Raices Cubanas Candela War

Illusione 88 Candela VS Viaje White Label Project Candela

Illusione 88 Candela VS Viaje White Label Project Candela
Origin : Nicaragua
Format : Robusto
Size : 5 x 52 (Illusione), 5 x 50 (Viaje)
Wrapper : Nicaragua
Binder : Nicaragua
Filler : Nicaragua
Hand-Made
Price : $8-9 each
Smoked 2 of each for review

Since two of the top brands in the industry (Illusione and Viaje) decided to come out with candela cigars, I found it only appropriate to match these up face to face to see how they compare. The two cigars are the Viaje White Label Project Candela and Illusione’s 88 Candela. What makes this match up even more interesting is that both cigars come out of the same factory. For a lot of people out there this may be a problem, especially for those loyal to their brands and they don’t like the fact that the factory allowed two candelas to leave its doors. Some even have gone as far as to say that Andre Farkas of Viaje is following (or copying) the lead of Dion Giolito. But the only question to myself, was which one of the cigars was better? So whose cigar is King of the Candela?

Illusione 88 Candela

Viaje White Project Candela

Appearance: ★★★½☆
Upon whiffing the wrapper I get vegetables mixed with flowers on the nose. The cigar is solidly packed, no softs spots, but had some clumsily applied wrapper (some twists in the wrapper near the seams. The wrapper is thin and starting to unravel on the foot. The 88 is pretty weighty in the hand with minimal veinage.
Appearance: ★★★★½
Absolutely flawless! Every single stick I had was beautifully made and none had a single appearance flaw. The shade of green seems a little fainter than the 88. Very small, or non existent veins, no loose seams characterized every single one I had. This one as well had the frail thin wrapper. Only took off a half star for it being green. Sorry, still getting used to the look of these candelas.
Construction: ★★★★½
The end cut clean and the draw was pretty open and airy. After lighting the cigar spits out loads of smoke. Draw is effortless at this point, and can pull lots of thick smoke from the 88. Surprisingly the cigar burned through the first fifth in about 7 minutes. The burn was straight as an arrow through first third, holding up nicely against the Central Texas wind. Burned really well all the way to the nub with no touch up and produced a light grey ash.
Construction: ★★★★★
Cut cleanly with no loose ends. A little tighter on the draw than the 88, but still allows easy air passage. I was able to pull lots of smoke once lit. Burned very quickly as well; I blew through the 1st third, it seemed, in record time. The WLP produces a dark grey suede-like ash. This was the best performance by a cigar this year for me. I never had to even worry about a single one of these not burning perfectly. Burned straight as an arrow!
Flavor: ★★★★☆
Sparked this one with my Xikar and noticed a quick flash of pepper, and poof, that disappeared quickly, and a faint medium bodied hay/grassy note came through. The retrohale wasn’t much different in flavor. I could notice a faint black cherry flavor that is characteristic of the original 88 appear in the background of the smoke, but it still plays second fiddle to the vegetal qualities of the candela wrapper. So far the flavors are pretty mild at this point. In the 2nd third, I picked up flavors of copper, chocolate, and nori (seaweed), as the flavors started to become more bold and vibrant. The black cherry flavors kept coming in and out of the picture during this smoke. The last third started to relinquish some of the ramped up flavors that the 2nd third birthed, but still remained smooth and finished with a medium body.
Flavor: ★★☆☆☆
This one was super vegetal from the very start. Through the first half inch, I was not getting much from this cigar. The burn drove me to blow right through the first third of this cigar very quickly, but unfortunately I was very unimpressed with the lack of flavor, period. I only got vegetal tasting paper that I can recall through the first third. In the 2nd third I got some bitterness added to the vegetables. The smoke is very smooth and creamy, but this cigar is just plainly lacking flavor. The flavors didn’t start to pick up until the last third. At this point some black tea flavors started to reveal themselves, and hay/grass appeared as well. But even these flavors were quaint, and lackluster.
Value: ★★★½☆
These can be had for around $8 at most B&M’s. The cigar is very well priced for a premium stick with superb construction and supplied by one of the best in the biz right now, Dion Giolito. There is plenty in this stick to justify the price.
Value: ★★½☆☆
This one is priced at the low end for Viajes at $8.25. I can’t see myself ever spending that much for this particular smoke, and I believe it is overpriced. But if you want Viajes, then you got to be able to shell out some dough. It’s at least worth a once over at that price, but that’s it.
Overall: ★★★★☆
I was very skeptical of these considering this was my first candela I ever smoked in my life. But now I am an immediate fan (well, at least of the 88). The first third of this cigar did not wow me at all, but then the rest of the cigar brought the thunder I was looking for in flavor. This cigar was very enjoyable. There were a lot of unique flavors in this cigar that I have yet to have experienced in cigars in the past. The only complaint is that I wish I had more of these to smoke, but I smoked the only two I had for this review! :(
Overall: ★★½☆☆
The only thing convincing me not to give this a lower rating is the superb construction of the samples I smoked. It is definitely unique these days to bring back the candela wrapper, but it never looks good to be the second in line to do so. All in all I was very underwhelmed by this effort. I am a huge fan of Viaje, but I have never been in love with the Summerfest blend that is the base for the WLP’s. I believe it was a mistake to use this particular blend to debut such a unique stick, because the Summerfest blend doesn’t complement nor bring much to the table. Candela wrapper is just not that good to begin with, so it would be best to have some awesome filler to complement it!

