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Staff Reviews

Oliva Monticello Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Oliva Monticello carries forward an award-winning odyssey. The Oliva portfolio is stacked with an impressive lineup of top-rated cigars, including the 96-rated former ‘#1 Cigar of the Year,’ Oliva Serie V Melanio, the original 95-rated Oliva Serie V, 94-rated Oliva Serie O, 92-rated Oliva Master Blends 3, and many more.

Handcrafted in Estelí, Nicaragua, Oliva was initially conceived as a value brand by Gilberto Oliva Sr. and his son, Gilberto Jr. The first Oliva cigars debuted in 1995 and the family graduated into the premium category with a handful of highly rated releases, namely the original Oliva Serie V in 2007. Gilberto’s youngest son, José Oliva, led the company over much of the past decade prior to focusing on a career in politics. Today, José Oliva serves as Florida’s Speaker of the House and retains a role as a senior advisor to the brand, which is now owned by J. Cortès Cigars N.V. Oliva is headed by CEO Cory Bappert who previously served as the brand’s Vice President of Sales under the Oliva family and has guided the organization through a series of recent and impressive growth spurts.

Oliva Monticello reveals the company’s mastery of growing, cultivating, and aging premium Nicaraguan tobaccos. Today, I am enjoying Monticello in a classic soft box-pressed 7 x 50 Churchill. Exquisite proportions of vintage Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos are bound by a coffee-bean-brown Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper leaf.

The recognizable Oliva band appears in a bronze, brown, and gold design. Monticello is dressed in an immaculate eggshell-white 20-count box with a brass clasp and sloping corners. Overall, the packaging is an elevation over many standard Oliva releases due to the exclusivity of the blend. Monticello is drawn from only the oldest and rarest stores of the company’s tobacco. A brief inspection of the cigar’s seamless look and density reveals plenty of evidence of the patience and skill its rollers possess.

Sweet and zesty notes of cocoa, caramel, leather, raisins, and spice surface in the cigar’s cold draw as well as in the cold aroma from the unlit foot. Perfect air flow reveals Oliva’s high standards for construction. Upon lighting Oliva Monticello, peppery notes of fresh ground coffee and earth harbor an underlying sweetness. Right off the bat, the blend proposes an intriguing complexity without tilting in a bitter direction.

The first third evolves in a series of cool, approachable draws with a soft, creamy aftertaste. Signature Nicaraguan spices trot in and out but avoid overwhelming the palate by remaining tethered to an ample degree of sweetness. First impressions indicate Oliva Monticello is an excellent blend after an epicurean dinner, particularly with a well-aged bourbon like Angel’s Envy or Blanton’s Original Single Barrel.  

The profile swells with a mix of dark chocolate, raisins, and baking spices as the midway point approaches. The chalky ash is sharp, even-burning, and full of perfect structure. Monticello begins to register with a bit more depth as the taste shifts to rich notes of dark chocolate, earth, and leather. Here, the spices gain prevalence and traces of the zesty Ligero-laden tobaccos for which Oliva is known emerge.

A touch of hickory mingles with black pepper, cayenne, and roasted coffee beans as the final third gets underway. Oliva Monticello is blessed with the best of the brand’s traditional flavor but offers a truly unique profile by being more refined and less bracing. The finish is savory and supple.

Fans of Oliva’s stronger smokes like Serie V and Master Blends 3, as well as those who lean toward Oliva Connecticut Reserve or the all-Nicaraguan Serie O, will find abundant appeal in Monticello. The limited production, small-batch gem deserves the high marks customers have given it.


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