La Palina El Diario

From the times I have listened and talked to La Palina Cigars founder Bill Paley, one thing is clear to me – he has a goal to build the best possible cigars in the market.  Last year, Paley launched La Palina Cigars – resurrecting the brand of  his grandfather Samuel Paley.  The initial launch – the Family Series was embraced by cigar enthusiasts as the cigars in that line are among the most flavorful and complex around.   For his follow-up it’s clear that Paley wanted to provide a high quality smoke that can be enjoyed by cigar enthusiasts on a daily basis.   The end result is the launch of the La Palina El Diario (Diario means “daily”).  After sampling a couple of these from the 2011 IPCPR, there is no question in my mind that the El Diario will be contending for my 2011 Cigar of the Year.

The attractive thing about the El Diario to the end consumer is that this will have a much more affordable price point (I’m hearing somewhere in the $9.00 SRP range).  While this is less expensive than the Family Series, after smoking the El Diario, I felt there was no loss in quality or enjoyment whatsoever.

The El Diario was a winner in my book because of its flavor, strength, and complexity.  Let’s take a closer look at this cigar.  As with all pre-release samples at IPCPR, this will be classified as a “pre-review”.

Blend Profile

One trend that is not getting a lot of press from this year’s IPCPR is a resurgence in Honduran tobacco.  The El Diario leverages a nice share of Honduran tobacco.  The blend has an intriguing mix of Corojo and Criollo.  The El Diario is a collaboration with Alec Bradley and is made out of the Fabrica de Tobacos Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras.

Wrapper: Honduran Corojo ’99 Rosado
Binder: Honduran Criollo ’98 (Double binder)
Filler: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98

Vitolas Available

The La Palina El Diario is available in five classic vitolas.

Churchill:  7 x 50
Torpedo:  6 1/8 x 52
Gordo: 6 x 58
Toro: 6 x 50
Robusto: 5 x 52

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience I sampled the Robusto.  I opted for a straight cut into the cap of the cigar.  When I performed the pre-light draw, I was treated to some complexity right out of the gate.   The initial dry draw flavors were coffee with hints of caramel sweetness and pepper. This was definitely a very enjoyable pre-light draw.  I was more than excited to fire up this cigar and see what the next steps would be.

Flavor Profile

After lighting the La Palina El Diario, there was a quick shot of cedar spice to start out.  The cigar quickly settled into a very interesting mix of coffee, caramel, a hint of berry, and what remained from the initial cedar spice shot.  The coffee flavors moved toward the forefront, and the caramel and cedar spice alternated as the secondary flavor.

Around 10 percent into the cigar experience, the cedar spice changed to a cross of a pepper and baker’s spice.  This interesting cross section of spice increased slowly and by about the 25 percent point it became a primary flavor note.  The other flavors of coffee, caramel, and berry were still present.

By the time the La Palina El Diario moved into the second third, the caramel/berry sweet notes morphed into classic citrus notes.  While the coffee notes were still present, the citrus sweetness complemented the pepper/baker’s spice notes giving this cigar a whole new spin – and it wasn’t even halfway through the smoke.

Sure enough as the cigar experience crossed the halfway point – there would be another twist. This time the coffee notes morphed into more of a classic chocolate.  These notes meshed real nice with the citrus notes and pepper/baker’s spice.  The twists and turns of this cigar just were amazing.

In the last third, I saw the introduction of cinnamon notes added to all of the other flavors above.  As the cigar experience came to a close the flavors were robust right until the end.  There was no harshness as I got a nice cool and firm nub.

Burn and Draw

The El Diario burned at a perfect rate and perfect temperature.   The burn did require a few touch-ups on this sample, but this was an IPCPR sample.   As you can see from the picture below, the burn was still solid. Overall, this wasn’t a constant struggle to keep the burn straight.  The draw was flawless – it made this cigar a true joy to smoke.

La Palina El Diario

Strength and Body

When Paley released the Family Series, the cigar was a magnificent case study for showcasing a flavorful cigar that doesn’t need to be a nicotine bomb.   The interesting thing is that with the El Diario, Paley takes the strength up a notch – into the medium to full range.  The El Diario also takes it up a notch with body.  While the Family Series did a great job balancing flavor with a medium-bodied smoke, the El Diario showcases what can be done with a full-bodied smoke.   The balance of the stronger strength and deeper body works perfectly with the El Diario.  Best of all, this now attracts the La Palina brand to those cigar enthusiasts that prefer something fuller in strength and body.

Final Thoughts

I smoked two of the El Diarios thus far.  This review captures my experience with the second.   In both cases, I was amazed as the flavor and complexity of a cigar.   The flavor variations and transitions are exactly what should make up a “highly complex” cigar.   While I do think this is a cigar that will be more appreciated by the experienced cigar enthusiast, I still would give this to a novice enthusiast looking to experience something more complex and fuller.  Without a doubt when 2011 comes to a close, the El Diario will be one of the year’s best.


Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: High
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Full

Source: This samples were received at the 2011 IPCPR Trade Show.  These samples were initiated by La Palina Cigars in order to provide feedback.   I am appreciative for the sample, but in no way does this influence this review.

Note: All samples received from the 2011 IPCPR Trade Show will be included in my “2011 IPCPR Series”