Illusione MJ12 (Joint Guest Review)

Guest - Illusione MJ12 - 1

This collaborative review comes courtesy of Mike and Tony (Casas Fumando).

Pre-Light:

Mike: Tony, would you like to start your pre-light inspection?

Tony: Will do, I’ll be taking the foil off now. Let me just state for the record that it’s great presentation. I can’t imagine how enticing it is to open up a full box of these.

Mike: I agree on the presentation – One of a kind!

After removing the foil, the cigar is just beautiful! That small white band with the black writing on it stands out very well against this medium brown colored stick. Yes, this stick literally FEELS silky to me! Stick is very solid with a few veins running about halfway, then another one running the rest of the way up and into the cap.

Tony: Agreed. The wrapper is a perfect silky, oily, milk chocolate brown. It’s great to see a larger ring gauged Illusione. There is absolutely no veins. And no soft spots. the Mj12 is actually VERY hard to to the touch. I can feel the filler give just a bit of bounce back when I squeeze hard. The cap is a very rounded triple cap that Illusione is known for and the cap is wrapped so well it gets lost and actually becomes part of the wrapper.

Mike: Prelight smell of the wrapper is a barnyard smell with a little bit of sweetness, like fresh hay. Smell at the foot is very minimal and I can not discern what it is.

Tony: I’m getting much of the same barnyard and sweet smell but there is something else in there. I don’t want to say if coffee, but it resembles creamer. If that makes any sense. The foot isn’t giving off much of a smell but after a large inhale I picked up a bit of pepper spice that tickled my nose a bit.

Mike: I am going to use a punch on mine today. Well after punching and doing a prelight draw, I may end up cutting mine also – NO draw AT ALL with the punch! Ok, re-punched and I will give it a try. If the draw is just too tight, I will end up snipping the end off. Because of the tight draw, I really could not discern any flavors. Mine is now lit using my normal Creme Brulee torch 🙂

Tony: I’ll be cutting much with a double blade Palio. I like doing these with ya mike. It’s interesting to see the difference in experience due to the punch vs. cut.

Tony: I’m actually getting a pretty decent draw. I didn’t cut much at all off. I sliced up until the first wrap line in the cap.

Tony: I’m not pulling any of the pepper I did off the foot in the cold draw. It’s very grassy, with hints of cedar and possibly coffee undertones.

Tony: Going to move into the lighting. Using a simple single flame butane torch.

Tony: It took a bit to get lit. The draw is what you would expect. Not too big, not too small. I was really hoping the increased ring gauge would kick out a massive draw. I’m getting earthy notes, grass, hay, with quite a bit of pepper. The pepper is actually tingling the back of my throat a bit, but not so much that it is annoying me.

Mike: First few puffs I am getting a nice hay taste, bit of spice and I am thinking a natural earth flavor. Seems like it is starting off in the medium body range, we shall see how it progresses.

First Third:

Guest - Illusione MJ12 - 2

Mike: Getting a bit of a flavor change in this 1st third. I cant quite place it but it seems creamy and sweet so far. Razor thin burn, just like Tony, and it is a bit wavy also. Just thought of the sweetness, its kind of like ribbon candy with no flavoring in it, just the sweet candy. Ash just fell on my keyboard at a little over an inch. Burn line is going a little bit off, but I think it will correct itself on mine! Nothing as major as Tony’s was! I am getting the pepper taste in my mouth and on the retrohale now, but it doesn’t seem like a full black pepper, maybe like a milder white pepper taste. It is not in your face pepper, just a subtleness that says its there. Finishing off the first third, I have to say the flavors did not change ALL that much. I did get more of that nice sweetness and some of the subtle hints of pepper, but it stayed pretty consistent throughout. I am hoping for a nice change in the second third to keep the cigar interesting. Burn has corrected itself, draw is tight, but ok for now. Ash has been flakey and doesnt seem to hold for more than an inch so far.

Mike: Ok, ash just fell on my keyboard AGAIN. I wont be trusting this cigar to hold any sort of ash in the future, I will probably start bumping it on the ashtray to make sure it falls before it reaches my keyboard.

Mike: I am still not getting the raw coffee taste that Tony is enjoying but I am getting some of the harder draw like he is.

Tony: Yeah the MJ12 is beginning to balance out. My ash is really thin and flaky. The burn line is starting to get a bit out of hand. I have one portion that is struggling to keep up with the other half, as well as the fast burning half containing too very deep waves.

Tony: Yeah the taste is getting a bit musky on mine. The coffee is there. And the sweetness is very raw. The pepper taste is mixed in as well. but it seems almost to be coming and going. I’m also getting a very slight hint of clove or basil. It’s so subtle that I can’t place the exact taste.

Tony: My ash fell off about an inch into the cigar. The ash was actually an inch in at its deepest level, and just barely over a quarter inch in on the opposite half. I did a massive touch up and hopefully that fixes the burn up a bit. So far I’m enjoying this cigar quite a bit, and would hate to have the experience tainted by a flaw in the burn.

