Walk up to the Padrón display in most retail humidors, and you’re likely to see a fairly familiar assortment of cigars, from the company’s Padrón Series to its higher-end 1964 Anniversary Series, Serie 1926, and Family Reserve lines. But you’re not likely to see a cigar with a black band unless that store happens to carry a sampler from Cigar Rights of America (CRA). Either that, or someone is collecting old Padrón releases.

Padrón has been consistently quiet about the line, which has become a bit of a staple in the CRA Freedom Samplers in recent years, appearing regularly since 2019:

The most recent release, the Padrón Black No. 52 was part of Cigar Rights of America’s Spring 2022 Freedom Sampler. CRA uses the sampler as a fundraiser to support its legislative efforts, and it has become a twice-yearly release of 10 cigars from several of the organization’s most ardent supporters, which include Alec Bradley, Arturo Fuente, Ashton, E.P. Carrillo, J.C. Newman, La Flor Dominicana, My Father, Oliva, Rocky Patel and Tatuaje.

In particular, the Spring 2022 sampler includes:

The MSRP is set at $149 per sampler. While previous CRA Freedom Samplers have included a one-year membership to Cigar Rights of America, this version does not as CRA is revamping its consumer membership program.

Also, not every cigar is included in every sampler; while eight of the 10 slots are occupied by a certain cigar, two slots have two options. In one case, Ashton is contributing one of two La Aroma de Cuba blends, while the other is filled by this cigar or a God of Fire Serie Aniversario 56, a cigar made by Arturo Fuente for Prometheus.

There were a total of 6,000 samplers produced for this release, though it has not been disclosed how many of them contained the Padrón Black No. 52.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Padrón Black No. 52
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Cubanica S.A.
  • Wrapper: Undisclosed
  • Binder: Undisclosed
  • Filler: Undisclosed
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Robusto Extra
  • MSRP: $14.90 (Samplers of 10, $149)
  • Release Date: June 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

While Padrón has not released any details about the cigar, it feels like a robusto extra, and my measurements put it at 5 1/2 inches long with a ring gauge that seems like a 50 but could be a 52. The cigar has a roll that I feel inclined to call imperfect, as the foot looks like it has gotten a bit of a box press, while the cylinder has wavy spots when viewed horizontally. It doesn’t look like it was rolled without a mold, but it is certainly living up to the term handmade. There is some give to the density of the cigar, something that is far from being a firm cigar yet that I don’t want to call soft, spongey, or anything other than that it just shows some give. The wrapper is a very dark brown, with just a few very small veins but a decent bit of tooth. The aroma from the foot is very interesting, offering a smokey, peppery sensation with a dark cherry sweetness but one that is also lighter than I’d otherwise assume, as it doesn’t have much in the way of earthiness. At its most vibrant, the pepper is fantastic as it embraces seemingly every smell receptor in my nose, almost the way a high-proof Scotch does. Air moves very easily, not completely wide open but a tick or two more loosely than what I would consider ideal. The flavor is much less complex, offering a bit of potting soil and creaminess, with little in the way of richness, pepper or sweetness, but it is fairly smooth and approachable.

The Padrón Black No. 52 doesn’t quite start like either the cold draw or pre-light aroma would have suggested; there’s a bit of earthiness, some dry wood that provides a bit of edge to the profile, and a bit of black pepper providing some tingle to the taste buds. At its most intense it can become rough, sharp and a bit grating on the tongue; thankfully that experience is limited to just one sample. While I don’t get to smoke a lot of Padrón’s portfolio, it’s not long after I get into the Black blend that I’m reminded that this blend is a bit more robust than what I think the others offer. The black pepper has a bit of a warming sensation on my palate, while a bit of rockiness is what drives the tingling sensation. Through the nose, the black pepper is quite vibrant, but it also has a bit of a steak sauce glaze, giving it some complexity. That said, it’s not a retrohale for those not ready to handle a lot of sensation, as I really feel it in my nostrils. For the most part, the first third is a very vibrant, taste bud tingling profile that is all business. This section finished out with a bit of very light chalk and lemon-lime soda turning the profile a bit lighter, with one cigar picking up a smoky campfire flavor and aroma that is quite good. The flavor is full, body is medium, and strength is medium. Construction is very good, with the draw just a tick more open that I would like but plenty of smoke and an even burn line.

