This morning, one of the most beloved and respected names in cigar history—José Orlando Padrón—has died at the age of 91. His passing was said to be peaceful and of natural causes.

José is best known for crafting the acclaimed Padrón Cigars brand, using hard work and the inspiration afforded by a hammer he was gifted after emigrating from his home of Pinar del Río, Cuba. Living in Miami, José used the hammer to earn a living as a carpenter, eventually saving enough to open his own cigar shop in Miami in 1964.

José’s original outfit employed a single roller and offered 25¢ cigars for the local Cuban-populated neighborhood. In 1967, Padrón began incorporating Nicaraguan tobacco into the product, eventually leading to a dedicated factory in Nicaragua in 1970. Padrón Cigars gained in quality over the years, and when the U.S. ended a trade embargo against Nicaragua in 1990, the company was poised to capitalize on the public’s newfound interest in the Central American tobacco. This materialized in the form of Padrón’s 1964 Anniversary Series—Padrón’s first ultra-premium release—which was introduced in 1994 to commemorate the company’s 30th anniversary.

The Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series was later followed by the Padrón 1926 Serie (released in 2002 to celebrate José’s 75th birthday), Padrón Family Reserve (a cigar that celebrated birthdays/anniversaries with each new size), Padrón 50th Anniversary (a limited edition humidor release in 2014), and most recently, an ultra-limited blend to celebrate José’s 89th/90th birthdays—Padron No. 89.

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José’s story includes more than cigars though, such as ventures to meet with Fidel Castro in order to arrange the release of political prisoners in Cuba. José and the Padrón family also faced multiple attacks on the company’s Miami headquarters, as well as wars in Central America that caused the Padrón factory to move from Nicaragua to Honduras and back.

Today’s news comes only one month after Padrón Cigars began offering Memorable Moments in My Life by José O. Padrón, an autobiography that was introduced at this summer’s IPCPR show that details much more than José’s cigar experiences.

Photo Credit: Padrón Cigars
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