La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Oscuro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 50 Toro
Strength: Medium
Price: $10.00

Today we take a look at the La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro.
Many thanks to buddy Miguel C. for a couple sticks.

Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
Released September, 2016
Regular Production

From Cigar Aficionado:
“La Palina Cigars is spreading its wings and going to Nicaragua.

“Known for its Dominican-made La Palina Red Label and Black Label brands and the Miami-made Goldie and Family Series Miami, La Palina is now offering two cigars made in Nicaragua—a first for the company.

“Called La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro and La Palina Nicaragua Connecticut, the two new lines are rolled at the A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory, located in Estelí. Sam Phillips, co-president of La Palina, explained why the company chose to work with Fernandez:

 “Our relationship with A.J. Fernandez goes a bit deeper than the usual manufacturing agreement,” Phillips told Cigar Aficionado. “[Clay Roberts, co-president and chief operating officer of La Palina] was the vice president of A.J. Fernandez Cigars for several years, while I have been a personal friend of A.J.’s for a long time. A.J. has a true passion for tobacco.”

“La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro wears a dark, Ecuadoran wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. Nicaragua Connecticut is draped in a lightly-hued Connecticut wrapper from Ecuador over Nicaraguan binder and filler. Both cigars share the same pricing and are available in the same three sizes: Robusto, at 5 inches by 52 ring gauge ($7.99); Toro, at 6 by 50 ($8.50); and Gordo, 6 by 58 ($9.50). The cigars ship in 20-count boxes.”

Average looking stick. Oily with a shiny coat. Dark and chocolatey. Smooth as your tush. Barely visible seams…a few large veins. Firmly packed but doesn’t seem to be over packed…nor any obvious plugs. And a beautiful triple cap.

From the shaft, I can smell lovely dark chocolate, baking spices, floral notes, coffee, spice, heavy barnyard, cedar, peppermint, and black raisins.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell big dollops of dark cocoa, red pepper, cinnamon, baking spices, peppermint, espresso, cedar, barnyard, nuttiness, and dried fruit.

The cold draw presents flavors of big dose of malt, chocolate, peppermint, sweet tea, cedar, cinnamon, red pepper, creaminess, baking spices, big smack of nutmeg, dried figs, and barnyard.

The draw is too wispy. Here I thought going in it might be a tough draw based upon the firmness of the stick and it turns out it isn’t consistently rolled causing a thin airy condition. Too bad because flavors pop right away.

Lots of cocoa, creaminess, red pepper, cinnamon, espresso, a ton of malts, dried fruit, baking spices, cedar, and peppermint.

Good start. Comes swinging out of the gate.

Yeah, the rolling is fakakta. Immediate burn issues. Nicht gut.

La Palina was at one time, shortly, the gold standard of fine premium blends. The Family Series was, and is, a way overpriced line of blends from owner William Paley Jr. I guess he wanted to impress his rich movie and TV mogul friends at the “club.” When the novelty wore off, the prices came down. That whole Family Series started out in the mid $20 neighborhood and that was at least 5 years ago.

Now, La Palina is sinking in its approach to find its niche in the lower priced, more accessible line of blends…and so far, it’s been a bust. I’ve found the “inexpensive” La Palina blends to be nothing special. Clearly, the talent for blending affordable cigars is not in the DNA of La Palina.

Strength is a solid medium. The ash is so delicate that it disengages after only 3/8”. And it is burning quickly. $10 may not be a lot for a La Palina but it’s a lot for me. I expect a more respectful approach from the manufacturer.

Pissing and moaning aside, the blend has some nice flavors going for it. Not kitchen sink enticing but solid, straight ahead flavors you might taste in a thousand different $10 blends. In other words, sort of a generic pleasant cigar.

Red pepper morphs to black pepper as the back of my throat feels the intensity of the spiciness.

The La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro doesn’t taste like an AJ influenced blend. In fact, the manufacturer’s description does not go into detail about this. Was AJ involved in the blend? Don’t think so. It may be that La Palina only used AJ’s facility to produce the cigars. Big difference from having the master totally involved rather than just using his factory.

That’s it. This blend reminds me a bit of the standard Man O’ War…only milder…and more expensive.

I blew the Red Label out of the water with my review. A dud. And now you see it on flash sales online everywhere. On its way to the closeout bins.

