Cigar Culture

The History of Rocky Patel

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

A Charismatic Philosophy

Cigar lovers all over the place love to meet Rocky Patel in person. His charisma, enthusiasm, and passion for his cigars draw others to him like a magnet. He is among the most active marketers in the entire industry and adheres to a rigorous schedule of events across the country where he takes the time to meet his consumers in person. Today, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars is a leading brand thanks to Rocky’s relentless promotion.

Rakesh “Rocky” Patel entered the cigar business through a less conventional path than many of today’s prominent cigar-makers who are often continuing a family tradition that’s been in place for generations. In the early 1990s, Rocky was working as an entertainment and product liability lawyer in Los Angeles. A cigar-smoking girlfriend introduced Rocky to premium cigars and convinced him to join the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills. He became enamored with cigars and decided to get into the business at the urging of some friends.

The Indian Tabac Years

In 1996, Patel attended his first industry trade show where he debuted Indian Tabac, his first brand. Although Patel is Indian, the company was named in reference to the Indian Motorcycle brand to whom he paid a royalty for use of the name. The cigars were an instant hit with retailers who clamored for all the product they could get their hands on in the midst of the Cigar Boom.

Patel was successful in establishing Indian Tabac as a premium brand by pumping his product into the marketplace and making nonstop visits to retailers. By 2003, after years of steady growth, Rocky made a deliberate decision to shift his focus away from Indian Tabac to a new line of cigars – his eponymous Rocky Patel Vintage Series – a sizeable risk at the time. Rocky wanted to leverage Indian Tabac exclusively as a “catalog” or online brand – one that could be sold over the internet at a significant discount – and introduce a fresh line of premium cigars for the retail channel. Although Indian Tabac was officially discontinued in 2015, building the brand into a success was a learning experience for Rocky.

True premium cigars can never be rushed into production. Rocky discovered the best cigar manufacturers had the best tobacco – and they represented an exclusive group. Because the highest quality tobacco is aged for very long periods of time, it is not easy to come by. He had to form relationships with a select group of tobacco brokers and growers and cigar factories to access the highest quality tobaccos. Secondly, Rocky learned to cut production quotas for his cigar rollers down to 250 cigars per roller per day to insure better and more consistent construction. Some rollers would notoriously crank out 400 or 500 cigars per day, but of widely varying quality and consistency.

Rocky Patel Premium Cigars

Rocky Patel cigars are handcrafted in Nicaragua and Honduras. Patel branched out and partnered with other factories and cigar-makers to produce his new brand. In less than a year, Rocky Patel-branded cigars racked up more top ratings than Indian Tabac did in nearly a decade. By 2006, Rocky officially changed the name of the company from Indian Tabac Cigar Co. to Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. Among the first releases to create a substantial buzz were Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 and Rocky Patel Vintage 1992. They remain major staples in the company’s portfolio today. The 92-rated ‘RP’ Vintage 1990 delivers a little more sweetness with its Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. ‘RP’ Vintage 1992 also scored 92 points from Cigar Aficionado with a medium-bodied blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers beneath a dark brown Ecuador Sumatra wrapper.

In the Vintage series, Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 is the highest rated blend at 93 points. A Cameroon wrapper embraces a medium to full-bodied recipe of Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers. An ‘RP’ Vintage 1999 has since been added with a milder Connecticut Shade wrapper, and ‘RP’ Vintage 2006 targets fans of the popular San Andrés wrapper leaf.

The Top-Rated Rocky Patel Cigars

In 2008, Rocky Patel Decade scored 95 points in the Torpedo format. The blend’s rough and rustic boxes with the cigar’s nutty and earthy Ecuador Sumatra leaf won many admirers and elevated Rocky’s premium lines in the marketplace. In 2009, Rocky Patel Renaissance gained momentum with a 90-point rating. The line now includes several popular wrapper varietals, as well as the ultra-affordable ‘RP’ Renaissance Fumas.  

