Cigar Aficionado

Sitting Down at Oliva Cigar Co.

I flew into Miami this morning, leaving New York’s LaGuardia at the crack of dawn, just as an Alberta clipper was moving into town with some snowfall and dropping temperatures. I’m in Miami for a very quick visit to meet with some of the town’s cigar executives.

I spent the morning and early afternoon in Miami Lakes, at the headquarters of Oliva Cigar Co. I met with Jose Oliva, vice president of the company, and Sam Leccia, the former Oliva sales representative who created the very popular Nub cigar.

I knew Sam came up with the concept for Nub, but I only found out today that he actually rolled the concept cigar himself. Sam knows how to make a cigar, and he made the first one at his home. “I rolled Nub in my garage,” Leccia said, puffing on one of his short, squat smokes, which is made in the Oliva Cigar Co. factory in Nicaragua. “Some people rock—I roll.”

Leccia is building on the Nub brand with in-store events, and at those events he rolls cigars himself. Later this year, he’s going to start a series of high-energy Nub events featuring live music. He’s also working with Ernesto Padilla (who I’m seeing tomorrow) on a Miami-made version of the cigar. Look for more details on the tour and the new cigar on this site.

We puffed away, and Jose started me off with a new cigar, one that he smokes each morning with a cup of Cuban-style coffee. It was an Oliva Connecticut Wrapper Reserve, which will go on sale next month.

“We do more than 500 events a year,” said Oliva. “At these events, people would say, ‘I’ve heard of Oliva cigars—do you guys have anything light?’”

The Connecticut Wrapper Reserve is light, very easygoing with a pleasant taste and a creamy undertone. The inside is all Nicaraguan, but it’s strictly viso and seco tobaccos, no ligeros like you find on Serie V cigars. Oliva hopes people will puff them as an entry smoke into their bolder cigars. It’s a good mild smoke, not bad for the first puff of the day.

Most of Oliva’s smokes are bolder. One of them is the company’s Master Blends series of cigars. After I finished the Connecticut Wrapper Reserve, I clipped the head off of an Oliva Master Blends 1 Torpedo, which was rolled in 2003.

This cigar was a powerhouse when it was created, but the five years of age mellowed the cigar considerably. It started off very light, with some citrus and floral notes, and built in complexity as I puffed it. It got considerably richer and better as I got into it, and by the time the cigar was burning at the etching near the head (something Oliva no longer does) it had taken on a lot of cocoa flavor. What a nice cigar.

Jose, Sam and I talked and puffed for quite a long time, discussing the outlook for cigars, and the intricacies of the business. I took a Nub Habano and an Oliva Serie V Maduro for the road. Now I’m heading north to see Alan Rubin at Alec Bradley Cigar Co. More to report on later.

"David I am truly jealous of you after reading this. Jose Oliva is one fine gentleman. I had the pleasure to email him through his company website to let him know how much I enjoy his cigars and to my suprise a few weeks later I was sent a package from him containing a large Oliva ashtray, and matches...besides information regarding the different cigars his company produces.I am seriously jealous that you got the chance to smoke a Master Blends I as I did not realize what a fabulous cigar maker Jose Oliva was before these cigars were no longer in production. I have two boxes of the Oliva Serie V Maduro sitting in my humidor and look forward to sampling them soon." —January 16, 2009 07:36 AM