Meeting Jose Oliva In Miami

I got up early this morning and left frosty New York for sunny Miami, and spent the day with Jose Oliva, vice president of Oliva Cigar Co. in Miami Lakes. The family-run company is one of the true success stories in the cigar industry: the Olivas make great cigars for a good price, using copious amounts of Nicaraguan tobacco that they grow themselves.

Jose is a smart guy who thinks about the future quite a bit. The company he helps run was created by his father, Gilberto. Now that Jose has a son of his own, he’s thinking about what he needs to do to prepare the company for the day in the future when his child is working there.

“I think we have to be the fastest growing company in the business over the last three years,” Jose said while smoking an Oliva Serie O cigar on the waterside patio of Smith & Wollensky steak house. The company’s growth is a combination of traditional cigars, such as its award winning Oliva Serie V Liga Especiale (a onetime No. 4 cigar of the year from Cigar Aficionado magazine) and hip, new cigars, such as its popular NUB series of short smokes.

I’ve spent time in the Oliva warehouses in Nicaragua, which were brimming with stocks of Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobacco. It’s what you need to make great cigars over and over again, key to success in this business. Oliva is able to put out a fine cigar at a good price for two reasons: growing its own tobacco helps keep costs down (Jose says the only leaf it buys from outside vendors now is from Ecuador) and the fact that it struggled for a toehold in the post-boom cigar market meant it had to come out with bargain-priced cigars. It’s top line smoke, the Oliva Serie V, has a suggested retail price of less than $10 a cigar.

“Every year, my father continued to grow tobacco and put it away. It allowed us to win people over through the consistency of the cigars we were producing,” he said between puffs. “Cigarmaking and craftsmanship is important, but there is no substitition for tobacco inventory.”

We talked for a long, long time, and moved onto Oliva’s newest smoke, the Oliva Serie V Maduro, as the sun began to set. It was big and bold, full of powerful Nicaraguan tobacco grown on the company farms throughout Nicaragua. You’ll read more about the Oliva Cigar Co. in an upcoming Cigar Aficionado.

"Hi Manny, I agree with what you're saying, I think Oliva is well prepared for today's cigar market. All the best." —December 6, 2009 18:50 PM
"Dave,I had the privileges to spend time yesterday with Jose early in the morning at the Oliva Headquarter, we were talking about several topics and an immediately project . After so far one hour of conversation and according with my experience as cigar smoker... I realized that the Oliva Cigars is one of those few companies that are completely prepare to keep growing in these difficult times." —December 3, 2009 12:43 PM
"I love the NUB Connecticut torpedo. I did not know that they were the same family. You guys have the coolest jobs. I would love to get to all the these places, hang out and interview the main guys in the industry. Then of course get to smoke all the great cigars with them. " —December 3, 2009 10:02 AM
"Thanks Jesse. I do admit, this is a great job. Spending time with cigarmakers like Jose Oliva is always enjoyable. I love what I do. Thanks for the comment." —December 6, 2009 18:49 PM