Aging Report: Padron 2000 Maduro

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Last summer we reviewed, with help from our friends, the entire range of the standard Padron series.  This was a great exercise in “vertical” comparison, and we had a heap o’ fun doing it.  I squirrelled away a few cigars from that test and last night seemed like a good time to see how they’re coming along. The Padron 2000 fit my time slot just right: about 45 minutes around sundown.

Some cigar makers are able to combine flavor, quality workmanship, and aesthetic appeal all in one sweet cylinder of tobacco. Padron is not one of those cigar makers. The flavor and construction of these Nicaraguan puros is not to be denied, but Padron’s reputation is based on consistency and taste, not good looks. This is honestly one of the ugliest cigars I’ve seen in a long time.

Were it not for the Padron band, this cigar would most likely languish on the retailer’s shelf until the owner was forced to give it away or smoke it himself. Calling it butt ugly is being kind to this stick (aside from the fact that as a cigar smoker I do have a certain affection for butts.)

The wrapper leaf is a rich dark brown color — a little lighter than most maduro cigars —  and it has a rough texture. Padron2000MpatchGlue spillage gives it a crusty appearance in places. The cap looks like it was glued on by a three year old, and this particular cigar features a poorly applied patch a little smaller than my thumbnail. The roll is firm, but dented in a couple places. It sort of looks like this cigar was made by a committee of crafty Nicaraguan school children. Or more likely, by a torcedor on Friday afternoon with one eye on the clock.

But the draw is good and the burn is fine. And what would you prefer — a gorgeous cigar with deal-breaking construction flaws, or an ugly duckling that performs? Me? I’ll take the duckie.

The aging of this cigar shows in the flavor, which right out of the gate is classic Padron — woody with a touch of black pepper — but it has toned down a little from a year ago.  There’s a hint of that sweet pecan flavor I find occasionally in some Padron maduros, and later on some leather and burnt coffee bean. The finish grows substantially at the midway point, and close to the band the aftertaste takes on a strong taste of char.

Padron2000M2

But all of these flavors seem to be less profound than they were when this cigar was relatively fresh — on the other hand, the smoke is also less aggressive. Compared to the freshies, the aged Padron 2000 maduro is much smoother. I still wouldn’t qualify it as smooth per se, but by comparison it is a much less boisterous smoke.

The burn wavers a little at times, but it corrects itself without prompting from the lighter. Other than that, the construction of this cigar was very good. (It goes without saying that it never got better looking.)

At around 3 USD and change this little maduro is still hard to beat as an everyday smoke, but I think I prefer the boldness of the fresh ones over the slightly more refined character of the more mature stick.

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Final Score: 85

~cigarfan

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Aging Report: 601 Oscuro Tronco

United Tobacco’s 601 series manufactured by Pepin Garcia has been a smashing success, and the Green Label is one of my favorites in the line. It hasn’t been easy to resist the siren’s call over the past year, but I still have a few of these left from the 2007 box that made it to the top ten list for the year.

This is a heavy cigar by design, and I was really curious to see how it would age. Many of the cigars I’ve chosen for “Aging Reports” have not benefited from their extended naps, but the ones that have are the sluggers like this one. I’m coming to the conclusion that as tobacco ages its strength and body attenuate, but in return more subtle nuances appear. So depending on the cigar, and the cigar smoker, this can be either a good or a bad thing.

I gravitate toward medium-bodied blends, with occasional forays into full-bodied and mild territory, so I was sort of looking forward to this one settling down a little. But only sort of, because the flavor is dynamite even if it’s not really in my weight class. So I still found myself picking at the box over the past year, handing a few out with both warnings and accolades, and now I have only a few left. But the year is up. Time for a visit from the ghost of Green Label past.

The first thing I noticed about the aged 601 Oscuro is that it doesn’t start up with the blast of pepper I was expecting — it’s certainly spicy, especially for the first half inch or so, but age has pacified the beast. The next thing I notice is that it burns very slowly, so slowly in fact that the time I allotted to smoke this robusto wasn’t enough to finish the cigar. But this being the 601 Green, two-thirds was enough. I’ve seen how this movie ends.

Despite the slow burn (and somewhat erratic burn line) the Green produces plenty of smoke. There is a sweet char on the nose that gradually becomes more chocolatey. On the palate I get wood with a nice black licorice accent, accompanied by a lingering but not overpowering aftertaste of chocolate and char. Ignoring the spicy overture, this is a medium bodied cigar that quickly becomes full bodied with a good nicotine hit, but it’s not the monster it was a year ago.

The bottom line is that the boldness of this cigar has faded somewhat. There’s plenty of flavor left for smokers of medium to full-bodied cigars, but if you love the explosion of pepper and tannin that a lot of Pepin blends offer when fresh, you’ll want to smoke these within a year of packing. But even after a year the Green Label is still a fantastic cigar, especially if you prefer a mellower profile. It looks like it’s time for me to restock.

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Some recent reviews of the 601 Oscuro Tronco:

Linus gives it a 7.5 out of 10 for Cigar Newbie.

