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Written by Patrick Lauer

Monday, 03 October 2005

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Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars takes time to chat with Cigar Review. Jose's family history is quite interesting. The company was founded in Cuba by Gilberto Oliva Sr. and like many other tobacco growers, after the Revolution, the Olivas were forced to flee Cuba.

Whether you're a smoker of Oliva cigars or not, from the economically made Flor De Oliva bundles, to the rich-tasting Oliva 'O' Bold, their cigars are crafted by hand with great care and attention to every detail of the cigar-making process, which has made them one of the most sought after "boutique" brands on the market. Here's what Jose had to say about his company, family and the cigar market.

Cigar Review: Could you tell me about the history of the Oliva Family in relation to the cigar business?

Jose Oliva: Our Family has been on the growing end of the tobacco business for generations. As you may already know, we are Cuban. My father, grandfather and great grandfather all grew tobacco.

CR: How important are cigars to the Oliva Family?

Oliva: Cigars are a way of life for my family. We make our living from it, we all enjoy smoking them, and about 70% of our conversations are about cigars or tobacco. Cigars and tobacco is more than just an important thing to us, it is us, it defines us.
Oliva Family
CR: How and when did you get involved in the family business?

Oliva: Growing up Oliva means you are already involved. It is more a question of what area will you focus on. Having always had an interest in marketing and sales I naturally gravitated to the distribution end of the business.

CR: I have read that Oliva have tobacco farms virtually everywhere tobacco can be grown, is that true?

Oliva: No. During the last 40 years my father has grown tobacco at all of the following countries: Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, and the Philippines. Today we grow exclusively in Nicaragua. We are currently the second largest grower in Nicaragua.

CR: I have heard that the Oliva tobacco farm provides tobacco to many other companies, how does it feel to have your family’s tobacco in such a great demand?

Oliva: It is a great source of pride for us.

CR: What is your perspective on the current status of the Cigar Industry?

Oliva: Currently the cigar industry is enjoying a brisk increase. It is achieving these increases in-spite of the hostile anti-smoking legislation and the aggressive taxation.

CR: Is business good for the Oliva brand right now?

Oliva: We are currently enjoying our most successful period ever.
Oliva Factory
CR: Do some lines sell more than others for Oliva?

Oliva: Yes, it is also true that some lines are produced in greater quantity than others.

CR: Some say we are heading into a new cigar boom, do you think we are headed that way?

Oliva: If the definition of a boom is what we saw in the mid 90's then my answer is no, unless of course the Cuban embargo is lifted. What we are seeing now is a brisk but controlled increase as an industry. More and more people are acquiring a taste for fine cigars.

CR: Do you think the TV advertisements from Truth.com have hurt or actually helped the tobacco industry?

Oliva: Big tobacco and cigars are two totally different industries. Big tobacco is a worldwide industry which produces machine made cigarettes and has admitted to marketing to children as well as using addictive ingredients in there products. The cigar industry is made of mostly families. The tobacco used in fine cigars is grown the same way tomatoes or lettuce is grown. No additives are ever used and for all of these reasons cigars are not addictive. Even the way cigars are enjoyed is different from cigarettes, cigars are not inhaled. One last major difference is that all cigar families are comprised of cigar smoking individuals, I don't know how many big tobacco CEO's smoke their own products. Big tobacco is the reason we are dealing with all these anti-smoking laws and tobacco taxes. To answer your question, I don't believe the TRUTH campaign is having any real effect.

CR: What do you think of this new wave of smoking bans across the United States?

Oliva: I expect the anti-smoking wave to get worse before it gets better. As I said earlier, I believe the ban is more about cigarettes than it is about cigars.

CR: I have heard of some minor changes to your lineup of cigars for the next year. Could you tell us a little about that?

Oliva: We have made some packaging changes to Grand Cameroon and Grand Maduro but the cigars are unchanged. We also introduced this years Master Blend at the annual RTDA show.

CR: Do you have a favorite smoke from the Oliva Cigar lineup?

Oliva: I smoke different cigars at different times of the day. When I first get into the office I smoke a Flor de Oliva 6 1/2 x 44, after that my selections get more robust as the day goes by. Finally, at the end of the day I usually will enjoy something full bodied like a Master Blends or an O BOLD.

Patrick Lauer for Cigar Review




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