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Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars is known for a lot of things—super-powerful, all-Nicaraguan blends, superlative construction, and mysteriously-modest presentation are just a few. But if there’s one thing he’s not really known for, it’s creating blends that are anything less than medium-to-full-bodied. That’s why I was surprised to learn that Cruzado, a Nicaraguan puro that was released in 2008, was billed as medium-bodied. Still dizzy from the Illusione 4/2g Slam and the Illusione Epernay Le Ferme I reviewed earlier this year, I warily cracked open a box and grabbed a stick of the Churchill-sized Cruzado Marios for review.
This handsome, well-rolled stick had a very silky Nicaraguan Criollo wrapper leaf, which had a few veins, but none that looked prominent enough to cause any problems. The well-applied cap clipped effortlessly with a double-bladed cutter, and the pre-light draw, while slightly peppery, revealed flavors of coffee, brown sugar, and a little bit of black cherry. Also worth noting was the band, which featured gold and silver highlights and was definitely flashier than anything else I’d seen from Illusione.
Once I lit up, the cigar immediately made its purpose known—to wow you with solid, no-nonsense flavors while sparing you the pepper and nicotine blast that many Nicaraguan puros are known for. Right off the bat I tasted wood, black pepper, black coffee, and a not of a lot of sweetness. There was an intermittent and slightly bitter baking cocoa note that occasionally showed itself, but generally lingered in the background.
As the cigar burned down past the first third, the smoke turned creamy with notes of cocoa and a bit of pepper, which reminded me of Mayan hot chocolate. As the spice mellowed out towards the halfway point of the cigar, this spicy Mayan chocolate flavor transitioned slowly into a creamy, mellow, milk chocolate note. Just before the cigar burned down to its final inches, I tasted something that you don’t normally find in Nicaraguan puros—butter. I’m talking about the kind of butter you get from an oily, well-aged Sumatra wrapper. This butter note blended very well with the milk chocolate, which still held onto the foreground.
Since the first two thirds of the cigar were fairly easygoing, I was expecting some kind of peppery punch in the face in the final third, but this sturdy stick never got past medium-bodied. The sweetness faded into the background, occasionally coming back on the retrohale, and for the remainder of the smoke, I tasted leather, dry cocoa, and a little bit of cream. I set down the nub with just over an inch left, and having been steamrolled by my fair share of heady Nicaraguan puros, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “crisis averted.”
I have to say that the Cruzado by Illusione was by far the mellowest all-Nicaraguan smoke I’ve ever had. It was also remarkably well-made, boasting ashes up to two inches long, and burned for a much longer time than I expected it to—it was 7 inches long with a 47 ring gauge, and burned for the better part of two hours, never becoming harsh or bitter along the way. This cigar is perfect for the novice smoker who wants to get a taste for the rich, complex flavors of Nicaraguan tobacco without the excessive bite, or the powerhouse purist whose palate occasionally needs a respite from repeated peppery onslaughts. Grab a box or 5-pack of these stogies and see what Dion Giolito can do with a truly easygoing smoke.