Rocky Patel likes to tell people that no one in the cigar industry thought he would last ten years in the business. Now he's about to celebrate year 15.
To commemorate the occasion, Patel today released a cigar called Fifteenth Anniversary by Rocky Patel. It's a medium dark, trunk-pressed cigar that's wrapped in Ecuadoran tobacco grown from Habano seeds. The binder and filler tobaccos are entirely Nicaraguan, and one of the filler varieties is grown on a farm that was specially dedicated to this cigar. The cigars come in dark boxes with metallic plates, and the double bands are the color of gun metal steel.
"I wanted to do something special to celebrate our 15 years in the cigar business," said Patel, the owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, which is based in Naples, Florida. "I wanted a cigar that's like the Decade on steroids. The Fifteenth has the elegance and the balance of the Decade, but it has the richness, complexity and spice that kind of puts it over the top."
Patel spoke about one of the fillers, which he said comes from "a special farm in Estelí. I think it's some of the richest, and spiciest tobaccos I've ever had. The farm is just dedicated to that filler." He also said that he had been waiting to use the Habano seed Ecuadoran wrapper tobacco, which comes from a very high priming, for about two years.
While Patel has built his brands primarily with cigars that are rolled in Honduras, namely those made by the Plasencia family, this new brand is made in the Tabacalera Villa Cuba S.A. cigar factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. Patel owns the factory along with Amilcar Perez. Cigar Insider toured the first version of the factory in December, and it has since been relocated to a larger space in Estelí. Tabacalera Villa Cuba makes cigars in slow, artisan style. It has been in operation since December 2008, and also makes the Rocky Patel 1961 cigar along with some private label brands.
The cigars there are made with triple caps, the bunching is done entubado style, a slow process where each filler leaf is rolled in a sort of tube, and the cigars get two binder leaves rather than simply one.
"We wanted it triple capped, rolled the Cuban way, all by hand," said Patel during a tour of the factory. "I think it changes the flavor profile. The flavor is different." The factory, he says, "gives us a whole new style. We can experiment with more boutique stuff."
The Fifteenth Anniversary by Rocky Patel brand comes in four sizes, all of them packed in boxes of 20. The Robusto measures five inches long by 50 ring gauge, the Toro 6 1/2 by 52, the Torpedo 6 1/8 by 52 and the Corona Gorda 6 by 46. (The word "toro" is typically a synonym for corona gorda in the cigar industry, so Patel is doing something nontraditional by having both sizes, with quite different dimensions.) Pricing still has to be determined, but Rocky Patel Premium Cigars said it would be close to the Decade, which are $8 to $12 apiece.
The Rocky Patel Decade, released to celebrate Patel's 10th year in business, delivered Patel his highest ratings ever. The Rocky Patel Decade Torpedo scored 95 points in a February 2008 Cigar Insider, and was the number 15 cigar in Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 cigars of that year.
Launching the Fifteenth Anniversary is but one part of Patel's grand plans for this year and beyond. "My goal is to be the top brand," he says.
Click here to watch an interview with Rocky Patel.