It wasn’t with a grand roll-out, but earlier this year, Oliva released one of the more notable cigars of the year.
Facundo. No. Gilberto.
The Oliva Gilberto is the company’s first new Oliva line since 2012 and arguably, the first entirely new Oliva brand since 2008. In a world where the market has become more receptive to new cigars for the sake of being new, Oliva has been an exception to the rule, largely restricting itself to line extensions.
So when the company announced last year that it was releasing a new cigar, it certainly piqued my interest. The cigar was to be called Facundo, named after the son of Melanio Oliva and father of the family’s current patriarch, Gilberto Oliva Sr.
A handful of boxes were sold last summer at select retailers due to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) deeming regulations, but the cigar’s formal release was delayed until 2017. And by the time that came around, a small, but notable change was in store.
The Facundo name was replaced by Gilberto, a move caused by a trademark issue with rum maker Bacardi, though otherwise the cigars remain the same and the packaging is near identical.
As for the cigar, it’s actually two cigars. The Gilberto Reserva uses an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper over an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler. The Gilberto Reserva Blanc uses an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan fillers.
Both lines are offered in five sizes, with extremely aggressive prices.
- Oliva Gilberto Reserva Robusto (5 x 50) — $5.80 (Boxes of 20, $116)
- Oliva Gilberto Reserva Toro (6 x 50) — $6.10 (Boxes of 20, $122)
- Oliva Gilberto Reserva Torpedo (6 x 52) — $6.40 (Boxes of 20, $128)
- Oliva Gilberto Reserva Churchill (7 x 50) — $6.40 (Boxes of 20, $128)
- Oliva Gilberto Reserva Corona (5 3/4 x 43) — $5.25 (Boxes of 20, $105)
- Cigar Reviewed: Oliva Gilberto Reserva Torpedo
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera Oliva de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Indonesian Sumatra
- Binder: Ecuador
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Torpedo
- MSRP: $6.40 (Boxes of 20, $128)
- Release Date: June 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
My first thought upon seeing the packaging was that it reminded me of the Famous Smoke Shop exclusive. It’s grown on me since, but the cigar doesn’t bring the same sense of visual joy I get from the clean lines of the Oliva Connecticut Reserve, Serie V or G. The wrappers aren’t the prettiest thing with a fair bit of discoloration and veins, though that’s to be expected I suppose. It’s also not the greatest smell with wet cardboard, saltine crackers and leather being the defining characteristics. Fortunately, the foot is much better with sweet coffee, cedar, cranberries and butterfingers. And for as bad as the wrapper aroma might be, the cold draw is that good. It reminds me of a Starbucks chocolate Frappucino with just the slightest touches of irritation towards the back of the throat.
I’ve learned not to expect the first puffs to taste anything like a cold draw and the Gilberto Reserva does not differ in this rule. It’s woody with a mixture of oak, cedar and sawdust, behind that there’s some very sweet oranges coming, almost like a Sunny D, and some meatiness, but it’s challenging to find both. Fortunately, the profile advances a bit to a mixture of earthiness, coffee, lime zest and white pepper. There’s paprika, saw dust and some of the wet cardboard on the finish, but it oddly isn’t as bad of a combination as it sounds. I’d peg the cigar as medium-full in flavor, medium-plus in body and mild to medium in strength. Construction of the Oliva is fantastic in the first third.
The Gilberto Reserva gets earthier in the middle portions. Unlike the first third, where it was largely a group of flavors competing against one another, the second third sees the earth take dominance. Behind it is burnt coffee, wet cardboard, a hearty cedar, creaminess and some green grapes. Those secondary flavors are intertwined and it takes a bit of work to separate them individually. Flavor is medium-full, body has picked up to full and strength is getting closer to medium.
While the earthiness is still towards the front of the profile, it’s now joined by a creamy coffee note that is even with it as far as intensity goes. Right behind that is some oak and cedar with hints of buttermilk and some raspberries further back. The finish is mainly toasty, but a black pepper operates in a delayed manner becoming detectable about 15 seconds after the smoke has left my palate and building in the back of my mouth and throat with a punchy manner that reminds me of Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA, though it’s mild in terms of its presence in the grand scheme of things.
- The band is very similar to the Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real bands, which I don’t take for an accident.
- I still refer to this cigar more as Facundo than Gilberto. I’m not sure why that’s the case.
- The Facundo boxes that were sold prior to Aug. 8 are virtually identical to the Gilberto boxes.
- I’ve met Gilberto Oliva Sr. a handful of times, I’ve always found him to be pleasant.
- This is the first new cigar to debut since Oliva was purchased by J. Cortès last summer.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Construction was flawless.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Elite Cigar Cafe (972.661.9136) and JR Cigar have the Oliva Gilberto Reserva Torpedo in stock.
I mentioned the Oliva Gilberto Reserva was the cigar from this year’s IPCPR Convention & Trade Show I was really looking forward to smoking. I’ve smoked just about every Oliva there has ever been and I was curious to see what the company had come up with for its first new project in some time. This is certainly an exercise more of making a cigar for the masses than making the best cigar the company can make, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad cigar. For $6, it’s a really good cigar; an excellent cigar if you couldn't get an Oliva Sere G for the same price, but a good cigar nonetheless. Bolder, a bit heavier, albeit—still a far distance from full—and with impeccable construction. The greatest cigar Oliva ever made? Nope. A cigar that outperforms its price tag? Yep.