Cigar SmackDown #1: Oliva Serie O vs Serie V

This isn’t another cigar review, because lets face it… there are a lot of cigar reviews out there. Besides, when buying cigars at your local B&M or online, a single cigar review doesn’t help with side by side comparisons.

I am shamelessly lifting this concept from tech journalism. Sites like GizmodoCNET TechCrunch have helped me decide on many electronic purchases by comparing similar products I am considering buying.

Here is an example from a mobile phone site called Phone Arena, check out their riff on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 vs. Note 4. It is because of this site I am still hanging on to my Note 3.

If you are like me and you are in the moment of choosing a cigar, you are thinking about budget, duration of smoke, quality of the cigar and a host of other factors.

It would be helpful to get a quick comparison to help make a better informed decision.

So today, I introduce the Cigar Smackdown where I make it easier for you to choose your cigar at the point of purchase.

This inaugural post features two cigars with a built in fan base who fall into one of two categories, Team V or Team O.

Shall we begin…

Oliva Serie V Double Toro (6×60), Natural 


Oliva Serie O Double Toro (6×60), Natural

Team V

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Jalapa Valley Ligero
Vitolas: 7 Natural

Here is what Oliva says about the V: (source)

Serie V Especial is a complex blend of Nicaraguan long filler tobaccos. Blended with specially fermented Jalapa Valley ligero, and finished with a Connecticut Broadleaf Wrapper.

Blending Notes: This cigar is blended to deliver full body taste while maintaining an unparalleled smoothness. This flavorful blend exhibits complex tobacco with rich coffee and dark chocolate tones.

A subtle and well balanced spice is present throughout.

My initial thoughts…

The wrapper is several shades darker than the O. Before either cigar is lit, there is an interesting point to note. The wrapper on the V is more aromatic than the O’s. But the aroma from the foot of the O is more potent than the V.

The V has a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper like the one on the Liga Privada No. 9, but the two wrappers look totally different and smoke completely different. I’ll save further commentary for a Liga Smackdown, but I did want to point out the radical difference from the same wrapper.

Review Begins Here:

As I type, I am smoking my second V of the day and my 10th in the last two weeks. I keep getting this weird oily aftertaste in the back of my throat. It is by far a much more harsh smoking experience than what the O offers.

This is a full-bodied smoke, but not a very well balanced experience. I get a lot of char and burnt coffee flavoring in my mouth with each draw.

The construction is of Oliva’s definitive quality, but it’s been a chore smoking more than one a day. On the other hand, the O is an easier smoke and enjoyable back to back.

Oliva has put in considerable amount of detail into the V’s band. It basically has a merged double band with higher contrast in colors and design. This gives it a much more premium curb appeal and possibly helps justify the $2.00 or more per cigar over the O.

I can taste the Ligero all throughout the cigar, this is where the added punch comes from. If you have tried the LFD NAS; which is all Ligero, then you know the added kick Ligero can offer. But the filler thoroughly over powers the V’s wrapper. I can say this with confidence, because I skinned the wrapper off the V and the taste doesn’t change all that much.

The V is basically the more popular of the two. It get’s all the reviews and all the love. Based on 10 reviews from Cigar Snob, Cigar Aficianado, Cigar Insider, Cigar & Spirits and Cigar Insider from 2007 – 2014, the V’s combined average rating is 93.2. It also has 4 Cigar of the Year nominations.

Let’s take a look at the O →

Team O

Wrapper: Sun-Grown Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Nicaraguan Habano
Vitolas: 9 Natural

Here’s what Oliva says about the O: (source)

Serie O is a Nicaraguan Puro. Made in the original Cuban tradition of growing the same Habano seed in diverse regions of the country to produce a distinct blend. This blend was achieved by growing Habano in Esteli, Condega and Jalapa Valley.

Blending Notes: Notes of dark tobacco with spice and rich cedar.

Aging: Puros should be aged at generous humidity levels (70-78%) to preserve the natural oil.

My initial thoughts…

As mentioned under Team V, the wrapper on the O is several shades lighter than the V’s. It is also less aromatic, but the foot’s prelight aroma is much more pronounced.

Review Begins Here:

I just lit my 11th Oliva O of the last two weeks. Each time, it starts off so creamy and smooth. The O is much more woody than the V, but it also seems much more refined.

If you have driven a Mercedes and a Cadillac, you know both are luxurious vehicles. However, the Cadillac lacks a certain refinement that only German engineering can deliver. This is the same distinction I get from both of these cigars.

There is nothing about the O that hits you all at once, instead the entire cigar harmonizes with each puff; delivering a smooth and creamy plume of smoke with each draw.

They both smoke the same in terms of mechanics, neither is rolled too tight or too loosely. Beyond construction, these two cigars will take you down a very different path.

The O is the blue pill… you smoke it and all is well. Nothing changes in your life and you carry on until your next cigar. The V is the red pill, it will make you conscious about the cigar you are smoking. It will make you think about the potency of its flavor and maybe even the aftertaste it produces.

This could be why the V gets so much cigar press love. It is not a benign companion to your moment. But if you take a step back and objectively smoke both cigars; you realize it is much harder to blend a balanced cigar like the O, than a filler dominant cigar like the V.

Speaking of the cigar press, in 2013 for some reason there was some sanity. Cigar Aficionado & Cigar Snob gave the O 90+ ratings for an average rating of 91.5. That is two notable ratings vs the V’s 10+. Also in 2013, the O cracked the Top 25 cigars by Cigar Aficionado and the was in the top 10 in 2005.

Beyond these notable mentions, the O doesn’t get much love. I guess the O has been as elusive in its presence as the “O” in a midnight romp.

Call me anti-establishment or a heretic, but if someone asked me to recommend the best between the two, I am going Team O every time.


At first glance you may think the Oliva V is the superior cigar. If you have never smoked either, then the attention Oliva and the cigar press has given to the V alone may  make you feel this cigar is an upgrade from the O. Also, in most cases the V costs couple of dollars more; which has a psychological influence on perception of quality.

My first Serie V was the Oliva Serie V Lancero. That is one of the better Lancero’s on the market and because of its phenomenal delivery, I never even considered an O. But when you step outside of the Lancero and try the other vitola’s that also show up under the O line, you just will notice a significant difference between the two.

Most notably, the O is a smoother cigar with a more harmonious blend of flavors. The V has more of a kick, but I don’t like the treatment they have given to the Connecticut Broadleaf. Liga No. 9 owns that market and I expect less ass kicking from a natural wrapper.

Lastly, you can get an Oliva Serie O for about $2.00 – $3.00 less on most occasions. In my book, you are getting a better cigar that costs less; can’t go wrong with that.

What team are you on?