Last month, the newest version of the Cigar Rights of America Freedom Sampler began shipping to retailers, although the release was quite a bit more widespread than originally planned.

As it has since it debuted in 2009, the 2020 sampler is made up of 10 cigars from a number of the industry’s most prominent names, most of whom are part of the CRA’s board. While the specific blends and vitolas have changed over the years, one thing has remained the same: proceeds from the sale of the sampler helps to fund CRA’s legal defense fund in an effort to push back against the regulation of premium cigars.

When it was announced in mid-October, the 2020 sampler was supposedly going to be sold exclusively through Holt’s Cigar Co.—whose head Robert Levin is also the chair of the CRA board—but those plans were scrapped, resulting in multiple stores advertising them on their websites after the samplers began shipping in mid-November.

  • Alec Bradley Mundial PL #56
  • Oliva Serie V Melanio Diadema
  • La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull
  • Tatuaje Great Pumpkin
  • Diamond Crown MAXIMUS Toro No. 4
  • Fuente Fuente OpusX Angel’s Share Perfecxion X or OpusX 20 Yeards Believe
  • My Father Le Bijou 1922 Box-Pressed Robusto
  • Padrón Black No. 200
  • Rocky Patel ALR Second Edition Toro
  • Ashton VSG Torpedo or San Cristobal Ovation Opulence

There are three new cigars in the newest version of the sampler: the Tatuaje Great Pumpkin, a 6 x 52 belicoso version of a cigar that has primarily been used for event-only releases and a new 5 3/4 x 52 box-pressed robusto vitola My Father’s Le Bijou 1922 line.

Then there is the subject of today’s review is the Padrón Black No. 200. Although blend details for the Padrón Black have not been disclosed, the No. 200 size is the same 5 1/2 x 56 robusto gordo vitola that was included in the 2019 CRA Sampler. The difference for 2020 is that the wrapper appears to be a Natural version, while last year’s cigar appears to be the Maduro.

The cigar bears a black band that has been seen a few times in the past. A version of that band adorned the unheralded Padrón Fumas that were by the company many years ago and it was used again in 2016 for the José O. Padrón 89 Birthday Blend Natural and Maduro releases. That band was seen again last year when the company included as an exclusive release to the members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) in the same 6 x 46 vitola and in natural and maduro options. It was then used for the aforementioned debut of the Black No. 200 last year. Padrón has never confirmed that the José O. Padrón blend is the same as the Padrón Black that it shares bands with. In fact, the company’s website doesn’t even list either cigar.

Suggested retail pricing for the 2020 Cigar Rights of America Freedom Sampler has been set at $200 per sampler, though online retailers have been offering it for as low as $129.95. Each sampler comes in a humidified bag with a Boveda pouch and includes a one-year membership to CRA. A total of 6,000 samplers are being released.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Padrón Black No. 200 (2020)
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Cubanica S.A.
  • Wrapper: Undisclosed
  • Binder: Undisclosed
  • Filler: Undisclosed
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 56
  • Vitola: Robusto Gordo
  • MSRP: $17.50 (Samplers of 10, $175)*
  • Release Date: Nov. 19, 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The list price of the sampler is $200 but that includes a CRA membership, which is valued at $25.

From a visual perspective, the Padrón Black No. 200 Natural is covered in a milk chocolate wrapper that is fairly smooth to the touch and features very little oil. All three samples have a slight box press, but one sample features two soft spots: one just below the secondary band and one about three-quarters of an inch from the foot. The aroma from the wrapper and foot is a combination of pungent earth, almonds, manure, barnyard, hay, cedar, pepper and a slight maple sweetness, while the cold draw brings flavors of creamy almonds, tree leaves, cedar, campfire, cocoa nibs and black pepper with some indeterminate sweetness thrown in.

