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Top Padron Cigars: A Retrospective

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Navigating the lauded Padron portfolio is an indulgent mission. The brand is handmade in Nicaragua and is considered one of the most prestigious makers of premium cigars in the world. There are many outstanding cigars to taste. Deciding between them or where to begin is a monumental task if you’re unfamiliar with the brand. Consider this article the ultimate roadmap to Padron as we explain each blend, the references to anniversaries and years in the names of the cigars, and the tasting notes for each series. We will also highlight the key awards and ratings Padron has been honored with over the years, as well as shed light on the brand’s illustrious history.

Because ratings lead so many cigar lovers to Padron, let’s dig into the brand’s list of top-rated smokes right off the bat for perspective. In 2004, Cigar Aficionado first began publishing its annual list of the ‘Top 25 Cigars.’ Not only has Padron been honored with the #1 spot a total of three times, but the brand has never been excluded from the publication’s coveted ‘Top 10’ since its inception. The company even released a special ‘Cigars of the Year’ sampler with all three of its ‘Cigars of the Year’ inside. Here is a chronological timeline of Padron’s appearances in the list with each cigar’s correlating ranking and rating:

Padron Appearances in Cigar Aficionado’s Top 10 Cigars of the Year

#1 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1926 Series 40th Anniversary Natural
93 Points

#3 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1964 Anniversary Exclusivo Natural
93 Points

#3 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1964 Anniversary Imperial Natural
92 Points

#1 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1926 Series #9 Natural
97 Points

#2 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 80 Years Maduro
96 Points

#1 Cigar of the Year:
Padron Family Reserve #45 Maduro
95 Points

#4 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1926 Series 40th Anniversary Natural
95 Points

#5 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1964 Anniversary Exclusivo Maduro
94 Points

#4 Cigar of the Year:
Padron Family Reserve 85 Years Natural
94 Points

#4 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1964 Anniversary Diplomatico Maduro
94 Points

#7 Cigar of the Year:
Padron Family Reserve 50 Years Maduro
94 Points

#5 Cigar of the Year:
Padron Family Reserve 50 Years Natural
94 Points

#5 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1926 Series #90 Natural
94 Points

#2 Cigar of the Year:
Padron 1926 Series #2 Natural
96 Points

#4 Cigar of the Year:
Padron Family Reserve #44 Natural
95 Points

At a glance, you’ll notice a few recurring themes: “1964,” “1926,” and “Family Reserve.” Each of these identifies a specific blend in the Padron portfolio. Today, there are five core Padron blends. They include the original Padron (sometimes called baseline or the thousand series), Padron 1964 Anniversary, Padron 1926 Series, Padron Family Reserve, and Padron Damaso. Following is a brief overview of the brand’s history and then an introduction to each blend.

A Quick History Lesson

The company has been around for many decades, but its heritage can be traced back to the 1800s in Cuba when Damaso Padron, grandfather of legendary late cigar-maker José Orlando Padron, arrived from the Canary Islands and planted his first crops of tobacco. José Orlando recalled his grandfather’s rigid character in addition to his love of tobacco – the latter quality would migrate through several generations of Padrons.

Following the Cuban Embargo, José Orlando Padron left Cuba after his family’s tobacco farms had been seized by the government. Once a supporter of the revolution, Padron’s optimism that things would change for the better quickly faded as Castro’s tactics erased the productive and satisfying life the Padrons built for themselves as tobacco growers. José Orlando first moved overseas to Spain and then to the U.S., trying his luck in the frigid Northeast before settling in Miami in the early 1960s. There, he vowed to recreate the indulgent cigars of his native Cuba. Surviving on government assistance for a short time and working as a carpenter, José Orlando eventually saved enough money ($600) to open a modest cigar factory on West Flagler Street in Miami in 1964.

The First Padron Cigars

The first Padron cigars would hardly be on par with the brand’s reputable award-winning lineup today. A mix of short and long-filler tobaccos from Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Connecticut was handcrafted by just one cigar roller in a single size, called a Cazador. Despite its rudimentary recipe, the cigar gained a popular following with Cuban émigrés and made the Padron brand known in Miami and other local Florida markets. The company began importing Nicaraguan tobacco in 1967. Demand soared and Padron built his first Nicaraguan factory in 1970. In Nicaragua, José Orlando discovered a true reflection of the beloved Cuban tobaccos he grew in his youth.

The Original Padron: A Thriving Cornerstone

Despite years of uncertain political turmoil and having to operate out of Honduras for temporary periods during the 1970s and 1980s, the family endured in Nicaragua. The original Padron cigars are well-established thanks to the persistence of José Orlando’s youngest son, Jorge Padron. When Jorge completed his MBA and came on board with the company in the early 1990s, it was his mission to expand the brand nationally and move beyond its local Miami audience. The family attended their first cigar tradeshow in 1993 and convinced hesitant retailers to try the rich, Cuban-seed Nicaraguan cigars they produced.

The original, all-Nicaraguan blend is available in a Natural and a Maduro wrapper varietal. It is handcrafted in a wide variety of traditional Cuban shapes like the long and slender Panetela (6.875 x 36) and Magnum (9 x 49), as well as thicker ring gauges like the #4000 (6.5 x 54), #5000 (5.5 x 56), and #7000 (7.25 x 60). Padron Magnum was rated 94 points in a Natural wrapper while numerous shapes in the thousand series have scored 93 points in both wrappers. Its spicy and woody flavors serve as the perfect introduction to Padron. It also represents the brand’s most accessible price points at between $5.70 and $10.40 per cigar.

