Frank Llaneza 1961 Cuban Corona

Frank Llaneza is a lion of the cigar industry who has been described by the Wall Street Journal as “the last grand old man of the cigar business as it was carried over from Cuba.”

He is best known as the former president of Villazon & Co., which was started by his father and his partners in Tampa in 1920. Young Frank was conscripted into the cigar industry, starting out with janitorial duties in his father’s factory, a job that he would have gladly forsaken to spend more time in school instead. But this was the during the Depression, and his choices were limited. As part of his education in the business he soon left for Cuba, where he learned how to select wrapper leaf under the legendary Angel Oliva, Sr., a man who would become first his mentor and later his collaborator.

Llaneza was on the ground in Cuba “when Fidel Castro came down from the mountains into Havana.”  He saw changes on the horizon, but initially he didn’t see the extent of them. The Castro regime gained strength and finally fomented a revolution, leading eventually to the confiscation of the entire Cuban tobacco industry. Fortunately, Llaneza, along with Angel Oliva, had wisely already begun their first experiments with Cuban-seed tobacco in Central America.

Llaneza took over the reins of Villazon in 1953 and continued the company’s tradition of making clear Havana cigars. That changed over the following decade as his continued success with growing excellent cuban-seed tobaccos in Honduras provided Villazon the opportunity to fill the full-bodied cigar niche left open by the embargo.

Two of those of those cigars would become mainstays on the American cigar scene for the next fifty-plus years: Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey.

In 1996 General Cigar purchased Villazon and with it those famous brands. Theo Folz, recently retired from Altadis USA, saw this as a missed opportunity for his company:

“We’ve always been a net buyer of businesses,” says Folz. He regrets missing one, Villazon & Co., and its renowned cigarmaker, Frank Llaneza. The maker of Punch and Hoyo de Monterrey was acquired by General Cigar in 1997. “The one acquisition that I should have made, that slipped through my fingers, was Villazon. Because not only would you get a great business, but you would get one of the greatest cigarmakers in my lifetime.”  Cigar Aficionado, 3/09/2004

Ironically, Llaneza recently retired from General Cigar and is now blending cigars — for Altadis USA.  The Siglo Limited Reserve was his first, and the Frank Llaneza 1961 is his most recent creation.

The 1961 is made in Nicaragua and features a Criollo 98 wrapper from Ecuador. The binder is Nicaraguan, and the filler is a Nicaraguan-Dominican blend.  Cigar Insider picked the Cuban Corona size as the pick of the litter, rating it 92 and bestowing upon it “Humidor Selection” status.

Six sizes are available:

  • Corona Grande – 6 1/2 x 44
  • Cuban Corona – 5 5/8 x 46
  • Double Corona – 6 3/4 x 48
  • Double Magnum – 6 1/2 x 54
  • Magnum – 4 3/4 x 54
  • Pyramid – 6 1/4 x 54

Construction Notes

The 1961 Cuban Corona is an unassuming stick with its simple band and dark leathery wrapper. This outer leaf is actually maduro in color; with its leathery appearance and slight sheen of oil, it could pass for a maduro cigar. The head of the cigar is well made and one of my specimens exhibited a quadruple cap. The roll is solid, though one cigar had a very minor dent in one side. The draw is just right and the ash is firm, but it does flake just a little. The burn is very slow. I expected to get 45 minutes to an hour from this stick but it smoldered for almost twice that long.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

The Cuban Corona is an assertive cigar that announces itself with a leathery bite. There are a lot of flavors here, but they seem to be blended together so well that it’s hard to distinguish between them. In the first third I was a little overwhelmed by the leather and spice, but I was still able to detect a sweet edge to the smoke. The lengthy finish is impressive.

I learned quickly not to retrohale this cigar at all. Unless you enjoy the sting of rich peppery tobacco and the sneezes and sniffles that accompany it, you won’t either. But simply puffing on this cigar releases clouds of rich woody spice. There’s some salt here too, which had my palate begging for a Islay malt companion. I was happy to oblige with a glass of Lagavulin.

The Cuban Corona comes out of the corner swinging and never lets up for a breather. The last round is not much different than the first, but by this point my palate has taken so many blows that it’s a little bit numb. Pepper, leather, and some cinnamon spice are the main contenders, with the ghost of grilled meat hovering over it all.

Conclusion

This cigar carries all the characteristics of the Honduran style, despite the fact that it has no Honduran leaf. It reminds me of a Camacho more than any other cigar, minus Camacho’s signature Corojo overtones. But this should come as no surprise, since Frank Llaneza has been making this style of cigar for most of his life. The 1961 blend is much bolder, I think, than any Punch or Hoyo I have tasted, but it shares the same leathery, meaty quality of those cigars.

I hesitate to use the verboten term “strong,” but there is certainly an edge to this smoke. The nicotine content is not overpowering, but retrohaling left my mucosal passages crying for Mama. I love the flavors of this cigar, but I am really hoping that some aging will sand down the edges a bit. If that happens, this cigar will truly be worthy of being called a “humidor selection.”

The 1961 is a limited release (see the Stogie Guys review for details) and is retailing for around 7 USD per stick.

