We are already diving right into the winter weather here in the desert. 30 degree temps and even a bit of snow. Braving the cold I set out back with an Oliva Saison to celebrate the change in weather.
The Good Stuff: Oliva’s Saison is a vintage style blend. Meaning, each year the blend may differ as it’s based on tobaccos grown during that year alone. As the years change so do the soil, sunlight, weather, and tobacco meaning each year could be different even if the same blend is used. The Saison is a limited blend that could be found only at Cigars International and here is what they have to say about it:
‘Tis the season for Oliva.
What happens when the Oliva family takes the best yield, from all their fields, from the same year? Amazing things….amazing things dubbed Saison by Oliva.
Saison by Oliva is the latest addition to their growing arsenal of standout Nicaraguan handmades. To create this blend, a silky, dark brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper was paired with a rich combination of long-fillers from Oliva’s farms in Somoto, Esteli, and Condega, Nicaragua – all harvested in the same crop year. This vintage ensemble is ripe with flavor, delivering a big, booming Nicaraguan personality that’s notably refined and well-balanced. Notes of leather, oak, pepper, earth, coffee, and a slight twang on the finish offer a perfect interplay and coat the palate with proficiency. It’s medium to full-bodied at its peak, but the density of flavor can hold its own against even the fullest of them. In a nutshell, this new handmade from Oliva has charm, character, and ample flavor. Plus, it’s yours in a box for around $4 apiece every day.
I tend to shy away from a lot of “mail order exclusives” as I am always too quick to judge them as seconds or just blends that simply didn’t make the cut. I can’t wait to see how the Saison measures up to the bar that Oliva has set for their blends, especially the more recent ones. As I stated earlier, you can order these directly from Cigars International. They come in four different sizes: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50), Torpedo (6 x 52), and Churchill (7 x 50). The cigars come packaged in boxes of 20 and will run you only $3.99 to $4.99 a stick.
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Pairing: Sixpoint’s Autumnation 2013 (American Wet-Hopped IPA – 6.7% ABV)
Prelight: The Oliva Saison starts out with a beautiful, webby, consistently medium brown wrapper that carries a few darker splotches as well as a few lighter areas around the larger veins running through the body of the cigar. The wrapper is very firm and extremely hard to the touch with some light oils. In fact, the entire cigar is incredibly dense and hard with no soft spots at all. The Saison is polished off with a perfectly round double cap. The band design is very similar to what we find on the Oliva Serie V. The first band carries a crest which says: “Saison by Oliva” while the secondary band simply says: “First Harvest 2009”. The wrapper on the Saison gives off a very rich, sweet, caramel aroma while the foot of the cigar screams of spice and natural earthiness. The cap cut very clean and extremely easy using my double bladed Palio cutter. The cold draw was a bit tight producing a crazy sweet, caramel and candy like flavor mixed in with lots of earthiness.
First Smoke: It took a bit of convincing from my single flame butane torch to get this cigar going, but it was off to the races when it finally did. The Saison started out with a bang leading in with a great, white pepper followed up with a whole ton of cedar, a whole mess of caramel and sugars, all over a natural/earthiness. This cigar really starts out with a lot of flavor. I was a bit worried that the draw would be tight as it took a bit of effort to get anything during the cold draw, but I am happy to report it is spot on kicking out a bunch of thick smoke with every little puff. The burnline was razor thin and dead even leaving behind a perfectly consistent medium gray, compacted ash which held on for about an inch before falling into my ashtray.
Halfway There: Into the second third of the Oliva Saison and the pepper is completely gone, but the cedar, which is already pretty pronounced is really ramping up. There is still a lot of spice, a ton of sweetness, and even a bit of ginger creeping over the earthiness. I’m impressed with how bold this cigar is. The burnline is still dead even and I am feeling absolutely no nicotine as I close out the second third.
Finish: As I venture into the final third of the Saison a very rich, black cherry flavor has crept into the mix. The cedar is still very bold, there is still a whole ton of sweetness, a ton of spice, and some nice natural tobacco. While it’s been pretty consistent, I liked the flavor profile so much that I wouldn’t really want it to chance. The Saison took me about a little over and hour to take down and it left me with absolutely no nicotine kick, and there was no harshness even as I entered the final inch.
Overview: As I touched on during the intro, a lot of times I am very quick to judge all these “Mail Order Exclusive” cigars as factory rejects, or seconds. Usually I feel that the cigars just won’t live up to the expectations of the other blends in each manufacturer’s portfolio. Was I wrong in the case of the Saison? Absolutely. This cigars surpassed any expectation I had for it. Not only was it a beast in the flavor department, but the flavors were incredible and the blend was exactly what I look for in a cigar. Now, toss in the $4 price point and how can you not love this stick? I strongly suggest you pick up a few of these, hell, even a box for the price of what you’d pay for just a few sticks.
Pairing: Keeping with the winter them, I decided to set the tone with a nice autumn pairing (ha, I know, right). Pairing the Saison with Sixpoint’s Autumnation was a wise choice on my end as the two paired up very nicely. Here is what they have to say about the brew:
Every year, the main-hops featured in the Autumnation Ale is chosen by Sixpoint fans. This year’s hops is Mosaic, a relatively new strain with huge potential. Copper in color, the Autumnation Ale clocks in at 6.7 %abv. The initial assertive but pleasant 74 IBU-bitterness is carried by a well-balanced malt backbone, accompanied by citrus, berry-like and pine flavors. The massive aroma of fresh hops features citrus, strawberry, stonefruit, berry and piney notes.
That being said, I didn’t really get as much of the berry flavors, but more of the grape, pine, hoppyness, and citrus. The berry I did get actually came from the cigar, but it mixed in with the flavors of the beer perfectly. The pine and citrus really mixed in well with the cedar and sweetness from the Saison. Usually I would have paired this cigar with an actual “Saison” or “Farmhouse Ale”, but believe it or not I didn’t have any on hand. I think the spice from a Saison beer would marry in very well with the cigar though.