Oliva Master Blends 3 Robusto

Recently Walt passed along a request for a review of the Oliva Master Blends 3. My initial reaction was something along the lines of “are you telling me we haven’t reviewed the Master Blends 3 already? Inconceivable.” And though that word does mean what I think it means, it turned out be very conceivable that the Master Blends 3 was missing from our cigar review index.

So to make up for a review that’s years overdue, I’m burning some Master Blends 3 Robustos that have been waiting years to be smoked. In my travels I came across a small selection that some kind tobacconist unwittingly aged a couple years for me. I noticed some bleaching of the bands and wrappers due to time spent under the unfortunate overhead lighting and I asked how old they were. He didn’t know but they’d been there at least a year, possibly two. They weren’t fast movers with his clientele. I made his day and bought them all.

By now, you’re probably familiar with the “Liga Maestra” line. (It’s obligatory that every review of the Master Blends refer to it at least once as the “Liga Maestra,” even though I’ve never heard anyone call it that in real life. Check.) But in case you aren’t familiar, the Master Blends 3 comes in boxes of 20, in your choice of four sizes: Churchill (7 x 50), Torpedo (6 x 52), Double Robusto (5 x 54) and Robusto (5 x 50).

But before we get to the review, I had to clarify something with the folks at Oliva. While gathering information, I noticed that there is some confusion over the tobacco used for the wrapper. Many places, blogs and retailers alike, list it as Nicaraguan leaf, proclaiming the Master Blends 3 to be a puro. Other places bill it as Ecuadoran. Dave Wagner (Oliva’s VP of Sales) and Ian Hummel (Regional Sales Manager), tell me that both are incorrect. The Broadleaf hails from Connecticut. Though being in error is understandable, Oliva’s website mysteriously omits the wrapper’s origin while listing source for both the binder and filler.

And with that small detail squared away, it’s time for this liga to master some fire.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Connecticut Sun Grown Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaragua Habano
Filler: Nicaragua Ligero
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water
Source: Purchased by reviewer
Price: MSRP $9.40

The Pre-Smoke
The Master Blends 3 is another one of those cigars that easily qualifies as eye candy. The aerodynamic, rounded box-pressed cigar is nearly as attractive as the band that decorates it, though its ordinarily darker wrapper doesn’t have the oily sheen you often see on cigars. What makes this pre-smoke interesting is that my review assortment includes a few smokes that were bleached by years under some bad lighting. Aside from being a few shades lighter, and showing a fun tan line when you move the band, there didn’t seem to be any real issues with them. With the exception of one surprisingly holey smoke (two big wrapper holes, about four smalls ones), they were flawless.

The Master Blends feels a little different in the hand. It’s solid, and a little heavy for its size, but the big difference is in the feel. To the touch it’s a little like fabric.

There was nothing too unusual in the scent, it was a very pronounced barnyard, all hay and compost. The cold draw seemed good, if a tad snug, and tasted like slightly sweet earth.

The Burn
The Master Blends 3 burns beautifully, but I did run into a couple of snags. The wrapper cracked on two of the cigars midway in, and this led to some burn irregularities and touch ups. I’m inclined to give the cigar a pass though, as it only happened on the suntanned cigars. It’s not hard to imagine that light capable turning a dark brown leaf tan may also weaken it a little. (Also, I don’t recall ever having this problem with ones I’ve smoked in the past.)

Aside from cracking issues (and even during), these smokes drew well and produced perfect, bright white ashes that were in no hurry to drop off the end of the cigar.

The Flavor
The first few puffs set the tone with a rich and savory combination of earth and wood. A little way in, I started to pick up a sweet, slightly smoky spice and an enjoyable leafy aromatic cedar.

The Master Blends 3 hit its stride in the second third. The sweet smokey spice and the aromatic leafy cedar became the dominant flavors with earth playing a supporting role. Later on, black coffee and cinnamon emerged as sweet spice began to fade. I also picked up a brief graham note or two just at the end.

Cinnamon, earth and faintly aromatic cedar held court in the final third with rich tobacco and coffee flavors in the finish. There were a few more slightly sweet graham moments before the final puff as well.

The Price
The pricing of the Master Blends 3 seems in line with the rest of the cigars in Oliva’s portfolio. As their top shelf selection, it is more expensive than the rest, but it’s still under the ten dollar mark, at least in the robusto size, keeping it in reach of tight budgets.

The Verdict
There’s no getting around it, the Master Blends 3 is a solid smoke. Even in its advanced age, the cigar doesn’t appear to have mellowed too out much in body, flavor or potency. Aside from the appearance, the differences I noted in these aged sticks included a touch more sweetness and aromatic qualities and an improved melding of flavors.

If, like us, you’ve overlooked the Master Blends 3, do yourself a favor and give it a try, especially you come across some that have had a little time to rest. Or pick up a couple extra and set them aside for a while, good things do come to those who wait.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.