Ask any experienced cigar smoker anywhere in the world what are the best non-Cuban cigars, and inevitably two brands will make every list: Fuente’s OpusX and Padron’s Anniversary line. And if they don’t make the “best” list, they will certainly make the most-hyped list. Unfortunately, they also make the most expensive list.
But for special occasions, only the best will do.
The Anniversary 1964 line celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Padron cigar company. The Padron family has been in the tobacco farming business since the 1850’s, originally in the famous Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba. Like so many other cigar patriarchs, Jose Orlando Padron came to the United States from Cuba in the early 1960’s with little more than a few dollars and a dream. That dream would germinate in 1964, eventually growing into one of the most successful and highly respected cigar companies in the world.
In speaking of their company, the Padrons are fond of the term “vertically integrated.” By this they mean that their cigars are purely Padron, from bottom to top. They own their own farms, grown their own tobacco, control the fermentation, storage and aging processes, oversee the many stages of rolling the cigars, and finally distribute the cigars themselves. This level of control allows very strict quality management, and quality and consistency is what Padron is all about. Padron makes about 5 million cigars each year, but only about ten percent of those are Anniversary cigars. When a product sells this well at a premium price, it is a mark of honor that Padron does not increase production at the expense of quality. It’s also remarkable that the standard Padron line still sells for less than 5 dollars a stick despite the huge popularity of the brand. That’s integrity.
The Padron 1964 Anniversary, like all Padron cigars, is a Nicaraguan puro. All sun grown tobacco is used. Frequently sun grown tobacco is associated with power, but with the Anniversary it should really suggest great flavor rather than sheer strength. The tobaccos are carefully aged for four years before they are selected for the Anniversary blend.
The Anniversary is square pressed to resemble the Cuban cigars patriarch Jose Orlando remembers smoking in Cuba, the H. Upmann Number 4 in particular. It comes dressed in a double band — the trademark band overlaps a counterfeiting control band bearing a serial number to guarantee authenticity. Yes, this is a highly valued cigar.
At 6 inches in length and a 54 ring gauge, the Imperiales are the toro entry in this line. Padron Anniversary cigars are also available with a maduro wrapper. Aficionados of this dandy cigar often use the acronyms PAN (Padron Anniversary Natural) and PAM (Padron Anniversary Maduro) to refer to the different species.
The construction of this PAN is perfect. An easy draw allows a nice volume of smoke with each pull, and the ash held for as long as I cared to admire it. I had to be careful not to smoke this one too quickly. It’s much milder than I expected, and yet full of delicate flavor, so my natural reaction was to draw on it more often than necessary. Its distinguishing characteristic is superior balance, not strength, so I had to consciously slow down a little when it started to get a bit hot.
A mild but flavorful woody base serves as the 1964’s foundation. Above this floats an elegant aroma that always reminds me of the first days of fall when my neighbors stoke their fireplaces with juniper logs. This is a serene smoke, to be enjoyed without distractions and appreciated like an unexpected holiday.
I wish I could describe with better precision what this cigar tastes like, but in this case my inability might be a good thing. Descriptions of sensual pleasures are often elusive, and always subjective. For various reasons I don’t grade cigars, but I do keep a short list of my favorites, and right now this one is sitting comfortably in the top five.