Today, José Orlando Padrón is celebrating his 90th birthday. Cigars & Leisure is joining in the momentous occasion with an exclusive interview with José Orlando Padrón to discuss how he went from Cuban refugee to being a leader of one of the world’s top premium cigar brands.
Cigars & Leisure: On June 10 you’ll be celebrating your birthday. What are your plans and thoughts about turning the big 9-0 this year?
José Orlando Padrón: I hope to spend my 90th birthday with my dear family, feeling the satisfaction that the Padrón Cigars customers all around the world will be enjoying the cigars that we make.
What inspired you to start your own cigar brand?
I always longed for the flavor and the taste of the cigars that I learned to smoke and love in my native Cuba. Since I could not find that in cigars available in Miami, I decided to make my own. After experimenting with several tobaccos from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, I found that the tobacco from Nicaragua was like the tobacco from Cuba. I called Nicaragua “the second Cuba” when I tasted the Nicaraguan tobacco in the late 1960s, when nobody knew much about it. I was the first cigar manufacturer in the U.S. that identified the great quality of Nicaraguan tobacco and purchased the first shipment of it for cigars that arrived in the U.S.
What’s the best piece of advice you yourself have been given that you want to pass on to others?
The best advice I received and followed was from my grandfather, who once told me to never mix politics and business. I followed that piece of advice when President Somoza of Nicaragua invited me to be his partner to found a cigar company in Nicaragua. I declined the offer but continued to give them advice, and thus he was able to found his factory Joya de Nicaragua that later on was taken away by the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Had I partnered with him and gotten into politics in Nicaragua, the Sandinista government would have taken away everything. My factory in Nicaragua was the only factory that survived the civil war in Nicaragua and the Sandinista years.
To learn more about Padrón Cigars, visit padron.com.