La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Oscuro
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 50 Box Pressed Toro
Strength: Full
Price: $9.50 MSRP



Today we take a look at the La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro.

The year, 1896, represents when the La Palina brand was founded by Samuel Paley…A Jewish Russian immigrant.
Release Date: October 2016
Regular production
Factory: (Abe Flores) PDR Cigars

His full name is William S. Paley Jr., and he hails from wealth and fame. His grandfather, of the same name, invented the La Palina brand. But instead of following in his grandfather’s footsteps, he decided to make his life in the cigar business.

From Wikipedia:
“William Samuel Paley Sr. (September 28, 1901 – October 26, 1990) was the chief executive who built the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the foremost radio and television network operations in the United States.”

“The Paleys come from Brovary, a suburb of Kiev in modern-day Ukraine. In the days before the Russian Revolution, Kiev was part of the Russian Empire ruled by the tsar, and the Paley family served as his local representative, according to Bill Paley. The family was well off, with interests in lumber.

“Things changed after the 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II. The Paley’s Jewish heritage made them a target during what followed: an intense wave of anti-Semitic rioting and scapegoating known as pogroms. The family moved to the United States, settling in Chicago.”

So this is why, dear readers, that the original Family Series was/is so outrageously expensive. A cigar to be shared and bragged about with Paley’s influential friends. Only later did he develop new blends with smaller prices to the bourgeois; or the proletariat…like us.

Couldn’t find a single review online. Does not bode well.

Belicoso 6.5 x 52 $10.00
Robusto 5 x 52 $9.50
Toro 6 x 50 $9.85

Right up front I must shake my head in wonder. There is a long wax paper band that covers 5” of the cigar’s length.
There is so much tape on it that it requires a knife and brain surgeon patience to remove it…and not slice the stick.

To make that worse, the goddam cigar band is covering the top of the wax paper band so you can’t get it off without removing the main band. What a cluster fuck. I smoked one and literally had to tear it to pieces to get to the cigar. What rocket scientist thought this was a good idea?
The Oscuro wrapper is so delicate that it literally peels off with the slightest touch. So by the time I’m done reviewing it, it will look like a hobo cigar.


The preceding was the experience I had with the one of two cigars I have. Today’s stick saw the entire band just slide off without damaging the stick. I had no such luck with the first cigar. I tried to slide it off but it wouldn’t budge.

From the shaft, I can smell floral notes, honeysuckle, peppers, chocolate, coffee, peat, malts, creaminess, fresh fruit, dried fruit, cedar, and a lovely, hickory smokiness.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell strong black licorice, red hot peppers, chocolate, espresso, peat, cedar, floral notes, dried fruit, and smokiness.

The cold draw presents flavors of hot chocolate with marshmallows, barnyard, cedar, espresso, licorice, creaminess, red pepper, and espresso.

The draw is spot on.
Flavors bust wide open…spicy red pepper, chocolate, creaminess, espresso, smoked meat, lots of malt, dried fruit, cedar, salted roasted nuts, licorice, and a mystery sweetness.

Good start. The other stick I smoked a couple weeks ago did not begin its adventure right away like this stick does. It did have some good flavors an inch in but then it all died halfway in. Fingers crossed there isn’t a do over on this cigar.

Strength is immediately medium/full. I am now realizing that soon enough I will be swaying and trying to maintain my stability from the truck load of nicotine waiting for me.

I’m impressed with the construction of the stick. The Katman Box Press issue seems to be held at bay as I watch the char line stay in check without any touch ups required.

Due to the La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro being so fully packed, this is a very slow smoke. Combine this with the full strength and looming nicotine, I will probably seek out medical attention after the review.


As opposed to the Partagas Aniversario 170 review which showed the blend to have a lot of sweet characteristics, the La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro is more of a savory blend. It is thick with meaty, smoky, malt, and coffee elements.

I’ve reviewed 10 La Palina blends. None of them cheap. Some very expensive. Now here they have a $9 stick that I find very satisfying.

Maybe Mr. Paley realized that he couldn’t make a living selling the Family Series to his Forbes 500 friends.

Listening to an hour of Joe Bonamassa…then on to my Allman Bros. bootleg CD.

The spiciness has left the crime scene. Where did it go? The Dude doesn’t abide a lack of pepper. A point will be taken away if it doesn’t return.

Creaminess is sneaking up the line on the flavor list. I get the sense I’m eating a slow cooked brisket like my mother made during the High Holidays. All that is missing is sour cream and horseradish. I know. Trafe.

