Padilla Reserva: Habano v. Maduro

Padilla Reserva

Every garden needs weeding, and perfectly healthy trees need a trim now and again. So it was with Padilla Cigars a few years ago, when Ernesto Padilla restructured his company. It seemed like the catalog companies were unearthing forgotten troves of Padillas on a monthly basis. They were good cigars selling at a nice price — but they went largely unappreciated (except by the bargain hunters) and were finally closed out. (Some are still in the process, so get ’em while you can.)

Today the Padilla portfolio is lean and mean, with only a few top-tier blends in circulation. One of them is the Padilla Reserva, available in two wrappers: Habano and Maduro.  Both cigars are made for Padilla by Tabacalera Oliva in Esteli, Nicaragua. The Habano features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with binder and filler leaves from the Oliva farms in Condega and the Jalapa Valley. The Maduro swaps out the natural capa for an oily San Andres maduro.  Both variations were introduced in 2012 and are produced in four sizes:

  • 4 x 60 – Short Robusto
  • 5 3/4 x 50 – Toro
  • 6 x 54 – Torpedo
  • 5 3/4 x 60 – Double Toro

I smoked both Habano and Maduro cigars for this review, just to contrast and compare, both in the Toro size.

Padilla Reserva habano

Construction Notes

Both cigars were very well made, though they shared a common flaw: a tight draw. The draw on the Habano was firm, but productive, while the Maduro was on the uncomfortably tight side for the first two inches and then opened up a bit. Both are nice looking smokes. I generally don’t care about band design, but  the Padilla band exudes class.

The Ecuadorian leaf on the Habano is a gorgeous milk-chocolate brown, smooth with a slight sheen. The Maduro is matte black with little variation in color. It’s a little bit rustic with its lumpy round head, but that’s the nature of maduro. Both cigars burned very well, especially the Habano. “Razor sharp burn” is a cliche to which I occasionally fall prey, but in the case of the Habano it was no hyperbole.

Overall construction: Very good, with some slight hesitation about the draw.

Tasting Notes

The Habano Reserva focuses on cedar and cocoa, while the Maduro tastes a little richer — think pine rather than cedar, combined with the dark chocolate flavors typical of San Andres maduro. A tannic dryness is apparent in both, a slight astringency that wanes as the cigar burns.

The Habano is the more complex of the two — the aroma is sweet and spicy, assertive like a good perfume, but not overwhelming. The cedar gradually fades into the background as an earthy note takes over, accented by mint. The finish is lengthy and the aftertaste spicy.Padilla Reserva Maduro

The Maduro starts out with a heavy, almost resinous pine which is slightly harsh on the tongue. It mellows out though as the pine turns to cedar with occasional spikes of bittersweet baker’s chocolate. It bangs this drum all the way to the end, making it somewhat one-dimensional, though still tasty. The aftertaste is tannic, with some black pepper toward the band.

In both cases the smoke texture is medium in body, though the Maduro is a bit thicker, and both are about medium in strength.

Conclusion

The Padilla Reserva is a top tier cigar in both the Habano and the Maduro incarnations, but the Habano is the more complex and interesting smoke. The Maduro is a decent cigar, but I might be just as happy with a musty old St. Luis Rey Serie G for half the price if those are the flavors I’m after.  Both cigars ring in at around $8 USD for the toro size, but I would only be willing to pay that again for the Habano.

Bear in mind that my assessment is based on one cigar only in each wrapper, and was perhaps skewed by the Habano’s utterly perfect construction.

Padilla Reserva 3

 

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Padilla Artemis

Padilla’s Artemis series is the first box pressed cigar for Padilla, but just about everything else about it is quite familiar — it’s a Nicaraguan puro utilizing Aganorsa tobacco, and it’s made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras. Those are enticing details, and enough to get my salivary glands going.

Artemis uses Cuban-seed criollo and corojo from Nicaragua’s now-famous Aganorsa company, a tobacco grower affiliated with Casa Fernandez cigars. The line was originally released in 2011 as a brick-and-mortar exclusive, but it now appears to be available online as well.

It looks like the lion from the Dominus line has clawed its way to the top of the advertising department and has been declared the company’s icon. It now appears on the bands for Padilla’s Miami and 1932 lines as well, bringing some needed consistency to the brand’s presentation. (I was always fond of the fountain pen nib on the bands of some of the older blends, but there is something to be said for a single and recognizable emblem.)

Padilla’s Artemis is available in four sizes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 54
  • Torpedo: 6 1/4 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 54
  • Double torpedo: 6 3/4 x 56

Construction Notes

I’m glad I smoked the Artemis in two sizes, the robusto and the double torpedo, because one was simply superior to the other. Both are nice looking sticks, especially the double torpedo. In reality this is a zepellin perfecto, and a big one, with a finely finished head and foot. (The head and the foot are distinguishable only by the placement of the band.)

