A legend reborn
The story of the La palina brand of cigars
Back in the 19th century there was a young Ukrainian man who found his way to Chicago. He worked hard and lived the American dream starting as a cigar factory lector and moving up over time to a roller and then master blender. This man eventually opened his own cigar shop and had his own factory. He was Samuel Paley the grandfather of William (Bill) Paley owner of La Palina Cigars. During this year’s IPCPR I stopped at the La Palina booth to have a chat with Bill and boy did he take me on a journey. Every cigar has a story and every manufacturer has a dream. Bill Paley’s dream was to give a rebirth to the famed La Palina cigar line. Here is his story:
SP: Where did La Palina Start?
WP: Back in the 1800s my grandfather, Samuel Paley, arrived in the United States from the Ukraine, he found work in a local cigar factory as a lector. A lector is one who reads to newspapers, novels, and magazines to the cigar rollers in the factory. He eventually was promoted to a roller and then eventually master blender. My grandfather wanted to learn all he could about cigars. In 1896 he left the factory and opened his own shop and factory known as Congress Cigars.
SP: Why the name La Palina?
WP: The first cigar my grandfather sold was named La Paliina. It was named after my Grandmother Goldie Paley. The La Palina line of cigars was doing very well and by 1910 the Congress Cigar Company sold a million cigars which was the second largest in the country. By the 1920s my Grandfather relocated his family and the Congress Cigar Company to Philadelphia. My father William Paley Sr. graduated from the Wharton Business School and joined Congress Cigars as Vice President of Advertising. My father had a passion for advertising media and radio. He sponsored a radio show on a station in Philadelphia and called it the “La Palina Hour”. Eventually he purchased 5 stations in the Philadelphia area. Calling it the Columbia Broadcasting System or as we know today CBS.
SP: So cigars to radio?
WP: Yes, when my Grandfather retired in 1926, they sold the shares in Congress Cigars and my father continued on with CBS eventually selling it in the 1930s but staying on a member of the Board of Directors for CBS. The Congress Cigar Company changed hands and eventually died off including the La Palina.
SP: What got you back to your roots?
WP: I was exploring my family history and decided since I love the finer things in life, I would revive the La Palina brand. I was determined to create a cigar emblematic of my Grandfathers La Palina. In 2008 I bought back the La Palina name and started the journey. I worked with some of the best in the industry, like Willie Herrera and I looked for the best source of tobaccos, blenders, and rollers. The result was a top 25 cigar 5 years running.
SP: Tell us about your newest Black Label Line
WP: The Black Label is a rich blend with a complex flavor. It has a double binder and filler each made from Dominican and Nicaragua tobacco. The wrapper is from Brazil.
As we were closing out the interview, Cigar and Spirits magazine come over to present Bill and LA Palina Cigars the 2013 trophy for best Cigar of the Year.
You can read our review of the La Palina "El Diario" here.
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