The History of Oliva Cigars

Nate Simonds

The story of the Oliva Cigar Company dates back to 1886 when Melanio Oliva started growing tobacco in Pinar del Río, Cuba. Production temporarily stopped when Melanio fought in the Cuban Revolution, but he returned to restart production before eventually transitioning to his son in the 1920s. Later, facing political upheaval with the rise of communism, the Oliva family sought new horizons for their distinctive tobacco seed, traversing Mexico, Panama, Honduras, and the Philippines before settling in Nicaragua. Today, with an annual production exceeding 6 million cigars, Oliva ranks as Nicaragua's second-largest tobacco grower, with the four Oliva siblings and their great-grandchildren at the helm.

As with many cigar manufacturers, Gilberto Oliva Sr. (Melanio’s grandson) faced a difficult road. After leaving Cuba, eventually, he started working for the Plasencia family in Honduras. Later, in 1995 with the help of his son Gilberto Jr., he created a cigar within Plasencia's factory called Gilberto Oliva. A year later, they set out to open a factory of their own and shortened their brand name to Oliva. Business was tough in those days, and Oliva struggled. Faced with dwindling reserves of cash, in a cost-cutting move, they turned to Gilberto Sr.'s robust stocks of Nicaraguan tobacco, which changed the flavor profile of Oliva cigars at a time when the interest in Nicaraguan flavor was increasing.

The release of the Oliva Serie V in 2006 marked a turning point, grabbing enthusiasts' attention with its distinctive flavor. In 2012, the Oliva Cigars family honored their legacy with the Melanio cigar, distinguished by a Sumatra seed wrapper from Ecuador. Garnering continuous recognition, Oliva Cigars had at one point secured a spot on Cigar Aficionado's top 25 lists for nine consecutive years, solidifying their status as a premier brand. Highlighted by the acclaimed Oliva Serie V Melanio, the brand's cigars are a dedication to excellence. This pinnacle was reached in 2015, recognized as the #1 cigar in the Top 25 Cigars of The Year award by Cigar Aficionado. Operating from their Nicaraguan facility, capable of producing over 50,000 cigars daily, Oliva Cigars has expanded its reach to 18+ countries, captivating cigar aficionados worldwide.

Oliva has found ways to give back to the country of Nicaragua as well. One of the ways they do so is with the Oliva Limited Edition Helping Hands Foundation cigar. Crafted to support the Oliva Helping Hands Foundation, an initiative founded by Oliva in 2021 to aid impoverished families in Nicaragua, this addition to the Oliva lineup is presented in elegant white six-count boxes and is only sold at Oliva events. Drawing inspiration from the acclaimed Oliva Serie V Melanio blend, albeit with a slightly milder profile, it showcases the brand's commitment to philanthropy alongside their dedication to exceptional craftsmanship.

Despite facing adversities at the beginning, the Oliva Cigars name endures, fueled by a legacy of quality and dedication. As they continue to craft premium cigars, the essence of their founder shines proudly, captivating smokers around the world. It’s no mistake why they are some of the most highly rated cigars of all time.


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