came out with limited offerings that people couldn't get enough of. With such demand, it is only logical (and smart business) to extend your offerings. The problem with going from a few things you're really good at to a bunch of things that you are unproven at, is that quality seems to suffer. There is only so much good tobacco you can get your hands on, and when you've got to fill orders, you may pick up a batch of tobacco you may have passed on at an earlier time.
I'm no hater. More power to these guys. I admire their business acumen and ability to work the industry. But I hope some of them put enough cash in their pockets to stop the paper chase and get back to their roots. Make stogies that you're proud of. Make stogies that you would personally guarantee is as good as any cigar you've ever made. There are enough fan-boys and ass-kissing bloggers out there to keep these guys blind to the faults in their ways, but time cures all, and this ailment is no different.
Guys like Pete Johnson (Tatuaje, and a million others now) and Matt Booth (Room 101) hit this industry at the right time and found a lucrative niche that has changed the industry. I pray these guys (no one in particular, as Matt Booth has not done this, I'm speaking 'guys' in a very general sense) let their love of a good stogie with their brand on it take precedence over having 8 brands of mediocre cigars that are forgettable.
Yeah, every new brand will get the fanfare because your original cigars were un-frickin-believable, but mediocre cigars can only ride the coattails of your original success before they shred up your jacket and ruin all the goodwill you created and deserve.
The Fall of the Epernay
The Epernay (the 'medium' Illusione offering which received rave reviews and even a spot CigarAficianados Top 25 list) was a fantastic cigar. Tons of flavor, great craftmanship (althought craftmanship is never really an issue with regards to the topic at hand) - all around a great cigar. But after the first 2 or 3 shipments my local B&M received, the cigar was not the same. It tasted different, had a different shade wrapper; it was a different cigar in my opinion. Illusione had pulled a bait and switch. They probably made a shit-ton of money riding the coattails of the high quality cigar they had originally sold under that name. To this day, an Epernay is not a true Epernay. Say what you will. Thats my opinion. Also see Nestor Miranda, Coffee Break.
The CG4 I smoked disappointed me for many of the reasons I wrote about above. Illusione is still in the early stages of over-extension and it can be stopped and managed. They have enough solid stogies with good names to keep them a main player. They don't need new cigars to increase sales, they need to keep at what they do best. Its better to be the master of one thing then ok at a bunch of things. Poor analogy, but you catch my drift.
This CG4 was lackluster and no where near the quality of the CG4s I smoked 1-2 years ago. Its like, they put out an initial run of cigars that are to die for then once the really good tobacco runs out they buy the next best thing (which isn't comparable) and hope no one notices.