Once the foot of the Black No. 200 was lit, the flavors show up in force, led by a dominant combination of earth and dark chocolate on the palate. Lesser notes of espresso beans, leather tack, charred meat, hay and sawdust flit in and out, while a significant amount of spice on my lips dies down just a bit as the first third starts to wane. There is also quite a bit of black pepper present on the retrohale that plays well with some slight maple sweetness, the latter of which does not seem to be getting stronger anytime soon. Although I cut just a little off the cap, the draw is a bit looser than I would like—albeit still well within normal limits—but the burn is excellent so far, and there no lack of thick white smoke pouring from the foot. The overall strength is obvious but not overly aggressive so far, ending the first third well on its way to medium.

The second third of the Padrón Black is quite similar to the first third, at least when it comes to flavors in the profile: those include the same dominant flavors of both cocoa nibs and earth, followed by notes of creamy almonds, popcorn, cinnamon, espresso beans, hay and some very slight floral flavors. Although I expected the spice on my lips to dissipate, it has actually increases slightly, while the amount of both the black pepper and maple sweetness on the retrohale has not changed noticeably. Construction-wise, the burn continues to impress and the draw remains a bit loose for me, but the smoke production is still extremely copious and does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. In terms of strength, the Padrón has increased noticeably easily passing the medium mark by the end of the second third.

Unfortunately, there is just not much change in the profile of the Padrón Black No. 200 during the final third, as the gritty earth and cocoa nibs combination easily continues their dominance. Secondary flavors of creamy hay, almonds, leather, espresso beans, vegetal and a very small amount of charred meat fight for space in the profile, while the black pepper and maple sweetness remain about the same level on the retrohale. In addition, there is also little change in the construction, as the burn continues along its excellent path while the draw is decent enough to not give me any major issues. The one major change in the final third is the strength, which becomes extremely aggressive by the end of the cigar, easily hitting a point just north of full right before I put the nub down with a bit less than an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • My first thought when seeing this specific black band on a Padrón is always the short filler fumas that the company made more than 15 years ago. Unfortunately, I believe they were discontinued around 2006 and I have been unable to find any no matter how hard I search.
  • I have always loved how Padrón includes individualized serial numbers for each cigar in quite a few of its higher-end releases, although I do wonder how much it actually helps counterfeiting and the like in the long run. Having said that, there are times that those individualized numbers are not included, as was the case with the Black No. 200 in last year’s CRA Sampler.

  • Speaking of last year’s sampler, eight of the cigars included in 2019 featured secondary bands bearing the CRA logo; this year, only the La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull and Alec Bradley Mundial PL #56 do.
  • I have started cutting very little of the cap off of cigars with ring gauges above 54 or so to make sure that the draw is not too loose before proceeding with a deeper cut, and in the case of these cigars I am glad I did. Even with the small amount I took off the draw was looser than I would like—albeit easily smokable—but if I had taken any more off, I think it would have led to a less favorable conclusion. Having said that, the burn was excellent for all three cigars I smoked, with only one sample needing a touch-up.
  • This is one of those cigars that I will put away to do a redux review on at some point in the past to see if some age will serve to tame down the strength that really affected the profile in the final third.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 51 minutes.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the 2020 CRA Freedom Sampler, site sponsors Cigar Hustler and Corona Cigar Co. have them in stock now.
88 Overall Score

I have stated multiple times in the past that Padrón makes some of the most consistent cigars on the planet—including the 1964 Exclusivo that happens to be one of my top 10 cigars of all time—and although the Black No. 200 is a very good cigar, it is just not in that league. While the profile is very enjoyable—albeit fairly linear—and the construction is some of the best I have experienced in the past few months, the building strength finally becomes a bit overwhelming in the final third, which throws off the balance in a fairly significant way. In the end, while the first two thirds are a nice example of what Padrón can produce, the ramp up in strength in the final third had a major impact on my overall enjoyment of this blend, and it is just not that hard to find multiple examples of a more balanced and more complex cigar from the Nicaraguan company.

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.