I have to admit that in general I am one of those cigar smokers that finds the flavours of Cuban cigars on average a good step or two above to those of non Cubans. It might be a matter of taste, of what I am use to, but to me Cubans generally have a richness that is seldom beaten. And still, one thing I really envy my US BOTLs is the wide variety of cigars available across the pond. At times mind-boggling, the variety of cigars is like manna to a curious cigar lover like me. Yet inevitably with so much choice you might end up missing a particular producer for quite some time before you get round them, just like me with Padilla.
Ernesto Padilla cigar venture might seem the classical Cuban expat’s story, but it is particular for a number of reasons. Although of Cuban origin and with some tobacco connections, Ernesto Padilla doesn’t come from the classical cigar-maker’s family background, like the Perdomos or Fuentes. Instead, he is the son of a prominent Cuban poet Heberto Padilla. Heberto was initially a supporter of Castro’s revolution but, progressively more dissatisfied with the regime, ended up being a strong dissident facing arrest in the ’70s. His persecution by part of the Cuban regime created quite a lot of noise in the intellectual world. His obituary on the Guardian describes his life much better than I ever could.
The Series ’68 I am smoking is part of a trilogy Ernesto Padilla produced in memory of his father, together with the Signature 1932 and 1948 ranges. While the latter to celebrate Heberto’s birth and first poems book, the Series ’68 remembers the year of publication of “Fuera del Juego“, the Castro-critical collection of poems that would lead to Heberto’s arrest . Enough chit-chat already…
Padilla Series ’68 Robusto
Ring gauge: 50
Price: around 4.50-6$, less on auction sites.
Wrapper: Nicaragua, Corojo
Binder: Nicaragua, Criollo
Filler: Nicaragua, Corollo and Criojo from Jalapa and Condega. (Since this is made in Honduras, some think the filler also contains a little Honduran tobacco).
Smoking Time: 50 minutes
Appearance and pre-smoke
The colorado wrapper has a nice oily sheen, and is just a little veiny. The aroma is intriguing, reminiscent of that earthy/barnyard aroma Cuban cigars have. It feels quite packed, ard with very little give, but fortunately the pre-light draw is fine, a little loose if anything.
I am impressed by the start as the aromas kick things up almost immediately: starts with a rich toasted tobacco taste mixed with pepper and cloves but quickly becomes very complex as earth, wood and a pleasant coffee finish add to the mix. Again, I cannot help thinking that up to now this is the most Cuban of the non Cubans I have smoked. It also has some of the issues of the Cubans: the burn, wavy at first starts to canoe more and more. The ash is a bit flakey but quite solid.
The flavours settle down a bit: roasted tobacco with some spice and wood and a light molasses finish. This changes again from the halfway point; the sweetness decreases and leather joins the wood. Almost at the transition to the last 3rd it hits a sweet spot; the flavours are the same but the finish becomes walnut and raisins for 5 minutes or so… delicious. While the flavours continue to impress, the burn doesn’t; I need to correct it twice , and a small crack appears unravelling the wrapper a bit, but I manage to correct that.
The final part of the cigar is pleasant if a tad below the rest: wood, mellow spice and leather are the main flavours with some coffee finish. What is a bit annoying is that the smoke becomes quite hot and the draw very loose. Looking at the cigar I notice a whole in the filler, which probably is the cause of the issue.
My first Padilla cigar definitely impressed me. Although this started very Cubanesque, it developed its own style and personality. The flavours are stunning and leave you wanting more. Unfortunately the construction of the cigar has a few issues (burn, whole in the last 3rd). Nonetheless this gets a respectable 86; after all taste comes over aesthetic and burn issues. Not to say that the scores wouldn’t be higher without them.
Personally I’d grab a 5-pack of these without blinking, and for the right price I’d be happy with a box… certainly one that I’ll be adding to my humidor ASAP.