The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro with a moderate amount of oil. Both sizes had an accessible draw, and the box press didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the performance of the cigar. But I experienced a burn problem with the double torpedo that I didn’t with the robusto, and it wasn’t the irregular burn that is the hallmark of many box-pressed cigars.  This was a more serious problem that affected the taste of the cigar — the wrapper would not burn in sync with the binder and filler, resulting in a flavor that was at first merely tepid, but quickly made it hot, bitter, and unbalanced.

For this reason I’m going to focus on the robusto and not the double torp.

Overall construction: Very good for the robusto; Needs improvement for the double torpedo.

Tasting Notes

If you’re familiar with the Padilla 1932 or some of the cigars from Casa Fernandez you’ll recognize the flavor of Aganorsa tobacco. It’s a little different in the Artemis, but it’s there. The first notes are of leather with some sweetness and a little bite. The aroma is slightly fruity, but also reminiscent of hardwood smoke — something like hickory, perhaps. After a minute or two the pepper begins to build on the palate.

The mid-section is earthy but a little sharp. The flavor isn’t quite as clean as Illusione’s “original document” line, but it has that crisp minerally tang which is Aganorsa’s trademark.

The final inch and a half is rich and powerful in flavor, though the cigar is still medium-to-heavy in both body and strength. The last section bottoms out a little as the spice takes over and edges out the subtle notes on the nose.

Conclusion

Fans of Padilla and Aganorsa leaf will probably enjoy the Artemis, though perhaps not as much as some other blends that employ that particular leaf. The flavors are quite pronounced, and in the robusto were well balanced up to the last third of the cigar.

I was more than a little disappointed in the double torpedo, but I would probably pick up the robusto again at the right price. The right price for me is a little south of the MSRP, which is in the 9 to 10 USD range. To be honest, Padilla has already provided this cigar’s competition in the Padilla 1932, and in that contest the winner goes to the elder blend.

Final Score: 86

Due to a memory error in my camera I lost my cigar-in-progress photos. I know you only come here for the articles, but my apologies anyway. 

Padilla Dominus Robusto

Padilla is best known for his Miami blend and the year-branded lines that were created while Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia was manufacturing his cigars: Signature 1932, Padilla 1948, and the Serie 68. When Pepin withdrew from the partnership in 2009, the brand names stayed. There is some debate about how much the blends really changed at this point — to me they seem very similar but not exactly the same. In any case I think the new ones are just as good, if not better, than the old ones.

Dominus is one of the post-Pepin brands that was released in 2009. The name “Dominus” means master or lord in Latin, which along with the lion on the band seems to indicate that Padilla has not suffered any loss of self-esteem after the Pepin thing. (As he shouldn’t, because his cigars are still among the best Nicaraguan puros on the market.)

The Dominus  line is composed of Cuban seed corojo from the Esteli and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua. The tobacco was harvested in 2007, but is called Corojo 2006 — I’m not sure if that refers to the strain of tobacco or the crop year. The flavors here are clearly Nicaraguan, but I’ll go a bit further out on the limb and say this is Aganorsa — to me, it has that sweet caramel tang that is so characteristic of Aganorsa leaf in Illusione, Casa Fernandez, and the Padilla 32. Whatever it is, it’s good stuff.

Seven sizes are in production:

  • Perla – 4 x40
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 1/8 x 52
  • Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Double Robusto – 5 x 54

Construction Notes

The Dominus robusto has an oily, dark colorado maduro wrapper. It’s ruddy with a few veins, but very rich in appearance. The cap is wound three to four times and set solidly on the head of the cigar. The roll is compact, almost hard to the touch, which results in a firm but still productive draw. The cigar burns evenly and builds a solid dark ash.

Overall construction very good.

Tasting Notes

The robusto opens with pepper, cedar, and a sweetness on the nose that is typical of Aganorsa leaf. It has a caramel-cocoa sweetness to it, with a whiff of hazelnut.

After an inch or so the cigar deepens into leather and the finish lengthens, leaving a peppery aftertaste. It’s bracing, rather than harsh or sharp tasting. The woody notes fade a bit on the palate but the aroma still carries the cedar. At the mid-way point the cigar is medium bodied.

The Dominus grows earthier in its last stage. The woody notes get a little darker, turning from cedar to hard wood with a touch of clove. The sweetness on the nose continues, like caramel spiked coffee. The band, which is fairly large, must be removed to reach the final smokeable inch of the cigar. At this point the potency of the blend is apparent.

Conclusion

The Padilla Dominus is a very tasty smoke with fine construction values. I’m tempted to say it’s a little earthier, and a little more rambunctious than the Signature 1932 and Miami blends. (If palate memory serves, which it may not.) Regardless, I love the dark woody flavor and sweet edge of this tobacco. And it’s nice to start off the year with a hit.

