Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rocky Patel Velvet Edition

"Rocky" Rakesh Patel is a great story; the man, the company and of course the cigars... and all my readers know that I love a good story.

     So the story starts with an entertainment lawyer - the most unlikely of all heroes. But hero to me he most certainly is, and for all of the same reasons that I have heroes in the wine industry and the culinary industry. Rocky is a man who is devoted to quality. He insists on it, and will accept nothing less. As I said, a hero.

     In the 1990's Rocky was an entertainment lawyer to such film giants as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gene Hackman, and as they are cigar lovers, he ended up developing an appreciation. Appreciation turned to devotion, and to a magnitude far outstripping that of most cigar devotees: he sold his law practice and spend 5 years studying the craft and trade of cigar manufacturing in Honduras. The man was willing to do anything to learn, even working the fields and in the barns (as is to be expected from any self-respecting perfectionist).

     Cut to 2002 when he re-branded his cigar company as "Rocky Patel" ( )and then in 2003 when he launched his uber-sensations the 1990 vintage and 1992 vintage. Both were immediate successes both in the media (rated 90 points for both) and in sales. Rocky Patel has declared himself and his company as standing for unwavering quality, and, he succeeded. I have smoked both cigars (reviews to follow at a later date) and they are definitely a premium product.

     And now we fast-forward to 2011, when the owner of a $25 million per year business travels over 300 days of the year to promote his products... which I can understand. He must be naturally proud of what he and his CrackerJack team have accomplished in such a relatively short period of time; there are cigars companies who have tradition running generations, and yet seem not to have found such a solid base of quality and acceptance in the marketplace. And what a different market it is now compared to only 20 years ago when Rocky first started!

     The mid-1990's were arguably the modern hay-day for cigar aficionados. Cigars were plentiful and cigar-rooms were everywhere! It seemed a man couldn't walk into a pub, bar or upscale lounge without seeing a humidor and a fine scotch/whiskey/cognac menu to pair with the local offerings. Ah yes, them was the days... I actually walked into a local cigar shop (now closed) just as Arnold Governator was walking out, and looking quite pleased with himself as I remember. He was in town filming, and made a habit of stopping for the Cuban cigars he couldn't get back in California. My how the times have changed...
     Mrs Astudentofwine and I were in California 2 years ago in October, so that I could show her the Japanese Gardens in San Francisco in the Fall... a must if you haven't already done it. We were down the coast a little, in a town called Santa Barbera, which is a little sleepy in the Fall and perfect for romance. So anyways, we were walking the deserted beach and I was smoking a cigar - no one in sight. A fellow cycling past us stopped and told me I should butt out my cigar or I would get fined. "Haha - what kind of fine?" I asked. "$2000" he responded and kept going.

     Yes indeed, a very different world then it was 20 years ago. But Rocky Patel stays on the road and on top of his business. He is most definitely the face of Rocky Patel cigars, and is a not-so-subtle reminder that he is standing behind the quality of every cigar with his name on it.
Rocky Patel "Velvet" Edition
$8/ cigar     **EXCELLENT VALUE**
Country of Origin: Nicaragua

Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Connecticut - Ecuador
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
  • visual:   clean burn with an incredibly strong ash; I was driving at 70 km/hr and nothing was on my coat
  • nose:   medium+ to fully intense; woodsy notes, dark rich coffee and some rich cocoa
  • palate:   very smooth, rich, creamy start with moderate dark cocoa, dark espresso - then moving by mid-smoke into strong wood (cedar) some black peppercorn and that spice keeps up to the last 1" of the cigar
  • conclusion:   In the States you can find these as low as $8/cigar which to me is a steal. In British Columbia we have prohibitive taxes, and these are going to run $30 to be certain... still worth it I say! I have never smoked a poor Rocky Patel, and the Velvet Edition is smooth, rich and nuanced.
  • PAIRING:   All of the dark coffee and dark chocolate made me naturally turn to orange as a complimentary flavor: try Gran Marnier (either warm or on ice), and if you have the money and need a treat, experience the Gran Marnier Reserves (18 year, 25 year, 50 year). True, they are expensive, but they are some of the best value cognacs that you will ever find.
     A fantastic cigar, and I am finding myself quickly becoming accustomed to Rockys' devotion to quality. Other cigar companies may soon find themselves running to catch up to this new level of craftsmanship.
Rocky Patel on the factory floor
As always, I look forward to your comments!

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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