Churchill, 7" x 50 ring gauge / MSRP $13
The first time I heard the name "Melanio" from someone at Oliva was October 9, 2010, when our local rep told me about them at UPtown's Fall Cigar Extravaganza. At the time, the thought was, "they are waiting to ensure the cigars are perfect, because it carries the respected name of the great-grandfather of the Oliva family, but they should arrive in early 2011." Perfection takes a little longer sometimes...the Melanio ended up not making its official debut until IPCPR 2012 in August, then arriving in stores about a month later. At the time there was also no indication that it would be connected to the Serie V line; reports on the Melanio seem to indicate that it is similar in filler and binder to the original V blend, but with a "little more Jalapa" for added flavor. The wrapper is an Ecuadorian Sumatra. I bought a few of these at a shop in California when I was visiting in September; I smoked one right away, another about a week ago and ended up letting this sit for over two months before firing it up. I will tell you right off the bat, I like this blend a lot...but they are the most expensive product in the regular Oliva lineup (I'm not sure if the Master Blends series is a little more or a little less than the Melanio), so I just can't afford to smoke them very often.
The appearance of the Serie V Melanio is not unlike a chocolate bar, with its medium-brown coloration and solid box-pressing. There was some mottling on the wrapper leaf and the texture was a bit papery, with just a slightly oily feel under the fingertips. The banding is nearly identical to the regular V, with just a few subtle differences on the main band (which reads "Gran Reserva Limitada") and the addition of a second band which indicates "Melanio" (as well as "Gran Reserva Limitada" again). Lifting the cigar to my nose and taking a big whiff, I got a hay-like smell from the wrapper, with just a touch of cocoa powder. The foot, surprisingly, had very little aroma and I had to inhale hard to get the mild earthiness. When cut the Melanio had an easy draw with cold flavors of earth, hay, cedar and chili pepper.
Lighting the Melanio was easy and quick. I got initial flavors of cedar and earth on the palate along with a touch of the metallic note that I frequently get from Sumatran wrappers. The retrohale was very peppery and had more cedar notes as well. Through the rest of the first third, I found the flavor of cedar to be dominant while the other notes of earth and copper faded in and out. The pepper faded a bit as the cigar smoked on, but never went away.
As I started the second third, I noted the construction of the Serie V Melanio to be excellent. The draw was just about perfect, the burn line had needed just one minor touchup and the ask was mostly solid with just a bit of flaking. I picked up on some natural tobacco sweetness in the second third, which helped to balance out the cedary flavors that still came through strongly.
In the last third, cedar continued to be the dominant flavor, but there was the return of some pepper spice on the palate as well. I found the strength to be about medium-plus and the body to be on the lower end of the full spectrum, making this the easiest of the Oliva Vs to recommend to less experienced smokers. In the end, I liked the Melanio a lot, especially considering that it is a Sumatra wrapper, which is not one of my preferred flavor profiles. While it did have some of the metallic, coppery notes I associate with the varietal, it was not overpowering, proving that the correct aging and blend can make this wrapper shine even to a palate that does not gravitate to it. The price is a different issue--while I can see picking up one or two of these on occasion, I can't say that I would add it to my regular rotation, just because it is out of my price range for that purpose. When compared to the other Vs, I would prefer the original (especially in a Lancero or Petite Corona) to this and I would prefer this to any of the Maduro varieties that show up once a year.