There is not a person in the cigar industry who works harder than Rocky Patel. His burning passion superseded the harsh stereotypes that were stacked against him when he ventured into the cigar industry during the back end of the ‘boom’ in the mid-1990s. It was a tumultuous time with cigar companies dropping by the hundreds. By the time it was over 400-500 cigar companies folded, but not Rocky Patel. He climbed from the rubble of the collapsed cigar boom and has since risen from the ashes as one of the giants in the industry.
“I am a unique person in the cigar industry,” said Patel. “People thought I was the odd ball and I would never make it. I have a very driven personality. When people tell me I can’t do something, I get obsessed. I am a perfectionist who does not know the meaning of ‘I can’t.'”
After dusting himself off from the raucous start in 1996, Rocky Patel has spent years in Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and other exotic countries studying tobacco and the art behind the culture. He has mastered the ins-and-outs of seeding, harvesting, curing, fermenting, and blending while manufacturing some of the finest cigars in the world.
“When I first started out I made thousands and thousands of blends to educate my palate,” said Patel. “Contrary to what some people say, I blend everything myself. No one else has ever blended any of my cigars.”
Blending great cigars requires premium tobacco, but great quality tobacco is very difficult to acquire right now. Luckily for Rocky, he has had a great relationship with the Plasencia family who is the leading grower in the world of Cuban-seed tobacco. He also works very closely with the Oliva growing family and the A.S.P. growers in Ecuador among other high profile growers in Africa, Costa Rica, and Pennsylvania. In addition, Rocky owns two farms of his own, one in Estelí, Nicaragua and the other in Condega, Nicaragua.
“Having our own farms allows us to grow some of the best tobaccos in the world but that is just one ingredient,” said Patel. “It allows us to grow some amazing tobaccos that we will be blending into our own product and have control over it.”
Rocky Patel is a very driven cigar maker who takes great pride in his work. He travels 300 days a year in an endless pursuit to deliver great tasting, unique cigars to consumers. Such exploration has enabled Rocky to unearth hidden treasures from exotic lands like Panama, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Rocky Patel makes cigars with unique flavor profiles that use tobaccos from different parts of the world that no one else has access to.
“No one used Costa Rican wrappers, nobody used Panamanian fillers, that is what gives us character and makes us different than everyone else,” said Patel. “I make and sell cigars because they taste differently, have character, have balance, a perfect draw, and are meticulous in the fermentation and curing.”
The Rocky Patel brand is notorious for its large selection of blends. The company releases new blends much more frequently than its competitors and Rocky does this to “provide our consumers with different cigars so they don’t have to stick to one brand or blend over and over.”
“I am always looking for unique tobaccos around the world, unique farms. When you have the capability to have all these rare and great tobaccos you can make some really great blends,’ said Patel. “Luckily we make so many cool blends I want to introduce them.”
The company’s most successful blends are the Edge, the Vintage and the Decade. At one time the Edge was only available in the Costa Rican Maduro wrapper, now it is available in Corojo and Sumatra as well. It is also available as a Nicaraguan Puro called, Edge Habano. The Vintage was one of the first cigars to be released using a 12-year-old Broadleaf wrapper from the Talanga Valley in Honduras. Now it is available as a 10-year Sumatra, a 7-year Connecticut shade wrapper and a 2003 Cameroon wrapper. The Decade received a 95 rating and is touted as one of Rocky’s best blends.
“That is one of my favorite cigars. It is one of the best blends that we have ever made,” said Patel.
Next month, Rocky Patel will be releasing a few new blends and line extensions. In light of the legislation (Prohibition) the cigar industry faces, Patel is releasing a blend called ‘Prohibition’. It will be packed in mason jars in wooden crates reminiscent of whisky during the prohibition of the 1930s.
“The blend is phenomenal. It consists of two binders, a Mexican San Andreas wrapper and all Nicaraguan fillers,” said Patel. “It also comes in a Broadleaf Connecticut wrapper. They are rich, full-bodied cigars.”
Rocky has another new blend that will also be released next month called, ‘Super Ligero’. He spent the past four years in Costa Rica developing a hybrid seed called, ‘Super Ligero’. No one else in the world has access to this seed. He will also be adding line extensions to the highly acclaimed Decade.
“I added a Cameroon wrapper to the Decade instead of the Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and I didn’t box press this new release like the original Decade. I made it round,” said Patel. “I think all three blends are going to be homeruns for us. We are very proud of these three accomplishments.”
As Rocky looks ahead, his primary focus is to fight legislation and protect the cigar industry from stringent regulations.
Rocky’s second objective is to try to grow tobaccos in unique parts of the world that have never been done before.
“We have a project we are starting in India and we have projects in other countries that I cannot speak about now,” said Patel. “We are trying to create blends that have never been delivered to the consumer before.”
Rocky also plans to revolutionize the cigar lounge concept and squash any negative stereotypes associated with the experience. His new lounge, Burn, in Naples, Florida is a one-of-a-kind showcase of class, sophistication and entertainment.
“It is not your typical cigar lounge that could be boring with a bunch of people sitting around in dim lighting, dark leather furniture and mahogany wood accents,” said Patel. “We are trying to show people that you can have an evolution that is fun for men and women of all ages with great architecture, great conversation, and great music and dancing.”
It is evident that Rocky’s burning passion is growing even stronger as his tireless pursuit for perfection is still flourishing nearly 20 years after his launch. Now with two farms, two factories, a hybrid seed that he created and countless blends under his belt, it is safe to say that Rocky Patel has truly become a giant in an industry that thrives on brand recognition and quality assurance.
Click here for Part 2 of my interview with Rocky Patel where he discusses FDA regulation legislation and the future of the cigar industry.