Final Score: 87

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Blue Label Robusto

blue-label

I was a little wary at first of a cigar called “Blue Label.”  Not Gran Habano Blue Label, or STC Blue Label…just Blue Label. This generic sounding name has been used before – in fact, one large online retailer sells both this Blue Label and their own house brand Blue Label, not to mention the Legends Series Blue Label, and the Don Pepin Garcia cigar popularly known as the “Blue Label.”  Aside from the confusion this might engender, it just seems like bad advertising — it doesn’t distinguish the product, and it doesn’t entice the consumer. What would you prefer — a luscious looking double-banded Alec Bradley Tempus, or a homely Blue Label?

Some History

Curiously, the Blue Label has a history in cigar lore, which may or may not have anything to do with the naming of this particular cigar. The original Blue Label wasn’t a blend or a brand; it was the mark of labor union approval.

union-label

The Cigar Maker’s International Union was formed in 1864 in New York City. A fourteen year old cigar maker named Samuel Gompers joined the Cigar Maker’s Union that same year and within ten years became the president of Local 144. In 1881 he helped form the American Federation of Labor (AFL.)  Gompers was eventually elected president of the AFL and is recognized today as a key figure in American labor history.

The Cigar Makers’ Union was one of the first to use labels to distinguish its products — this allowed union members and supporters to buy “union made” whenever possible, and to boycott non-union products. Label committees were formed to determine the conditions under which companies would be allowed use of the label, label custodians and secretaries within the organizations were appointed to administer the union policies, and label “agitators” promoted the use of the label and agitated against non-union made products.

In the official publication of the Cigars Makers’ International Union, members were encouraged to enter poems and songs rejoicing in the glory of union-made cigars:

The Blue Label

Now, friends, if you will listen to what I’ve got to say,
I promise not to keep you long, or ask you any pay,
I want to ask a favor, you’ll agree it is no joke;
please ask for “union” made cigars whene’er you want a smoke

They’re made by good mechanics, they’re made for all mankind;
And if you roam the wide world o’er, no better will you find,
So, boys, be up and doing, be as sly as an old fox,
And see that the “Blue Label” is pasted on each box.

– Fred M. Williams of Union 427, Rahway N.J.

union-adWithin other cigar unions the label had more insidious uses: when Chinese immigrants flooded the country in the late 1860′s, many of them found employment in cigar factories. Displaced or disgruntled white workers formed the Cigar Makers’ Association of the Pacific which subsequently issued cigar box labels reading, “The cigars contained in this box are made by WHITE MEN.”

For good or ill, the label was a big deal. The Cigar Makers’ International Union developed several different labels over the years, finally settling on a standardized blue label in 1880. Details of the labels continued to change, frequently enough that these changes are often used today by collectors to date cigar boxes.

So what does that have to do with the Blue Label Robusto? Maybe nothing. But the Blue Label itself is nothing new to the cigar world.

The Cigar

The Blue Label robustos I’ve been smoking lately (while reading hundred-year old cigar trade papers) are made by Guillermo and George Rico of Gran Habano fame. They are produced in the STC factory in Danli, Honduras, and are available in the four standard sizes:

  • Churchill – 7 x 50
  • Corona -   6 x 44
  • Torpedo – 6.5 52
  • Robusto – 5 x 52

Only partial information is available about the blend:

  • Wrapper: Habano (country of origin unstated)
  • Binder: Corojo (country of origin unstated)
  • Filler: Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican

bluelabel2

Construction Notes

The robustos are finely crafted cigars — the wrappers are a semi-glossy colorado claro, consistent in color and smooth in texture. The heads are soundly triple capped and are very attractive. They are rolled rock solid and feel heavy in the hand. All samples drew very well with either a punch or a guillotine cut.

The burn was a little lopsided at times, but always self-correcting. The yellowish-gray ash was a little crumbly, but held on long enough not to create a mess in my lap.

Tasting Notes

The Blue Label starts off with an intensely earthy flavor, very similar to the Gran Habano No. 5 Corojo. A mouthful of dirt is admittedly an acquired taste, but I’m afraid I have acquired it. This flavor does slowly dissipate, turning to oaky wood and vanilla in the middle section, and finally gets a little nutty toward the end. On the other hand, if earthy is not your thing you probably won’t get past the first inch.

The spicy cedary aroma is a really nice touch — ginger and cinnamon or nutmeg, that sort of thing. It’s light enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the medium-strength flavors on the palate, but it’s assertive enough to make a noticeable and pleasant contribution.

The finale is mildly peppery and more powerful than expected.  It’s certainly not a heavy hitting smoke, but they may sneak up on you if you’re smoking quickly and not paying attention.

Retail price for a box of Blue Label robustos is around 60 USD (even less at auction) making this a great blue collar cigar… assuming you can make it past that peaty first inch.

Final Score: 88

bluelabel3

References

Once a Cigar Maker: Men, Women and Work Culture in American Cigar Factories, 1900-1919 by Patricia A. Cooper, 1987

Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, edited by Eric Arnesen, 2006

Cigar Makers’ Official Journal, Feb 15, 1903, Chicago.

