La Palina is a brand that has some of the most rich history of any brand in the industry. It all goes back to one man, a Ukrainian immigrant by the name of Samuel Paley. Samuel Paley immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s, arriving in Chicago, Illinois. Paley had his first experience with cigars when he acquired a job as a lector in cigar factory. Watching the passion that the blenders and rollers possessed for their craft, Paley began to foster an interest in cigars himself. Shortly thereafter, Sam transitioned the position of a roller, and then onward to a blender.
Sam Paley had higher aspirations however. Eventually Sam opened up factory, alongside an accompanying retail store. The factory was called Congress Cigar Company, and their first product was a line known as none other than La Palina. The name is in honor of Sam Paley’s wife, Goldie.
A number of years after the founding of the company Sam Paley’s son, William S. Paley, joined the company as the Vice President of Marketing after graduating from Wharton School of Business. William had a passion for radio, and sponsored a radio show that they called the “La Palina Hour”. William’s love of radio only grew, and eventually he would go to purchase five radio stations around Philadelphia. This led to the founding of a little thing you may have heard mentioned – Columbia Broadcasting System, or CBS for short. Yes, the same CBS that is now home to the likes of David Letterman, How I Met Your Mother, and many, many more.
Ultimately though, the time arrived for Sam Paley to retire from Congress Cigar Company. CBS had done nothing but grow since its inception, leaving no time for William Paley to take over the company. Congress Cigar Company, and thus the La Palina brand, came to an end in 1926 when the company was liquidated.
For many, many moons La Palina lay dormant. One day however, something sparked to life inside a member in the newest generation of the Paley family. Sam Paley’s grandson, Bill Paley sought to revive the La Palina brand, and embarked on a quest to do so. Cigar manufacturing had been out of the family business for decades at that point however. Bill knew that he would need the help of someone with a current grasp of the industry, and that he would need someone big if he truly wanted to do the La Palina name justice. Enter Avelino Lara, a Cuban Master Blender, famed for being the mastermind behind the Cohiba brand. Avelino was a man who truly lived the cigar life, having been taught the finer points of the craft from his grandfather in his youth. Aside from overseeing production for all Cohiba cigars, Avelino also produced a number of Cuban Davidoff’s and Cuban Trinidad’s
At the time, Avelino was overseeing Enrico Garzioli’s famous boutique factory Graycliff Cigars. While not without hesitance, Garzioli agreed to let Avelino Lara and Bill Paley work together to revive the brand.
Avelino Lara passed away in 2009 at the age of 88. There can be a certain beauty to death; bringing closure to a beautifully lived life that touched the hearts of many. While he is missed by many, ultimately fate will catch up to us all. In Avelino’s case, it’s fair to say his life was of one lived fully, and such is the best a man may strive for. Avelino Lara’s work will live on in both Graycliff and La Palina.
Onward to the review…
Cigar: La Palina Classic
Size: 6×54 Toro
Wrapper: Brazilian Habano
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan
Appearance and Pre-light Aroma:
The La Palina Classic is a very pretty light shade of brown. Numerous veins run throughout the cigars length, giving it a rustic look. The wrapper is finely toothed and has a visible sheen, but isn’t particularly oily.
The foot of the La Palina Classic smells of mild earth and barnyard notes. A soft raisin undertone is deeply set into the bottom of the profile. Additionally, soft notes of oak, butter, and some sort of oriental spice are present.
Out of the gate the La Palina Classic is smooth and creamy, with a healthy dose of nuttiness thrown in the mix. A soft sweetness, similar to that of coffee creamer, makes its way across the palate early on. Some generalized floral notes, with low-intensity pepper going over the palate in the finish. Not the most complex profile I’ve ever smoked, but complexity isn’t always a necessity. As an early morning smoke, as it is for this review, the La Palina Classic serves as a wonderful companion to breakfast and your reading material of choice.
The second third sees an increase in intensity on all fronts – strength, flavor, and body. As well an increase in the overall creaminess of the profile. The body has a tangibly chewy texture to it. A healthy dose of nutmeg in the finish, as well general wood notes, both particularly pronounced in the retrohale. Wood lingers heavily on the palate in the aftertaste. The second third pairs fantastically with a lighter roast coffee.
Final third doesn’t see a whole lot in terms of evolution, but there a few things to note. The profile is still fairly creamy, but the associated sweetness has diminished. The La Palina Classic remains steadfast in the mild-medium category, and nicely balanced. The profile in the final third is defined by woods, nutmeg, and subtle hints of earth. Nothing in the way of bitterness all the way down to the nub.
Burn and Construction:
The La Palina Classic is more or less dead average in both categories. Construction is reasonable, but is rather fragile. It’s real easy to chip the cigar through normal handling. Smoke output was great, but the burn line was more maintenance than desired.
The La Palina classic is subtle and reserved, never straying from its path, nor trying to be something it isn’t. While this may not be the most complex, nor the most ambitious cigar I have ever smoked, what it is is simple – A delightful and creamy smoke that smokes well from start to finish. What the La Palina Classic does it does well, and has enough character and personality to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. If you’re looking for an elegant and classic cigar to compliment your morning coffee then look no further.
3.5 out of 5