Illusione 4/2g SLAM
Officially 7.5 inches (this one was short about .25 of an inch, which scares me because Dion Giolito is so cryptic--is this really a SLAM?, if you want and example visit the website) with a 49 ring gauge this is a “ever-so-gently” box pressed work of art. I had my first 4/2g SLAM about 2 years ago at the Cigar Inn NYC on 2nd Ave. As I walked in the humidor there it was toward the bottom left staring at me with a luring grimace. There were rows upon rows of Illusione cigars but it was the dark oiliness of the wrapper, the sleek dimensions, the ever simplistic white slim band, and a perfect mild box press that drew me in. I knew I was going to be there a while so the double corona fit the bill (this is a good stick for Netflix--2 hours easy). I bought 3 and let one age. This one has been in aging in my humidor for a little over 2 years; thus, over time the wrapper has began to show some crystallization from the oils permeating from the filler, to the binder, and arising to the surface of the wrapper as they coalesce.
The pre-light analysis starts with the dark natural Nicaraguan habano wrapper which is mildly veiny and rustic. The oiliness that I originally loved has dissipated with time (drats), the body is firm with a three layer cap, and a tidy foot. The aroma is rich with mild manure accompanied by faint wood notes, and tasting the head I received the greatest dose of nothing which is exactly what you want to experience (nothing, no taste at all). Tasting tannins and ammonia are not what you want to get from the head of a cigar.
The cigar took to the flame like a moth with a perfect draw that was moist and rich with toasted wood, dark chocolate, and espresso notes. Additional puffs unearthed a complex leather note delivered via cream drenched smoke. I am awaiting the fullness of the Bookers bourbon with its butterscotch and vanilla to combine with the early flavors of the first third. The burn line is far from perfect but also far from being a threat to the experience. While I adhere to the contribution of a straight line to the flavor of a cigar in this instance it is merely a metric of aesthetics.
In the latter segment of the first third the jagged burn of the cigar is starting to reveal its weaknesses. The cigar must be puffed frequently to maintain its core and in the early stages of first third I've re-lit the cigar twice. Some cigars do not like to be puffed to frequently however this one desires it to a fault. It forces you to puff not for the sake of flavor but more so that the cigar does not die out. This can be a problem because “over-puffing” can cause the core to overheat and ruin the flavor with charred notes and overheated smoke.
The second third really takes the pepper and spice to new heights but that flavor profile remains the same. The burn is still needy of a relight here and there but once it's lit the flavors and rich smoke continue (this is lost opportunity). The last third included a lovely marriage of the bourbon that enriched the overall pairing. The bane of this cigar is the draw that was severely damaged by a canoeing burn that cannot go unpunished.
We have all heard the saying that Bourbon is Whiskey but not all Whiskey is Bourbon but Bookers really personifies the cliche. Unlike many Bourbon offerings on the marketplace Bookers is straight from the barrel which is very similar to many Scotches but the DNA of Bourbon (corn, rye, barley malt) is the starting point by which Bourbon digresses from other whiskeys. The alcoholic heat of Bourbon is more intense, the sweetness is sharp, the finish is warmer, and the texture is less oily. Furthermore, the oak has a sharper and younger taste because Bourbon must be aged in newly charred barrels which represent close to two thirds of the flavor profile. Lastly, unlike Scotch its aged only seven to eight years making the flavors more vivid and filled with tannins.
Known for its oak and spiced rye flavor profile, Bookers Bourbon has a nose that captivates the discerning whiskey connoisseur. Medium to mild alcoholic heat, faint maple, butterscotch, rebellious oak, and vanilla envelope my nasal passageways. Upon adding the water a little sediment did appear at the top of the glass. The taste is intense yet rich with character. Smoked oak, vanilla, spice, strong rye notes, superb sweetness. Very distinct yet under all the intensity the smoothness comes out after the third sip as the tongue gives in to the onslaught of bold flavors.The color is deep amber with no cloudiness which is very hard to achieve when you consider that its not chill filtered. The finish is never ending and deeply intimate hanging around like a convict cousin. 53 gallons of fury in a entered a barrel aged with the cycles of Kentucky seasons and was eventually poured straight into a bottle that I am now sipping. This is a whiskey that is not to be trifled with so be sure to add water. This bourbon can only be experienced in 3d so the faint of heart need not apply. It covers all points with flavors and layers that can only come with time and nature.
Cigar Rating Criteria (1 to 10)
1). Aesthetic - mild box press, 49 ring gauge, firm body, superbly aged (2.0)
2). Strength - full overall with medium body early on (2.0)
3). Draw - started off ok, horrible burn issues, had to relight more times than I can count (1.5)
4). Taste - incredible flavors even with a bad burn, espresso, leather, dark chocolate, spice and pepper (1.9)
5). Complexity - more spice and pepper in the last thirds, huge swings in body (1.6)
Total Score = 9.0
This was a frustrating experience but I still enjoyed it. The cigar could have achieved nirvana had the burn not reared its ugly head into the experience.
Bourbon Rating Criteria (1 to 10)
1). Color - deep amber (1.9)
2). Smell - maple, butterscotch, heat, sweetness (1.9)
3). Body - full full and more full (2.0)
4). Taste - spiced rye, oak, butterscotch, vanilla (1.7)
5). The Finish - long and longer, hangs around like a convict cousin (2.0)
Total Score = 9.5
The true north of bourbon and probably the best bourbon under 60 bucks
When you have a cigar that has been aging in a perfectly maintained humidor for over two years you must pair it with a worthy spirit or red wine. Father Time’s collaboration with Mother Nature has led me to to choose Bookers Bourbon to match the cigars full body and flavor while complimenting the dark chocolate character of the cigar with spiced rye and sweet whiskey notes. Bookers represents the essence of what Kentucky can produce when left to its own devices to follow tradition and innovation. Its bourbon straight from the barrel untainted by over reaching corporatist with unflinching power and boldness to boot. In short, this is bourbon with an attitude. Combined with a full flavored and full bodied cigar this is a pairing that embodies a balance of extremes.
We do it all for the love of the leaf the grape and the peat. "BillieBLVD"