~cigarfan

Arturo Fuente Añejo No. 48

In September 1998 Hurricane Georges ripped through the Carribbean and caused widespread destruction, including crop damage in the Dominican Republic. Among the beseiged plantations was the now famous Chateau de la Fuente, where wrapper leaf for Fuente’s Opus X is grown and harvested.

Two years later the legacy of the storm was borne out in a shortage of Opus X wrapper, but instead of halting production altogether, Carlos Fuente Jr. directed the use of a different wrapper — a hearty maduro broadleaf. In this way improvisation triumphed over adversity and the Arturo Fuente Añejo was created.

The filler blend is said to be a combination of the blends used for Opus X, Don Carlos, and Hemingway cigars, all of which are themselves secret — which makes the Añejo blend an enigma wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a Connecticut broadleaf that has been aged for three to four years, including six to eight months in cognac barrels. (The original release used wrappers aged for seven years, hence the name Añejo, meaning aged.)

Current sizes in production:

  • No. 46 – 5 5/8 x 46
  • No. 48 – 7 x 48
  • No. 49 – 7 5/8 x 49
  • No. 50 – 5 1/4 x 50
  • No. 55 – 6 x 55
  • No. 77 “Shark” – 5 5/8 x 54

I usually try to smoke several cigars, preferably from different boxes, to prepare for a review, but in this case I was stymied by both the price and the availability of the Añejo. Typically these are released twice a year — in the summer around Father’s Day and again around the winter holidays. And even though they are reasonably priced by the manufacturer, consumer demand pushes the shelf price into the stratosphere. MSRP plus my state tax should place this stick in the $11 – 12 USD range. I paid $18 for one No. 48 last summer. That’s a bit rich for my blood, so I’m reviewing this cigar based on one single experience.

The Arturo Fuente Añejo is presented in a cedar sheath that seems to be more aromatic than most — I’m not sure if it’s by design or by accident, but it lends the wrapper an intense scent of sweet cedar. The wrapper itself is a moderately oily and rich looking oscuro.

In a pre-light pull the draw is firm to tight, and the flavor is of wood and straight sweet tobacco.

I was expecting the Añejo to be a big powerful smoke like its sibling Opus X, but this was not the case with the churchill sized No. 48. Instead what I found was a civilized and genteel cigar with an elegant perfume.

It starts up very smoothly with a good dose of sweet spice — light anise and sweet cedar. The finish is short and the aftertaste evanescent. It draws very well despite my initial pre-light impression — it’s firm, but the volume of smoke is effective and cool. The burn is even and consistent from start to finish.

The 48 doesn’t undergo a lot of transition during the course of the smoke. It grows in intensity, but it’s still playing the same song at a louder volume. Fortunately for me this is a song I really like. It starts out with moderately mild body and soon becomes medium-bodied for the duration. The last third does become a little bit richer, the spices turn from sweet aromatics to smatterings of pepper, and the aftertaste takes on a little more gravity. The finish stays crisp and clean to the band.

And from first light to last ash this cigar puts out a beautifully elegant aroma — it’s floral at times, cedary at others, and really enjoyable throughout. It reminds me a lot of the Fuente Work of Art maduro in this respect, but the Añejo is perhaps more refined. That could be due to the size difference rather than the blend, but I find the similarity unmistakeable.

I can certainly see why Lucky7 made one of the Anejo cigars his best of 2007. So far I think this is the best cigar I’ve smoked this year. But the price… Doh!

REFERENCES

Vitolas.net — a fantastic source for Fuente information and trivia.

Augusto Reyes Nativo Corona

arn-corona.jpg

Unlike many of the big names in the Dominican and Central American cigar industry, this one has no Cuban ancestry. The Augusto Reyes family has roots in the Dominican Republic and the Dominican tobacco world going back 150 years and six generations, though much of that time has been in the agricultural and leaf brokerage side of the business rather than in cigar manufacturing.

Currently the Augusto Reyes family of companies includes a leaf importing concern (Tobacco Leaf Sorting S.A.), a company that processes Dominican leaf only (Capas Nacionales), and two cigar manufacturers: Corporacion Cigar Export and De Los Reyes Inc.

The first Reyes-operated cigar factory was established in 1990 in Navarette. Over the years they have produced several different private label cigars but the only one to gain much recognition is the Fittipaldi brand designed for Emerson Fittipaldi, the racing legend.

It was only in 2006 that the Reyes came up with a blend they could truly call their own. It was fittingly introduced at the wedding of Augusto Reyes to Monika Kelner. (I was unable to determine if Monika is a relation of Hendrik, but it wouldn’t surprise me!) After the wedding those who had tried the cigar began to clamor for more, so it was readied for commercial production and finally released at that year’s RTDA.

This blend also has the honor of being the first non-Cuban cigar to be featured at the “Epicur Dinner” hosted by the the Spanish cigar club of the same name. As Augusto explains, it is a more powerful Cuban style blend that Spanish smokers frequently prefer. This style has also developed a following in America, so we are lucky to have the same cigar available now in the U.S. It is currently being distributed here by SAG Imports, who also bring us Fonseca and Joya de Nicaragua.