The Dominus is reasonably priced for the quality of the cigar, but it’s still on the high end of the spectrum at around $9 USD for the robusto. At this price it is in competition with several other very good blends in a similar style (Illusione), so we’ll see how it fares over the long run.

Final Score: 91

Other Reviews of Note

Walt and Mike team up on the Dominus for the Stogie Review (and it makes Walt’s Top Ten List for 2010.)

Adam digs the torpedo for Fire Up That Cigar, but he prefers the 1932.

The Perfect Draw gives the robusto a 93.

99 Cigar Guy gets uncharacteristically gushy on the churchill.

Padilla Signature 1932 — Old and New

Padilla32

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)

Construction Notes

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.

Padilla32New

Tasting Notes

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)

Padilla32Old

Construction Notes

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.

Padilla32Old2

Tasting Notes

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

Conclusion

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.

Padilla32bands

Available from Fumée and Cigarsdirect.

Other Reviews of Note

Fire Up That Cigar compares the old and new Sig ’32s.

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.

Padilla 1948 Torpedo

1948.jpg

All of Ernesto Padilla’s year-branded cigars correlate to an event in the life of his father, the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla. The Padilla 1948 was named for the year in which Heberto’s first book of poems, Las Rosas Audaces, was published. Incredibly, he was only 16 years old at the time.

The 1948 follows the success of Padilla’s Signature 1932 — both are blended by Jose “Don Pepín¨ Garcia, though the ’48 is produced in his Esteli, Nicaragua facility rather than in Miami. Four sizes are currently in production: robusto, churchill, lancero and torpedo.

If you know the cigars of Don Pepín, you will immediately recognize the sweet corojo that wraps the ’48. The blend is, as usual, a combination of Nicaraguan criollo and corojo, but for me the wrapper is what seals the deal. While I like what Pepín has done with Connecticut Shade (in the 601 Black and the Cabaiguan Guapo) and maduro (in the Series JJ and the 601 Blue & Green labels) there’s still nothing like this Nicaraguan corojo.

1948-foot.jpg

The wrapper on the 1948 is a natural but dark looking colorado claro; not quite dark enough to reach colorado maduro, but there’s enough red in there to make it darker than the average colorado claro. It’s a little dry looking with significant veining. The foot is a little bit loose, but the rest of the cigar is firmly rolled. The head is flawlessly formed. There appears to be some lighter colored tobaccos, or very fine stems, at the foot; the head reveals the same thing after clipping.

Usually I find the strongest prelight scent to come from the wrapper of a cigar, but not in this case. The wrapper has a mild tobacco smell to it, while the foot has a stronger earthier scent. (Perhaps this is what I should expect from a foot.) There also seems to be something grainy about the scent, sort of like whole grain cereal, which can only mean one thing: this cigar is good for you!

The 1948 torpedo lights easily after a smooth clipping. The draw is good and the burn is mostly even: a little waver here and there, but it corrects itself and needs no supervision.

The first third is typical of most Pepin blends, but a little less aggressive. It starts up sweet and toasty with a touch of pepper on the tongue. Almost immediately the core flavors come to the fore: cocoa, caramel, and black pepper. It’s comparatively mild for a Pepin blend; it’s reminiscent of the Padilla Signature 1932, but not as intense. There is perhaps a little less complexity in the 1948, but it’s still a very engaging smoke.1948c.jpg

Into the second third the pepper dies away and is replaced by a dry woody flavor. The cocoa persists throughout the duration of the cigar, but at this point the aroma also takes on a spicy sweet character. I’m detecting something like cinnamon… maybe. Whatever it is lends delicacy to the aroma without overtaking the basic bean flavors of the smoke.

The last segment of the cigar continues to sing the same sweet beany, mildly spicy refrain. I’m usually not one to nub a cigar, but I like this one well into the band region. And speaking of the band, I should mention there are two on this cigar: the additional one is a counterfeit control label that is discreetly placed below the Padilla band. Whether this is really necessary, I don’t know, but in any case it’s tastefully executed. (pssst… mister. I got them Piddillers you like. 49.99 a box!)

Overall, the Padilla 1948 torpedo turns out to be one of my favorite blends from the master of vanguard Nicaraguan cigars. It’s medium bodied, well constructed, smooth, and oh so tasty. If you’re really into the heavy Tatuajes and 601s, the’48 might not float your boat. On the other hand, if you’ve developed a craving for Pepin’s signature corojo but prefer the lighter side of life, this cigar is for you.

Retail prices ring up in the 8 to 10 USD range, which seems about average for upper echelon cigars these days. (Reasonably priced ones, that is.) It may not be an everyday smoke for the budget minded, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for… and maybe just a little bit more.

-cigarfan