Overall Conclusion

I can’t even begin to think that this matchup was close. I can easily say this war was won by a landslide victory by Dion’s 88 Candela. The darker, bolder, and more brooding flavors of the filler of the 88 complemented the candela wrapper and made up for the okay flavors that candela wrappers offer. The WLP Summerfest blend tends to taste like paper or wet cardboard and doesn’t seem to offer any decent flavors to complement the candela wrapper. Both are superbly made which is characteristic of Raices Cubanas, but the WLP Candela seemed to perform worlds above the 88 candela in the burn category. But unfortunately this is its only great attribute, and forces me to give up the crown to Illusione 88 Candela as the King of Candela.

(Notes: Smoked the 88 Candela first, then the Viaje second the first day. I smoked them again in reverse order the second day. I would like to thank Good Karma Cigars in Amarillo for providing the Illusione 88 Candela, and Cigar Pointe in San Antonio for providing the Viaje WLP Candelas for this review.)

Illusione 88 Candela

Viaje White Label Project Candela

Illusione 88 Candela VS Viaje White Label Project Candela

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13 Comments on “Raices Cubanas Candela War”

  1. Great review and thanks for putting these side by side. Well done!

  2. (Wow. Love the depth and completeness of these reviews)

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  3. How can a cigar start to unravel and still get high marks for construction? Surely that has to apply in part to its construction and the fact that the wrap is clumsily applied tells me this is over rated. These are marks comparable to a Hemmingway and from what I see theres no comparison.

  4. To Gerry:

    The candela wrappers were very thin, and the weird twist was only cosmetic (the unraveling could be attributed to damage in shipping). But as far as burn and performance, the construction was top notch. I don’t care much for how a cigar looks, but if most cigars could perform like these two (especially considering the hefty Texas wind outside) I would be a more happier man. Raices Cubanas is reknown for their construction and continue to put out some of the top cigars in the world year after year.

  5. Thanks for clearing that up, I appreciate that as I know a couple people had to be scratching their head . the Pictures help allot and seeing the 88 (someone told me it wasn’t too pretty a stick but the burn and flavour were good) I have smoke cigars for over 40 years and I really do value your assessments (with a few others of course, its always nice to compare) Thanks again and keep it up , the info is good.

  6. Nice job, Aaron. However, Dion and Andre may have come out almost simultaneously with green cigars but as far as innovation and being the “king of candela,” fans of the wrapper would point to Camacho’s, Fuente’s or other brands as being better than either of these.

  7. In regards to Rothnh’s comment, Although I don’t smoke green cigars all thet often, I have smoked both of these. And from what I’ve read elsewhere, unanimously, these 2 sticks are far superior to Fuente’s and Comacho’s. As I said, I haven’t smoked either, only read about them. But I know this much, to call Comacho “king” of anything is a stretch. King of the shit-stick maybe.

  8. John, Opinions are like noses — everybody has one. If one smoke enough cigars, it won’t take long at all to realize that, fairly often, your dog rocket is someone else’s go-to cigar. While these two are both good cigars that I am sure will be loved by many, the fact is there are a lot more people who love Fuente and Comacho smokes than either of the boutique cigars reviewed here — not necessarily you or me, but it is a fact nonetheless.

  9. Rothnh, I here ya on that for sure. Fuente has always been a go-to smoke for me, Anejo’s, Sun Growns, etc. But Comacho? I’ve smoked most of them, and while I’m 1/2 thru one of them I say to myself, “why the hell did I buy this thing. Didn’t I learn my lesson the last time?” But like you said, To each his own.

  10. The WLP St. Patricks isnt based on Summerfest. The first WLP release is Summerfest. I think it would be important to get all the facts before posting.

  11. @Doug

    Your right. Sorry about that info. I messaged Andre Farkas and he clarified that for me. Nevertheless didn’t care for it all that much, whatever that particular blend may be.

  12. Thats too bad. I loved the blend. The problem is they are sold out and I cant find any!!

  13. pacman357 says:

    I have smoked many different candelas, even though I prefer stronger cigars overall and may only smoke 3-4 candelas a year (I usually smoke 2-4 cigars a day). Some are OK, such as Indian Tabac, Camacho. Some are not as good, such as Don Tomas, Baccarat, Fuente (all too light for my tastes, even as candelas). I’m forgetting some, but that is most of what I can recall offhand. Felipe Gregorio makes a tres capa that has three wrappers in barber pole style, including a candela…pretty lightweight, but fun to pull out at a BBQ where no one else smokes.

    There is one, however, that I love when I’m in the mood for a green stick. The Graycliff Emerald. Yes, the MSRP is insane. I found a box 2-3 years ago somewhere online that had them for something like a little under or over half of MSRP. Still a bite, but the best deal I ever saw on them. They are the Graycliff Crystal, a hearty cigar, but with a candela wrapper in place of the sungrown that covers the Crystal. Makes for a good mix of strength, spice, grassiness and overall complexity. Very good candela cigar.

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