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Oliva Serie O robusto

Earlier this year, Punch took advantage of warm Arizona weather to enjoy an Oliva Serie O panatela while I was cooped up inside due to freezing Kansas temps. Today being a fine spring day, I thought I would catch up by enjoying a robusto version of the same.

I’ve had this stick for almost a month now, and it has been stored in — if anything — over-humidified conditions. However, the first thing I notice as I remove it from the cellophane is flaking from the foot. I’m not so much disappointed in the cigar as I am with the results of my storage techniques. I also notice its smell. Beyond the expected tobacco scent is a deep, rich aire of old leather and spice, perhaps cinnamon. This is encouraged by its coppery wrapper, and even the gold, reds, and browns on the band. Construction is sturdy, with strong veins prominent. The double-layers of the cap are offset, which should prove durable to my punch.

I was right; it punched well. Pre-toast draw is somewhat loose, and disappointingly weak in flavor. Faint suggestions of straw; that’s all. Toasting the foot was impossible — I do believe the wrapper is too dry. It was also difficult to light uniformly, because the Kansas wind kept moving the flame, and the cigar was too ready to burn. I’m disappointed that this cigar experience won’t be perfect, but I still have faith in the cigar itself.

On the draw, it produces a thin, gray smoke in the mouth, and continues to smoke briefly from both ends. The flavor is mild, with leather on the front end and a grapefruit citrus whang on the back of my throat at the finish. It’s not harsh by any means, but the citrus whang prevents me from saying “smooth”. I’m giving my liver a break today and instead taxing my pancreas with a Pepsi. It cuts the citrus back, and the sugar helps pull the leather flavors forward from the smoke.

Ash doesn’t last long for me outside, but the half-inch chunk which fell retained it’s shape, so much so that after several minutes I picked up the entire ash from the table and even squeezed it slightly before dropping it intact to the ground. I observe that I appear to be leaving the wrapper behind — this I blame on dry-stick — and I am re-toasting the wrapper occasionally, despite the breeze. Between journaling my notes, I’m also transcribing a de jure legislative session, giving the cigar plenty of opportunity to rest between draws.

I haven’t removed the band yet, and at about the halfway point, I see where it is starting to unravel from the foot — the band helping hold it together. The flavor has become stronger, with the grapefruit becoming more ginger and moving forward from the finish, with an astringent quality coming out in the attack, which must be what Punch described as the Pine-Sol flavor. I’m also tasting more of an oak throughout, along with lighter, newer leather. The flavor is certainly becoming more complicated, and actually smoother overall, despite the astringent taste.

It is tongue-tingling tantalizing. I’m finding it much harder to put down at this point. A little beverage goes down with a distinct pine flavor, and a quick redraw has the sugar taking the edge off the spice, while the rest of the flavors remain prominent.

When I removed the band, I did experience an unraveling of the wrapper until just shy of the cap. And, when I put it down for a few minutes, it did go out. This is the second time I’ve had to relight it.

At about an inch-and-a-half to my lips, like Punch I, too, am experiencing a very hot stick. Both to hold onto, and heat coming into my mouth. I suspect some serious tunneling. However, I find that it lacks the pepper I usually associate with the end of a cigar; instead, there’s a flavor I’d call…milk. A creamy, milky flavor now carrying all of the other flavors, like the milk in a chai tea. The Pine-Sol is now in harmony with the other flavors which include oak or some wood, leather, and some kind of cheese, like a mild cheddar or maybe swiss.

This is some really wild, complex flavors reminding me of one of the Gurkha’s we’ve sampled earlier. I’m also beginning to get light-headed — something I rarely experience — but I’m not getting a nicotine tingle on my tongue or lips yet. Really wild, man, really wild!

At about an inch to go, the wrapper is now doing it’s own thing, having essentially separated itself from the rest of the cigar. Maybe it’s trying to escape the physical heat; I am taking very slow, short draws to avoid burning  the inside of my upper lip…and yet I persist. When I finally put it down (after more than 90 minutes), the aftertaste is reminding me of 7Up and in my slightly delirious state, I look out across the lawn and I’m reminded of Christmastime.

And I keep picking it back up! …groovy!

Burn it or spurn it?

The Serie O has the flavor complexity I look for in a cigar, but the hallucinogenic effect leaves me baffled, or maybe just pleasantly mystified. I keep eyeing the chub debating if I want just one more toke. I think I’ll certainly try another one, if for no other reason than to see if it really tastes the way I’m thinking it does, or if it is somehow sending secret messages to my brain. I’d also want to see if the unravelling is common or just this stick. I think everyone should try one, and maybe if we all smoked it at the same time, we’d experience world peace. Shalom!


A few weeks later (April 28), while Punch was laid-up with a head cold, I enjoyed another Serie O robusto from the same set I purchased originally. The foot didn’t flake, nor did the wrapper unwind. However at about half-way I noticed the wrapper beginning to crack as much as an inch from the burn line, and I also experienced similar physical heat effects. Although, when it went out on me at about two inches to go, digging it out revealed less tunneling than I expected. I’d say my initial flavors this time reminded me more of green-chile salsa (so, mild pepper and lime — still a citrus whang). The ash doesn’t cling (for me) more than a half-inch or so.

I enjoyed this in the middle of the afternoon, after a ride on my Trek with the dog in tow, and enjoyed it with a Negra Modelo. It’s a beautiful day for sitting outside: warm, mild breeze, sunny, so I’m not rushing it. I’m still experiencing the same hallucinogenic effect — which kicks in during the last third — and sitting at the keyboard trying to review it…is not the right mood for this cigar. It does not idle as well as other cigars, at least not more than a few minutes, which suggests it needs to be worked somewhat. On the other hand, the resulting buzz seems to demand a meditative detachment. Perhaps the best place and time to smoke this stogie would be while fishing or some other non-demanding task where contemplation — or the absence thereof — is the order of the day. I would be very careful mixing this cigar with copious alcohol, and if you take it on a float, make sure you’re wearing your life-jacket.

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