Maybe we're giving them more credit than they are due, but we believe those three ushered in a new era of non-Cuban, Cuban-style cigars.
Until then, anything stronger than a Macanudo was touted as Cuban style. For example, to this day, the original Honduran Hoyo de Monterrey is described as "the first true Habana-style cigar made outside of Cuba" on JRcigar.com. Anyone who's ever smoked both will probably agree with us that the non-Cuban Hoyo doesn't look or taste remotely like anything from Cuba.
The same can't be said of the original brown band Tatuaje, or the subject of this review, the Padilla Miami 8&11. While an experienced smoker would never confuse these for Havanas, anyone else could be forgiven for making that mistake. Certainly the construction is top notch, from the triple cap on down. The only thing missing is the otherworldly silkiness that Cuban wrapper leaf seems to solely possess.
As a young cigar, the 8&11 reminded us of a Cuban Partagas Serie D No. 4. The review sample here, dating from early 2006, has taken on even greater complexity. On the surface there's obvious Nicaraguan heritage, but the earthiness is now superficial. Spicy, chocolate notes ride atop a potpourri of tree bark and dried fruit rinds. The finish leaves impressions of marzipan before fading away, leaving the palate feeling cleaner than we remember—much like a real Cuban cigar, in fact. The burn and draw were nearly impeccable.
Sadly, as most folks know, Padilla and Pepin soon split. Factories changed, blends were tweaked, and this particular cigar was never the same again. Today's version doesn't really bear much resemblance in our opinion.
The 8&11 was an expensive cigar back in the zeroes...around $11 at a time when an average robusto cost about half that. But Miami labor isn't cheap, and then there was the added markup of having Ernesto Padilla as your middleman. Still, at the time, this was such a unique smoke that aficionados eagerly paid up. And while Padilla continues to sell fine cigars, we're not sure he's ever made anything better than this. It's beautiful, delicious and a classic example of the genre it helped establish. If you can find one, smoke it.
Beautifully made. Aging has tempered the typical earthiness of its Nicaraguan tobacco, allowing this to blossom into a complex Cuban-esque smoke.