There are now three lines of the Augusto Reyes brand: the Criollo and Epicur lines — both of which are finished with Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers — and this one, the Nativo, a Dominican puro. The Reyes have been experimenting with wrapper crops in the DR since the 1960s and at various times have provided wrapper leaf to other companies, but the Criollo 98 wrapper for the Nativo comes from a farm dedicated to AR cigar production. It is complemented by an olor binder and a piloto/criollo filler blend.

The Nativo is available in seven sizes from double corona to a 4 x 34 perla. The corona size I’ve been smoking measures 5 1/2 inches by a 44 ring gauge. They’re nice looking smokes with wide bands and a decorative gold ribbon at the foot. The wrapper is a creamy looking colorado claro with very moderate veining and a few small water spots. The cap is nicely formed and the stick is firm to the touch. My only initial concern was that the feet on a couple of these seemed underfilled.

The prelight scent from the wrapper is very mild. The draw is acceptable (maybe just a tad loose) and a prelight draw results in some grassy and coffee bean flavors.

The loose fill at the foot made for a difficult light, and one sample had a seriously deficient burn. Consistency problems aside, I found this to be a complex and fascinating little stick.

It starts up with an earthy, dusty quality that quickly takes on a peppery edge. The base flavor is leathery with a dollop of musk that rises from the wrapper. This wrapper, despite its smoldering hesitance, is extremely pungent. In fact, when my wife stepped outside for a moment she thought the kids down the block might be smoking something illegal. “No,” I told her, “it’s my cigar. Which isn’t illegal. At least not yet.”

The AR Nativo produces a good volume of smoke that I would characterize as full bodied in terms of texture and mouth feel, but medium in terms of strength. The flavors become more concentrated as the cigar burns, getting spicier as the ash gets longer. That is, if the ash actually succeeded in getting longer…which leads to what might be a problem with this cigar.

The first sample I smoked went out several times, needed constant adjustment, and developed an ash that was flaky, crumbly and tragic to behold. And while I have to say I really enjoyed the rich peppery flavor and musky aroma of this cigar, its burning qualities (or lack thereof) really weighed it down. The second cigar was much better — it burned straight and the ash didn’t peel away like the first one, but without constant puffing (which results in a hot smoke) it went out. To be fair, I have to say that I let these rest for less than a week after receiving them in the mail… but even so, the construction could probably use a little work.

The retail price on these is in the 7 to 9 USD range, which makes them the most costly of the three Augusto Reyes lines. Lower prices may be found online, but I’ll be trying a few different sizes before I invest in a box. The smooth peppery flavor and funky aroma have convinced me to give the Nativo another shot, but if other sizes have the same inconsistency I won’t be returning. There are just too many great cigars out there right now to put up with faulty or inconsistent construction in a 7 dollar smoke.

-cigarfan

Padron 4000 Natural

Padron 4000 on Box

Skip the fluff and jump straight to the review!

Cigar Stats
Brand Owner: Padron Cigars, Inc. (also operates under the name Piloto Cigars, Inc.) – Miami, FL
Factory: Tabacos Cubanica, S.A. – Esteli, Nicaragua
Factory: Tabacos Centroamericanos, S.A. – Danli, Honduras
Model/Vitola: Padron 4000 Natural
Size: 6.5 x 54 (Corona Gorda)
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Filler & Binder: Nicaragua
Body: Medium to Medium Plus
MSRP: $6.75 USD
Cigar Insider/Aficionado Ratings:

    90 – April 2000
    87 – November 2001 & June 2007
Padron 4000 Open Box

Fourteen other vitolas available in the traditional Padron line

  • Corticos 4.25 x 35 (short panatela)
  • Delicias 4.875 x 46 (corona extra)
  • 2000 5.0 x 50 (robusto)
  • Londres 5.5 x 42 (corona)
  • 3000 5.5 x 52 (robusto)
  • 6000 5.5 x 52 (torpedo)
  • 5000 5.5 x 56 (robusto)
  • Palmas 6.25 x 42 (long corona)
  • 7000 6.25 x 60 (toro)
  • Panetela 6.875 x 36
  • Ambassador 6.875 x 42 (lonsdale)
  • Churchill 6.875 x 46
  • Executive 7.5 x 50 (double corona)
  • Magnum 9.0 x 50 (giant)

All sizes come in lacquered cedar boxes of 26, packaged with cellophane sleeves on individual cigars. Many vendors list a box size of 25. I am not entirely sure why that is. It may be that Padron changed the box count since the initial release. The Corticos are the only exception packaged in boxes of 30
or tins of 6.

The Padron Story

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. That should never be said of a Padron. Jose Orlando Padron has put so much into the cigars that bear his name that both have earned the highest respect from those who know them. Both are Cuban to the core as evidenced by the Padron mantra:

Cuba has no boundaries, barriers or politics. At least not the Cuba we know and love. Cuba is in our hearts. It’s a state of mind. The sun on your face. The smoke that tells your nostrils you are home once again. Cuba is Padron Cigars. Wherever you smoke them.

