At this point, most enthusiasts are quite familiar with TAA cigar releases—with Tatuaje’s annual blend helping to make the concept a household name for collectors and “craft junkies” of every sort.

For those unfamiliar with the concept:

Each year, a select group of cigar retailers, priding themselves on the upmost care and knowledge of premium cigars and customer service, gather in Mexico for their annual trade show. Joining in on the fun are various manufacturers, bringing with them exclusive sizes and even exclusive and limited edition blends—a trend that has been steadily growing at the TAA in recent years.

For 2016, there are 5 cigars made as ongoing TAA releases and 9 cigars produced as limited edition sizes and blends (up from the 13 cigars of 2015). This, of course, is a big incentive for retailers to join the TAA—which in turn helps consumers quickly identify experienced/qualified tobacconists.

La Palina joins the fold for 2016, releasing their first TAA exclusive, dubbed “Bill’s Blend”. The cigar is among the more unique in the series this year, being more than a simple size/blend tweak—but a completely original blend—rolled at the brand’s state-side cohort, El Titan de Bronze.

Of the 2 factories used by La Palina, ETDB is most commonly enlisted for their more premium offerings—often featuring members of the Paley family, including releases such as the Goldie, Mr. Sam, and Family Series Miami. And now that we’ve seen a healthy chunk of the notorious Paley family tree, it’s only fitting that Bill (La Palina owner) would greedily showcase himself for this limited-run project.

La Palina Bill’s Blend Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
  • Binder: Ecuador
  • Filler: Nicaragua | Dominican Republic
  • Factory: El Titan de Bronze (USA)
  • Production: Limited Edition (1,000 boxes of 20 cigars)
  • Vitola: 6″ × 50 toro
  • Price: $11.00

The cigar is marketed as Bill Paley’s personal blend and it’s said they’ve been rolled for Bill for the past few years. What does Bill prefer? Clearly, it’s Ecuadorian tobacco—making up the wrapper and binder—for a mild/delicate experience. Although, we already knew that from many of La Palina’s past releases

The cigars arrive in 20-ct cabinet boxes, sporting the familiar “Goldie Drell” bands and an added sub-band, reading “TAA 2016”. This is not a flattering look for La Palina—clearly their worst bands to date. Their cigars have long been some of the most classy in the industry—very Cubanesque—harkening back to a romantic era that so many cigar enthusiasts love to envision. Beginning with the La Palina Black Label, the band featured a new black background (which worked nicely). This was followed by the Red Label, replacing black for red—this was much too loud and contrasted harshly against the delicate nature of the band. Now we find a highly saturated blue behind ol’ Goldie, which I could almost look past, if it weren’t for the bargain-bin appearance of the sub-band—having a background pattern that looks to have been pulled right from Microsoft Word, circa 1998. I get it, they didn’t want to dump their resources into a 1,000 box run, but wow…

All that being said, the cigar itself looks nice. The wrapper is very smooth, having a toffee-hued leaf and occasional mottled streaks of a darker shade. Thin, prominent veins stand out against the smooth wrapper—with delicate webbing running between them. The construction feels nice and springy and I’d peg it around a medium pack. On the nose, there are light notes of hay, pepper, and green tea.

Smoking Experience

After lighting, the first thing I can think is, “There’s no way this is Habano…” Indeed, after a double check, the blend is listed as having an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper—though it’s taste would fool 9 out of 10 for Connecticut shade—perhaps it’s the Ecuadorian binder that’s throwing me for a loop.



Flavors are of hay, light cream, and green tea, with a slightly bitter finish. The draw is on the firmer side, giving medium-light bursts of smoke. This amounts to an overall mild experience to start—flavor, strength, and body.

La Palina "Bill's Blend" TAA 2016 toro cigar review

Construction-wise, it’s great, all you could ask for—with light gray chunks of ash holding up to 3″. There are some occasional touchups needed for a canoeing wrapper, but that’s understandable, considering they haven’t had much acclimation.

I find myself gravitating towards lighter-wrapped cigars when I’m looking for complexity, but my experience through most of the cigar has been on the opposite end of the spectrum—very one-noted. The palate is semi-sweet and a little creamy—having elements of green grass, a little honey, and barely noticeable touches of citrus/lemon and pepper spice—this could basically sum up the entire cigar. The only other adjustment made throughout is a slight increase in strength at the very end—approaching medium.

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

Sadly, no. I’ve been really pleased with most everything from La Palina over the past few years, especially their limited projects with the ETDB factory. This one, however, feels like it was rushed out in an attempt to appease the TAA. I have a hard time believing it’s actually “Bill’s blend”, with so many of his other projects far exceeding this, in my mind.

Also, I have to say, being overly “mild” is never a criticism in my mind (it’s like the term has become a bad word). Many mild cigars offer far more flavorful intricacies than the standard powerhouse cigars that smokers demand today. I typically look at the amount of flavor on each puff, the complexity of that flavor, and the progression of flavor from start to finish. This smoke was severely lacking on the latter two and only decent on the first. Basically, it’d be a fine compliment to your morning coffee/tea, but at $11, there’s just no justifying a purchase, in my opinion.

La Palina "Bill's Blend" TAA 2016 cigar review and rating

La Palina "Bill's Blend" TAA 2016
La Palina takes their fist crack at a TAA exclusive, opting to introduce a completely new blend for enthusiasts. Made at the esteemed El Titan de Bronze factory and limited to 1,000 boxes of 20, it has the makings of another hit... on paper. Limited releases are often looked at highly because it's suggested that better grade tobaccos are used and more care is taken at every turn. Then there's the other side of the argument, that regular production allows for more consistency, better price/value, and a more thorough offering overall. This could be the downfall of "Bill's Blend", feeling rushed to market and not offering the grace and complexity we've come to expect.
Appearance77%
Burn/Construction95%
Draw95%
Flavor82%
Complexity79%
Price/Value85%
Pros
  • Consistent construction
  • Good draw
Cons
  • One-dimensional flavors
  • Rushed design/concept
  • Low smoke output
86%One-Dimensional
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
88%
  • Napanook

    Pretty much – my take on this cigar. I was taken back by the bitterness. As you have alluded the mildness of an offering can very much be appreciated. But a creamy retrohale is essential for that type of body. I was expecting a little more from Bill’s Blend.