About 15 months ago, I got a Friend Request from Bill Paley on Facebook. The next day, Bill Paley was following me on Twitter. A few days later, I had a phone message on my desk from Bill Paley’s assistant asking if I’d be available to have lunch with Bill Paley. But, WHO THE HELL IS BILL PALEY!?!… I thought to myself. Well, over lunch at New York’s famous “21 Club” I found out.
Bill Paley is the Grandson of Samuel Paley who in the late 1800’s arrived in the U.S. from the Ukraine and began working as a lector in a cigar factory. Eventually, Sam Paley traded his books and newspapers for a “chaveta” and tobacco leaves and began working as a roller and then a blender. In 1896, Sam opened his own cigar shop in Chicago named Congress Cigar Company. The shop had an adjoining cigar factory that made cigars daily to sell in the shop. Their house brand was “La Palina” (a latinized take on his surname) and honored Sam’s wife Goldie Drell Paley, who’s beautiful likeness adorned the cigar’s label.
In 1910, The Congress Cigar Company moved to Philadelphia and welcomed Sam’s son William S. Paley to the company to act as VP of Advertising. To help drive awareness for their cigars, William created the “La Palina Hour”, a small local radio show. He enjoyed his experience with radio so much, that he decided to purchase a few stations of his own and operated them as The Tiffany Network. Later, the Tiffany Network became the initiation for a much larger company called Columbia Broadcasting System.
OH! THAT Bill Paley!!!
The “La Palina” brand changed hands over the years after Congress Cigar closed in 1926. But, over lunch at “21”, Bill explained he wanted to bring it back. And he has. Bill’s love of cigars, and particularly Cuban cigars, led him to the great Avelino Lara, a famous Cuban Master Blender who left Cuba to work as the head of the Graycliff Cigar Factory in Nassau, Bahammas. Together they worked slowly and patiently to create a blend that was just right. I had the pleasure of tasting some of these blends along the way.
Now, La Palina is available once again. The first release of these La Palina 1896 Limited Edition will be simple; a limited production cigar, one size, one blend. The 5.75″ x 52 robustos will be packed in boxes of ten cigars ($190/box), each cigar adorned with an updated band, embossed with gold and featuring the same likeness of Bill’s grandmother “Goldie”. A blend of tobaccos from Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Ecuador the cigar smokes with wonderful finesse offering a rich, balanced smoke that surely his father and grandfather would be proud of.