Dion Giolito Owner of Illusione Cigars
What drew you to using Aganorsa tobacco?
There’s so much talk of trying to recreate what Cuba does. It’s like French wines. Everybody says French wines are the best. But which wines? France makes some of the best wines in the world, but not all French wines are world-class. There are world-class wines that come from Spain, Australia, Napa Valley.
When I found the tobacco that Pedro Martín (the tobacco legend whose operation was purchased by Aganorsa founder Eduardo Fernández) was sourcing, it was unlike anything else out of Nicaragua. Taking the traditional techniques of Cuba and implementing them in Nicaragua, he made the best of what Nicaragua had to offer. With Eduardo Fernandez’s materials, we consider that these are the best standalone products that come out of Nicaragua.
What does it mean to be working with someone like Eduardo Fernandez at Aganorsa? You don’t have a farm or a factory, but you are very hands on and you have credibility in your own right.
It’s a really special relationship that a brand like mine has with Aganorsa and Eduardo. Eduardo has afforded me the luxury of letting me root through his entire business. He’s really entrusted a person like me to be able to go look at pilones. That’s 90 percent of what I do when I’m here — just making sure the tobacco of the quality I look for makes its way to the galera so that we can get that consistency, not only with Illusione but everything. It trickles down.
Having that access to be able to put my hands on any and all of his tobaccos is a rare opportunity for a person like me in this business. The more I immerse myself in that, the more I feel that passion.
How do you go about translating this traditional product into a story for your non-traditional brand?
Everybody has a story in this business. A lot of those stories run into each other. Everybody says they have the best tobaccos and the best rollers. In our case, I can say it’s true. From my standpoint, Aganorsa is as close to being vertically integrated as you can possibly be.
It helps that I have 25 years of experience in retail and have a sense of market trends. I was able to bridge that gap and bring some of that information to people like Eduardo and my other friends in the industry.
One Off is a cigar that people might remember from many years ago. Why acquire this brand for Illusione?
I was able to procure the brand a couple of years ago. It was a grandfathered brand and I remember that it was like a Roman candle. It made a huge impact. And when the dust settled, for whatever reason, it went away. But it left a real viable impact. It was one of the only brands, in my experience, that people still had a story about. Other brands come and go and people forget about them. But you hold up the One Off and people say, “Yeah, I remember that!” So I kept my eye on it for years. The opportunity arose to get it and now we’re making it here at Aganorsa. The stars aligned. The tobaccos we use came together immediately because of the abundance of tobaccos that Eduardo has from superior crop years. Everything came together.
The market will tell. We know it’s a beautiful cigar and we hope that everyone else agrees.