In 2006 when Dion Giolito was reworking some of the blends for his national brand Illusione there was a cigar called the MK, a 5 1/8 X 42 cigar dubbed, “the teaching machine”, and there was a much stronger test blend called MKULTRA that was made, but in the end Dion just didn’t like it as much for the lineup and chose not to use it. However, he did end up releasing a limited amount of the MKULTRA in early 2008 in plain white paper bundles, in fact the cigar itself was almost impossible to distinguish visually from a regular MK, it had the same band, same size and everything. The public reception of the MKULTRA was incredible.

Fast forward to 2011, the MKULTRA has been reborn, everything you have come to love from Illusione but even more full flavored and full of power! Dion has this to say about the name and “The Teaching Machine” moniker:

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.

The MKULTRA is simply the first release of this line; there will be a full production line of ~ULTRA~ available in October.

Giolito described the line:

It’s a full bodied blend of Ligero from Jalapa and Estelí, Nicaragua. It’s strong but not strong in the fact that it makes you feel like you swallowed a hair brush like many other strong cigars do. Its due in late fall, regular production. Not 100% Ligero, just a decent amount.

There will be four sizes available including the MKULTRA and they will be priced from $7-12.

Illusione ~ULTRA~

  • Illusione ULTRA OP No. 1 — Double Corona — 6 3/4 x 56 — $12.50 (Boxes of 20, $250)
  • Illusione ULTRA OP No. 9 — Toro — 5 1/2 x 56 — $11.50 (Boxes of 20, $230)
  • Illusione ULTRA OP No. 4 — Robusto — 4 3/4 x 48 — $9.95 (Boxes of 20, $199)
  • Illusione ULTRA MKULTRA — Petit Corona — 5 1/8 x 42 — $7.80 (Boxes of 25, $195)

Illusione MKLUTRA 1.png

  • Cigar Reviewed: Illusione ~ULTRA~ MKULTRA (2011)
  • Country of Origin: Honduras
  • Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua (Corojo)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 5 1/8 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 42
  • Vitola: Corona
  • MSRP: $7.80 (Boxes of 25, $195.00)
  • Release Date: July 2011
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3

The MKULTRA has a dark chocolate, oily wrapper with quite a few veins and lumps; it’s packed incredibly tight with no give to it whatsoever. It smells of dark chocolate, leather and spice. The pre-light draw has a smooth cedar character with notes of sweet tobacco, chocolate, and leather.
Starting off in the First Third, I immediately get a blast of spice and a ton of flavor, there are lots of dark rich flavors of chocolate, espresso, leather and a long toasty finish with wood and molasses. The cigar is full-bodied right away and has a very spicy and floral aroma.

Illusione MKLUTRA 2.png

Coming into the Second Third the cigar powers on in the flavor department, a massive surge of earth and spice mixed with a dry wood and molasses, there is a hint of a dark fruit on the finish. I get a mix of leather and espresso coming in and out and I am loving the rich flavors and complexity. The construction is great, and the cigar produces a fairly dark ash.

Illusione MKLUTRA 3.png

Finishing up in the Final Third the cigar continues on a very full bodied path, but it’s perfect in its power. The cigar end with a plethora of flavors, spicy earth, dark chocolate, espresso, rich tobacco, wood, long finish and a wonderful aroma.

Illusione MKLUTRA 4.png

Final Notes

  • I smoked three of these cigars total for this review over a three week period, I will say that the first one was not nearly as enjoyable as the last two and most importantly the last. I have found that this cigar was fairly wet when I got them, it had a soft damp feel to it and it burned rather hot on the first sample. These have improved almost 100% by dry boxing them for a few days and then holding them at 65% humidity for a couple weeks. If you have just purchased these I would sit on them for a couple weeks and I can guarantee you it will do them justice.
  • In comparing this cigar to the original MKULTRA, I will say that this one is smoother, it has a very insidious power and strength to it, whereas the original MKULTRA was more of an assault on your senses. This one has a real comfort in its strength, it doesn’t overpower, but it certainly lets you know that it’s a FULL flavored, FULL-bodied smoke.
  • I have also smoked No.1 6 ¾ x 54 size and I will say that I enjoyed that one even more, and that says a lot considering how well I liked the MKULTRA. So be prepared for an incredible line of cigars as a whole.
  • If you are interested in purchasing some of these vist Tower Cigars or you can call them direct at (916) 443-8466 they are also available at Empire Cigars (919) 870-0081. Tell them we sent you!
  • Final Smoking time was just under one hour.
92 Overall Score

This cigar is a wonderful addition the Illusione line, it offers a much different smoke than his other cigars, it’s a full flavored, full strength powerhouse but it’s so subtle in both of those departments that I believe it will turn on a lot of mild to medium body smokers. It is also backed by a complex flavor profile and wonderful balance. I will definitely be keeping some of these on hand for when I want something powerful and flavorful, but smooth and mellow all at the same time.

Steve Valle

Steve Valle wrote for Smoking Stogie, a precursor to halfwheel, from 2010-2011.