To be honest, I’m surprised that the La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro hasn’t faded into that category as well.

If this were a $7 stick, I’d say that the price was right but I’d still bitch about the subpar construction. This stick is burning as quickly as a cigarette.

Creaminess runs amok drowning out everything but the malts and sweetness. The coffee, chocolate, spiciness, and other previous listed flavors move to the background.

Smoke time is a rapid 20 minutes.

The lonely flavors of various malts and a silky creaminess work nicely together while I wait for some sort of complexity to kick in. Transitions are non-existent. But the finish is lovely and lip smacking.

Strength remains at classic medium.

This is a good morning cigar with your coffee or Ripple…or 40oz can.

A $10 stick should not be having the burn issues this one has. I hate it when a supposed premium manufacturer cheaps out on the rolling. And then has the balls to charge a premium price. They certainly saved a butt load of cash on the labor.

I can’t even taste my favorites: earth, wind, and fire.

The black pepper is just evaporating.

The intense creaminess along with my malts is on the wane. Nicht gut 2.0.

La Palina nailed those two flavors but everything else fell by the wayside. Apparently, the La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro didn’t make the cut for CA to consider reviewing it as I find no proof of that. And remember, I’m a year late to the party in reviewing this 2016 cigar. But then I check and the aforementioned Red Label received a 92. Ha. It nearly makes CA’s opinions moot when it comes to reliability and honesty.

The halfway point is met at a measly 30 minutes.

Still no complexity nor a conga line of transitions. A simple blend…that requires you to part with a sawbuck.

And then we get a come to Jesus miracle.

The La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro completely changes direction. It has finally blossomed and is providing teases of earlier listed flavors.

Transitions begin to roll around in a ball of confusion trying to sort out its place in the universe.

Returning flavors: dried fruit, baking spices, marzipan, black tea, and a resurgence of both chocolate and espresso.

Wow. I had to smoke half the cigar before it kicked in. Now I need to mention that this stick has months of humidor time. It ain’t right out of the cello. So shorting me on the first half is unacceptable. It owes me the second half sophistication I should have received from the start…and then not disappear 1” later.

The La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro is really good now. The malts and creaminess still doing the heavy lifting; but now aided by ancillary flavor elements that enhance and encourage the experience.

The burn line is a mess.

In fact, the blend is excellent at last. But snooze, you lose.

This is a shame. I check out Halfwheel. And we are of the same mind in our conclusion of this cigar. Could have been great but settled for enduring a mediocre first half.

Black pepper returns in spades…nearly overwhelming all other influences.

Smoke time is 45 minutes.

A bitter, musty element appears and ruins my “rave” review. The black pepper is on an upward trajectory eliminating everything in its path. Death by spice.

The La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro is a bit of a schizophrenic experience. It seems to possess several personalities. The good ones are in the minority.

Depending on the online company you like to purchase your cigars from, prices are at MSRP from the usual suspects…but many others are reducing the price to the $7-$8 range…which is more appropriate if this cigar were a killer…instead of a victim.

It just can’t be possible that AJ had anything to do with the blending. He is never this inconsistent. This is all on Mr. Paley for not exercising better quality control. Crank ‘em out mentality. (Hanging out with Mr. Patel and Mr. Hansotia?)

If you like cursing at your cigar because of burn issues, then this is your baby.

I could have a lousy stick. I don’t know. Inconsistency is usually hard wired so this is probably what can expect from this blend and nothing more.

Strength elevates to medium/full.

That earlier burst of flavors is in the wind. Back to big doses of cream and malt. And even bigger impact by black pepper.

A bummer my Moon Doggies. Thankfully, this was a quick burning cigar. I’d hang myself if this was the usual timeline of a Toro getting at least 90 minutes, or more, from the stick. It won’t even make it to an hour.

This is one trick pony territory. And I’m bored.

If you choose to purchase the La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro, shop around. Too many pirates out there charging full price. This stick has no business being a $10 cigar.

And with that, I wish you all a good week.

Final smoke time is 55 minutes.


And now for something completely different:
Into the Way Back Machine….
The Byrds…the American Beatles…

In 1966, at the height of their short career, I got to meet and hang with The Byrds… (“Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, “Eight Miles High”, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, “Ballad of Easy Rider”, “Mr. Spaceman”, “My Back Pages”) at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, CA. I adamantly believe all their songs hold up even today.