I’m freezing my tuchas off. It is currently -7° in Milwaukee going up to 5° by 2pm. Thank goodness, Charlotte and I don’t have to leave home.

The transitions needed by a great cigar are missing. Complexity is non-existent. The finish is very short. The La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro seems to be going nowhere fast.
Snake eyes.

But my hopes are that the big flavors will kick in soon.
Meanwhile, it’s not a bad smoke…just not an exciting or gratifying one. The savory components are tame but still give the blend a mildly enjoyable presentation.

Smoke time is 35 minutes.

In the following photo, you get a sense of how toothy this wrapper is.
Red pepper begins its return. The earlier listed flavors also see a resurgence. The La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro is attempting to find a well-rounded approach to its blend. It’s struggling so I have no idea if this exercise will be achieved.

Truthfully, if this was to be a great cigar, I’d be raving and ranting and singing its praises by now. The absence of reviews of this cigar tells the story. No one wants to upset the apple cart and upset Mr. Paley and his free cigar samples.


Speaking of which…Ptooey on the FDA. Manufacturers and online stores have found all sorts of loopholes to get cigars to reviewers. They include phony instruction manuals for their reps, say the cigars come from their personal stash, or just ignore the FDA rule completely. As far as I know, as long as you don’t mention where you got the cigar from in the body of your review, you are Free Bird. I don’t believe there is a government FDA Police Force quite yet to enforce this ruling.

You can now find La Palina blends all over Cbid…going for much less than the usual selling price. I believe the honeymoon is over. LP had a small window of opportunity to be the flavor of the month and I believe most experienced smokers have moved on…a lot to do with price points and the quality which doesn’t match the cost.

I have a $17 Family Series “Babe” waiting for review. But why should I review it? You aren’t going to buy it.

Halfway point and the La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro hasn’t gone for its gun yet. It is on an even keel of mediocrity. Flavors are barely available. It seems to be riding off into the sunset…and not even kissing your palate goodbye.

Considering this is the first cigar of the day for me, as in all of my reviews, I am really disappointed. This is a true dud. But yet, it is only $10.00! At this point in time, if I had blind taste tested this cigar; I’d say it is a $4.50 Torano.

The La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro doesn’t deserve the energy required for a halfway point photo. Screw it.

If flavors haven’t kicked in by now, they won’t any time soon. Normally, I’d have plunked this cigar into the garbage disposal and moved on with my life.
But now I’m hanging on to desperate hopes that maybe the last third perks up.

The strength is now less than before…medium instead of medium/full. It should be full strength by now.
In my head, I’m performing arbitration taking both the pro and con sides of this cigar debate. Should I continue and cross my fingers? Or shit can it?
I take the Cigar Reviewer’s Oath seriously so I shall try to finish it.

Oops…black pepper appears. And so does the mind bending nicotine. Now that is just not right. Why do I get to experience nicotine but no accompanying flavors?

Smoke time is an arduous one hour 20 minutes.

A lot of reviewers will have experienced the same thing as I have with this lackluster blend…and they would have chosen not to review it. Safer that way. But if you want to read the truth, this is one of those sites that you can receive it.

The damn La Palina El Año 1896 Oscuro keeps teasing me with possibilities. I begin to think flavors are reappearing and then a few minutes later, it goes to shit.


Did anyone in the La Palina organization actually smoke one of these cigars before releasing it? What the fuck were they thinking? “I know. Let’s put out our own version of a Gurkha!”

I truly disdain trashing a cigar. I get no sick pleasure from this…I prefer to rave about how good it is.

Finally, flavors perk up and become consistent for more than a couple of minutes. I’m not going to waste time listing them…as I’ve already made up my mind about this cigar.

The least I can do is add a music story at the end of the review.

I put the cigar down with 1-1/2” to go.
What a letdown.


And now for something completely different:
More on Butch “Eddie Munster” Patrick….

Our press agent had finagled us into attending an anniversary party for Alan Hale, Jr’s Restaurant Row seafood restaurant on La Cienega Blvd. The Skipper (Gilligan’s Island) had a very successful place called The Lobster Barrel. (The restaurant was sold after Hale’s death and the name changed to The Shark Bar)



Did you know that The Skipper’s real name was Jonas Gumby?

Butch and I arrived at the packed house and it was crawling with strange celebs.