Tony: On a side note: I can’t get over how oily, and shimmery this wrapper is. It almost leaves your hands feeling greasy. This is a good thing by all means.

Tony: Early in, I am starting to have slight problems keeping the cigar lit. It hasn’t actually put itself out yet, but each time I go to take a draw I have to pass two or three large hits before the draw reaches me with the right potential.

Tony: I’m in line with Mike. The flavors didn’t change up too much outside of the pepper. It only seemed to tease you, then disappear. The sweetness, and raw coffee notes stayed consistent. The ash is really flaky and my burn line has a mind of its own. I find myself having to take more hits than usual to get the draw I desire which may lead to a harsher finish.

Second Third:

Guest - Illusione MJ12 - 3

Mike: On starting this 2nd third, I have to note that I have not taken one drink yet! Very nice cigar that doesn’t suck the moisture right out of your mouth!

Mike: Starting to get a woody note to this now – hope I am not confusing woody and leathery 😉

Mike: Definite medium for me Tony, not full at all. I also walked in to ask the wife about the resting smoke smell LOL, but felt nothing as I got up. VERY nice cigar for me so far!

Mike: I am getting way less smoke than I would like to with this cigar. I think that is why Tony said about taking a few puffs to get anything, it just does not put out the smoke. I am honestly thinking about clipping this cigar to see if I can get more smoke. If Tony would not have clipped his and is having the same experience, I would have sheered this puppies head off already 😉

Tony: Moving on to the second third of the MJ12.

Tony: As a reference, the ash has only been holding on for a quarter to a half inch before letting go. I have been strategically smoking over my ash tray the entire time.

Mike: LOL – I also have been puffing over my ashtray like Tony 🙂

Mike: I will say, the room aroma is very nice with this one. It kind of reminds me of a nutmeg or gingerbread cookie baking.

Tony: I agree with you Mike. Stationary smoke isn’t bad at all. I don’t think any surrounding members of the public will get disgusted with this one.

Tony: I just got up and walked around for the first time since I have sat down to enjoy this cigar. Surprisingly there was not even a hint of nicotine or light headed-ness. I’m not sure on the body of this cigar but I was expecting a stronger one and it doesn’t seem quite on par in strength compared to most other Illusione’s I have smoked. Medium? Maybe a Medium-Full at best.

Tony: I’m picking up a small about of the woodsy taste Mike is, but the dominant flavors are still a bit grassy with me with lots of coffee. I layed off the chai for a while just to make sure that I am in fact pulling this taste from the cigar and not my latte and it’s still there with every puff. The pepper is still on and off. Usually I wouldn’t enjoy that too much, but since the underlying flavors are so consistent it puts a bit more surprise in the experience.

Tony: The MJ12 officially put itself out halfway through the second third. Once I relit the draw opened up a whole lot more. I would have to say that you cannot babysit this cigar if you want a better overall experience. I’m not the fastest smoker out there so this may happen again.

Tony: Once the draw was opened up more the flavors became a lot more evident. I am still getting coffee but it is well overpowered by the woodsy taste as well as a bready type flavor. Almost light a Russian rye. The pepper is no longer evident at all, and hasn’t been into the second half.

Mike: I will have to say – my draw has opened up a bit also! At about the halfway point, maybe a bit further. I hope it opens up even more in the next few puffs!

Mike: Well I have had it – I am now going to clip the head and try to get more smoke out of this cigar. It just does not want to let me have much, well not as much as I would like. THERE we go! I would tell anyone who likes to punch their cigars, they might want to rethink it on this one!

Mike: Woodsy with a bit of sweetness and pepper. Pepper is REAL noticeable on the after taste. Takes a couple seconds and then I can taste it.

Tony: Second Third overview: The burn line is wild. I was hoping touching up the cigar would fix it but it seems to have a mind of its own. The ash is very loose and flaky and likes to fall offat any given time. The flavors are really smooth and enjoyable. A bit of coffee mixed in with wood, grass, and maybe a bit of bready leather if that makes any sense. Pepper also comes and goes although it wasn’t present much in the second third it wouldn’t surprise me if it made it’s triumphant return in the last third. The draw is really tight, and I have had problems actually keeping the MJ12 lit. Nictone, unnoticable.

Mike: Copying Tony – 2nd 3rd recap: VERY pleasant odor from this cigar! It was not giving me hardly any smoke, so I ended up clipping the head off and it opened up nicely. Mostly the woodsy flavor with pepper and sweetness, with the pepper being very noticeable on the aftertaste. Ash was SUPER flaky and loose, and would fall off at any given time by itself. I still call this a medium body cigar with very nice flavors. I am hoping the flavors really come out in the final third or I think this cigar will be a bit of a disappointment for me.

Final Third:

Guest - Illusione MJ12 - 4

Mike: Just to note, I have not had any of the burn problems like Tony has! Mine has always corrected itself if it got a bit wavy and I have not had to relight.

