Illusione Ultra OP No. 9

The Illusione Ultra series was launched in 2011. The Ultra had been released in small limited quantities in
the past in the mk vitola. Last year, Illusione founder Dion Giolito decided to modify the blend for that vitola
and release it as a new line in the Illusione portfolio.  While the Ultra mk vitola was the only vitola that was released in 2011, we were told that more Ultra blends were on the way.  Fast forward to 2012, and Giolito did a segment on Kiss My Ash Radio where he mentioned that there were three new vitolas coming to retailers in the Ultra series.   These new extensions were different from the original Ultra mk in that they are all box-pressed.   Today, we explore one of those new box-press extensions, the Ultra OP No. 9.   Overall, this was a good cigar.  While it’s a cigar I’d categorize as “liking” as opposed to “loving”, I still found it better than the Ultra mk released last year.

With Giolito’s Illusione Cigars, one thing that I have noticed is that perhaps better than any other company, each vitola provides a unique cigar experience.   This has been the case with the core Illusione and Illusione Maduro lines.  Now that I have had a chance to sample another vitola, I can say that this applies to the Ultra line as well.

Let’s get into the specifics of the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9.

Blend Profile

Like mk Ultra, the new vitolas are all Nicaraguan puros leveraging a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper.

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

As mentioned, the three new OP vitolas are all box-pressed.  Lately the MK Ultra vitolas have been more difficult to find and are out of stock with most major retailers.

Ultra OP No.1 (Double Corona): 6 3/4 x 56
Ultra OP No. 4 (Robusto): 4 3/4 x 48
Ultra OP No. 9 (Toro): 5 1/2 x 56
MK (Petit Corona): 5 1/8 x 42


The wrapper to the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9 has a deep roasted coffee bean colored wrapper.  The wrapper is dark, so there are very few visible wrapper seams, and very few visible veins.   The wrapper itself is oily.   The Ultra OP No. 9 has a very nice tight pack for this box-press.

The band uses the white font on black background color scheme introduced when the Ultra mk was released.   The name ~ultra~ is featured on the center of the band.   Flanking each side of that text to the left and right is the text “illusione”.  Thee is also some white striping across the top and bottom of the band.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For my Illusione Ultra OP No. 9, I placed a straight cut into the cap and then began the pre-light draw.   The dry draw notes I detected were a combination of roasted coffee, leather, and cedar spice.  This was a little different from the mk Ultra where I had also detected cherry sweetness on that vitola.  Overall, I considered the pre-light draw of the OP No. 9 to be satisfactory.  At this time, it was time to fire up the cigar and see what the cigar experience would deliver.

Flavor Profile

As mentioned up front,  I mentioned how Illusione cigars really produce a different experience from  vitola to vitola.  With the case of the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9, I can say this was a different experience than my experience with the mk Ultra.

For the most part, the flavors I got from the pre-light draw of the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9 continued on the initial draw.  I continued to get the roasted coffee and leather notes.  The one difference from the pre-light was the cedar spice took were more of a pepper feel.

Around the five percent mark, the coffee notes morphed to more of a classic chocolate note.  These chocolate flavors moved to the forefront.  The leather flavor and pepper spice remained in the background.  At times, I also detected some signature Illusione tea notes in the background.  In addition, one thing that was unique to the mk Ultra that I detected with the OP No. 9 was an interesting sour cherry flavor in the background  The sour cherry shouldn’t be looked at as a negative flavor. With the case of the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9 (as well as with the mkUltra), it provided a unique sweetness.   This flavor profile would hold for the first half of the cigar experience.

In the second half, the tea and sour cherry notes diminished and the pepper spice moved into the forefront.  The pepper increased throughout the second half of the cigar experience and the chocolate flavors moved to more of a secondary note.   The Illusione Ultra OP No. 9 got spicy toward the end.  The finish was on the harsh side. The resulting nub was a warm in the temperature, but firm to the touch.

Burn and Draw

Back when I assessed the mk Ultra, the experience I had with the burn was positive, but the experience had I with the draw was not as impressive.  In the case of the OP No. 9, I felt the draw was excellent, but the burn could have been better.

The burn line of the Illusione OP No. 9 did require some touch-ups.  The use of my butane lighter did do the trick keeping the burn line straight.  While the burn rate was ideal, the issue I had was more around burn temperature.  For such a tightly packed box-press, I was surprised that this cigar tended to burn warmer.  I smoked several OP No.9s and made sure I did not over-draw, yet the temperature seemed to get warmer around the mid-point. This surprised me because this was such a well-packed box-press.  I’m not sure what caused this, but I believe this led to the harsher finish.

As for the draw, I mentioned it was excellent.  No issues on this attribute from start to finish.

Strength and Body

When I smoked the mk Ultra back in December, for whatever reason, I felt this was closer to medium in terms of strength and body.  As for the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9, this was a different story.

From a strength perspective, the strength starts out in the medium range.  The strength of the Illusione OP No. 9 is going to slowly build up.  By the one third mark, it moves into medium to full range, and by the 60 percent mark, the strength is full.   This continues to increase as the cigar reaches the final stages.  In the end, the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9 is going to be a nicotine bomb.

As for the depth of the flavor notes, I felt the OP No. 9 had more body than the mk Ultra.  The cigar starts out medium to full-bodied and by the second half it progresses to full-bodied.   Even though the last 40 percent provides a full strength, full-bodied smoke, it will be the strength that has a significant edge over the flavors.   For that first 60 percent, the strength and body balance each other very well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I actually liked the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9 better than the mk Ultra from a flavor standpoint.   I liked the nicotine pop the second half of this cigar provided.  The issue with the warmer burn in the second half did hurt this cigar as it led to a harsher finish.  Given this happened each time I smoked the OP No 9, it does concern me.  This combined with a very heavy nicotine dose made the Illusione Ultra OP No. 9 a cigar that was not going to be a finger burner.  This is definitely not a cigar for the novice cigar enthusiast.   Experienced cigar enthusiasts that want something that develops into a full strength, full-bodied smoke, may want to check this out.   I definitely will want to see how this smokes a few months from now.


Burn: Fair
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Full (Starts out medium and progresses)
Body: Full (Starts out medium to full and progresses)
Finish: Fair
Assessment: Nice to Have
Score: 88

Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased from Corona Cigar Company in Orlando, Florida.