Illusione Ultra MK

At the 2011 IPCPR Retail Trade Show, there were two cigar blends that were being showcased by Illusione Cigars.  The first was the new maduro line being added to Illusione’s core line.  The second was the release of the new Illusione Ultra.  While the Ultra had garnered a lot of attention, this is not exactly a new cigar.  The Ultra had been released in small limited quantities in the past.  Illusione founder Dion Giolito decided to modify the blend and release it as a new line in the Illusione portfolio.  Recently, I’ve had a chance to final sample this new blend.  Overall, my assessment is that was a good cigar with some very unique flavors.

This new line features a new band – a black background with a white font.  Right now the Ultra blend is currently available in one vitola – a petit corona size.   The size is named “MK” which is in-line with the Illusione core line.  On the Illusione Cigars’ web-site, Giolito tells the story with the MK vitola (as he does with most of his vitolas).  This provides some background on the Ultra project in the past.

“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.” (Source:

Before I break down this cigar, I will mention that I have not smoked the previous incarnation of the Ultra, so this assessment is based on the new blend.

Blend Profile

The new blend features a very attractive chocolate-colored corojo wrapper.   The corojo wrapper is a new addition to this blend.  From an appearance standpoint, this is one of the best looking petit coronas I’ve ever seen.

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

As mentioned before, there currently is a single vitola available on the Illusione Ultra – the MK.  This is a 5 1/8 x 42 sized petit corona.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

As I usually do, I opted for a straight cut into the Illusione Ultra.  The pre-light draw provided me some very promising notes of coffee and cherry sweetness.  This was definitely a positive experience from the dry draw notes.   At this point, I was pretty excited to fire up my Ultra and see what it would bring to the table.

Flavor Profile

The initial flavors of the Ultra was very interesting.  I immediately detected some coffee notes, but I also detected some sour cherry.   The sour cherry might seem a little crazy of a flavor note, but somehow I do think it worked as a positive as it provided a unique sweet tone without being too sweet.  I also detected notes of leather and oak in the background.

As the cigar progressed, the coffee, oak, and sour cherry flavor notes took turns alternating in the forefront.  By the midpoint of the Ultra, some pepper notes came into play.  The pepper notes never become overwhelming and provide a nice complement to the other notes.  Much of the sweetness fades in the second half and the oak and pepper notes take center stage.  Overall, I found the second half to be a decent smoke, but it lacked a lot of the complexity and robustness of the first half.

The finish was very smooth.   My nub was slightly warm, but it was firm as opposed to soft.

Burn and Draw

The one thing I struggled a bit was the draw on the two Ultras that I sampled.  It each case, I found the draw to be on the tight side – and at times I had to fight with it.   The positive is that the tight draw did not seem to impact the burn.  The burn turned out to be excellent – burning straight throughout the whole cigar experience.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal throughout the smoke.

Strength and Body

I had heard (and from reading above), the original MKULTRA was a strong cigar.  I still was expecting this cigar to be strong. Overall, I did not find the Illusione Ultra to be a power bomb in terms of strength.  In my book, it qualfies as a medium-strength cigar.   For the most part, the body of this cigar falls into the medium-bodied spectrum.  While the flavors were less interesting toward the end, the body did move into the medium to full area.

Final Thoughts

I should put a disclaimer that I am not a fan of the petit corona vitola.  If other vitolas of this blend are released, I am curious to see how they smoke.  Still despite this not being my ideal vitola, this was one of the better ones.  Overall, the draw and the less interesting flavors in the second half were some of the negatives with this smoke.  It is still something I would reach for again.   It is a cigar I would recommend to a novice enthusiast.  As for experienced enthusiasts, I think they can appreciate some of the qualities this cigar brings to the table.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Fair
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium
Body: Medium (Medium to Full toward end)
Assessment: Nice to Have

Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased from Tobacco World in Marietta, Georgia.