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A Brief History of Oliva Cigars

Oliva Cigars and box

A Brief History of Oliva Cigars

 It seems that without fail, the most iconic and sought-after cigar brands have the richest histories, with inspirational stories about overcoming adversity while maintaining a commitment to producing the finest cigars that the world has ever seen.  And, legendary manufacturer Oliva Cigar Co. is certainly no exception.  The company, which began in 1886, continues to satisfy even the most discerning cigar connoisseurs to this day, and the fact that they’re still leading the way in the industry is a direct result to their determination that has persisted since day one.

Humble Beginnings

To appreciate the offerings of Oliva presently, we need to dig deep into the history books to understand where the company first started.  Pinar Del Rio, Cuba was the birthplace of the brand, where patriarch Melanio Oliva first began his tobacco farm, taking advantage of the local environment which was absolutely perfect for growing rich and flavorful tobacco with a generous yield.  Melanio eventually aged out of farming and passed the land and its magnificent crops down to his son, Hipolito Oliva, who took over control of the tobacco farm in the 1920s and continued to operate it successfully for decades to come.

Eventually, Hipolito’s son Gilberto took over operations, and Gilberto kept it running until 1959 when the Revolution made it impossible to continue.  At this point, Gilberto, who was still fully dedicated to the tobacco business, stopped farming altogether and decided to move onto becoming a tobacco broker, using his expertise as a grower of fine tobacco to buy high-quality and exotic tobaccos from around the world.  During his travels, he fell in love with Spain, where he eventually relocated in 1964 for a brief period of time before finally settling in Nicaragua, another tobacco capital of the world.

Going Back to the Farm

Now settled in Nicaragua, Gilberto Oliva became acquainted with the unique Nicaraguan tobacco and its full, rich flavor not dissimilar to the Cuban tobacco on which he was raised.  So, he once again invested in a tobacco farm, marveling at the similarities of the environment that allowed him to pick up where he left off easily.

Gilberto was able to enjoy success as a tobacco farmer in Nicaragua up until 1979, under yet another political revolution that prompted him and his now-growing family to pack up their things and migrate once again.  Gilberto traveled around the world to grow tobacco in various regions before resettling in Nicaragua in 1995.  Once established in Nicaragua once again, he made a choice to get into cigar manufacturing.

Oliva Cigars are Born!

In 1995, the now-celebrated Oliva Cigar brand was born.  Gilberto used a blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers with Ecuador wrappers to launch his first cigars onto the market.  He entered the market at a time when the cigar industry was seeing a massive increase in demand, which both worked against him and in his favor.  In the early days, better-financed startup companies acted as steep competition, and as a result, Gilberto struggled to see his cigars reach the level of financial success he had hoped for.  But, every boom has a tipping point, and it didn’t take long for many up-and-coming companies to fall out of the market due to poor investments or an inability to meet demand.  At the same time, Oliva Cigars was finally developing quite a reputation among serious cigar enthusiasts.  What benefited the company was Gilberto’s ample access to tobacco from his own farm, which dramatically cut down manufacturing costs.

A New Level of Popularity

By the early 2000s, Oliva Cigars was a successful brand known around the world.  Gilberto had no choice but to trade in his small facility for a larger one in order to meet growing demands for his products.  By 2005, Oliva Cigars was the second largest grower of tobacco in Nicaragua, and the company was selling 13 million cigars per year before the decade ended.  In 2016, the company was acquired by J. Cortes Cigars, while the children of Gilberto continue to play crucial roles in the company.

If it weren’t for Gilberto’s determination throughout his life, we would not have access to the now-iconic cigars for which the brand is known.


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