In 2003, Oliva released the first in the Master Blends line, followed by the Master Blends 2 in 2005 and the Master Blends 3 in 2006. Intended to be the flagship line of the brand, the length of updates since the introduction of Master Blends 3 has meant it has fallen slightly out of notoriety with consumers, particularly after the introduction of Serie V in 2007.

José Oliva explained the original Master Blend concept to Smoke Magazine:

The Master Blend is a very limited-run cigar; only 15,000 boxes were made. We had a tremendous time doing it, and it is something that we hope to continue to do in the future. 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.

Oliva decided last year to included a new Master Blends Corona Gorda as part of a sampler that is given out at specific Oliva events. We broke the news back in July:

Oliva will be offering a new event sampler at select events later this year—all made up of specific cigars that have never been offered for sale previously. While the details are still being worked out, the sampler will debut sometime after the IPCPR show in August at certain, presumably larger, events.
Like the STUDIO TOBAC World Tour Sampler, the sampler will be given to customers with purchase of a box, unlike the STUDIO TOBAC World Tour—not every event will feature the sampler.
Oliva Event Sampler 2012 001

The sampler boxes the cigars come in look like this:

Oliva Special Edition Sampler Box

The sampler includes five different cigars, each of which have never been released before.

Oliva Special Edition Sampler

  • Oliva Serie V 460 (4 x 60)
  • Oliva Serie G Maduro Belicoso Round (5 x 52)
  • Oliva Concept Blend OC-001 (6 x 50)
  • Oliva Serie V Maduro Diadema (6 x 49)
  • Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda (6 x 46)

With the addition of the Corona Gorda, there are now five different vitolas in the Master Blends 3 lineup. They are:

  • Oliva Master Blends 3 Churchill (7 x 50)
  • Oliva Master Blends 3 Torpedo (6 x 52)
  • Oliva Master Blends 3 Double Robusto (5 x 54)
  • Oliva Master Blends 3 Robusto (5 x 50)
  • Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda (6 x 46)

If you are planning on stopping by your next Oliva event and expecting a sampler, you might be out of luck. Oliva intends the sampler to be limited for special events, the first of which was at a December 21, 2012 event at Match Lounge.

Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera Oliva de Nicaragua S.A. (TABOLISA)
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 46
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: n/a
  • Date Released: December 21, 2012
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Samplers of 1 Cigar (1,000 Total Cigars)*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1

 *Oliva says the initial run was less than 1,000 samplers; although the company has left the possibility of making more.

The Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda is striking to look at with an oilless dark brown espresso brown wrapper that is smooth to the touch and totally seamless. The vitola is extremely interesting with an obvious oval press the cigar. Aroma off the wrapper is strong earth, barnyard, cedar and leather with a touch of black pepper.

The first third of the Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda starts out with a beautiful woody sweetness that combines quite well with the other notes of earth, espresso, chocolate, leather and licorice. There is a wonderful aggressive black pepper on the retrohale that stays at a constant level for the entire first third. Smoke production is well above average and both the burn and draw are excellent. Overall strength starts out slightly below medium and ends solidly in the medium zone.

Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda 2

Coming into the second third and there is noticeably less sweetness in the profile, less pepper on the retrohale, but more leather. There is a very nice floral note that comes and goes throughout the second third and combines with the flavors of coffee, cinnamon, earth and hay quite nicely. The construction remains impressive with a razor straight burn line and the smoke production remains high. The strength is creeping higher, but does not seem to want to go anywhere very quickly and ends the second third slightly above the medium mark.

Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda 3

The final third of the Oliva is much the same as the second third, although the black pepper on the retrohale bumps up a bit, as does the sweetness in the profile. Other flavors remain pretty much the same, which is not a bad thing, and the construction and smoke production continue to be wonderful. The strength ends the cigar where the second third left off—just slightly above medium—and it is a very easy cigar to nub.

Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda 4

Final Notes:

  • Although I have seen people use the Roman numeral for the number in the name, the correct way to write the name is with the actual number “3.” In addition, it’s “Master Blends,” not “Masterblends.”
  • The oval press is very interesting, to say the least. The cigar almost looks like a wafer when seen from the end and the side and it fits very nicely in your mouth. In fact, it is almost too oval and there were times when I was a bit taken aback when I took a puff.
  • Each of the three versions of the Master Blends line has had a different wrapper: Habano for the Master Blends 1, Sumatra for the Master Blends 2 and Connecticut Broadleaf for the Master Blends 3.
  • I have always loved the band on the Master Blends series: colorful without being too gaudy, easy to recognize and easy to differentiate between releases.
  • The most famous signature of the Master Blends 1 and Master Blends 2 is the tattoo on the wrapper. Oliva used a special laser-etching machine to put the design on the first two editions of Master Blends. Unfortunately, the machine broke and apparently costs over $100,000 to fix. José Oliva has said in various interviews that while he loved the idea and the look of the engraving, but 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 series.
  • It’s somewhat odd that foam is used in the sampler.
  • The lid of the box for the Master Blends 1 featured an actual painting that could be removed and hung on a wall.
  • Oliva did release a Master Blends Humidor, which included cigars from both the Master Blends 1 and Master Blends 2 releases, but according to Oliva National Sales Manager Ian Hummel, less than five were made and raffled off at larger events.
  • The smoke production for the Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda was awesome: dense and white.
  • Both the burn and the draw were perfect for the entire smoke, while the ash is light gray and almost totally seamless.
  • The final smoking time was one hour and 35 minutes.
  • The only way to get the Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda or any of the other cigars in the sampler is to attend an Oliva event that is featuring them. Just a note: not all Oliva events will have them, so it is best to confirm before you go if you are wanting to pick one up.
88 Overall Score

I have always been a fan of the Master Blends series, and the Oliva Master Blends 3 Corona Gorda did not disappoint. Extremely well made and imminently smokable with very balanced flavors and almost over the top smoke production, it has something for everyone. In addition, the somewhat unique vitola is an interesting touch that adds a dimension to the smoke that you cannot deny. Is the Corona Gorda better than the other four vitolas in the line? In my opinion Yes, and that is saying quite a bit.

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.