Rocky Patel, owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars
So we just spent some time on the Corojo-wrapped Olde World. What can you tell us about this Maduro?
The Maduro wrapper on this cigar is a Habano that’s being grown in Jalapa in Nicaragua. The cigar itself is made at TAVICUSA, our Nicaraguan factory. The Olde World Reserve Maduro is going to have a little more spice, a little more caramel and coffee to it than the Corojo.
What would you recommend pairing with this cigar?
On the Maduro, I’d go with a Cabernet or — when it comes to spirits pairings — something more like a peaty Islay Scotch or a heavier, pepperier rum.
What’s the availability of this cigar look like and what has the reaction been from smokers so far?
Both of these cigars — Olde World Reserve Corojo and Maduro — are readily available. People love it. The Corojo is the original blend. The Maduro has been changed a little bit, I believe for the better. It was hard to find those tobaccos and we got them.
So each of these cigars is made in a different country. What are some of the benefits and impacts of having production in both Honduras and Nicaragua?
We’re lucky now that we have two different factories. With the political situations that transpire in Central America all the time, if there are problems in Nicaragua or Honduras, we’re lucky to have production in both places. With what’s going on in Nicaragua, we’re able to take our tobacco and resume production to Honduras if we have to. We’re blessed in that way.
People ask whether it’s different to make cigars in Honduras versus Nicaragua. It’s really not. The skill set is the same and they have years and years of tradition of making great quality cigars there. The farming and the soil is quite similar. Yeah, there’s some differences between Jamastrán, Estelí and Jalapa, for example, but they’re similar.
What were you doing before cigars and what was the transition like for you?
I was a lawyer in L.A.; there were a lot of celebrities around. We’d be on movie sets and all these people were smoking cigars, so I started smoking cigars.
And then there was the Grand Havana Room that opened in Beverly Hills, which was down the road from my office. I would go there and hang out and smoke cigars. That was when I was approached by Phil Zanghi about investing in the cigar business.
It was crazy because back then they were all mild cigars. When we launched the Indian Tabak Super Fuerte, people thought I was crazy. I remember giving one to Litto Gómez in New York and he said, “This is such a strong cigar!” Look at him now! He makes some of the strongest cigars out there.
Luckily, because the cigar boom of the ‘90s slowed down, tobacco became available for someone like me to come in and acquire all these aged tobaccos. Where can you go now to find tobaccos that are aged eight, nine, even 10 years? Nobody would sell it to you! So it helped me to be able to get that kind of tobacco and create a brand that people liked so much.
It also helped you to develop your own cigar identity as a blender.
The most fun part of getting started was being able to create a taste profile that was different from everything else that was out there. I enjoy cooking and I love different flavors. My heritage is different and my perspective is different, so even early on my cigars had a lot more layers of flavor and spice and complexity.
At the same time, you want balance. It’s about character, not just strength.