La Palina Alison (Sorry for bad lighting)

The race for Cigar of the Year just got that much tighter.

No doubt, 2010 has been a highly competitive year for cigars.  And just when I thought things were settling down, along comes La Palina to throw a monkey-wrench into things.    I happened to stumble on this stick at an event at Commonwealth Cigar Club in Roanoke Virginia (upstairs from Milan Tobacco).   Long story short, I happened to be at Milan attending an event for the A.Turrent Triple Play (another outstanding cigar and yes Alejandro Turrent was there in person).   While I was three, I happened to run into Glynn Loope – the Executive Director of the Cigar Rights of America.  I’ll put a follow-up post on this meeting with Glynn (who I consider a true American hero).   Glynn invited me upstairs to Commonwealth to check out the La Palina event.  In attendance was the master behind La Palina, Bill Paley.

The story of La Palina is a fascinating one.  Bill Paley explained the story at the event.   You can read the details of the story on the web-site in detail.  In a nutshell, Bill’s grandfather Samuel Paley owned a cigar store in Chicago where he made the La Palina Cigar.    Bill’s father, William S Paley worked for Samuel and was involved in radio marketing.  Working along side his father, William managed to sponsor a show called the “La Palina Hour” and was a true pioneer in the concept of sponsorship.   William eventually went on to purchase radio stations which would be the formation of Columbia Broadcasting System – aka CBS.  Meanwhile Sam retired and thus retired the La Palina Cigar.   Several years ago, William’s son Bill was soon intrigued with bringing back a piece of family history and began a journey that would ultimately lead to the restoration of the La Palina Cigars.    Bill has teamed up with the folks at Greycliff Cigars to produce this stick in the Bahamas.

The La Palina line consists of two main brands.  I’m going to outline all here and then post some of the differences.  The web-site has a more detailed description.   There are some better pictures here (than the poor lighting one I’ve posted – I didn’t have my camera prepared when I had this)

La Palina Limited Edition 1896

Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Costa Rica
Filler: Honduras and Nicaragua

Size: Robusto: 4.75 x 52

La Palina Family Line

Wrapper: Ecuador or Costa Rica
Binder: Costa Rica
Filler: Honduras and Nicaragua

Sizes:  Each size is named after a member of the Paley family.  Depending on the size of the La Palina Family line is what the wrapper is dependant on.   So here are the sizes and the associated wrappers:

Costa Rica

  • Pasha (named for William S Paley): 7 1/4 x 50 – contains a “shaggy” foot on a Churchill size stick
  • Babe (named for Bill Paley’s mother Barbara “Babe”):  5 1/4 x 50 – this is a Robusto


  • Alison (named for Bill Paley’s wife): 6 x 52 – this is a Torpedo
  • Little Bill (named for Bill Paley): 4 1/4 x 52- this is a Perfecto

The wrappers give the cigars a different body.  The Ecuadorian wrapper sticks are much more on the medium body range, while the Costa Rican wrappers are on the mild to medium body.  For this review, I have selected the La Palina Alison.

As you can see from the composition of each stick in the line, these do bring some uniqueness to the table.  The good news is after smoking the La Palina Alison, that the experience backed up the uniqueness.

Upon lighting the smoke, I got a smooth and sweet start to this stick.   Definitely a stick as far as medium strength goes, as it will know overpower you.   Most of the sweetness I picked up was a more nutty profile.  There also were tones of cedar spice.   As the cigar progressed through the first third, the nutty taste got more pronounced.   It was hard for me to determine what type of but, but somehow “Cashew” comes into my head (but don’t hold me to that).

By the midway point, the nut and cedar tones diminish somewhat and are replaced by almost a “fruit and cream” taste.  Definitely some strong blackberry-like notes mixed with cream (and again, the nut and cedar not totally gone).   This stays until the last quarter of the cigar, where I began to pick up some herbal tones.   With the blackberry and herbal tones, you might think this tasted like an infused cigar – but it didn’t.  It had a wonderful natural feel to it throughout the smoke.

Throughout the stick the strength was pretty much medium (and I would put it at the lower end of medium strength).   Same with the body (but I would put this on the upper end of the medium body range due to some of the great flavors).  The finish to my stick was a little soft, but it did burn cool and I got a great nub from it  The draw was flawless.   The burn did get uneven a  few times.

The La Palina sticks are not cheap.  You are looking at about $20.00 (give or take a few bucks) for any stick in the line.   Seasoned cigar smokers might feel this is a high priced point for something that isn’t in the full-bodied range.  However, the unique flavors and overall enjoyment experience more justify the price.  Without question, this is clearly going to be in my Cigar of the Year running.  The Alison is definitely a stick I would definitely splurge for.

Finally I cannot say enough about Bill Paley.  What a terrific guy to talk to.  Glynn Loope called him “one of the rising stars in the Cigar Industry” as he introduced him at the event.  I couldn’t agree more.

Sorry for bad lighting – Bill Paley (L), Glynn Loope (C), Cigar Coop (R)

Strength: Medium
Body: Medium
Assessment: Memorable