Jose Orlando Padron

Hand-rolled Padron cigars, like the man they’re named after, have roots that reach all the way back to 15th-century Spain. Spanish explorers discovered the Central American tradition of smoking string-tied rolls of select tobacco leaves. In fact, the Spanish word cigarro, from which “cigar” is derived, was probably an adaptation of sik’ar – the Mayan term for smoking. The tobacco and the tradition these explorers subsequently introduced to Spain became widely adopted throughout Europe two centuries later. Cigars found their way to North America with the Connecticut settlement in 1633.

Jose Padron’s personal story ranks up there with some of the great American success stories of all time. The Padron family has been involved in the tobacco industry since the late 1800s, when Jose Orlando’s grandfather, Damaso Padron, emigrated from the Canary Islands to Cuba and began growing tobacco in a small agricultural town called Las Ovas in the province of Piñar del Rio. Born and raised there, Jose was trained at an early age in the ways of tobacco cultivation and the fine art of hand rolling cigars. Just like his father and grandfathers before him.

The political tensions in Cuba following Fidel Castro’s rise and the confiscation of the family’s tobacco plantation in 1961 forced Jose to flee with his wife and young children in tow to the land of his ancestors in Spain. Less than a year later, they came to the U.S. through New York and finally settled in Miami, penniless but full of desire to rebuild their lives and to live in freedom.

Jose and Jorge Padron in a tobacco field

For over two and a half years, Jose worked an assortment of odd jobs – anything to keep his family fed. One of those jobs was carpentry. You can read an interesting story in the February 2008 edition of Cigar Aficionado about the “little hammer” gifted to Jose and put to very good use in those early days. He managed to set aside a little cash over time, and on September 8, 1964 he launched Padron Cigars with a meager $600 in savings. Jose put everything he owned into his dream: planting the tobacco seeds he managed to secret away from Cuba. Renting a small warehouse in Little Havana, he and a single employee began producing cigars by day, which Jose then sold at night. In 1965, they sold 66,000 cigars. Today, Padron sells more than that every week. Meanwhile, the Padron grandchildren are being trained in the ways of tobacco cultivation and the fine art of hand rolling cigars. Just like the generations of Padrons before them.

Jose Orlando Padron is the Chairman of Padron Cigars, Inc. and Jorge Luis Padron is the President of the company. They operate two production facilities in Central America. Tabacos Cubanica, S.A. in Esteli, Nicaragua, and Tabacos Centroamericanos, S.A. in Danli, Honduras. The difference between the two factories is size and the functions they perform. The Honduran facility functions strictly as a production plant. The Nicaraguan facilities serve many purposes such as warehousing of raw material, sorting and deveining, and fermentation as well as production. There was a rumor circulating early in 2007 that the Danli operation was closing but I have been unable to corroborate that as fact.

Padron 4000 Box Top

Padron Cigars is one among a handful of companies that control every aspect of the manufacturing process from seed to smoke. Emphasis on quality rather than quantity, is one of the keys to the company’s longevity. Jose says, “We’ve never fallen on the trap like other manufacturers that produce, produce and produce to respond to the growing demand, as if we were making churros.” Production is modest, some four million cigars a year, and Jose has no intention of growing into a cigar giant. He says, “We will follow our family traditions and remain faithful to the course we set years ago, continuing to focus all of our efforts on producing quality and not quantity.” Jorge is quoted as saying, “Our philosophy has always been that it takes years and years to build a strong loyal customer base but it only takes a few bad cigars to lose it. With this in mind, we do not lose sight of what it is that has made Padron successful… our products… not a fancy marketing campaign or story.”

From the Padron website …..
We deliver only the finest, handmade, complex cigars with the flavor of the Cuban heritage out of which the Padron recipe was born. Our primary mission is the exceptional quality of our product, not the quantity produced. As a vertically integrated, family-owned company, we pay personal attention to every detail throughout all steps of our tobacco growing and cigar manufacturing process. Because we strive to give you, the smoker, the confidence that each cigar is the same ….. perfect.

Battling Counterfeits

As with many popular products, counterfeiting for the Padron’s has been an issue. More so with the Anniversary and 1926 lines but they deal with it across the board. In June 1999, the first fake Padron Anniversary cigars surfaced in Nicaragua. In January 2000, police seized more than 3,000 counterfeit Anniversary cigars and 5,000 fake bands from a Los Angeles warehouse. Two months later, a seizure in Miami forced the Padrons to send a letter to retailers warning about the surge in counterfeiting. Undercover agents seized more than $60,000 of fake cigars in a September 2000 raid that took place in New York City.

Padron 4000 Cigar Band

“We have to make it as hard as possible for someone to counterfeit our cigars,” says Jose. “We’ve been working on new ways to make the band more difficult to counterfeit and to make consumers feel more secure that they are getting a genuine Padron.” The company has modified its Anniversary boxes with special engraving on the hinges and tey have added an additional numbered band. Padron representatives inform us there was a system to the numbering to help track possible fakes, but it won’t be revealed to the public. Additional measures to hinder counterfeiters are anticipated. For the traditional Padron line, the signature of Jose O. Padron was added, running at a diagonal across the backside of the cigar band.

