If you’ve been around the world of cigars for a minute or two, you’ve probably become familiar with the Oliva family name. Their cigars have been ratings gold for well over a decade now, and I can’t remember seeing a Cigar Aficionado yearly top 25 list without an Oliva being featured. One thing that is surprising, when compared to other big-name cigar manufactures/families, there are very few cigars in their lineup. There’s the esteemed Serie V/Melanio, Serie O, Serie G, Connecticut Reserve, and Master Blends—that’s a total of six lines, not counting the maduro line extensions. While many companies have a seemingly endless number of blends available (with new lines added every year), the Oliva family has focused on quality and consistency over the years, without an ever-expanding portfolio. So with the 2016 announcement of an upcoming new line, many, myself included, were pretty excited.
In the initial announcement, Oliva had stated the cigar would be named Facundo after Gilberto Oliva Sr’s father (and son of family patriarch, Melanio Oliva). There was, however, an issue regarding the trademark of the name with a spirit distiller, so the title was changed to Gilberto before the official release of the cigar last year.
Gilberto Reserva Corona Breakdown
- Wrapper: Indonesian Sumatra
- Binder: Ecuadorian
- Filler: Nicaraguan
- Factory: Tabacalera Oliva de Nicaragua S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5¾” x 43 Corona
- Price: $5.25 (MSRP)
While the Olivas have long focused on Nicaraguan puro blends, they haven’t been shy about using Ecuadorian, African, Connecticut, and Mexican wrapper leaves. This new release features two firsts for the company (as far as I’m aware, anyway), in that they utilize an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper, as well as an Ecuadorian binder. Clearly we have more than just a new name, new vitola, or slight blend tweak masquerading as a new cigar. And, as an alluring benefit, the cigars debuted as one of the most affordable cigars in the company’s catalog.
I’m not a huge fan of the cigar band (it reminds me of something cheap my grandfather would smoke) but the cedar sleeve and black silk foot band give the cigar a more premium presentation. The Sumatra wrapper is a pale brown tinged with olive drab, with black speckles and veins. The flat, tight seams of the cigar are noticeably dark and look “drawn on,” giving the cigar an almost cartoonish appearance. The cigar looks well-made, if perhaps slightly light in the filler bunch, as there is a little give when squeezed. There are no lumps, no bumps, no hard spots, and the cigar sports a neat cap.
My initial impression is that this is a unique cigar, as the wrapper smells like the shoreline of a lake: slightly fishy, muddy, and with hints of algae. This isn’t unpleasant, and comes across as an interesting version of earthiness and/or barnyard. I struggle to discern flavors in the cold draw, but notice some Froot Loops and light cedar creaminess.
The cigar doesn’t stray from interesting/unique upon lighting, and the first flavors to cross my palate are that of sweet cherry tomatoes! Aside from that, there’s the cedar that is initially close to being the dominant flavor. The draw is perfection, but the lightness in the bunch is evident in how fast the first third flys by, clocking in at just over 13 minutes. The ash isn’t the same perfect, dense stacks that come when smoking a Melanio, but instead are puffy and flakey. Flavor and body are sub-medium at this point.
Flavors pick up going into the second third, with layers of baking spices and creaminess. Like a rich chai custard, I notice tingling ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. The ginger quickly turns up the tingle as it cruises into Spicyville. Spice, in cigars, can mean a lot of things: peppercorn, chile peppers, baking spices, etc.—this is like the burn of a strong ginger beer. Aside from these flavors, and their pleasant meshing, there isn’t a ton of complexity to be had at this point. The flavor has been bumped up into medium at this point, with the ginger and a punchy cedar note, while strength is still below the Mendoza line. The burn line is still impeccable. This cigar is racing by like Lightning McQueen—33 minutes heading into the last third.
I’m really enjoying this vitola, as the Sumatra wrapper’s presence is a big part of the unique flavor profile and really shines at this ratio. A savory note joins the fresh, pungent, spicy ginger and creamy cedar, with a lingering finish of butterscotch candy sweetness. There’s something that I’m looking for, some elusive flavor, that I just can’t pinpoint. This, and the general uniqueness of the cigar, really keep me puffing away with interest. This isn’t very complex, nor are there the sort of flavor transitions that evolve and keep one intrigued, yet I just can’t help feeling increasingly tantalized as the blend moves on. The creamy-sweet, ginger-spicy, cedar-savory mixture reminds me of Thai grilled shrimp. And as soon as I think the word “Thai,” that elusive something I was searching for comes across as that “king of fruits,” the mighty durian in custard form. As I get into the last inch, the cream and cedar are the biggest things happening. The nub starts to get soft and warm, so I set it down at the one-hour mark ON THE DOT. Strength made a valiant effort to reach medium.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I certainly do enjoy Sumatra-wrapped cigars, and this didn’t disappoint at all, particularly in this vitola. It wasn’t a rollercoaster of complexity and transition, more like watching the colors of the sky change at sunset: you can’t pinpoint when the sky changes from blue to red, but once you get there, you know it happened. A tasty, unique cigar experience at a very accessible price point.
- This blend originally debuted in 2016, roughly in the same time period Oliva announced they were acquired by J. Cortez Cigars N.V.
- Oliva Gilberto Reserva was the last cigar released before Gilberto Oliva Sr. died on Dec. 16th at the age of 86.
- This, the Corona vitola, is the only size in the series that is packaged in cedar sleeves
- Flavor: Medium-Plus
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium-Minus
- Fresh ginger
- Savory, rich custard
- Smoke Time: 1 hour
- Pairing Recommendation: Sparkling water, Thai iced tea, Kentucky Mule cocktail
- Purchase Recommendation: At this price, it’d be a shame to not have a box
- Fantastic value (less than $1 an inch in this vitola)
- Great activity smoke, you won’t miss anything if you get lost in conversation or a round of golf
- Light bunch
- Burns too fast
- At times the pungent cedar flavor overwhelmed the palate