The Oliva Master Blends 1 was one of those cigars that I searched for high and low for a while, and finally found a box. I put it away for about a year and have just now opened it up to review one.

One blend is produced at a time, with only 15,000 boxes per blend. The Master Blends 1 was released in 2003 and had tobacco that was aged for about three years in it, so it was an already somewhat aged cigar when it came to the market. The blend changes on each release, so once they are gone, they are gone.

A quote from José Oliva:

We took tobaccos that were not plentiful enough for a production cigar, one you are going to make year-in and year-out. Usually these tobaccos come from trial crops on a small piece of land to see how a strain develops or how it handles certain conditions. Sometimes you end up with tremendous tobacco in very small quantities. So we rolled some of this tobacco, put a Habano wrapper around it, and created Master Blend.

The box a true work of art, with an original painting on the lid that can be detached from the box, they even include the tool to do it, and hung on the wall.

Oliva Master Blends 1 Torpedo 1.png Oliva Master Blends 1 Torpedo 2.png

And as if that was not enough, each cigar has a laser engraving on it right under the band. The Master Blends 1 and Master Blends 2 are the only cigars that I know of that have it. José Oliva has said in various interviews that while he loved the idea and the look of the engraving, they were destroying far too many cigars trying to get it right to make it economical, so they discontinued the practice in subsequent editions of the Master Blends Series.

Oliva Master Blends 1 Torpedo 3.png

  • Cigar Reviewed: Oliva Master Blends 1
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: TABOLISA
  • Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Torpedo
  • MSRP: $7.75

When I took one of the cigars out of the box for the first time, I was greeted with a stick wrapped in a very yellow cellophane. Very cool to see and it just reaffirmed the fact that these had been aging for quite some time. The cigar is one of the best looking I have seen, with a slight box-press, medium brown wrapper that is seamless in its construction and the iconic tattoo that is so different. It really makes you stop and stare.

The Oliva Master Blends 1 is extremely firm when squeezed—almost to the point of being plugged—and the wrapper has almost no oil at all. It is fairly smooth and smells like hay in a barn, if you have ever smelled that, you know what I am talking about. The pre-light draw brought a taste of a tarter wine and tobacco, a great combination.

The first five puffs after lighting had a blast of spice that literally made my mouth tingle, if this was how it was for the whole stick before aging, I can see where the powerhouse reviews came from, but the spice was there and then gone, almost like someone switched off a light. What was left in the wake was a taste of leather and earth.

Oliva Master Blends 1 Torpedo 4.png

Starting in the second third, the spice died down completely, and while there was some leather, the major flavors were a nice sweet nutty flavor, with some oaky notes as well, very nice and balanced.

Oliva Master Blends 1 Torpedo 5.png

The last third was very similar to the second third, a lot of the same flavors, although the intensity of the oaky flavor was dominant. Still little to no spice or pepper. I was surprised at how clean the finish was on this stick, although I really should not have been. It never got even close to hot, even at the nub.

NewImage Final Notes:

  • No, there is no taste difference when the burn hits the tattoo.
  • Although the first reviews when this blend came out had it pegged as a powerhouse of strength, this seems to be one of the best examples of how ageing can mellow the power and bring out flavors that would have been overwhelmed when it was first released.
  • This was a very slow burning smoke, but it never went out. The final smoking time was two hours and three minutes.
  • The draw was perfect all the way through, but the burn was a bit spotty. It would be great for about 30 minutes, then it would be crap, forcing a relight or two, then great again.
91 Overall Score

The Oliva Master Blends 1 is a great medium smoke with all of the flavors melding together almost perfectly, a wonderful example of how ageing changes a smoke for the better. It has a very clean finish which is a sign of high end tobacco being used.

Avatar photo

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.