Beezer goes toe to toe with the Tronco and learns his lesson.

Aging Report: Saint Luis Rey Cazadore

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This mysterious cigar, first reviewed in April 2006, is from a 2005 box that has an uncertain history.  When I first purchased these from JR Cigars I could find no listing for St. Luis Rey Cazadores anywhere except JR, and nothing has changed since then. (They are unlisted by the manufacturer, Altadis USA, though JR still lists them as “Out of Stock.”) The current SLR is a medium-bodied multinational blend with a Nicaraguan wrapper, while this one is still a full-blooded full-bodied Honduran.

The “Cazadores” is a traditional Cuban production vitola — the Cuban Romeo y Julieta is probably the best known example — but this double corona sized cigar doesn’t even come close to meeting the traditional 6 7/16 x 44 Cuban format.

So why this cigar is called a “Cazadore” is as confounding as the fact that it no longer exists, because it’s a nice full-bodied cigar that so far is aging beautifully.

Aesthetically this old SLR is gorgeous — a smooth leathery colorado wrapper that has few veins and almost no imperfections. The roll is perfectly consistent and the head is flawlessly shaped and wrapped. The one surprise is the lack of a triple cap — with a roll this perfect I’ve come to expect one, even if here it really isn’t necessary.

I was prepared for this cigar to have lost some weight over three years in storage, but it seems to be as brawny as ever. It starts up with the same bullish glower that I remember so well — pepper with a leathery aroma and a good kick from the git-go. The draw is good but the thick juicy wrapper requires a correction almost immediately, within the first inch and half. (Since this was the last correction needed, I’m calling operator error… toast that foot evenly.)

The middle third is meaty and rich — just what I’m looking for from a Honduran cigar. The aroma takes on a woodier aspect at this point with a dash of cinnamon. I didn’t note this in the earlier review, and digging through the cluttered humidor of Smokes Past I’m not finding any memories of such subtleties.

The last third returns to darker peppery flavors and leather, getting stronger by the inch. I was hoping that this cigar would have mellowed a little in this regard, but after three years it’s still in fighting form.

My experience with aging cigars has so far shown that after a year or two the most noticeable change is in potency — I’ve seen this with the Camacho Havana (6 years) and the Angel 100 (2 years) and with several other brands over shorter periods of time. Strength diminishes and subtler qualities emerge. For the most part the Saint Luis Rey Cazadore is an exception to this, at least so far. I still have half a dozen of these put away, so we’ll have to see if the weight of the years can eventually tame down these unruly Hondurans.

Aging Report: Medal of Honor “Intellect”

It’s been a little over two years since I visited the Medal of Honor Intellect, and while it hasn’t staged a remarkable transformation in that time, it’s still a really nice mellow smoke.

The Medal of Honor series was created for JR Cigars by Estelo Padron in Honduras to celebrate the cigar men who helped JR Cigars become the retail giant that it is today. This particular size honors Martin Herbst, who created the Maria Mancini and La Finca cigar brands.

I couldn’t remember exactly what went into this cigar when I pulled it out of long-term storage, and I decided to smoke it before refreshing my memory. This is not my habit at all, but since I’m quite familiar with this cigar I thought I could probably guess its composition.

My guess was wrong. Mid-way through this cigar I guessed that this was a Cameroon wrapper due to its bright cedary sweetness. I thought it was a little mild for Cameroon, but I attributed that to aging. For the first two inches it’s a simple blend of wood and cedar spice. As it turns out, this is actually an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. The buttery texture (and lack of tooth in the wrapper) should have given it away, but not this time.

This has always been an easy going, mellow smoke, and it continues to be so. There isn’t much of a transition from first light to last ash, but this is nothing new either. The only surprise is a caramel spice in the second half that replaces the cedar from the first part. The foundation flavors remain woody from start to finish, and the aftertaste is pleasantly crisp and clean.

Construction values here have not changed over time and remain excellent — a beautiful solid ash and a razor sharp burn. Every one of these has been consistent in that regard.

The Medal of Honor Intellect is a mild mannered but articulate smoke that requires few words to make its point, which is well taken.

If you’re lucky enough to be sitting on a box of these from when they were first released in 2005, I’d say the time is ripe to break them out and pass them around to friends who enjoy lighter smokes; from this point forward I would expect them to simply make a gentle and gradual decline.

And if the mild-bodied stuff doesn’t interest you, stay tuned for the Padron Roundup scheduled to begin here on June 10 and continue for several weeks into the summer.

-cigarfan

Aging Report: Padilla en Cedro Robusto

The Padilla en Cedro was a special edition cigar from Ernesto Padilla that was released in 2005. Production ceased sometime in 2006, and to my knowledge these are sold out everywhere at this point in time. It’s a mild Connecticut shade style cigar — an unlikely candidate for aging, to be honest.

When I first received these in early 2006 they were almost bitter. The tannins were puckery strong and not to my liking at all, especially not in a Connecticut shade selection. The blend just seemed all wrong for that.