Also in 2009, Rocky Patel cigars began appearing in Cigar Aficionado’s ‘Top 10 Cigars of Year’ rankings with the 92-rated ‘RP’ Old World Reserve. In 2011, Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary scored 93 points with a ‘Top 10’ ranking. It’s nutty and peppery profile of cocoa and earth impressed the critics in a box-pressed Torpedo shape. The cigar was created to celebrate Rocky’s fifteenth year in the cigar business.

Rocky blended the ‘RP’ Fifty to commemorate his 50th birthday. In 2012, the 93-rated cigar was awarded the ‘#8 Cigar of the Year’ ranking in the Corona Gorda shape. Among Rocky’s hottest sellers is ‘RP’ The Edge. Rated 94 points, ‘RP’ The Edge Habano blend is handcrafted from a hearty profile of all-Nicaraguan tobaccos with a Cuban-seed wrapper. It was ranked in the ‘Top 10’ for 2015. Rocky expanded The Edge franchise with The Edge A-10 in a barber-pole wrapper as well as a Sumatra-seed edition. Today, ‘RP’ The Edge is available in Corojo, Maduro, Ecuador Connecticut, and Candela wrapper varietals, as well as a number of inexpensive ‘RP’ The Edge 2nds bundles.

Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro has taken home the highest ranking to date as the ‘#2 Cigar of the Year’ with 95 points for 2016. A dark and chewy Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper hosts a full-bodied core of Nicaraguan long-fillers that deliver a plethora of minerals and spices with a bit of caramel on the finish.

A Whirlwind of New Cigars

Rocky’s business model in the cigar industry differs from a number of premium cigar-makers. One glance at the sheer volume of cigars in the Rocky Patel portfolio is evidence that a relentless stream of new releases is critical. A tireless perfectionist, Rocky is never satisfied and entertains dozens of new projects at one time. That, coupled with ensuing FDA regulation aimed to greatly restrict new cigars from entering the market, has led Rocky to release a prolific stream of new cigars in recent years.

Navigating the brand’s deep menu of blends can be challenging. Luckily, Rocky is keen to release a solid collection of ‘RP’ samplers that highlight his most sought-after releases. Trying a mixed Rocky sampler is often the best introduction to his bestselling boxes like ‘RP’ Velvet Edition and ‘RP’ Ocean Club. ‘RP’ Short Run Limited Edition and ‘RP’ The Project are high-end boutique cigars Rocky elected to package in bundles and, of course, we can’t leave out the esteemed ‘RP’ Mulligans franchise.

Rocky Hits a Hole in One with ‘RP’ Mulligans

In an effort to constantly challenge himself as a cigar-maker, Rocky’s motivation to produce a blend for virtually every palate (regardless of price or level of sophistication) never ceases. Because not every cigar Rocky creates makes it into his official portfolio, the Rocky Patel Mulligans franchise was developed back in 2011 as both a testing ground and permanent home for new blends galore.

Many of Rocky’s most reviewed and sought-after cigars reside in the ‘RP’ Mulligans portfolio. The franchise earned Rocky the title, ‘King of the $3 Golf ‘Gar.’ The majority of Mulligans cigars fall under $3 apiece and many are less than $2, making it one of the best values in the entire cigar industry. Every wrapper you can imagine is represented in a wide variety of traditional, handcrafted shapes. ‘RP’ Mulligans have become some of the most popular cigars for bachelor parties, yard work, and more.   

The Birth of Burn by Rocky Patel

Today, Rocky Patel runs his burgeoning cigar company as a family enterprise with the help of his brother, Nish Patel, and his cousin, Nimish “Nimmy D” Desai. In late 2010, Rocky opened Burn by Rocky Patel, a high-end cigar bar in Naples, Florida. The group has since branched out significantly with new locations in Pittsburgh and Oklahoma City. More are slated to open in Atlanta and Indianapolis as well. Each Burn location reflects the brand’s aesthetic with vibrant color, dramatic seating and lighting, and an array of contemporary patterns.

Determined to prove detractors wrong who proclaimed, in his early days, he would never last in the cigar business, Rocky Patel continues to thrive and expand in many corners of the industry. He is now owner of the Tavicusa cigar factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. He has also become a vocal advocate for the rights of cigar smokers and the premium cigar industry, testifying before Congress and standing up against egregious FDA regulation on a host of news channels.

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