Cigar Aficionado has published several articles on the Padron’s troubles with counterfeit cigars. They take counterfeiting very seriously and are doing all they can to combat the problem.

Padron 4000 Cigar Band

The Padron 4000

The Nicaraguan blend in all of the traditional Padron line is the same. The difference is in the size and shape which interestingly yield some distinctly different flavors. All are available in both Natural and Maduro covers. The Padron’s listen carefully to their retailers and consumers. As I understand it, the 4000 (and the 5000) released late in 2000 was due directly to customer feedback and requests for larger ring gauge cigars and the 6000 in answer to requests for a torpedo shape. All tobacco used in the line is sun-grown habano, aged for a minimum of two and one-half years.

Just a note of caution. The Natural and Maduro versions of the 4000 are quite difficult to tell apart visually. I have to put them in separate humidors so I don’t get them confused (not that confusing me is so difficult to do).

Bottom line up front …..
For a line of cigars that gets such little attention, the traditional Padron is a quality cigar at quite the affordable price. Rich and flavorful, it makes for an easy smoke anytime. This is regular “everyday” rotation stuff for me! As George E from the Stogie Guys says, “If your Padron smoking experiences haven’t included this line, you should change that. Soon.”

Padron 4000 Wrapper

Pre-light
The 4000 feels quite fat in the hand but nicely balanced. It is well packed with no soft spots but just a bit lumpy. The Colorado brown wrapper has a very dull sheen and a few darker brown spots mottled in. There are a few minor veins but they are pretty small. Aroma from the wrap is a very faint barnyard and from the foot, sweet tobacco. The head is slightly flattened with a single cap which I found unusual since they are hyped as “the heritage of Cuba.” Isn’t that where the triple-cap is tradition?

Padron 4000 Head Anomaly

The Padrons claim to fame is quality and consistency but on the smokes I had for this review, one had a double cap and the other two had single caps. Not really consistent or Cubanesque IMO. One had a spot where the wrapper was not very well smoothed at the head (pictured above). None of these things caused anything but visual distraction.

After the clip, a very nice pre-light draw leaves a touch of sweetness on the lips. Now I’m ready!

Padron 4000

The Smoking Experience
The toasting and light come off without a hitch. Very nice aroma for standers by. First couple pulls are a bit raspy, then settles in to a smooth raisiny tobacco flavor with a little twang on the nose. As the stick warms, the core of earthy sweet tobacco continues and yields notes of toasted cedar, leather and spice. Not allot of pepper here. Not allot of flavor complexity either but there is enough rich flavor and aroma to keep me puffing. At the halfway mark, flavors take on a little darker complexion of the same core with the addition of some light coffee bean. The aroma is not unlike the flavor profile and has a slight “twang” to it all the way to the nub.

The 4000 carries a moderate finish with a sweet raisiny edge. Maybe gets a little longer in the last third.

Padron 4000 Ash

Ash is medium gray and held to about 2 inches. Burn is good with no corrections required. Draw was fantastic throughout. Smoke is cool and lots of it.

Although the first couple tugs may have you wondering, what have I got myself into, I’d say this cigar starts in the medium column and only edges past medium-plus right at the nub. No real nicotine kick that I could detect.

Smoketime was about 80 minutes.

My take …..
Consistently tasty and aromatic at an affordable price. Fits me like a glove. I like these gars and plan to experiment with the other sizes to see what they are like. I am a “robusto” kinda guy and the 4000 is a pretty big stick for me!

MSRP is $6.75 per stick. Online they run between $4.75-$6.00 a stick when you purchase a box. Best online price at the moment is the members price at Little Anthony’s Cigar Store. They run 108.45/26 or $4.17 per stick. An incredible price for this premium cigar. You cannot get the members price until you have an order from the site under your belt. They send you the members login (user/pswd) with your first order. I can vouch for the vendor. Quite the conscientious group down there at LA’s.

Smoke Til You're Green Like it … Yes
Smoke Til You're Green Buy it again … Yes
Smoke Til You're Green Recommend it … Yes

What others are saying about the traditional Padron line …..

3 June 1999 thru 31 December 2007
Famous Smoke Shop Reviews – Padron

28 August 2000
7 reviewers – Cigar Weekly Magazine
CW Review: Padron 2000

22 November 2005
fletchman – Cigarzilla
Padron 3000 Maduro

5 January 2006
Matt’s Cigar Journal
Padron #5000 Maduro

23 April 2006
cigarfan – Keepers of the Flame
Padron 5000

18 June 2006
Walt – Stogie Review
Padron – Delicias

9 December 2006
Walt – Stogie Review
Padron Londres

21 December 2006
Kyle Hammond – Club Stogie
Padron 4000

23 March 2007
cigarfan – Keepers of the Flame
Padron Panatela

8 June 2007
Brian – Stogie Review
Padron Londres Maduro

17 August thru 28 October 2007
Cigar Inspector
Padron

3 January 2008
George E – The Stogie Guys
Padron 5000 Maduro

As of 4 January 2008
Top 25 Cigar Ratings (26 reviews)
Padron 4000 Natural
Average Rating 7.72 out of 10

