Cigar Review: Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Maduro (Smoke Inn Exclusive)

26 Jun 2017

Earlier this month, I reviewed the Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Natural, the result of an arrangement between Padrón and Smoke Inn whereby the latter has exclusive distribution on one-time release of a vitola that isn’t available elsewhere.

Hermoso is the newest size in the 1964 Anniversary Series, added in 2016. “When Padrón first began toying with their new 1964 Anniversary Hermoso cigar (4 x 56), they first came to us with a more manageable (4 x 50) vitola,” reads the Smoke Inn website, which refers to the 1964 Prototype as “an exclusive pre-release cigar.”

Including Hermoso, Serie 1964 has 12 box-pressed vitolas, each available in either a sun-grown Natural wrapper or a dark Maduro leaf. All of the tobaccos in the Nicaraguan puro are aged for four years. The line was launched in 1994 to commemorate Padrón’s 30th anniversary (there’s also a 1926 Serie that honors the year of José Orlando Padrón’s birth.)

In essence, what the Prototype Maduro offers is the ability to smoke the famed Serie 1964 blend in an otherwise unavailable format (4 x 50). I recently bought a 5-pack for $59.75 ($11.95 per cigar). At the time of this writing, 5-packs and boxes of 20 of both the Natural and Maduro are still available at Smoke Inn.

As you would expect given the pedigree and price, the Prototype Maduro leaves nothing to be desired in terms of appearance. The familiar 1964 double-ring band is very reassuring; it reinforces the only thing that’s “prototype” about this cigar is the format. Everything else—the quality of the tobacco, the craftsmanship of the construction, etc.—should be up to the high Serie 1964 standards.

The exterior leaf is thick and oily with ample tooth and only very thin veins. Once lit, pre-light notes of cocoa and caramel transition to a medium- to full-bodied profile of espresso, dark chocolate, and white pepper spice. The draw is effortless and the smoke production well above average. The flavor might be rich and thick, but the texture is actually light and sweet—almost marshmallow-esque. The sweetness is nicely offset by some salted caramel and cayenne heat, especially in the second half.

Construction is thankfully in line with what we’ve all come to expect from Padrón. Expect a straight burn line that requires no touch-ups and a solid gray ash that holds well off the foot. (In the picture above, I was smoking outside under fairly windy conditions; that said, I smoked five samples for this review, and the other four all burned beautifully.)

As I wrote in my review of the Natural iteration of this cigar, I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone when I say the Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Maduro is a terrific smoke. It’s a compact, concentrated iteration of a blend we all know and love that delivers exactly as expected. For my money, I would give the slight edge to the Maduro, which also earns a very impressive rating of four and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Broadleaf Collection Taino

25 Jun 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The Churchill-sized Taino has always been an underrated vitola in the original Tatuaje Brown Label line. Like the rest of the Broadleaf Collection, this cigar features the same binder and filler but with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The well-constructed cigar sports a profile of espresso, dark chocolate, and light wood spice. I’ve been surprised by the variation in the Broadleaf Collection (some have been excellent; others less so), but this Taino is excellent.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads Le Careme Robusto

24 Jun 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

The Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper on this Crowned Heads offering is so rough and gritty you might think the rollers finished their work with sandpaper. Introduced last year, Le Careme features an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and filler from Nicaragua. (The name, in case you’re wondering, comes from a French chef who pioneered haute cuisine.) It’s a tasty cigar with some sweetness, a bit of spice, and leather. In my hand, the five-inch stick feels smaller than the stated 50-ring gauge, and it tends to burn fast, straight, and with excellent smoke production.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Fratello Announces Navetta, FDA Commissioner Comments on Premium Cigars, Selim Hanono Departs Drew Estate, and More

23 Jun 2017

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 536th in the series.

