Illusione Ultra OP No.4
While Daniel is still on his honeymoon for the next few weeks, I am still holding down things here. I spoke to him briefly this weekend and they are still married. Good work. He’s also still alive and him and his wife are enjoying their trip. That being said I decided I would fire up a cigar that I had been looking forward to review for a really long time now, Illusione’s ~ultra~ OP No 4.
The Good Stuff: The Ultra or, MKULTRA isn’t necessarily a new release. The widely available ~MK~ (corona with the white and gold band) was actually a secondary release to one of the first installments in Dion Giolito’s portfolio the “MKULTRA”. Very limited quantities of the MKULTRA were ever released. Dion states that the MKULTRA was much stronger than he envisioned for the blend, therefore he dropped it and released the milder version, the MK. After we all bugged him enough he decided to release a blend very similar to the MKULTRA and call it the “Ultra”. This is the blend I bring to you today. It’s a full bodied, full strength Nicaraguan Puro wrapped with a dark Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper. I picked these up from J. Shepherd cigars. You can find Jason as @cigarsource on twitter. He’s always been a great supporter with great cigars at great prices. Anyhow, the Ultra comes in 4 Sizes, the OP No. 1 (Double Corona 6.75 x 56 Box Pressed), the OP No.4 (Robusto 4.75 x 48 Box Pressed), the OP No.9 (Toro 5.5 x 56 Box Pressed) and the MK (Corona 5 1/8 x 42). The blend comes in boxes of 20 and ranges from $10 to $12 a stick.
Dion loves to name his blends after interesting tidbits of our past (and possibly future). On his site he describes the MK and MKULTRA:
“As with my 88, I sampled a few to you in the forums for review when I was re-working on the blend in ’06. I did the same with the mk. There were two versions, the ~MK~ and the MKULTRA. MKULTRA was much stronger than I wanted it to be. I called Paul Palmer which in turn relayed my information to the factory to correct the issue. They have a gold band along with the ~hl~ because they’re more of an artisan blend better represented in those particular sizes. They’re 20% different than regular Illusione black and white bands. As some of you know, I let out my stock of MKULTRAS because I just wasn’t pleased with the blend. You guys ate them up! Thanks.
Project MKULTRA was a government experiment in creating “zombie soldiers” if you will, through experimentation with LSD and subconscious suggestion when under the influence. MKULTRA was also referred to as the “teaching machine.” The classic corona size is the teaching machine vitola. It is the perfect vehicle for delivery of flavor, if the blend is right.”
Size: 4.75 x 48 Box Pressed
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Pairing: St. Bernardus Abt 12 Quad (10% ABV)
Prelight: The Illusione Ultra OP No.4 is a beautiful looking cigar. It’s hard to overlook the rustic, deep, dark brown and almost black splotchy wrapper. What a beauty. The oils really make this cigar shine. The construction is flawless as there are no soft spots or flaws through the entire length of the boxed-pressed cigar up to the round double cap. The cigar is polished off with Illusione’s signature band design only the black and white are reversed. This cigar is packed very tight. Outside of a little give in the wrapper the cigar feels hard as a rock. It’s not heavy, just packed very tight and very even. I usually don’t have a problem with tight draws on box pressed cigars so I don’t foresee any difficulties with this one.
The wrapper kicks out so much strong tobacco, light cedar, and chocolate aromas. The foot boasts of even stronger tobacco aromas with just hints of pepper and spice. The cap clipped very easily using my Palio double bladed cutter. The cold draw on this Illusione Ultra OP No.4 gives off a really musky, strong tobacco, and almost oil type taste. It’s a strange mixture.
First Smoke: I’m happy to report that the oil flavor didn’t transfer over to the smoking experience, but the musk, strong tobacco, sharp spice, black pepper, and dark chocolate definitely did. You can tell right off the bat that this is going to be a strong cigar. The draw is just awesome. Each and every little tiny puff fills my mouth with massive clouds of thick, white smoke. It’s effortless and one of the many reasons why I love box pressed cigars. I also love they way they feel in hand. So comfortable. The burnline is rather thick, and mostly even with only a few smaller waves producing a nice, solid trail of thick white ash which held on for an inch before falling into my ashtray.
Halfway There: The pepper in this Illusione Ultra has really started to calm down a bit in the second third. It’s still there though, it’s just not as strong as the bold tobacco, dark chocolate, and coffee flavors. There is also some new subtle tarty fruit in the mix now. It tastes like a subtle sour cherry or plum. An interesting note is that the already plentiful draw has opened up even more into this second third. It’s not loose at all, but it takes even less effort to fill my mouth with smoke. The retrohale is very sharp coating my nasal passage with a strong spice and bold tobacco. It’s a bit too much for me as I don’t find myself retro haling this cigar very often. I am already feeling a nice little nicotine kick from this cigar as it keeps burning dead even.
Finish: The flavors began to mellow out as the body continued to ramp up into the final third of this Illusione Ultra OP No.4. The flavors are now a combination of roasted coffee and cashew along with a strong, earthy tobacco, leather and subtle chocolate. This cigar burns very slow and you feel the strength off every puff. All it all it took me a little under two hours to smoke this small, robusto. It required absolutely no touch-ups or relights and the band slipped right off.
Overview: This is another cigar that isn’t for the faint of heart. I am a huge Illusione fan and this has the be the strongest cigar that I have smoked from Dion’s portfolio. Despite being a full strength cigar, the experience wasn’t all about strength. The flavors matched the power every step of the way with a balanced mixture of very enjoyable flavors. I loved the MK and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Ultra, but now that I’ve smoked both I can’t say that the two are really comparable. The Ultra is on a whole different level. While this cigar is very strong I would urge even the mild cigar smokers to give it a shot. It makes for a great introduction on how awesome stronger cigars can be when done right. This blend is box worthy for sure, especially in the OP formats.
Pairing: St. Bernardus Brewery is no stranger to my pairing section. This week, given the strength and boldness of the Ultra I decided to match it up with a beer that cold fight back, St. Bernardus’ Abt 12 Quadruple Abbey Ale. Abt 12 is a 10% ABV powerhouse brewed at the Brouwerij St. Bernardus in Belgium. This is a thick, heavy, active yeast beer. Each and every sip reminds me just how heavy this beer is. You can definitely taste the alcohol along with some roasted malt, wheat, sweetness, citrus, and soft wood notes. Mix those flavors with the roasted coffee, chocolate, and tobacco flavors from the Ultra and you have a winning combination. Let’s just hope the strength from the two don’t put you under the table. I was able to way away with a nice little buzz from both the cigar and the beer.