Top 25 Cigar Ratings (41 reviews)
Padron 4000 Maduro
Average Rating 8.46 out of 10

Date Unknown
ProCigars
Padron Cigar Reviews
(a good baseline for all traditional Padron vitolas)

Publications

July/August 1997
Jim Daniels – Cigar Aficionado
The Padron Family: A Nicaraguan Legacy
Seeds of Survival
Despite Wars in Nicaragua and Bombings in Miami, Jose Padron Has Built a Thriving Cigar Business

7 June 1999
David Savona – Cigar Aficionado
Fake Padrons Spotted in Nicaragua

5 September 2000
David Savona – Cigar Aficionado
Fake Padrons Seized In New York

2 March 2001
Mike Marsh – Cigar Aficionado
Padron Adds Second Band To Anniversary Line

April 2001
Top25Cigar Interviews
Jorge and Orlando Padron Interview with Top25Cigar

10 December 2001
Jordan Russin – Cigar Aficionado
Padron Cigar Counterfeiters Sued for $146,000

November/December 2002
CA Staff – Cigar Aficionado
Movers and Shakers II

12 March 2003
Rob Shibata – Top25Cigar.com
Saturday Morning with the Padrons

1 June 2004
David Savona – Cigar Aficionado
Q&A: An Interview With Jorge Padron

13 December 2004
Daniel Shoer-Roth of the Miami Herald – Havana Journal
Little Havana Padron Cigar History
(Padron’s Little Havana Factory is Bombed!)

27 October 2005
Rob Shibata – Top25Cigar.com
Visit The New Padron Cigar Offices

Winter 2005
thecigarWRAPPER.com
Padron Cigars

15 February 2006
James Suckling – Cigar Aficionado
An Interview With Jose Orlando Padron, Chairman, Padron Cigars, Inc.

18 October 2007
David Savona – Cigar Aficionado
Smoking a New Padron (Padron Reserva de la Famila No. 44)
(only available at special Padron cigar dinners – &!@#^&*^$!@#)

RTDA 2007
Video – 0:40 seconds
Jorge Padron
(I think he was really taken with the lady interviewer; watch his eyes; wonder if they hooked up?)

Date Unknown
Cigar Nexus
An Interview with Jose Padron Sr., Padron Cigars – Part 1

Date Unknown
Cigar Nexus
An Interview with Jose Padron Sr., Padron Cigars – Part 2

Why even Rush Limbaugh recommends Padron Cigars!


… lucky7

“It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep,
and never to refrain when awake.” (Mark Twain)

Bock y Ca Edicion de Oro Robusto

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Gustav Bock is best known as the first cigar maker to put bands on his Havanas, starting sometime around 1854. At that time most cigars were sold from large bags of loose sticks and couldn’t be identified once separated from the mothership. One story says that Bock invented the cigar band to keep inferior cigars from being sold as his own. Another, more unlikely, tale is that they were designed to prevent staining the fingers of high society ladies (or gents given to the practice of wearing white gloves.) 

But Herr Bock was a master businessman who had a gift for marketing. When he found that he could not break into the American market without brand recognition, even when he was offering his cigars nearly at cost, he developed an ingenious plan. Legend has it that he shipped small lots of cigars to “various undiscoverable places” in the U.S. addressed to George Washington. The undervalued parcels never reached their fictitious destinations and were picked up by customs agents, sold at auction, and thereby entered the American market. The cigars were recognized for their quality, identified by their bands, and eventually gained a loyal following.  

Today we have these bits of cigar lore by which to remember Gustav Bock, but during his lifetime he became a recognized captain of industry. In the latter part of his career, around the turn of the century, Bock’s holdings were consolidated to form Henry Clay, Bock and Co, and later he gained control of the Havana Commercial Company as well. At that time he controlled almost all of the cigar production in Cuba. Later on this company would be acquired by the American Tobacco Company, and eventually all these dealings would end up at the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court as an antitrust issue. Bock was more about big business than cigar bands, but today that is what remains. That, and a brand name.

One of Bock’s better known brands was called “Aguila de Oro” or Golden Eagle, and while the Bock brand name has passed through many hands in the past century, the eagle remains. There appears to be a Dominican made version of this cigar currently available in Europe. Altadis may be marketing one version to the U.S. and a different one to the EU, as it appears to be doing with the VegaFina brand as well.

In any case, the blend on the shelves here in the U.S. is of Nicaraguan origin, with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and Nicaraguan Habano binder and filler. The line was created (or re-introduced) by Altadis “to compliment our lines of inexpensive premium brands like Gispert and Vega Fina.”

The general appearance of the Bock robusto does nothing to betray the marketing of this cigar as an “inexpensive” brand. It’s rough and the cap is cut unevenly. It looks like it was thrown together in a rush. The prelight wrapper scent is of fresh hay and a prelight pull tastes bright and grassy. The draw is firm but serviceable.

