29 Feb 2012
Let me start by saying that Bill Paley’s La Palina Cigars has been a longtime supporter of StogieGuys.com. My colleagues and I pride ourselves on offering honest, trustworthy reviews of cigars, and that’s what I’m going to give you today. But I wanted to mention this at the outset in the interest of full disclosure. Especially since I really, really like this cigar.
Now on to the smoke. La Palina was reborn in early 2010, 84 years after the original company (founded by Bill’s grandfather, Samuel Paley) closed its doors. Bill called the first cigar “1896” to honor the year Samuel founded the Congress Cigar Company. Then, later in 2010, La Palina launched its second blend: the Family Series.
Like 1896 (and unlike El Diario), the Family Series is made at Graycliff’s factory in The Bahamas. Two of the vitolas in this four-size line come with a Costa Rican wrapper—Pasha (7.25 x 50) and Babe (5.25 x 50)—surrounded by a Costa Rican binder and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua. The other two sizes—Alison (6 x 52) and Little Bill (4.5 x 52)—feature the same binder and filler tobaccos wrapped in an Ecuadorian wrapper for “added intensity.”
Alison, according to La Palina’s website, is “dedicated to Bill’s wife, Alison Van Metre Paley, whose support and encouragement have made La Palina’s revival possible.” It is a handsome, toothy torpedo that retails for $22 apiece. Firm to the touch with a beautiful cross-section of tobaccos at the foot, the cold draw is smooth and easy.
After establishing a straight burn, the pre-light aroma of syrup transitions to a profile of leather, dry wood, and a whole assortment of tastes from the spice rack. But trying to identify individual flavors is a bit of a fool’s errand. The torpedo is balanced and nicely complex. You’ll have more fun if you just sit back and enjoy the ride. That ride starts in the full-bodied range and leans in the salty direction. But as the straight burn works its way from the foot and the gray ash builds in volume, the Alison becomes more medium-bodied. Floral notes and hints of sweetness become more pronounced.
My overall assessment of this cigar is that it’s a traditional-tasting smoke that forgoes bells or whistles to deliver a balanced, complex taste. If I pay $22 for a cigar, I expect a whole heck of a lot. You should too. Fortunately, the La Palina Family Series Alison delivers in a big way. Its cost may place it well out of range for my regular rotation, but this is a great special occasion smoke in the same class as the PG 15th Anniversary or some of the finer Cubans on the market. That earns it a rare four and a half stogies out of five.
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