Ernesto Padilla and Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia were like rice and beans for cigar smokers only a couple years ago. They were almost inseparable. But in 2008 they parted ways for a number of reasons: Garcia had too many clients and limited resources, while Padilla wanted more production control. Insisting that this development would not affect the quality of his cigars, Padilla said, “I’m not looking to make something just as good — I’m looking to make something better.” But these cigars were so good that to make something just as good, let alone better, seemed an unlikely possibility.
But today that possiblility has become a reality, at least in my opinion. Padilla is producing some stellar smokes in his new Miami factory, Fabrica de Tabacos Padilla. I’ve been enjoying the “new” Signature 1932 so much that I’d almost forgotten that I had a few of the old Pepin blends in storage. I decided to fire them up for this comparison review.
Both the old and the new 1932 cigars are Nicaraguan puros with similar compositions: corojo wrappers with criollo binder and filler blends. It is important to note that the old and new blends both use tobacco from the same fields in Nicaragua, so there is bound to be a close similarity between them.
Padilla Signature 1932 Robusto — New Blend (2009)
The wrapper on this robusto is rough and a little ruddier than the old version. A few nicks mar the surface here and there, but the roll is solid and the triple cap is just about perfect. After clipping the somewhat rounded head, the draw is very good. Once lit, the cigar burns slowly and deliberately, requiring some attention to keep it even and prevent it from going out. The salt and pepper ash is a little bit crumbly.
Overall good construction.
I am immediately struck by the similarity between the new 1932 and the old one, but the new one doesn’t seem quite as bold. It’s smoother than the old blend, especially when the old blend was fresh. That characteristically earthy flavor is present in the opening salvo, along with complimentary bean flavors — sometimes coffee, sometimes cocoa.
The middle section is bright and woody, reminding me more of Illusione cigars than anything Pepin makes.
There is a little more kick to the last third, some pepper enters the fray and the sweet caramel-tinged aroma has me hanging on every puff. This why I love Nicaraguan corojo. The flavor picks up some char near the band and starts to get a bit sharp after that, but I hang on to it a little longer just to waft the resting smoke under my nose.
Final Score: 90
Padilla Signature 1932 Corona Gorda — Old Blend (2007)
The wrapper on the old Pepin-made 1932 is a little smoother and slightly more attractive than the new version. The roll is dense and perfectly uniform, and the triple cap is predictably superb. As I clipped the cap on this one, my Xikar failed to evenly slice a tough little vein in the binder — a rare flaw that gave my tongue something to worry over as I proceeded to enjoy this cigar for the next hour and change.
The draw is very good and the burn is excellent. The ash is a solid and evenly shaded light gray. Having this one in storage for a couple years may have improved the combustion characteristics of this stick. Regardless of the reasons for this (and despite that annoying little vein) this was still one of the best constructed cigars I’ve smoked this year.
Overall Superb Construction.
Aging this cigar for two years has moderated the flavor somewhat, but it still has plenty to offer. When fresh, this cigar had a lot more of the tannin that is typical of Pepin Garcia blends, and while that aspect is certainly front and center in the first third of the smoke, it is now relatively subdued. In addition to that mildly astringent quality, there is a delicious dose of cocoa and a smattering of white pepper.
The middle section of the cigar seems to be earthier, a little more Cubanesque, with a pleasantly spicy cedar aroma. The tannins have dropped off, but the finish is still quite dry.
The last third transitions to leathery flavors and pours on the peppery spice. The aftertaste is earthy and sharp. Towards the band the flavors muddy but the aroma never quits. I tried to keep this one going as long as I could just to enjoy the resting smoke.
Final Score: 93
Both of these cigars were excellent, two of the best blends I’ve smoked this year. They’re quite similar in style but I would be shocked if they were the exact same blend. The old version is typical of El Rey de Los Habanos — tannic, peppery, and complex — while the new version is brighter, and it has a sweet woody flavor that reminds me more of Illusione than anything Pepin makes. Taking into consideration the fact that I was comparing two different sizes — the new robusto versus the old corona gorda — plus the fact that the old one had two years of age, I would give the edge to the older ’32 based on construction alone. My scorecard had them even in the taste department — the new blend scored one point higher for overall flavor, but the old one made up for that with a one point edge for balanced complexity. Where the old version pulled ahead was the burn, which was spot on perfect.
You can’t go wrong with either one of these if you dig medium-bodied Nicaraguan puros. The only sticking point with the Padilla 1932 is the price — sadly for us, cigars of this caliber won’t be found in the bargain bin. We’re looking at around 10 to 11 USD for the robusto in either version. If you can find the old blend, snap ’em up. If you can’t, you’ll have found a new friend anyway.
Just be careful to note the difference in the bands — the easiest way to distinguish between the old and new versions is the script. The old version has PADILLA in red block capitals over the 1932, whereas the new version has Padilla in gold script. If purchasing online, be sure to ask first if the version in stock is the old or new one — or don’t, and enjoy the surprise. Either way you can’t lose.
Available from Fumée and Cigarsdirect.
Other Reviews of Note
Fire Up That Cigar compares the old and new Sig ’32s.