But this cigar shouldn’t be judged by prelight appearances alone; it performs a whole lot better than it looks. It starts up with a pleasant toasty sweet tobacco flavor. Nothing unusual, just straight up smooth and creamy smoke. It’s mild to medium in body with a nice texture and very little bite. It sets up a solid white ash that compares favorably with any premium Nicaraguan cigar I’ve smoked in the past year.

This robusto builds in flavor toward the mid-point, getting a little woodier and by the last third brings a moderate dose of spice and most surprisingly, cocoa. I can’t think of another cigar in this price range that shows up with cocoa in any amount… but this one has it, at least in the mid to final stages. It’s not as thoroughgoing as the premium Pepin blends, but for a fraction of the price I have to say I’m impressed.

And the price is low. Seriously low. A box of Bock y Ca robustos runs around 30 USD. And yes, it’s a box, not a bundle. At this price you can hardly go wrong, unless you’re expecting a full bodied superpremium, which it isn’t. It’s a quality blue-collar medium bodied smoke, for a solid blue collar price. Try a couple. Your wallet will thank you and your palate won’t complain.

For other reviews of good cheap smokes, check out Walt’s Bargain Cigar Breakdown at the Stogie Review. 

-cigarfan 

MATASA 30th Anniversary Toro

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Manuel Quesada established MATASA (Manufactura de Tabacos, S.A.) in Santiago in 1974, at a time when the Dominican cigar industry catered mainly to domestic consumption. Around this time the Dominican Republic established tax-free export zones which attracted entrepreneurs like Quesada to a country not really known for producing cigars. Baseball players, yes, but not cigars.

MATASA is best known for producing the Fonseca brand (and all its offshoots) but Quesada’s family has been in the tobacco business for generations, going back to pre-revolutionary Cuba where they were primarily leaf growers and brokers. The companies founded by Quesada’s great great grandfather, Sobrinos de A. Gonzales, and his great uncle Constantino Gonzales, were the largest leaf brokerages in the world before the family was forced out of Cuba at gunpoint.

The Quesada family left for Miami, where Manuel Quesada Sr. was able to secure a loan– with no collateral– from a bank the family had done business with since 1907. They invested in warehouses and machinery and soon a fledgling leaf brokerage was started in the Dominican Republic, selling leaf to many of the same customers they had in Cuba. One of those customers was Juan Sosa, whose Miami factory was struggling with labor issues. Based on their previous business relationship, Sosa and Quesada joined forces in Santiago and in 1974 MATASA was born. During the same year, MATASA bought the Fonseca label from Antillian Cigar Co. in Miami.

The MATASA 30th Anniversary by Fonseca, created to celebrate the founding of the company, was introduced in 2005 in only two sizes: a 5 3/4 x 54 perfecto, and this 6 1/2 x 52 toro. The binder and filler were selected from bales of Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan leaf aged over ten years. When this cigar was chosen as the Robb Reports’ “Best of the Best 2006” cigar, Quesada told Richard Carleton Hacker,

…we used the finest of old, noble leaf so that we would have the depth of some of the choicest aged Cuban-seed tobaccos, but without the hardened strength. What we got was a strong yet smooth cigar that reminds one of chocolate pudding.

The wrapper is a high priming Olor Dominicano grown by the Reyes family in the Cibao Valley. The limited number of cigars produced was determined mostly by the amount of wrapper produced. “We said we’d make cigars as the wrapper for the project came about,” Quesada told Smoke Magazine. “You’d like to have 100 percent yield from the wrapper crop, but you never do… If you get 60 percent of usable wrapper out of any given crop, you should go to church and thank God.”

In the end, only 30,000 cigars were produced.

The wrapper on this Anniversary Toro is rich and oily, though as it turns out it is also quite thin and delicate. The roll is solid and the head is finished with a triple cap. The prelight scent is of sweet tobacco and hay.

From the first puff the flavors that pour forth are dark and rich — coffee bean and cocoa, with chocolate making a lasting appearance after an inch or so. Beneath the overarching sweet bean flavor is a grassy or green wood flavor which makes the overall impression something like light-roasted coffee. Meanwhile, the aroma is complex, adding an incense-like quality to the smoke.

The body builds strength after the first half, about 45 minutes into this supersized toro. The flavors gradually veer away from cocoa and enter spicier country, with pepper on the tongue and baking spices on the nose. At one point I thought I detected cinnamon, but after an hour of chasing scents my palate might have been a little fatigued.

Part way into the last third I heard the dreaded crack of wrapper splitting; I looked down and my cigar had suddenly unraveled. Thankfully I was nearly finished with this ten dollar Anni, but I was still a little disappointed. (Sadly, this is the second one that has finished in this fashion for me. Other reports are more favorable, so maybe I just pulled from a bad box.) Otherwise the construction here is very good — a fine draw and a slow cool burn.

If you’re a Fonseca smoker, be aware that the MATASA 30th Anniversary is a much heavier cigar than your standard Fonseca, but don’t let that dissuade you — it’s not a giant killer either. This is a limited edition cigar, but it is still available and doesn’t appear to be selling out anytime soon. Part of that may be due to the price, which is in the 8 to 11 USD range. Not your everyday cigar, but a special treat for maduro lovers. Just be extra careful with that wrapper!

-cigarfan