Oliva Connecticut Reserve Robusto

I know a guy who smokes Flor de Oliva Gold and only Flor de Oliva Gold. No matter how I try, the guy will not give up his FOGs. He’ll gladly accept a cigar from me, say an Ashton Cabinet (he’s a good man, he deserves it) and when he’s done he’ll say, “Yeah, that was a good cigar.” And then he’ll pull a Flor de Oliva Gold from his pocket and grin at me as he lights it up.

The Oliva Cigar Company has been in the forefront of the industry for the past couple of years, introducing its smash hit, the Serie V, and experiencing more growth than would be expected during a global recession. Part of their success lies in providing quality cigars at a reasonable price; but part of it also lies in innovation and reaching out to new smokers.

So in 2008 the company took a walk on the mild side and began development of a  new cigar that would appeal to newer smokers and fans of milder-bodied smokes. Up to this point, Oliva had no Connecticut-shade blends in its premium portfolio — broadleaf, yes, but not shade.

One other difficulty had to be surmounted: Oliva works with primarily Nicaraguan leaf. Nicaragua is known for full-bodied, full-flavored, powerhouse tobacco — pick up an Oliva Serie V and you’ll see what I’m talking about. For a milder bodied cigar, the Olivas would have to leave the ligero out of the mix and still come up with a tasty blend using viso and seco leaves only.

In early 2009 the Oliva Connecticut Reserve, Oliva’s only boxed cigar with a Connecticut shade wrapper, was finally ready for release. The wrapper is Connecticut shade grown in Ecuador, and the binder and filler are Nicaraguan. Five sizes are currently in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Toro – 6 x 50
  • Double Corona – 7 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 52
  • Lonsdale – 6 1/2 x 44

Construction Notes

The Oliva Connecticut Reserve is a debonair cigar with a creamy golden-brown wrapper that has a yellowish cast to it. There is a rare shade wrapper called amarillo, (Spanish for yellow) and while this Ecuadorian Connecticut is not quite that yellow, it is reminiscent of that variety.

This robusto is light in the hand, but it has a firm roll which results in a slow burn. The cap is not an aesthetic marvel, but it is functional and clips easily. One of the great things about Connecticut Shade is how well it burns, and the Oliva Connecticut is no exception, burning level-straight and building a solid dirty-gray ash.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

Oliva’s Connecticut Reserve is a little bolder than many other mild Connecticut Shade cigars in the same class — it’s still smooth and aromatic, as you would expect, but the Nicaraguan filler gives it a zing that other (usually Dominican) shade smokes don’t have. It doesn’t seem quite as nutty either, though that familiar roasty flavor is still in evidence.

The latter half of this stick is woody and has a much longer finish that I would expect from a mild-to-medium shade blend. The smoke texture is still creamy though, with a salty note that blends well with the other seasonings. The aroma is sweet and nutty. The concluding inch, just into the band area, is woody with more cracked pepper and a touch of char.

Conclusion

This is an unusual cigar — it’s not quite mild enough to recommend to a confirmed Macanudo smoker, and yet it has enough flavor to interest some medium-to-full body cigar fans (especially as a morning smoke.)  It might serve well as a transition cigar for newer smokers who are ready to move on from the lightweights to bigger flavors. The only caveat here is that it does have a lengthy finish and aftertaste — it’s nothing to compare to most medium-full cigars, but it’s more than some mild cigar smokers might like.

The going rate for the Oliva Connecticut is 5 USD retail. This cigar is worthy of that based on its excellent construction alone, but I still don’t think I’ll be able to convince my friend to switch out his Flor de Olivas for the Connecticut Reserve.  Maybe I can interest him in doing a comparison review. I’m sure it will be short and go something like this: “Yeah, that cigar is pretty good, but I can buy two of these for the same price.” And then he’ll pull a Flor de Oliva Gold from his shirt pocket. And I won’t argue with him.

Final Score: 87

Other Reviews of Note

Walt digs the Robusto for the Stogie Review

Barry gives the Toro a 90 for A Cigar Smoker’s Journal

Richard Bui approves of the Toro for Cigar Inspector

The Stogie Guys take on the Lonsdale

The Toasted Foot recommends the Robusto for all smokers, regardless of strength preference

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Aging Report: Padilla en Cedro Robusto

The Padilla en Cedro was a special edition cigar from Ernesto Padilla that was released in 2005. Production ceased sometime in 2006, and to my knowledge these are sold out everywhere at this point in time. It’s a mild Connecticut shade style cigar — an unlikely candidate for aging, to be honest.

When I first received these in early 2006 they were almost bitter. The tannins were puckery strong and not to my liking at all, especially not in a Connecticut shade selection. The blend just seemed all wrong for that.

But when I last checked in with the Padilla en Cedro it had improved remarkably from its fresh state: nine months in the humidor did wonders. The tannins had mellowed quite a bit and the cigar was a much smoother, and enjoyable, smoke.

And now, after two years, this robusto is completely transformed. While still mild, it has grown far more complex and subtly sophisticated than I thought possible. The only way in which it seems to have suffered is in appearance — the wrapper has become slightly faded, more drab and splotchy, though it seems to have retained its sheen.

Remembering this cigar’s original character, I was expecting at least a hint of tannin, but for the first third there’s nothing but nuts and honey sweetness, with a touch of vanilla that was not in the fresh cigar at all. A remnant of tannin is apparent in a generally dry flavor, but it’s nothing that approaches a full blown pucker.

At the half-way point the cedar qualities come to the fore, and a little black pepper sets in. The finish lengthens and there is a more substantial aftertaste, thanks in part to the pepper. As the flavor on the tongue gets stronger, the aroma seems to fade a little, which makes the Cedro a little less profound. A lot of its subtlety is in the nose.

Somewhere around the 3/4 mark it dwindles to a merely average cigar. The flavor bottoms out and veers toward bitterness — a slight disappointment considering how wonderfully the trip started.

Construction values here remain consistently very good on all levels — a perfect burn, a streaky but solid ash, and an effortless draw.

I suspect these robustos are at their peak right now. The highlights of this cigar — the gentle sweetness and vanilla overtones — are subtleties that I can easily see vanishing in a few months to a year. This seems to be the problem with aging mild cigars, though in this case it has really paid off. I may hang on to a couple of Padilla Cedros for “research” purposes, but the rest of them are in my sights right now.