But when I last checked in with the Padilla en Cedro it had improved remarkably from its fresh state: nine months in the humidor did wonders. The tannins had mellowed quite a bit and the cigar was a much smoother, and enjoyable, smoke.

And now, after two years, this robusto is completely transformed. While still mild, it has grown far more complex and subtly sophisticated than I thought possible. The only way in which it seems to have suffered is in appearance — the wrapper has become slightly faded, more drab and splotchy, though it seems to have retained its sheen.

Remembering this cigar’s original character, I was expecting at least a hint of tannin, but for the first third there’s nothing but nuts and honey sweetness, with a touch of vanilla that was not in the fresh cigar at all. A remnant of tannin is apparent in a generally dry flavor, but it’s nothing that approaches a full blown pucker.

At the half-way point the cedar qualities come to the fore, and a little black pepper sets in. The finish lengthens and there is a more substantial aftertaste, thanks in part to the pepper. As the flavor on the tongue gets stronger, the aroma seems to fade a little, which makes the Cedro a little less profound. A lot of its subtlety is in the nose.

Somewhere around the 3/4 mark it dwindles to a merely average cigar. The flavor bottoms out and veers toward bitterness — a slight disappointment considering how wonderfully the trip started.

Construction values here remain consistently very good on all levels — a perfect burn, a streaky but solid ash, and an effortless draw.

I suspect these robustos are at their peak right now. The highlights of this cigar — the gentle sweetness and vanilla overtones — are subtleties that I can easily see vanishing in a few months to a year. This seems to be the problem with aging mild cigars, though in this case it has really paid off. I may hang on to a couple of Padilla Cedros for “research” purposes, but the rest of them are in my sights right now.

Aging Report: Camacho Havana Monarca

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Introduction
There is no dearth of information on the internet about how to store and age cigars. Vintage cigar smokers have been hoarding boxes in their climate controlled cellars for a long time now, and they’re the real experts on the subject. Now I’d be happy to pontificate on the 70/70 rule for you (I don’t agree with it.) And I’ll tell you all about the Great Cellophane Debate (it’s air permeable and taking it off doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.) And some will agree with me. Some won’t.

What I can’t tell you is how aging affects cigar flavors and performance, because I don’t know. But I aim to find out.

Up until a few months ago I didn’t even date the singles in my humidor. Now most of them have neat little stickers on them and my humble collection looks like it has smallpox. I do have a few boxes that I had the presence of mind to date stamp, but not many. Smoke ’em if I got ’em is usually what I do, and quite promptly, so there aren’t too many cigars in my humidor that have escaped that pithy credo for long.

But there are a few long-term survivors. Periodically I plan to round up these refugees and put them to the test for a new category here called “Aging Reports.” Most of them will be cigars that I have reviewed here before, so there will be a reference point of comparison.

But this Camacho Havana is an unusual case: a box that I purchased already aged. I didn’t know it would be aged when I received it in the mail, but I was happy about it, because an aged cigar is always better… right? The box was stamped 2002 and by all appearances it was kept in great condition. But now that I’ve burned my way through most of the box, I have to say that an aged cigar is not always, without exception, a better cigar.

The Report

The Camacho Havana has been around for a long time. According to cigarcyclopedia it was originally produced in Nicaragua in the 1960’s. Later production was moved to Honduras, where it remains today. Like many Camacho cigars, the Havana is a Honduran puro — in this case a Jamastran criollo wrapper surrounding a corojo blend filler.

This is a great looking and well constructed robusto. The burn on all of these oldsters has been sharp and even, they have a perfect draw, and they form a strong solid light gray ash. Absolutely no complaints there whatsoever.

When I first received these about six months ago I noticed that they seemed incredibly mild when compared with the box of churchills I started in 2006. The Havana line is relatively mild, for a Camacho, but they still have a nice little kick to them when fresh. The flavor, if memory serves, is basically leather with a dash of black pepper. I like the fresh ones quite a bit.

After smoking through most of this 2002 box I have come to the conclusion that they are well past their prime. They still have a nice aroma — it’s almost like fresh sawdust and mild ginger. But the body has been completely sapped out of these poor seniors, and there’s nothing that Richard Simmons can do about it. No Sweatin’ to the Oldies for these guys.

There is almost no flavor left here. They start out super mild, and at the mid-point they take on a slightly unpleasant burnt rubber flavor, like air from an old tire. The wrapper is still putting out good vibrations, but it has no backup from the filler so I have been pitching them at this point, mostly from boredom.

The Camacho Havana line is normally a punchy smoke, and I would expect that a certain amount of age would mellow it a bit, but obviously six years is a few years past the mark. The aroma is still quite nice, though very subtle, and that’s about all that remains of a once admirable cigar.

I am doing a little research about tobacco chemistry and the aging process and if I can make any sense of some very technical papers I will post my findings here in the near future. Meanwhile, check out Stogie Fresh, where the good Doctor compiles reviews and ratings of many premium cigars at different points in the aging process. Definitely worth a gander if you’re at all curious about cigar aging.