By Russ Ouellette
One of my favorite manufacturers of value priced cigars is Oliva. That’s not to say that all of their cigars are at the low end of the price scale; certainly the Serie V and Master Blends are a bit pricier, but they are outstanding while not being super-costly. But where Oliva really shines are in their value-oriented lines. Their bundled Flor de Olivas are an incredible stick at a bargain-basement price, but their Serie G cigars (in Cameroon and Maduro wrappers) are some of the best examples of a premium smoke at a sub-premium price.
The Serie G Cameroons are cedar boxed, rather than bundled, are nicely trunk-pressed, and just about every shape has an MSRP below $6.00, and are routinely found for less. What really impresses with this brand is that the wrappers on these sticks are true African Cameroon, grown by the same people who supply the Fuentes with the wrapper for the Don Carlos and Hemingway series.
Even though they’re pressed, the draw is smooth and consistent, and I don’t ever remember having one that ran, canoed, or burned unevenly. (A few of them like the Double Robusto shown here are round instead of pressed.) Another thing that sets this brand apart is that the filler and binder tobaccos are a little more robust than in most Cameroon-wrapped lines. I think the leaves they use for the Serie G wrappers are a little richer in flavor than most, as well.
Looking at the cigar, the first thing that strikes is that unique "camo" color of the toothy wrapper. It is the classic tan with hints of gold and olive that typifies an African Cameroon. Out of the cellophane, the aroma is woodsy with a little spice. After cutting, a light puff before toasting the foot reveals a sweet tobacco taste. On first light, there’s a sweet wood note (cedar), and a slight hint of dry anise. The flavors are held together with a core of leather. As it burns down toward the halfway mark, the flavors begin to exhibit a nuttiness that emerges more strongly in the last half of the cigar. All the way down, the firm, mottled gray ash held on very well. The body is a solid medium, and the cigar is never overpowering, but delivers a smooth richness from start to finish.
Another nice thing about the Serie G is the broad range of shapes, from a slender Churchill, to the chunky double robusto, to the little Special G. The Special G is a small tapered perfecto, very close in size and shape to the Fuente Hemingway Short Story, but at a lower price, and availability is rarely an issue. The Special G is also a bit fuller-bodied than the Short Story, although the consistency of the Fuente is a bit better, but the Oliva is a hard cigar to beat when time and money are at a premium.
Even though my tastes run toward full and spicy, I will grab a Serie G Cameroon from time to time when I want a flavorful smoke without a lot of spice, but with character.
Oliva also makes a Serie G Maduro, but the size lineup and flavor profiles are quite different than the Cameroon, so I will review them at a later date.
To sum up: if you want a modestly-priced cigar (but not cheap) with a unique flavor and character all its own, give the Oliva Serie G Cameroon a try.
Overall rating- 81 (11 for appearance, 40 for taste, and 30 for burn).
5 x 54 Round
Wrapper: Cameroon (African)
Binder: Cuban-Seed Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan Habano
Made in: Nicaragua
|Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of pipe tobaccos for Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe and www.pipesandcigars.com in Albany, NY. He has been a cigar smoker and pipe tobacco blender for over 30 years. Russ will be contributing articles in several areas starting with reviewing cigars that are the best bang for the buck – something we anticipate many readers will be interested in during these challenging economic times.|