As has been mentioned numerous times before, Illusione released a plethora of cigars at the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
Briefly, those releases are:
- Cigares Privé — Two new blends in three sizes each.
- Cruzado — Revamped with four sizes.
- ~eccj~ — It’s back, now in three regular production sizes.
- Fume d’Amour Concepcions — A 5 1/2 x 56 vitola.
- Garagiste — A new line, four sizes with Ecuadorian habano wrappers.
- Gigantes & Rothchildes CT — Ecuadorian Connecticut versions of some of Illusione’s most economical cigars.
- Haut 10 — The 10th anniversary release for Illusione.
- Singularé Kadosh + Rerelease — One new sizes and three favorites return for regular production.
- ULTRA Op No. 3 & ULTRA Op No. 8 — Two new sizes for the ULTRA line.
While the ULTRA Op No. 3 got some special packaging as part of its launch, the two new Ultra vitolas were certainly not the focus of the Illusione booth.
Ultra is now in its third iteration of sorts. The name was first used in 2006, when the company released a small number of cigars called MKULTRA, a stronger version of the company’s ~mk~. In 2011, Dion Giolito announced that there would be a line, called ULTRA, made up of four sizes, including the MKULTRA, produced in Honduras.
The Nicaraguan puros used a dark corojo wrapper and ligero fillers from Estelí and Jalapa.
A few years later, production of all Illusione cigars, with the exception of Epernay, were moved from Raíces Cubanas in Honduras to Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Estelí, Nicaragua. While the cigars are now being made 65 miles south of their original home, the tobacco is very much the same: AGANORSA.
There are now six sizes of ULTRA.
- Illusione ULTRA OP No. 1 (6 3/4 x 56) — $12.50 (Boxes of 20, $250) — 2012
- Illusione ULTRA OP No. 9 (5 1/2 x 56) — $11.50 (Boxes of 20, $230) — 2012
- Illusione ULTRA OP No. 4 (4 3/4 x 48) — $9.95 (Boxes of 20, $199) — 2012
- Illusione ULTRA MKULTRA (5 1/8 x 42) $7.80 (Boxes of 25, $195) — 2006/2011
- Illusione ULTRA Op No. 3 (4 1/4 x 50) — $8.35 (Boxes of 20, $167) — 2016
- Illusione ULTRA Op No. 8 (6 3/4 x 48) — $13 (Boxes of 20, $240) — 2016
While the cigar will be sold in boxes of 20, 300 special 48-count boxes were made for the initial release of the Op No. 3 size.
- Cigar Reviewed: Illusione ULTRA Op No. 3
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 4 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Petit Robusto
- MSRP: $8.35 (Boxes of 20, $167)
- Release Date: July 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
It’s a small cigar with a small band, the latter of which is a welcome sight given today’s Camacho-like bands and many cigars wrapped with three bands. There’s a strong and potent aroma that has a lot of barnyard and some cocoa. The foot provides a bit more complex encounter with cocoa, creaminess, a sweet cedar and a fairly deep spice blend. I am taken back to 2009 and 2010 with the cold draw, a pungent mixture of cocoa, barnyard and a lesser note of cola.
I’m certainly not surprised with the flavors I get at the start of the Illusione ULTRA Op No. 3: a concentrated toastiness, lots of grains, generic roasted flavors and some cedar. I am a bit surprised that the flavor is only medium upon the initial puffs. It doesn’t take long for that to change: there’s roasted cedar flavors, a sharp toastiness and some sweet fruits that at times taste like raspberry and other times more of a candied orange. Retrohales provide meant shells and pink salts, along with a more detailed flavor. One sample requires a touch-up in the first third, though things are otherwise impressive in all areas of construction. Flavor is smooth and full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus.
All three samples show construction issues, something that is likely caused by tight spots near the top of the cigar. Flavor-wise, there’s an incredibly deep and rich walnut flavor, cherry lumber and some muted strawberries. The toastiness and roasted flavors remaining, serving as accents for the other interactive flavors. At the middle point of each cigar it feels like I am sitting at the counter of a restaurant being served a tasting menu as the flavors are arranged incredibly well and deliver injections of flavor sensation in a matter that is truly remarkable. I find myself touching up the Ultras quite a bit, sometimes to fix an uneven burn and other times to keep the cigar burning. Strength picks up a bit just entering the realm of medium-full.
The tobacco tasting menu continues with a familiar flavor of walnuts and oregano. It’s joined by rich cedar, white pepper and creaminess. As has been the case from the first few minutes, there’s roasted and toasty flavors that really help to bring the flavor profile together. Construction woes have reached their worst of the Illusione, though with an inch left they disappear, likely because of where the tight spot is located. Strength doesn’t pick up, potentially even receding slightly, but certainly a handful of notches below full.
- This cigar is a few touch-ups from being one of the highest scores this site has awarded a cigar in quite some time.
- All three samples had hard spots around the band. While the draws were not tight, I do think they contributed to the burn issues, particularly on two cigars where there was subsequent underfilling at other points of the cigar.
- While I’ve never found the ULTRA line to be ultra strong, this is the weakest Ultra vitola as far as nicotine is concerned, never getting past the bottom levels of medium-full.
- That being said, I don’t think ULTRA is as strong as it once was, though that also might be the fact that full in 2012 has very different meanings than what full is today.
- I really like the design of the special 48-count boxes, though they aren’t particularly retail friendly.
- Illusione advertises on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar carries the Illusione ULTRA Op No. 3.
It’s an embarrassment of riches. Our cigar of the year, regular releases of legendary cigars like ~eccj~ and Singularé favorites, Garagiste, a revamped Cruzado, the new Cigares Privé lines and somewhere down on the list is ULTRA Op No. 3. That was just what Dion Giolito released last year to a portfolio of cigars that in my opinion has been the best of any manufacturer top to bottom for the last five years. And ULTRA Op No. 3, while perhaps lacking the punch that most of its siblings are known for, is an incredible cigar. From start to finish this felt like a tasting menu assembled by a talented chef, and yet, when I look down—it’s just some dried, rolled up tobacco. While it may not have been high up on the list of “things I am looking forward to from Illusione in 2016,” ULTRA Op No. 3 certainly is towards the top of best cigars I’ve smoked in the last 12 months.