Oliva Serie V Melanio
Variety is truly the spice of life.
It seems to me that the cigar world, although is extraordinarily communal and familial, seems to always be divided over one particular topic, cuban cigars vs new world cigars.
When I first engaged in smoking cigars, I have to confess, I too got involved in this rigamarole of which is best. To play devils advocate, I find that any industry with a consumer base that is extremely passionate about the products being produced, you will always find divisive opinions. I mean in the tech space you have iPhone vs Android, in the automotive world you have German vs Italian, wherever there are ardent consumers, strong beliefs will follow.
On the other hand, as I have evolved in my cigar journey and have been able to sample more and more, I realised how fruitless this ludicrous comparison really is. If you enjoy pasta, does that mean souvlaki is inferior? Absolutely not. As far as in concerned we need to stop with these silly arguments and start to appreciate all handmade, premium cigars for the experience they provide the smoker.
For me, there is no Cuban vs New World, its bad vs good cigars and trying to identify which ones fit in each category irrespective of where they come from. Of course, this metric is based on my own palette so a good cigar for me might be fucking horrendous for you, but I am convinced I have a fairly universal taste preference.
While looking for interesting and tasty cigars there is a brand that seems to stand out to me, hailing from Nicaragua, we are talking about none other then Oliva. Oliva seems to have a rather special place in my heart as it was the first new world cigar I ever smoked, in fact, it was one of the cigars I will be talking about today, the Oliva Serie V Melanio Natural Figurado.
What a truly stunning looking cigar, I don’t know if you will agree with me, but there is something about a cigar that is tapered on both ends that screams luxury, having a box of 10 masterfully rolled figarado cigars looking up at you is enough o bring a tear to my eye, but thats just me. I was in the company of my dear friend Ricardo Carioni who kindly handed me this cigar, I cut it, lit it and after the first puff I was welcomed in with smooth, balanced woody and leathery flavours, no sign of harshness or youth, I knew I was in for a treat.
Of course I was intrigued after that smoke so I went home, and in typical Omar fashion I went down a rabbit hole that got me very excited indeed!
My research told me that Melanio Oliva was originally a tobacco grower in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba in 1886. For those of you who know your history you will know that Cuba was undergoing some monumental political shifts and by time Melanio’s son, Facundo had taken over the growing business the country had made a transition to a political and economic communist regime. This transition meant a huge change in the tobacco game and many prominent families decided the leave, the Fuente, Garcia and Oliva families being a few.
It was Facundo’s son, Gilberto that founded the Oliva brand as we know it today. After traveling around, searching for the perfect soils to create the best tobacco he could, Gilberto settled on Nicaragua, fast forwarding to today, the Oliva family are the second largest grower of Cuban-seed tobacco is Nicaragua. On top of growing their own tobacco they have been able to create a line cigars named after Gilberto’s grand father, Melanio, of which has been named by Cigar Aficionado as cigar of the year.
What a success story.
Now in terms of my sampling, I have decided to focus on the Serie V Melenio line, their premium, flagship range. This particular range comes in two variations, a natural and maduro.
What the fuck does that mean?
A valid question indeed. So from my understanding, the natural and maduro labels are referring to the wrapper leaf of the cigar and the type of processing and formation it has undergone.
For example, a natural wrapper is grown with little to no direct exposure to light, shaded by a cheese cloth. They are then put through a very slow drying process that aids in reducing the harsh and bitter notes. These leaves are typically in light to medium shades of brown.
Oliva Serie V Melanio Natural Figurado
On the other hand, a maduro leaf ranges in deep, dark browns to almost black in colour, a real marvel to see. This is created by prolonged exposure to the sun, followed by a ‘cooking’ process and or a labour intensive and timely fermentation process. Some say that the best maduro wrappers add a sweetness and spice to a cigar that a natural can’t match.
I would also like to point out a common misconception. It is assumed that maduro cigars will be stronger in terms of nicotine content due to the dark colour, this isn’t always true. From my experience tasting the natural and maduro Melanio series, in all cases, the maduro has been richer and sweeter in terms of flavour but almost the same as the natural in power.
Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Figurado
Now we have formed some kind of basis on the different wrapper types in the range, lets start talking about shapes and sizes, or vitolas as they are called.
Believe it or not, but even if the blend of tobacco is the same in two cigars, the shape and size can actually make a rather significant difference to the flavour. In my experience, a long, wide cigar can seem milder in strength and flavour while producing tons of smoke, while the same blend that is thin and long can seem a little more intense but produce less smoke. The is why when testing cigars, I am now trying them across different vitolas, an interesting concept I am still trying to explore.
Starting with the natural range, I sampled the figurado, robusto and torpedo.
Damn this shit is good, like really bloody good.
All three of those vitolas were just as brilliant as the other, however, to me, the torpedo and figurado were indeed the stand out stars. The robusto was a briliant cigar, one I would love to always keep in my humidor to smoke when I have 45 minutes to smoke a cracking cigar. It’s alluring to the eye, its box pressed shape makes it a delight to hold in the hand and the flavours are delectable, rich, full, leather, coffee, wood with a hint of sweetness. A very serious cigar.
Oliva Serie V Melanio Natural Robusto
In spite of this, as my dear friends the Sahakian’s say, 'the cigar love affair stars with the eyes', and the torpedo and Figurado are truly exquisite. From their medium brown wrappers, to the wonderfully intricate and impressive bands and the elegantly tapering head of the torpedo and double taper of the figurado, these cigars have it all.
Once lit, these too produced the same flavours of the robusto but with far more grace, they were both rich but lacked the punch I felt in the robusto, to me this is a massive plus. I also felt the torpedo and figurado provided me with a more undulating journey, evolving in flavour and kept me engaged in the experience. For me it never got too strong or boring at any moment. If you can, I would really encourage you to give these a try, it's a great example of what aged nicaraguan tobacco can do, the smoothness and complexity it can provide to the smoker, a real joy.
Oliva Serie V Melanio Natural Torpedo
Moving on to the maduro range, this is where things start to get rather spicy, pardon the pun.The vitolas I was able to sample was the figurado, robusto, and the Churchill. What an experience this was, it was extraordinary to me what the wrapper can do to change the entire experience.
First and foremost, what a phenomenal looking cigar, the deep - almost black - wrappers that shine and glint in the light, was a sight to behold. On the nose, I got sweet, fruit notes, perhaps one of my notes to get in a cigar. Similarly to the natural range I do feel as though the figurado and Churchill were superior to the robusto, however, the maduro robusto was just that little more rewarding then the natural. Interestingly it wasn’t stronger, but it did have more sweetness and evolution in its flavour profile than the natural, progressing at the end to have a wonderful spicy character.
Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Robusto
Something I found fascinating about the figurado and Churchill is they were wildly peppery on first light, really awakening the palate, however, after the first 5 or 6 puffs, this starts to quickly subside giving way to delicious spice, leather and wood. The strength goes up until the half way point where the flavour changes, the sweetness I found in the robusto enters and makes the end a gentle and civilised affair.
Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Churchill
I would also like to point that that after the many cigars I sampled, every single cigar had a perfect draw, the burn was immaculate and combustion was never a let down. I would like to say that, of course, credit to the rollers at the fcotiry, they are clearly making a brilliant product. However, it also makes a huge difference how you store your cigars. As I have previously mentioned, once I received these cigars, they lived in my humidor for a few weeks humidified by 69% Boveda packs, this will provide enough time for the cigar to acclimatise for the humidity and the tobacco to become completely and equally humidified. a well rolled cigar purely stored will smoke like shit, make sure you're supporting these great cigars by treating them with the care and attention they deserve.
As far as I am concerned there was no cigar in the Melanio series that I sampled that I would label as a must avoid, they were all exceedingly delicious, beautifully constructed and reliable smokes. Truly a cigar deserving of the Melanio name.