No. 45 Maduro, 6" x 52 ring gauge, $27.10
Jose Orlando Padron started making and selling cigars with his name on them in 1964. He brought the entire family into the business along the way and today Padron is seen as one of the best cigar companies in the world. Amazinling enough, when most companies deal in 7 (LFD), 9 (Perdomo) or even 14 (CAO) lines, Padron has had only 3 until now: the Padron Series, the 1964 Anniversary Series, and the 1926 Serie. In their 45th year in business, they added a fourth line: the Family Reserve (it was also previously produced, but only as a private stock of stogies). The premier cigar in the Family Reserve line is the No. 45, celebrating 45 years in business. (It's also nicknamed "The Hammer" which always leaves me wondering if they are going to put out a Family Reserve line of cigarillos and call them "The Nails" but I digress.) In keeping with the family spirit, each box of the initial release was signed by all members of the family who worked on it. Like all Padrons, all the tobacco contained in this cigar is Nicaraguan; unlike all Padrons some of this leaf has been aged for 10 years.
Beginning at the beginning...this is a flat-out gorgeous cigar. The box press is perfect. The veins are seen, but smooth to the touch. The leaf feels oily and velvety. The bands are unique, yet familiar, adding the "little hammer" as part of the design. Because there was no cello wrapper, the aroma from the body was somewhat muted--maybe some barnyard, but not much else; the foot's aromas were not much stronger--hints of cocoa and more barnyard. The prelight draw was excellent and featured flavors of chocolate and coffee.
On initial light-up, I got strong coffee and black pepper components along with a cedary retrohale. This was one wonderfully complex stick from the get-go, too. I could taste flavors of cocoa powder, roasted nuts, and dried fruit in the opening minutes. The first third was at times remarkably smooth and other times rather harsh. The flavor was dominated by espresso and a subtle dark chocolate, along with a peppery finish. The burn line was razor straight and the ash held on for over an inch. At this point the body was low in the full-bodied range.
During the second third, this cigar changed rather dramatically to a leathery profile, with coffee diminishing in its influence. There was also a healthy dose of cedar flavor, especially in the retrohale.
In the last third, the No. 45 became more herbal and floral in nature. There were hints of cocoa and some cedar still on the retrohale, but no coffee and no pepper. Overall, this was one of the most complex cigars I can ever remember and it was very enjoyable, although I ended up not liking the end nearly as much as I liked the beginning. It's exorbitant price tag also prevents this from ever being considered anything other than a "special occasion" smoke in my book. It was Cigar Aficionado's #1 cigar of 2009, but I cannot say that I agree with that assessment, especially in light of its price of admission. In the end a great smoke, but not an all-time classic.