1) Omar de Frias’ Fratello Cigars is set to debut a new line at next month’s IPCPR Trade Show called Navetta. Navetta means “shuttle” in Italian and is a “dream project” Frias envisioned while he worked at NASA for 12 years. It sports an Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper and will be offered in four sizes with prices ranging from $10.50 to $12.50: Discovery (5 x 50), Endeavor (6.25 x 54), Enterprise (6 x 60), and Atlantis (6.25 x 52). Navetta is expected to ship in September; it is made at the Joya de Nicaragua factory. “Blending Fratello Naveta was special as I wanted to translate the ultimate celebration our men and women of the space program felt after a successful mission,” says Frias. “After being part of over 21 missions, nothing beats the feeling of getting our astronauts home safe to their families. Colleagues of mine would get together and smoke a very special cigar to commemorate the occasion. This very special blend carries the ultimate feeling of innovation, duty, honor and success.”

2) FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb acknowledged the concerns of the premium cigar industry during an exchange with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee meeting on Tuesday. “Whatever we do in this regard is going to need to be science-based,” said Gottlieb. “But we are cognizant of the challenges faced by small businesses.” Gottlieb didn’t go into specifics since there is pending litigation (IPCPR, Cigar Association of America, and Cigar Rights of America filed a joint suit against the FDA last summer; the trial, which has been delayed, is set to begin August 30). But he did indicate the FDA would work to “mitigate unintended consequences” of the regulations should Congress act on proposed legislation to exempt premium cigars.

3) Inside the Industry: As part of a restructuring of Drew Estate’s sales organization, longtime industry veteran Selim Hanono will depart the company. Hanono, vice president of trade shows and events, has been a member of the Drew Estate management team for nearly ten years. “Selim has been a very valuable member of the Drew Estate team and his contributions to our large trade show success have been legendary,” said Drew Estate CEO Glenn Wolfson. “Being the consummate professional he is, Selim will remain on board leading our preparations and execution at IPCPR and we are very appreciative of his undying commitment to quality delivery. His last day at the company will be July 31st.” In a press release, Drew Estate noted the internal restructuring, “along with role redesign and greater decentralized decision-making, is intended to strengthen Drew Estate’s ability to better serve the needs of its customers in each channel of distribution in which it competes.”

4) From the Archives: What is cigar texture? The term often gets thrown around but is rarely defined. In this article, we define the term with the help of some of the foremost experts.

5) Deal of the Week: Here’s a “sleeper sampler” of some good cigars that often fly under the radar. Just $52 lands you the Southern Classic Cucubano, Espinosa Especial No. 5, Particulares Robusto, La Flor Dominicana La Nox, Crowned Heads La Careme Robusto, and CAO Flathead Carb.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Fratello Cigars

Cigar Spirits: Knob Creek 25th Anniversary and Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades Straight Kentucky Bourbons

21 Jun 2017

These days most new bourbons seem to fit into one of two general categories: young bourbons lacking an age statement with a marketing emphasis on boutique craftsmanship, and well-aged bourbons that are highly limited and expensive. Today I try two new limited edition bourbons distinctly in the latter category.

Knob Creek 25th Anniversary celebrates a quarter century since the introduction of Knob Creek, one of the first premium “small batch” bourbons (before that was such a crowded category). Made by Jim Beam, it is a single-barrel offering bottled at cask-strength (120- to 125-proof) and aged 12 to 13 years.

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades is the second Master’s Keep release, a follow-up to a seven-year-old bourbon released in 2015. Decades is a blend of 10- and 20-year-old bourbon.

Tasting Notes

Knob Creek 25th Anniversary ($125)
122-proof (61% ABV), barreled 2/25/2004
Color: Dark mahogany
Nose: Roast corn, vanilla, and cedar
Palate: Praline, cherries, and toasted oak
Finish: Very long with vanilla, allspice, and wood

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades ($150)
104-proof, mix of 10-year-old and 20-year-old bourbon
Color: Deep copper
Nose: Spice cake, raisins, and oak
Palate: Resin, ginger, allspice, and toffee
Finish: Medium in length with clove and malted cereal

Both bourbons are surprisingly similar, with lots of woodsy spice yet enough sweetness to avoid being called over-oaked. Each is very enjoyable neat, as neither has too much heat (particularly impressive for the 122-proof Knob Creek).