The introduction of the chalk at the end of the first third has me a bit cautious heading into the second third of the Padrón Black No. 52, as it’s a flavor profile that I’ve never found to be agreeable on my palate. It doesn’t stick around too long or become too dominant in the profile, but I still eagerly await its departure. While the campfire smokiness made a bit of an appearance in the first third, it is back not long into the second third, though the black pepper that is part of the profile sometimes prevents getting a true, unadulterated experience of the campfire aroma I really enjoy. Just past the midway point, it feels like the cigar is upping its strength level, while also making the pepper more of an influence on the flavor profile. Even with the building of pepper, there are some points where the Padrón Black No. 52 seems to take its foot off the gas pedal and cruise a bit, as there are interludes where the profile is rather subdued, at least compared to what it has offered in its most lively expressions, a change that is noticeable by a smooth and tongue-coating creaminess. There’s a bit more wood in the flavor as this section comes to a close, a change that lightens the profile ever so slightly. The flavor finished medium-full, body is medium-plus, and the strength feels like it is now medium-plus and going to be leaving me with a bit of a nicotine buzz. Construction remains very good and completely problem-free as long as I give the cigar puffs at a regular pace.

While I’m certainly aware of the power of suggestion, there is no mistaking that the Padrón Black No. 52 has gotten a good bit stronger in the second half, and each puff I take as the final third gets underway reinforces that change. There seems to be more ligero coming through in the flavor, a hearty, thick flavor of tobacco that has a bit of sweetness to go along with a big of a distilled vegetal note. Once that flavor establishes itself on the palate, there’s a rich earthiness behind that and then black pepper that flirts with a bit of chili pepper heat. Even though it might be hard to recognize because of the strength, some attention reveals this section’s layered complexity of flavors. There tends to be just a bit of sharpness to the flavor in the final inches, and while it’s not as strong as pronounced as what the cigar offered at its start, it does feel like that profile is making a return to close things out. Yet amidst that, some thick, rich flavors still suggest a hearty steak sauce. Construction remains essentially flawless, with the flavor closing out at medium-full, body at medium-full, and strength also at medium-full.

Final Notes

  • Padrón did not disclose details about the cigar, including whether it was a maduro or natural release, but judging by the flavor profile and color of the wrapper, I am about as close to 100 percent certain as I can be that this is the maduro blend.
  • There is another CRA Freedom Sampler planned for the fall.
  • There were a few times when the profile reminded me of an Old Fashioned cocktail made with a very peppery rye, though I think pairing the two might be too much as one would simply be doubling down on the other as opposed to complementing and balancing each other.
  • Previous versions of the Padrón Black series that have been in CRA Freedom Samplers have worn a CRA-themed secondary band as opposed to the company’s secondary band with the serial number on it.
  • On that note, many of the cigars in previous versions of the sampler wore that secondary band, but none in this year’s sampler have them.
  • The black-banded Padrón cigars haven’t been limited to CRA Freedom Samplers. In January 2016, Smoke Inn, the South Florida retailer, celebrated the 90th birthday of José Orlando Padrón, the company’s founder and patriarch, with a pair of cigars named for his previous birthday, the José O. Padrón 89 Birthday Blend Natural and Maduro. Prior to that, the black band had been seen on the Padrón Fumas. Those José O. Padrón 89 cigars were released again in 2018 as an exclusive for the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) retailers.
  • Much like I found in previous iterations of the Padrón Black, there is a good bit of nicotine strength to be found in the No. 52. It’s not the strongest cigar I have ever smoked, but it is one of the strongest in the Padrón portfolio for me, and one that makes me consider having some white sugar to neutralize the effects.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 55 minutes on average.
87 Overall Score

I've generally thought of the Padrón Black blend as one of the company's most dynamic if occasionally unleashed blends, and that was the case here. But the three samples I smoked for this review also offered some interesting spots of complexity that I don't recall in other experiences with it, and has thus improved my opinion of what the Padrón Black blend has to offer. While the strength and pepper will make searching for that complexity a bit more challenging, finding it proves to be quite rewarding, and the fantastic construction and combustion don't offer any extra, unnecessary challenges. If you're looking to experience a different Padrón blend than what you'll find more readily available on store shelves, while also supporting Cigar Rights of America, I certainly recommend picking up one of the Spring 2022 samplers to do so.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.