The Angel 100 series of cigars was named in honor of Angel Oliva, Sr., the patriarch of the Oliva Tobacco Company. Angel Oliva was born in 1907 and came to the United States from Cuba in the late ’20s. After a few years of working odd jobs he found himself working as an assistant to an unsuccessful tobacco broker in Tampa, Florida. Oliva quickly demonstrated his talent for the tobacco trade as well as his keen business skills — he restored his employer’s brokerage to financial health and then he launched his own enterprise, the Oliva Tobacco Company, in 1934.
By the 1950’s Oliva was one of the top distributors of premium tobacco leaf in the world, which at this time meant almost exclusively Cuban leaf. His relationships with Cuban farmers, as well as his company’s ability to buy whole crops and sort the leaf in house, fueled the expansion of the brokerage.
But what Angel Oliva is best remembered for is his distrust of Fidel Castro and his anticipation of the U.S. embargo. Oliva declared Castro a communist before the world really understood him to be one and predicted what would happen to the Cuban tobacco industry. In 1961, one step ahead of Castro’s revolution, the Olivas established a tobacco farm in Honduras, one of the first modern tobacco plantations in Central America. Not long after this, Angel managed to buy up almost four million pounds of Cuban leaf — it turned out to be the last shipment of tobacco from Cuba before JFK signed the embargo into law.
The Oliva empire would eventually extend to almost all of the primary tobacco growing regions of the world: Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic (at the request of the Fuente family) and Ecuador. Or perhaps I should say, especially Ecuador. The sun grown wrappers on Ashton’s VSG, Arturo Fuente’s Chateau Fuente and Rocky Patel’s Sun Grown (to name a few) are all from Oliva’s farms in Ecuador. Tobacco from other Oliva farms also goes into brands like La Gloria Cubana, La Flor Dominicana, Pepin Garcia, and just to confuse everyone, some Oliva cigars as well. (The two Oliva families are often confused, but they are totally distinct and separate companies: the Oliva Tobacco Company is the legacy of Angel Oliva, Sr., as opposed to the Oliva Cigar Company, maker of Flor de Oliva, Master Blends, etc.)
The one thing the Oliva Tobacco Company doesn’t do is make cigars. The Angel 100 is actually made by NATSA (Nicaragua American Tobacco, S.A.) in Esteli with all Oliva grown tobaccos: binder and filler from their La Joya farm in Nicaragua, and sun grown wrapper from their La Meca vega in Ecuador. Four sizes were produced, each pressed and packed in boxes of five. The names of the different vitolas all hold some significance for the OTC family:
- 1961 (6 x 45 corona)
- La Joya (6 x 54 toro)
- La Meca (6.12 x 52 torpedo)
- O.T.C. (6 x 48 corona gorda)
The Angel 100 O.T.C. is a rough looking cigar. The wrapper is veiny and dark, the way sun grown wrappers often are, and the cap is just a bit loose on the head of the cigar. But once clipped it draws perfectly and produces a fine even burn with a solid ash.
When I first received these about a year ago they were harsh and inhospitable cigars. But I still found something intriguing about them, and I liked the aroma, so I put them away thinking they just needed some time to simmer. This turns out to be exactly the case — this is still a forthright and aggressive smoke, but it’s much more docile than it was a year ago. In fact, it’s nearly smooth. Full flavored, most definitely, but easier on the membranes.
The O.T.C. opens up with a medium body, and after the introductory first third it gets close to full. The Nicaraguan character of the cigar really comes through with lots of sweet woody flavors and the wrapper lends a fruity element to the smoke — it reminds me a lot of the wrapper on Rocky Patel’s Vintage 92 cigars, but played at a louder volume. It’s smooth, but with plenty of zing on the palate: pepper on the tongue and cherry in the nose… an interesting combination. And to my surprise it’s not a nicotine powerhouse — it generates a pretty good current, but it didn’t overload my admittedly delicate circuits.
As the cigar burns it develops a more serious character as the heavy Nicaraguan flavors overtake the subtleties of the wrapper. It remains balanced, but the balance shifts a bit. There is definitely enough complexity here to keep the senses guessing.
Just one small caveat: there is something a little odd about this cigar in the first and middle stages, a detergent-like overtone that may not be to everyone’s liking. Personally, I like that springtime fresh scent, but I can see how some might find it a little distracting.
This is a limited edition cigar with only a few sizes still readily available, though at a very reasonable price: about 13 USD per five pack box. It’s a fine cigar for fans of full flavor and a worthy tribute to one of the great cigar men of the twentieth century. Get some now and let them sit. I don’t think you’ll regret it.