I have to admit that I haven’t yet fallen in love with any Oliva cigars. The Serie V blend has gotten a lot of press in the past year, (including a 93 rating and a spot in Cigar Aficionado’s top five for 2007) but I’m sorry to say it didn’t even make my list last year. A good cigar, sure, but it just didn’t captivate me like it did many others. Even the Master Blends have made only an average impression on my grizzled palate.
But if there’s one way to get me, it’s with a sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper. So I couldn’t pass up Oliva’s Special “S” when I spied a box of torpedos at the tribal smoke shop. They’re one of Oliva’s more expensive cigars, so I only picked up a few, but they certainly looked tasty.
The Special “S” is built around a Nicaraguan habano filler and Nicaraguan “cuban seed” binder, with a sun-grown Ecuadorian Sumatra seed wrapper that has been cedar aged for five years. Interestingly, the wrapper is grown by the Oliva Tobacco Company, which is a completely different company (and family) from the Oliva family who makes “Oliva” cigars. Profiles of these companies can be found in our Angel 100 and Oliva Serie V reviews.
This series was introduced by Oliva in 2006 as a “complex, medium to full bodied blend.” The Oliva website includes an aging recommendation for each of its lines: the Special S, according to the site, will reach full maturity in 5 years. Unfortunately in my case 5 weeks was all the aging I could muster.
This is a very well rolled cigar, and it turns out to have superb construction across the board. Its aesthetic appeal stems from a dark colorado claro wrapper with very fine veins and a moderately oily appearance. The seams of the torpedo head are wrapped so tightly they’re nearly invisible. It’s almost heartbreaking to cut this baby, but it’s the only way to separate the glitter from the gold.
Decapitation accomplished, it’s on to the first stage of this complex and rich cigar. The Special S is bold from beginning to finish, but it starts with a powerful flourish of pepper on the nose and tongue. The finish is long and the aftertaste powerful right from the start, which can be a little startling. I usually like to settle into a cigar, but this one straps you in and stomps on the accelerator as soon as the light turns green. Just gotta hang on.
The strong peppery flavors muddy my palate for the first part of this smoke, but in the background there seems to be leather and sweet spice. After an inch or so the pepper lets up and the aroma becomes more prominent. I think this is where the leathery element is coming from — leather and an almost fruity sweetness. An interesting combination. At this point the smoke is medium in body, but I can feel the nicotine already. I also get a little tongue burn, which makes me ease up on the throttle a bit.
The next stage transitions to wood and cocoa flavors, and the smoke takes on a smoother texture. The flavor is still quite bold, but the finish and aftertaste are a little more civilized. There is a slight burn on the throat, but the flavors and aroma are well balanced.
The last third gets earthier and exemplifies what I think of as “Nicaraguan Habano.” It’s an earthy flavor accented by a sweet woody, caramel-like aroma. The flavor begins to sharpen at this point, returning to the opening stage of the cigar. The finish grows longer again, and the aftertaste is very pronounced. And then the nicotine sneaks up… and smacks me in the noggin, whips me around and gives me one in the gut, and then, reluctantly, I am finished. Finito.
It’s safe to say that this is not a beginner’s cigar. And while this is a very good cigar right now, I think the aging advice on Oliva’s website is well heeded. There is an edge to this smoke that will be blunted over time, and I think that will be a good thing. Now if you prefer a smoke with a little sting to it, these are ready to smoke right out of the box.
As long as you don’t mind the other sting: the one to your wallet. A 20 count box of these runs around $170 US.