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Commentary: José Orlando Padrón, RIP

6 Dec 2017

Yesterday, José Orlando Padrón, scion of the Padrón family of cigar makers, passed away at the age of 91 surrounded by his family. In many ways, his life was the quintessential Cuban-American cigar success story.

Born into a Cuban family with long ties to tobacco, Padrón left Cuba after his family’s farms were taken following the Castro revolution. He eventually ended up in Miami where he worked as a carpenter (using a now famous hammer given to him by a friend) to raise $600, which he used to start making cigars in 1964.

From those modest beginnings he founded a cigar company, now run by his descendants, that is known worldwide for its classic, handmade Nicaraguan cigars. The company moved into Nicaragua long before the country became a powerhouse for cigar making, and weathered the political upheaval of the Sandinista Revolution along the way.

I’ve met his son Jorge, who has run the day-to-day operations of the company for awhile now, but, if I ever met José Orlando Padrón, I don’t remember it. If I did, it was at a cigar trade show where I briefly would have shaken his hand and told him how much I’ve enjoyed his cigars over the years. (Then I probably would have stepped away so the next person in line could shake his hand and tell him the same thing.)

But what’s great about cigars is you needn’t have met a cigar maker to have a personal connection with him/her. My connection with José Orlando Padrón goes back nearly two decades to when I first started smoking cigars.

I don’t remember exactly what my first cigar was, but I’m certain it was either a Padrón or a CAO, probably based on either the recommendation of a cigar shop owner or a rating in Cigar Aficionado. And I can say with confidence I’ve smoked at least one Padrón every year since then, thanks to José Orlando Padrón.

Padrón Cigars makes excellent cigars at all price points. I frequently recommend their classic, affordable regular line to new cigar smokers. Many times, I’ve turned to their more premium cigars (particularly the 1926 line) to celebrate a special occasion.

Over the years, guided by José Orlando Padrón’s leadership, Padrón Cigars has cut its own path. While many companies pushed new releases every year, Padrón focused on its core offerings, often going many years without anything new. The result has been a core offering that hasn’t declined in quality or importance despite minimal changes in over a decade.

Leaders set the tone for the success or failures that follow. José Orlando Padrón undoubtedly set Padrón on its course for success and, in many ways, the successes of the cigar industry as a whole. For that we all owe José Orlando Padrón a debt of gratitude.

Patrick S

photo credit: Padrón Cigars

6 Responses to “Commentary: José Orlando Padrón, RIP”

  1. NM Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    Sad to hear. I bet I smoke a Padrón a day. For my money they simply make the most reliable premium cigar. Thoughts and good vibes to Jorge and family. Sounds like he lived an amazing life.

  2. swede214 Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    Mr. Padron and family, may he rest in peace. He made some great cigars.

  3. AndrewD Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    José Orlando Padrón was more than a mere cigar maker. He was an entrepreneur, a trail-blazer, and clearly someone who wouldn’t let seemingly insurmountable obstacles stand in his way.

    Creating one of the world’s most respected premium cigar companies out of virtually nothing is a success story that’s as unbelievable as it is inspiring.

    Thoughts and prayers to his family.

    And, yes, by the way, Padrón makes wonderful cigars; I have been enjoying them for decades.

  4. Stan Walker Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

    When you say baseball, you think Babe Ruth. You say basketball, you think Michael Jordan. You say cigar, you think Padron.
    How amazing a legacy would that be?
    Well done. He earned his rest.

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