Team Cigar Review: Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive

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Cigar Details: Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive

  • Vitola: Robusto Extra
  • Length: 5.5″
  • Ring Gauge: 56
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Claro
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99
  • Factory: TABSA
  • Blender: Dion Giolito
  • Price: $9.95
  • Release Date: September 2020
  • Source: Developing Palates

Aaron-Loomis

 Aaron Loomis

Seth Geise

 Seth Geise

 John McTavish

Jiunn-Liu

 Jiunn Liu

Pre-light Experience

The Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive has a slightly offset rectangle press to it with a wrapper that is light brown with some darker spots and wrinkles from the pressing. There are some slightly raised veins present and the seams are very smooth. The head is finished off with a well applied set of caps. The band is the dark blue and white Cigares Prive band used on other releases. The aroma from the wrapper is a hay and wood forward barnyard while the foot brings wood, hay, cream and spice. The pre-light draw brings musty and slightly sweet cedar along with a mild spiciness on my lips.

Pre-light Experience

Fairly firm in hand, the Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive is finished with a faded Colorado color wrapper. The veins are darker and prominent throughout while being small in size. The wrapper is silky in texture and I am picking up aromas of light tobacco, wood, artificial bourbon and cherries.

Pre-light Experience

The Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive has no UPC code or cigar identifying sticker on the cellophane. The cigar is box pressed with what I would call a fairly aggressive press. The band is a thin, understated Illusione band. Aromas from the cigar included graham cracker, bread, shortbread and faint wood. Sweet tobacco and dry hay was present from the foot.

Pre-light Experience

The Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive has an even cafe claro wrapper shade. Veins are well pressed, seams tight, bunch and roll even and head well wrapped. Aromas from the wrapper give barnyard, beef jerky and stinky cheese. Aromas from the foot give rich nuttiness and white pepper spice. Cold draw gives prunes, nuts and cedar.

First Third

The cigar begins with a mix of cedar and candied cinnamon. At a quarter inch in, some mustiness joins and the cedar gains a light toast. At a half inch in, the candied cinnamon morphs into a more general baking spice but is pretty full. The retrohale is a full mix of toasted cedar and baking spice. At an inch and a quarter, the baking spice mellows a bit. The strength in this third was right at medium.

First Third

The first third opens up with flavors of seasoned wood, barnyard, soft spices, earth and coffee. There are some faint tobacco notes present as well, and the cigar is smoking around a medium level for strength and body.

First Third

Bread and hay open the flavor profile for the first third. Creamy bread takes up the retrohale, with mild baking spices on the post draw. Baking spices join the retrohale as the first third settles in. Wood joins the post draw as the cigar progresses. The profile remains consistent for the rest of the first third.

First Third

The first third is unbalanced with mainly a dry cedar and charred red peppers baseline of flavors. What’s interesting about the dry cedar is, my palate doesn’t feel dry. It’s actually quite the opposite, having a salivating palate. Retrohaling gives greater red pepper spice and some cedar. The finish cakes on the dry cedar note and has the red pepper spice seeding towards the rear palate. Strength and body is overall medium.

Second Third

As the second third begins, the toast on the cedar becomes fairly heavy. At a half inch in, the cedar transitions to a general wood note and maintains the heavy toast. The retrohale is now heavily toasted wood and mustiness. At an inch in, the baking spice has become fairly light. The strength in this third remained at medium.

Second Third

The second third delivers a slightly more complex and enjoyable flavor profile. I am picking up some bread notes and they are pairing with some white pepper, tobacco, barnyard and cream. Like before, the cigar is medium in strength and body.

Second Third

Bread and dry wood make up the profile going into the second third. Mild baking spices are in the middle of the profile as the second third progresses. Graham cracker on the retrohale as the cigar hits the halfway point. Some tannins join the dry wood on the retrohale. That dry wood moves into the post draw.

Second Third

The second third shows some more specific identifiable spices such as cinnamon and celery seeds, but the general vibe is unchanged. It’s still for the most part a charred red pepper spice and dry wood formula. Strength ramps to medium-full and the body remains medium.

Final Third

As the final third begins, the heavy toast becomes a light char. At a quarter inch in, the baking spice has departed. The retrohale remains toasted wood and mustiness. The cigar wraps up with the charred wood and mustiness. The strength in this third bumped up to slightly above medium.

Final Third

The final third shows a demise in the flavors being presented in the second third. I am left with a flavor profile of barnyard, earth and soft tobacco. There are faint spice notes, and the cigar smokes at a medium level for strength and body.

Final Third

Baking spices and wood are what I taste initially going into the last third. Sweet wood takes up the center of the profile as the last third settles in. Wood again makes up the post draw, as toasted earth joins some time later. The cigar is really struggling at this point to stay lit. Toasted post draw earth steps up to medium strength. After a couple purges, that toasted earth falls back to light plus.

Final Third

No changes to the final third. It’s still the same charred red pepper spice and dry cedar. Strength and body finishes the same medium-full and medium.

Burn

The burn was quite a struggle. The outside of the cigar didn’t seem to want to burn at the same pace as the inside. I was frequently taking multiple draws to get normal smoke production and as the cigar went out multiple times, there were frequently tunnels that had occurred.

Burn

Burn was off throughout the entire cigar. It was never perfect or decent, but continuously wavy.

Burn

The burn started out straight, but became offset approaching the halfway point of the first third, eventually self correcting. Offset again in the second third, requiring a touch-up. The cigar went out passing the halfway point, requiring a re-light. The cigar struggled to stay lit in the last third.

Burn

The burn had numerous issues. Tunneling throughout, which creates numerous sizable touch-ups. The cigar did burn cool though.

Draw

The draw was a bit tighter than I prefer, and I’m not sure if it contributed to the burn issues.

Overall

The flavor profile was a bit muddled throughout. The first inch or so was good, but then it became average as the baking spice lessened and the profile was just toasted cedar/wood and mustiness. The burn really put a damper on the cigar. I had smoked one of these in a non-review setting and didn’t experience this bad of a burn, but the flavor profile wasn’t all that impressive then either. I’m very interested to see what experience the others had, but based on my two experiences with this cigar, I’m not in a hurry to revisit it, which is a shame based on how the Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive is supposed to be an exclusive for the organization that it is meant to support.

Draw

Really loose draw throughout.

Overall

The idea of releasing a cigar that is exclusively available to members of the PCA, and in theory only available at the show I am a fan of and support 100%. I think PCA should be working to have cigars like this offered to it’s members, and I think manufacturers and PCA need to work together so that it promotes and benefits both parties. But if you are going to do that, you really need to make a good cigar. I am really disappointed in Illusione for releasing a cigar of this caliber. They are better than this Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive. With that, PCA should do better than this. I would like to think that if my name was going to be in the title or on the cigar I would want a really good cigar. This is a miss for both parties and a total shame.

Draw

The draw was perfect, right in the ideal zone between open and resistant.

Overall

The Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive was a disappointingly average experience. Illusione fairly consistently performs in the good or better category, which is quite challenging to do. The first third offered some interesting flavor combinations but quickly fell apart in the second third, becoming harsh and unbalanced in the last third. The draw was perfect but the burn struggled through the review experience. There is a long list of great Illusione cigars to choose from that I would reach for before thinking about smoking the PCA 2020 Exclusive again. Total smoking time was 1 hour and 51 minutes.

Draw

The draw was perfect, giving the ideal air flow and resistance.

Overall

The Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive is the first Illusione cigar released in the last few years in which I did not enjoy. There was no balance and complexities to the cigar. Being heavily charred red pepper spice and dry cedar oriented, it’s not the typical DNA of Dion’s masterful blending style that I’m accustomed to. I guess you can’t win them all.

Aaron
Seth
John
Jiunn
GoodPre
Light
AveragePre
Light
GoodPre
Light
Very Good
AverageFirst
Third
SubparFirst
Third
GoodFirst
Third
Average
AverageSecond
Third
AverageSecond
Third
AverageSecond
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Average
SubparFinal
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SubparFinal
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SubparFinal
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Average
BadBurnAverageBurnAverageBurnAverage
Very GoodDrawAverageDrawAmazingDrawAmazing
SubparOverallSubparOverallAverageOverallAverage

Aaron Loomis

SCORE

4.28

Cost/Point

$2.32

Scoring System

Seth Geise

SCORE

3.93

Cost/Point

$2.53

Scoring System

John McTavish

SCORE

5.45

Cost/Point

$1.83

Scoring System

Jiunn Liu

SCORE

5.45

Cost/Point

$1.83

Scoring System

Team Cigar Review: Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive
Jiunn LiuTeam Cigar Review: Illusione PCA 2020 Exclusive

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1 comment

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  • JJ - February 17, 2021 reply

    This is one of the worst cigars I’ve ever had, Illusione or otherwise. Completely bland flavor profile from start to finish with a bad burn to boot. The fact that I had to buy this in a 10-pack bundle online (hardly any brick-and-mortars near me carry Illusione) made this even worse; in fact, I don’t think I’ll be buying any future Illusione releases based solely on how bad this was. I smoked through three in the bundle and each one was worse than the last. Also, is it just me or does Ecuadorian Habano impart a dull flavor into a lot of cigars? I’ve had a few that were good (i.e. the Mil Dias) but mostly anything with this wrapper has been a miss for me.

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