OP No. 4 (Robusto), 4” x 48 ring gauge / $10.50, Burns
There’s definitely something to be said for the method with which Illusione Cigars owner, Dion Giolito, debuts then grows his lines. The original Illusione brand was introduced in a dozen sizes, then he introduced a Candela in one size...followed by a few other vitolas a few months later. Then the Maduro made an appearance...followed a few months later by more vitolas...and with the banding changed. Last year the Ultra was released after the IPCPR show in the “mk” size (it also enjoyed a limited release sometime previous) and now three more sizes have joined it on the shelves of some of the best tobacconists in the country. I picked up the OP No. 4, a Robusto by any other name, at Burns to give it a whirl. These are all Nicaraguan cigars from what I can tell; information on Illusione’s website is non-existent, but one retailer says it has a Corojo wrapper leaf.
I love the way this cigar looks: dark chocolate brown with some mottling, small veins with a nice oily sheen. The band is reversed out from the normal Illusione look, white type on black background, as if to denote this was a darker, heavier smoke and newbies should beware. The wrapper leaf feels nice and oily, too, and very smooth...quite the impeccable construction. The box press on the cigar is mild, with softly rounded corners. I gave the cigar a good sniff and loved the chocolatey, slightly earthy aroma I got from the wrapper. The foot had more earth with some spiciness and cedar. As usual, my Xikar Xi provided a clean cut and great draw. The prelight flavors were of cocoa powder, cedar, and sweet tobacco.
While lighting I got quick hits of maple and licorice, but these were quickly subsumed by a strong earthiness, sharp cedar, and rich dark chocolate. The retrohale had more cedar along with roasted peanuts and a dash of pepper spice. Just a dash, though, and not nearly as much as you might expect from a Nicaraguan Puro. I had to check my review of the MK Ultra before the first third was over...I didn't remember it being this good. Sure enough, I had noted it to be a bit raspy in places and it ended up with a score that was not all that remarkable. This one, though, was really hitting me different...smoother, more flavorful, more complex. Almost as if this one had been rolled at the same time, but was left to age and mellow a bit for six or either months. I was getting full-bodied earthiness, to be sure, but also a complex mix of cedar, dried fruit, dark chocolate and even coffee. While the MK hit me in the nose with pepper spice, this one's spiciness was far more subdued and allowed rich roasted nuts and cedar to come through clearly.
Deep in the second third, I marveled at how great this cigar was tasting. It had a rich chocolatey note still, plenty of earth and enough cedar for me to know it was there. I had no construction issues of note; the draw was excellent, the ash was solid and the burn line just had to be touched up a bit a couple times.
The good times with the Illusione Ultra OP 4 continued through the last third, where I picked up a nice bit of red pepper spice on the palate to go with the rich notes of chocolate, earth and coffee. This is definitely a full bodied cigar and has a decent amount of strength, too, so it is still off the table for newer smokers. But the difference between last year's MK Ultra and this OP 4 is, to me, night and day. This one hit on all cylinder all the way from beginning to end making it not just one of my favorite smokes of the year, but probably my favorite Illusione period. I'm hoping my local shop has more the next time I get there.