Rudy Vallee was there. The silent screen/1930’s actor…the actor/singer who used a paper cone megaphone to sing through….Max Baer Jr. (Jethro) from The Beverly Hillbillies was there doing his best Elvis impression. No kidding. He had an expensive suit with a cape, shirt unbuttoned to his navel, a load of yellow gold necklaces, too many gold bracelets, and his hair was dyed jet black with Elvis side burns. He also had three good looking chicks hanging all over him.

We hung out and ate and drank on the Skipper. We also met some up and coming bands, who I can’t remember. Lots of photos were taken by newspaper and magazine reporters. Butch was in all of them. I lost them over the years.

Now here is where it went south on me….not Butch…me.

We meandered towards the exit of the restaurant saying our good byes to everyone.

Hale stood at the exit saying good bye to everyone and thanking them for coming. Now I thought this was his birthday party and as I shook his hand, I said, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Hale.”

Hale didn’t even flinch or blink when I said that. He thanked me profusely for coming and we were back on La Cienega. Then Butch turned to me and said, “You schmuck. It isn’t his birthday; it’s the anniversary of the restaurant.”

What a nice man Mr. Hale was not to correct me and embarrass me. I met a lot of celebrities while doing the Eddie Munster project back in the early 1980’s. And no one was as down to earth as The Skipper.

One more….

I was on an errand to bring some PR material to Entertainment Tonight on the ABC lot in Hollywood. They were planning to do a segment on my Eddie Munster project. We had a single called, “Whatever Happened to Eddie?” We used the theme from the show and I wrote some lyrics about Eddie. Naturally, Butch Patrick was the star.

As I made my way through the maze of buildings, the local morning show was doing an outside segment on the grass. They were going to interview Howard Cosell.

I had to stop dead in my tracks because I couldn’t get into the building without walking through the shot. A PA told me I could make my move during a commercial.

And there was the man, leaning against a steel rail…watching and waiting. So I tip toed up to Cosell and started a conversation. I showed him my PR stuff and he got a big chuckle out of it.

We talked quietly for about 5 minutes…about life. No sports. No entertainment. Just life. It surprised me what a down to earth man, nice he really was. No pretentions or uppity behavior because I was a nobody. I can’t remember what we spoke of but we laughed.

Then it was his time in the chair. He told me to stay and watch. Hell, I was in no hurry, so hell yeah. Work back at the studio would still be there.

They talked to him about Monday Night Football where he was a star. And he was funny. I couldn’t help it and laughed out loud causing the two on air to laugh on the air as well.

Then Cosell told them about me standing just a few feet away and that I should join them because of this really cool project I had. The two on-air idiots freaked.

He got out of his director style chair, walked off camera, and dragged me over. I just stood there like a schmuck. Cosell made me tell them about my project and show the record and PR photos of the band which I called “Eddie and the Monsters.” All of them in ghoulish makeup. And all very good looking young men. Perfect for tween girls to swoon over. That was our target audience.

The hosts got bullied by Cosell and then you could see in their eyes that in their ear mic, the director was telling them “Go with it.”

No one had heard from Butch in some time at that point. Now he is everywhere doing those child star actor conventions signing autographs for $10.

So they asked me about the project and I had all that shit for the camera to zoom in on. And it was a great, free commercial for my project showcased on ET the following week.

Because of my intrusion, I ended up bum ping the next personality scheduled…David Copperfield.

He stood there waiting…I slyly looked off camera saw that he was so angry that he was as red as a beet. He was pissed off big time. The on-air people made their apologies to Copperfield and said they would have him on another time.
Copperfield stormed off.

When we were done, Cosell invited me to breakfast at Canter’s Deli in the Jewish section of West L.A. Very famous place. Around since the early 20th century.

We got there and all heads turned. We spent almost two hours talking and laughing while he told me inside stuff about Monday Night Football. Holy cow. The stuff he told me. I should write about it because everyone he spoke about is now dead.

We kept being interrupted by autograph seeks. Cosell was magnanimous and generous with each and every person.

He finally told me he had to go. I offered to pay but he would have none of it. He asked if I had a place to go for Yom Kippur. I told him I would be with my family in Long Beach. He told me that if it fell through, I was welcome to his house.

I came this close to calling my father and telling him I had gonorrhea. Protection Status


2 replies

  1. PDR, untrustable

  2. Hi Phil,

    It’s funny, just before I read the comment ” does anyone at Lambeau Paulina smoke one of these things before releasingredients it” I was wondering the same thing.Sad. Thanks for saving us from trying this!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s