Gilberto Oliva Senior

Founder of Oliva Cigar Co., Gilberto Oliva Sr., dies aged 86

In Gilberto Oliva Sr., the cigar world is losing yet another great personality. He passed away on December 16, 2017, in Miami at the age of 86. Gilberto Oliva founded the Oliva Cigar Co. 

The tobacco tradition of the Oliva family dates back to the year 1886, when Melanio Oliva first started cultivating tobacco in Pinar del Río, Cuba. His son, Hipolito, continued the tradition until Gilberto Oliva Sr. took over the farm, but later switched to tobacco trading. He emigrated to Spain in the 1960s, and later to Nicaragua, where, in 1969, he started another farm. Ten years later, during the Sandinista revolution, he had to leave the country, and was producing in Honduras, Panama, Mexico, and the Philippines, before being able to return to Nicaragua in 1995. That’s when he founded the cigar brand Oliva. In the late 2000s, Oliva attracted worldwide attention through its Oliva Serie V line. Gilberto Olivas’s son José Oliva oriented the family company towards the international market, creating brands like NUB and Cain, and steered the Oliva Cigar Co. to becoming one of the global players in the cigar business. In the year 2016, Oliva was sold to the Belgian cigar family Vandermarliere (J. Cortès). In spring 2017, two new cigar lines were presented in honor of Gilberto Oliva: Gilberto Oliva Reserva and Gilberto Oliva Reserva Blanc.

Gilberto Oliva Senior leaves behind a wife, five children, and 14 grandchildren.

His journalistic career began in 1979 as a freelancer for German-language newspapers in the US, and later for Austrian media including Die Wochenpresse and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. For ten years he also produced programs for over 60 radio stations around the world. In 1994, Reinhold C. Widmayer devoted himself to all things cigar, publishing technical articles in cigar magazines. He began working for Cigar Journal in 2001 and became editor-in-chief in 2005; under his auspices the journal has established itself as the world’s leading cigar magazine.


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