La Palina is undergoing a transformation.
The brand has new leadership in the form of Clay Roberts and Sam Phillips—both previously served in marketing roles at Alec Bradley and Rocky Patel—and that’s led to a host of new products and new looks. It’s admittedly somewhat challenging to figure out how much was part of the planned transformation and how much is thanks to FDA, but it’s safe to say that even without the Aug. 8 deadline for new products set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there would be new product.
La Palina introduced four new lines at the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show. Illumination is probably the least revolutionary in terms of look. It features an Ecuadorian habano wrapper over an undisclosed binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Bill Paley, La Palina’s owner has gone on so far as to describe this is an everyday version of the company’s extremely popular Goldie line.
The Affordable and Available Goldie. https://t.co/66HFfSz87u
— William Paley (@billpaley) October 6, 2016
Like the Goldie, the cigar is rolled at El Titan de Bronze.
Illumination is offered in four sizes.
- La Palina Illumination Robusto (5 x 52) — $11.50 (Boxes of 20, $230)
- La Palina Illumination Colonial (5 1/4 x 44) — $10.50 (Boxes of 20, $210)
- La Palina Illumination Belicoso (6 1/2 x 52) — $12.50 (Boxes of 20, $250)
- La Palina Illumination Lancero (7 1/2 x 38) — $11.50 (Boxes of 20, $230)
- Cigar Reviewed: La Palina Illumination Lancero
- Country of Origin: U.S.A.
- Factory: El Titan de Bronze
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: n/a
- Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Length: 7 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 38
- Vitola: Lancero
- MSRP: $11.50 (Boxes of 20, $230)
- Release Date: August 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Until seeing the tweet from Paley—after smoking all three Illuminations—I never thought to see the Goldie-Illumination comparison. As far as the appearance, it’s not something where the Illumination favors well. There’s the same basic color, but the wrappers are noticeably rougher and without the glowing sheen I associate with the Goldies. It smells of leather, barnyard and cocoa—a pretty even mixture between sweet, acidic and funky. The foot has a peculiar combination of a sweet chocolate, Barbasol aftershave and some bready flavors towards the end. Things get weirder for the cold draw: there’s a lot of petroleum flavors—gasoline, rubber and some smell that reminds me of the smell of opening up toys at my grandparent’s house.
That artificial petroleum finds its way into the first puff of the La Palina Illumination Lancero joined by some oak and dark chocolate. Fortunately it disappears pretty quickly and the flavor transitions into a generic mixture of redwoods and cedar. There are faint hints of twang and floral flavors through the nose, but they are covered up by the woody flavors. The finish is a bit metallic with some sharper herbal notes. The flavor is medium-plus, body is medium and strength is medium.
There’s a roadblock that all three samples seem to hit in the second third, the burn slows down, the draw tightens and soon I find myself needing to relight. It’s somewhat mind-blowing as two of the cigars go out midway through a puff, a phenomenon that I occasionally found on cigars that are more than 20-year-olds and also some that are freshly rolled. Things don’t get much better as I find myself relighting the Illumination nearly twice per inch on all three samples. What that does to the flavor is anyone’s guess, but I’m left with a pretty different cigar: earth, minerals, metallic flavors with some roasted cashews and creaminess in the retrohale. There’s a a fair amount of pepper building on the back of the throat.
The flavor is actually quite pleasant in the final third: lemon grass, creaminess, waffle cone and a generic mixture of woods. My main issue is that on all three cigars, I find myself relighting the cigar every couple of minutes. It’s not because of smoking pace, but rather, because the cigar just does not want to stay lit unless I smoke at a rate that produces smoke beyond too hot for my liking, both temperature-wise and flavor-wise with the latter producing a very metallic and artificially-induced pepper flavor.
- The combination of the main band and the secondary band don’t really work in my opinion. This feels very much like a private label cigar.
- This cigar has forced me to rethink how to score a cigar. We have a rule about what happens if a cigar is plugged and unsmokeable: if the cigar cannot be smoked it gets a 0 for flavor for that third, a 0 for draw, a 0 for burn, etc. As such, a single plugged cigar will torpedo a cigar’s score. We don’t have the same rule for cigars that have catastrophic burn issues. Any reasonable person would have thrown this cigar out midway through and I would have had it not been for this review. The La Palina Illumination should have punished a lot more than it was for the poor burn.
- These cigars spent over a month in my humidor and showed zero change after being dry-boxed.
- Strength is medium-plus.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and five minutes.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co. and Cigar Hustler have the La Palina Illumination Lancero in stock.
This is akin to taking a road trip with a dragster. Yes, the dragster is a car that will get you 250 miles, but no reasonable person would want the experience of constantly pulling over on the side of the road to refuel or rebuild the engine. Much like the dragster, the La Palina Illumination Lancero will provide you with a cigar experience, it’s just not one I would ever recommend taking unless your main goal is to test out your lighter’s ability.