The Golden Bear was a nightclub in Huntington Beach, California from 1923 to 1986. It was located on Pacific Coast Highway, just south of Main Street. It started out as a restaurant and eventually hosted such artists as Janis Joplin, Lovin’ Spoonful, Buffalo Springfield. Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Hoyt Axton, Jackson Browne, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Dave Mason, Tower of Power, The Chambers Brothers and Jerry Garcia, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Neil Young, Jose Feliciano, John Denver, The Mamas and Papas, Steve Martin, Dizzy Gillespie, Robin Williams,

The Golden Bear was a small venue. Seated 300 people.

The Byrds only played two dates with two shows per night. It was impossible to get tickets. So my buddy, Elliot Kushell, had an idea. We would pretend we were reporters for the Long Beach Press Telegram newspaper.

I called the Golden Bear and introduced myself as a reporter. I just knew they wouldn’t buy it. I was 16.
An hour later, The Byrds’ manager called back and said he would get us backstage passes.
Elliot and I were ecstatic.

We got there and not a single reporter was there. Unless they were in the audience. We were the only people allowed back stage with the band. Did I mention we were 16?

I brought along my Sony reel-to-reel that my grandfather bought me for my Bar Mitzvah. And I brought two cameras: A Kodak Instamatic and a Polaroid.

We met them as soon as we got there. We were invited into their dressing room. A drab and tiny room. Not much larger than a big closet.
Right away, they were friendly and generous.

I got a 45 minute interview with Roger McGuinn (I still have it). I took lots of photos. During the concert, I just wandered to the front of the stage and took pictures with my Instamatic. No one bothered me.
I was amazed at the access we had. We either stood at the end of the stage and watched or we wandered backstage without interference. This had to be a first.

Back stage, I used my Polaroid. David Crosby asked if he could use it so he could show me some tricks. He knew how to get double exposures with the thing.

So he took a bunch of crazy photos. I hung on to them for decades and then out of nowhere, they just disappeared. It’s very difficult to hang on to photos for 5 decades.

Strangely, I never saw them drink alcohol or smoke any weed. They were sober.
And neither Elliot nor I had used weed at that age. Things were different then. Kids weren’t smoking pot at age 10.

We discovered in the interview that Roger went to a guru on a regular basis. Remember…this was the era of Peace, Love, & Understanding. The Beatles started it all with the Maharishi.
This guru told McGuinn his original name of Jim was wrong for him and changed it to Roger. Very cosmic and Zen…lol. Roger. Haha…now that’s a major cosmic change.

I asked for an autograph and, apparently, he wasn’t used to his new name yet. He started to write the letter J and then stopped and wrote Roger. I wish I still had that piece of paper. I’m sure I could get $10 for it on Ebay.

Roger let me hold his famous Rickenbacker 12 string that was the signature sound of The Byrds. It got that “jangly” sound.

There were girls in the dressing room, of course. And David made sure that they all sat on my lap. I almost passed out. And I was embarrassed because I had the God driven wood of a horny 16 year old.

The evening lasted for 6 hours. All of it exhilarating. When it was over, each of The Byrds gave me a big bear hug. I couldn’t believe it. We had bonded.

The next day, I wrote an article based on the interview and submitted it to the teeny bopper magazine “Tiger Beat.”
A couple weeks later, it was returned to me, bleeding with red notes. I was told that my article “was not cuddly enough.” I swear to God. Those were the exact words.

That was the official start of my writing career. Disgraced by Tiger Beat.

Later…how I met Bob Dylan through my pen pal relationship with Roger McGuinn…




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5 replies

  1. So you want to be a rock ‘n roll star …

    And so you shall be!

  2. I believe you must preface that with two words: Washed up
    But I did get to live the life when I was young and had the energy to check to see if my fly was up when I left the house.
    Thanks Peter mein bubbelah.

  3. Dude, from now on I’m going to begin reading your reviews after your review! Your adventures as a young man are priceless! Hugs from The Byrds, chicks sitting on your lap-man, you’ve already been to heaven.

  4. Hey Bobby
    Thank you for the kind words.
    But I made all that shit up. I am currently living in D Block of San Quentin and I have a vivid imagination.
    All the best,

  5. That’s great, man, I live two miles away! What do you want me to bring? How about a nice slice of stuffed derma?

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