Mike: WOW – pepper just BLASTED to the forefront, totally took me by surprise!

Mike: Band is about to come off. Still getting a good bit of pepper and woodsy taste with a hint of that same sweetness in the background. Maybe the sweetness I taste is from the room aroma and me thinking it smells like baking cookies 🙂 I am not REAL impressed so far, but it is a solid smoke for a medium body, so far.

Mike: Band came off with NO problems! Always a good thing 🙂

Tony: My band slid right off as well. There was a bit of glue exposed on the wrapper of the cigar just underneath the band, but nothing to worry about.

Tony: No surprise here but my cigar is out once again. Going in for the relight. It’s getting annoying at this point. I still have hope for this cigar though, hopefully the final third doesn’t disappoint.

Tony: I got the exact same pepper “blast” as mike did. I also started to hold my cigar in my hand so that I was forced to take draws more often. This is opening up the draw quite a bit and even helps with the burn line.

Tony: The flavors, outside of the pepper which is always a surprise are still pretty consistent with the rest of the cigar up to this point. Woodsy, Grassy, and bready. Overall, this is a very smooth smoke and it’s not really throwing any curve-balls.

Tony: I feel little to know nicotine off of this cigar, but I am reaching the harshness towards the head of the cigar that I was expecting due to the massive hits it took to get the draw I wanted. The headache that developed from me having to do so is increasing.

Mike: I have to say, the retrohale is not even very harsh on this cigar. I was expecting a full bodied powerhouse, but it is real tame compared to my expectations. I have to say, like Tony, I am having a bit of a headache…maybe its from the same thing with puffing harder to get more smoke from it when it didnt want to give it up. My next one I will have to let the cigar dictate how much smoke I get and see how it goes.

Tony: Agreeing with Mike, I’m not really impressed with the MJ12 as well. I had much higher expectations due to all of Dion’s previous work.

Tony: On a good note, taking many hits, much more often off of the MJ12 has righted the burn. It has also produced a thicker draw.

Mike: Starting to get a harsher taste to it now at about 1.5 inches left. I think it could be from what Tony said, having to puff on it so hard to get any smoke.

Mike: Getting a bit of bittersweet chocolate now, which I am surprised I didn’t get before, but it is still harsh tasting and not a nice mellow flowing smoke at this point.

Mike: I am now at the 1 inch mark and about to let this one go I think. Flavors in the final 3rd were not near as good as the first 2, with the pepper slamming you hard a couple times, then fading away into the aftertaste. I was getting a predominant woodsy taste with a few puffs showing off some bittersweet chocolate. I had that sweet taste throughout the cigar and wish i could describe it better because it REALLY balanced the cigar out!

Tony: Nearing the nub now and the harshness is overruling all. It’s not as bad as it could be but it’s in there. The last flavors I’m pulling off the MJ12 are again very woodsy, and grassy. The pepper is back in there but solely in the aftertaste. The draw seems open for the first time near the nub and the stationary smoke’s aroma is very pleasing. Very cedar smelling with sweet undertones. I am no longer having any burn issues and the burn line is actually incredibly stable. All in all I think that this cigar just demands a lot of attention. If you sit back and babysit like I was you might want to make sure you have your lighter readily available.

Final Thoughts:

Guest - Illusione MJ12 - 5

Tony: This is the first Illusione that I have had that I didn’t walk away singing praises of cigar glory. The presentation, and overall construction of the cigar is right on par and nothing less that stellar. The flavors were very well balanced and incredibly consistent. As with Mike, and even while we were doing this review, nothing but good things were spoken of Illusione’s MJ12. For me, it just didn’t quite meet my expectations. The ash was too flaky and weak, and the burn was just out of control. The body was a good soft and medium. Honestly if I would have had a better draw and burn then the overall experience would have been completely different, but it was too much to over look. I honestly would still recommend this cigar to anyone interested in trying it out. Although it wasn’t on key with the rest of Dion’s previous work, it still overshot work done on most cigars that I have had lately.

Mike: One word would be disappointed. I do not know if the cigars I purchased were a bad batch, not humidified properly, or what, but I was really expecting a lot more from an Illusione product! I bought 6 of these, 2 for Walt, 2 for Tony, and 2 for myself, so if Walt has the same experience as Tony and I have, I would tend to think something is wrong. I have heard good things about this cigar but this one has not lived up to expectations. I never had burn problems, but the draw was just so darn tight and the volume of smoke getting into my mouth was almost non existent that I had to puff harder and more on the cigar, thus making it harsher in the final third ( I am thinking that is why it got harsh ). I would say this kept a medium body throughout and never got close to full unless you count the harshness in the final 3rd. If you like Illusione product, don’t be afraid to try this one,as our own Brian Hewitt had a better experience with the one that he smoked for review back in May. I am hoping if I let this 2nd one sit for a while it might open up into the wonderful smoke I was expecting! As of now, I will pick up some Epernay and others from the line before buying this one again.

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Photos by Mike and Tony