Padron 1964 Anniversary: A Legacy Takes Off

Cigar lovers smoking Padron 1964 Anniversary for the first time often ask if the cigars were actually rolled back in 1964. The answer is no, but the blend is certainly aged for a long time. Padron 1964 Anniversary was released back in 1994 to commemorate the company’s 30th anniversary – the first of many commemorations. Originally, the cigar was allocated in small quantities as it is rolled exclusively from rare and well-aged tobaccos, the youngest of which is six years old.

Padron 1964 is the blend that immediately elevated the brand. The critics loved it as did consumers who were enamored with the sharp box-pressed shapes the cigars were rolled in. It was different, but in a very traditional way. The intrigue Padron 1964 created prompted cigar connoisseurs in the mid-1990s to embrace a more full-bodied cigar. During this period, the Padron family promoted their reputation as cigar-makers who blended cigars strictly for their own palates and who only sold what they didn’t smoke themselves. The strategy was wildly effective. Padron 1964 Anniversary Exclusivo is among the most popular cigars in the entire brand today. The blend is well-known for its rich profile of cocoa, cinnamon, cedar, and cayenne pepper.

Padron 1926 Series: The First ‘Cigar of the Year’

José Orlando Padron was born in 1926. Padron 1926 Series was blended in honor of his 75th birthday. The cigar debuted in 2002. Like all Padron cigars, the blend is made in both a Natural and a Maduro wrapper varietal. It was an instant hit, but was also released in highly limited quantities. In 2004, Padron 1926 Series 40th Anniversary Natural scored 93 points in Cigar Aficionado and was ranked as the magazine’s very first ‘#1 Cigar of the Year.’

All Padron 1926 cigars are handmade from tobaccos aged a minimum of eight years. The 40th Anniversary is considered extra-special because the cigar celebrates the company’s 40th anniversary. The original release was packaged in ornate, hand-painted boxes of 40 cigars. They are extremely collectible if you can find them today.

In 2007, Padron 1926 Series #9 Natural earned the company its second ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ title, in addition to scoring the brand’s highest rating to date with 97 points. The blend is known for delivering luscious notes of cashews, coffee beans, cocoa, black pepper and savory Nicaraguan spices with perfect density.

Technically part of the Padron 1926 Series, Padron 80 Years and Padron 1926 Series #90 commemorate José Orlando’s 80th and 90th birthdays, respectively. Padron 80 Years is a sharply tapered Diadema, only rolled by the factory’s most experienced cigar-makers. Padron 1926 Series #90 is actually rolled in a round format, in lieu of the brand’s iconic box-pressed shape. The 5.5 x 52 cigar is presented in an elegant tube which encapsulates its dramatic flavors. The cream-colored version is for the Natural wrapper and the maroon tube is for the Maduro.

Padron Family Reserve: Every Cigar is a Celebration

Once characterized by Cigar Aficionado as tobacco hoarders” – an accurate appraisal of the family’s practice of sitting on large stores of tobacco for very long periods of time – the notion only added to the company’s mystique. In this case, every leaf in a Padron Family Reserve cigar is more than ten years old, making it the oldest and most expensive line in the Padron hierarchy. It’s no surprise six different Padron Family Reserve cigars make appearances in Cigar Aficionado’s ‘Top 10.’

Growing up in Cuba, José Orlando learned very precise techniques for fermenting tobacco for extended periods of time. It is during the aging and fermentation process when the tobacco is elevated to its optimal taste. Allegiance to these old world methods have set Padron cigars apart for years. Much of the family’s success is owed to patience. They understand it’s essential to possess vast inventories of tobacco to insure every leaf is given unlimited time to mature. Luxuriant, earthy notes of dark chocolate, fresh ground coffee, and silky spices characterize the lingering, succulent finish Padron Family Reserve cigars deliver.

The line includes the greatest number of commemorative blends. Padron #85 was made in honor of José Orlando Padron’s 85th birthday. Padron #44, Padron #45, Padron #46, and Padron #50 each celebrate corresponding anniversaries of the company. When Padron #50 was first released, a limited number of gorgeous humidors were handmade, containing 50 cigars in a special blend and size not available for individual sale. Consumers could choose either a Natural or a Maduro version of the cigar with an option to order a set of cigars to refill the humidor when the first batch had been smoked. The entire package sold for over $5,000.

Padron Damaso: Turning a Corner

Padron Damaso is named for José Orlando’s grandfather and is the youngest brand in the company’s portfolio. Damaso reflects evolution. Some might say risk. Jorge Padron stepped away from the family’s customary formula of exclusively using Nicaraguan tobaccos and instead blended Damaso with a golden blond Ecuador Connecticut wrapper leaf. In addition, the cigar is rolled in a traditional round shape as opposed to the brand’s iconic box-pressed formats. It furnishes a moderate profile of white pepper, toasted almonds, and wood.

While the blend has appealed less to conventional Padron fans, it was intended to reach a new audience: cigar lovers who prefer a lighter Connecticut wrapper leaf. In 2017, the Padron Damaso scored 91 points in Cigar Aficionado. It continues to inspire connoisseurs who have found the brand’s core release like Padron 1964 Anniversary and Padron 1926 Series a bit on the strong side. But, it has yet to rise to the esteem levied on the many Padron classics available today – understandable considering the brand’s towering reputation.

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