- Vitola: Toro
- 6” x 50 ring gauge
- MSRP $10.99
- Provided by La Palina Cigars
In 2016, La Palina released its first TAA-exclusive cigar, a stick that was at that time being called “Bill’s Blend,” after La Palina owner, Bill Paley. The Tobacconist Association of America is a group of about 70 to 80 retailers nationwide that meet once a year for discussions about the industry and business, as well as hold their own mini-trade show. About 20 to 30 manufacturers are members; every year a certain number produce cigars destined only for TAA-member stores.
The La Palina TAA 2016 was produced at Titan de Bronze in Miami, using Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers, an Ecuadorian binder, and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. They released a grand total of 20,000 sticks in 1,000 20-count boxes. I have had conversations with La Palina people who indicated to me that the Illumination is a continuation of this blend, being released to all accounts…just not in this size. I could find no independent confirmation of that, though, and the fact that the Illumination was billed as being an “everyday Goldie” without the Medio Tiempo makes me wonder. This could be a related (or identical blend) to Illumination…or it could be something totally independent.
When this first arrived at Burns, I smoked one and just wasn’t all that impressed. As happens too often, I forgot about it and never got back around to smoking another…until we had a special event about a month ago and company co-President, Clay Roberts, handed me one to smoke. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to take the second one he gave me and burn it for a review.
The TAA 2016 was the first time that we saw the Red, White and Blue variant of the La Palina band (it did show up on the Illumination, as well). It’s striking after years of gold and white…maybe some black and gold and white…now…POW! Red, white and blue! It looks very patriotic and does help to emphasize that the cigar is made in Miami.
The wrapper leaf was a peanut butter medium brown color with a decent amount of oiliness under my fingertips and an aroma of sweet hay and wood. The foot of the cigar had a mix of earth and bread aromas, along with touches of cedar and bell pepper. The cold draw of the cigar was good and featured light earthy notes and dry cedar, along with just a touch of sweetness.
Lighting up the TAA 2016 brought forth notes of cedar and earth up front with a strong pepper burn on the tip of the tongue right from the beginning. There was a little sweetness in the mix, as well, and the slightest vegetal or bell pepper note. The retrohale was a little nutty and very peppery. The cigar burned slowly and evenly through the first third, producing a relatively thick, oily smoke and a continuing woodiness and earthiness above all else. The pepper was a sharp explanation point on almost every puff.
As I got into the second third, I started getting an increase in pepper spice, which took on a cayenne note to it. At this point it was riding above the notes of earth and cedar, while the sweetness provided a pleasing balance to the experience. By the time the second third was over, the flavor had morphed to a more woody note with earth and pepper underneath, along with a bready flavor.
The last third of the La Palina TAA 2016 had much more of that bready flavor which is what I remembered most from the first time I smoked it. It was creamy and smooth with an intriguing sweetness and a touch of pepper spice.
The construction on this cigar was top-notch: I had a perfect burn line, solid ash and fantastic draw.
When I first smoked this, I would have given it a poor rating on flavor and, therefore, value; but a little time did wonders for this stick and I now think it’s well worth the slightly elevated price tag.
I’m pleased to report that the La Palina TAA 2016 outperformed my initial assessment of it, living up to the “special” place that TAA releases should have. What it really needed in order to do so was just a little extra time. Seem that the cigar was probably released before it was really 100% ready and with a few extra months on the shelf it really came to life with a medium-to-full body and plenty of complexity. I enjoyed this cigar and will make a point of buying more before the supply is depleted.