Both feature a combination of finesse and full flavor that pairs well with almost any cigar. For the Knob Creek 25th Anniversary, I’d particularly suggest a rich Broadleaf cigar like the Mi Querida or Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial. For the Wild Turkey Decades, try a balanced yet full-flavored cigar like the Davidoff Nicaragua or RoMaCraft Aquitaine.

The price of each bourbon is the biggest downside, especially considering the excellent bourbons each company makes at far lower prices (Rare Breed and Russell’s Reserve from Wild Turkey, and the regular Knob Creek Single Barrel or Booker’s from Beam). These are bourbons I’d suggest you try first at a bar before splurging for a bottle. Still, for fans of Wild Turkey and Knob Creek, respectively, Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades and Knob Creek 25th Anniversary keep the character of their younger brethren while showing off the depth of flavor that extra aging and expert barrel selection can achieve.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Don’t Get Slammed on the New-Release Treadmill

19 Jun 2017

[Editors’ Note: The following article was first published at in May 2015, though the advice it contains is as sound now as it was two years ago. It is reprinted today in anticipation of the fast-approaching 2017 IPCPR Trade Show.]

Cigar Shop

One of the great things about cigars is the incredible choice available. Unfortunately, it’s one of the not-so-great things as well.

Every day seems to bring news of a new release, a limited edition, a store special—or, more likely, several of each. One email I received recently touted five new limited cigars. As we approach the annual summer trade show, the stream of new announcements will almost certainly become a flood.

A dedicated cigar lover could go crazy, and broke, trying to keep up.

I suggest you don’t. Go crazy or broke, that is.

Now, I’m not recommending you forgo new cigars. Far from it. I’m just advocating a little thought and preparation to maximize the enjoyment potential of the purchases you do make.

First, remember that selling cigars is not like selling most other consumables. The premium cigar market is small and barely growing, if at all. A large percentage of cigar smokers have only a handful of sticks a week and rarely venture beyond a few brands.

Two companies—Altadis and General—dominate the market; add in a few other big players like Padrón, Fuente, and Rocky Patel, and you see why smaller manufacturers face a tough battle. They’re fighting for a thin slice of a not-so-big pie.

For many of those small manufacturers, social media has had a huge impact. Even though the cigar digerati is a relatively small subset of the market, it’s a vocal and influential component. Generating buzz and producing the next hot stick can make the difference between being a success and an also-ran. All of which leads to more releases, more limited editions, more store exclusives, and on and on.

Here are three thoughts to help you evaluate your purchases:

1) Pay attention to the manufacturers you really like. As any regular reader knows, I am a big fan of Aging Room cigars. Their blends just about always appeal to my taste. I’ve even gone so far as to violate a basic rule of cigar purchases by buying a box of a new offering before I’d tried one. Other favorites, like Fuente and My Father, also always get a close look from me.

2) Pay attention to tobaccos. Think about those you like and those you don’t. This can be tricky, I’ll be the first to admit. For example, I generally dislike San Andrés. But there are some using it, like E.P. Carrillo’s La Historia, that I think are terrific. Still, given the choice between a new smoke featuring that Mexican leaf and one that doesn’t, I’ll usually pick the cigar without it. Similarly, recognizing tobaccos you usually enjoy can be a deciding factor.

3) Look at the manufacturer’s output. Some companies put out so many new cigars, it is difficult to believe they all can be special. On the other hand, when someone like Padrón puts a new smoke on the market, it is worthy of special notice.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Lost & Found El Suavesito

18 Jun 2017

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Lost & Found Cigars, formerly known as Impromptu, is a testament to the difference marketing can make, since someone else couldn’t sell the cigars in a previous form. The company releases small batches of well-aged cigars that were “lost” then “found” in the aging rooms of various factories, under a catchy, off-beat name with corresponding art. One of two recent releases, El Suavesito ($7.50) is a 2010 vintage corona gorda made with Dominican Piloto Cubano, Criollo ’98, and Nicaraguan Habano tobaccos. The firmly-constructed cigar features a greenish-brown wrapper and an uneven burn. Flavors are dominated by cedary spice, though there are also musty notes and black pepper. Some Lost & Found smokes have impressed me quite a bit, but El Suavasito isn’t one of them.

Verdict = Sell.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys