Rocky Patel, owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars
Special Edition has the most limited production of any cigar we’re talking about here.
Special Edition is a very limited cigar. It’s only available at a few retailers around the country. These are retailers that have really supported our brand and do significant volume, so we limit where that cigar is sold. It comes in a 10-count box, it’s box-pressed, it’s got a Habano wrapper from Ecuador and fillers from three different valleys in Nicaragua. That cigar is very balanced, smooth, creamy. The overall richness of the cigar and the balance make it refined and unique.
When we say limited, how limited are we talking?
That cigar is available at only 350 retail stores throughout the country. What’s special is that the tobaccos are aged for a minimum of six years. We can only do that so much, and because of the age of the tobaccos, even though we’re using a lot of visos and ligero, the cigar has a very rich flavor while still being very smooth on the palate.
Who were some of the people you leaned on for wisdom or help when you got your start?
I mean, that was the hardest thing. Everybody thought I was going to be another Don Nobody. They thought, “Here comes this kid, we’re going to milk him for his cash, he’s going to move on and he’s not going to last.” I remember back in the ‘90s there were hundreds and hundreds of people and they’d come with suitcases of cash just saying, “Ship us whatever.” I thought, “This is the craziest business I’ve ever been in.”
That lasted a couple of years before the bottom fell out. So to answer your question about who we went to for help, we were lucky that we had this relationship with UST. We went in there and started making cigars and we had the pick of the litter of tobacco. Larry Polombo was at UST running the factory and then Pepe Gutierrez came after. Local guys in curing like Fausto. They gave me a shot, which was great. General Cigar ended up with the factory and the Cullmans allowed me to stick around and keep making cigars there.
The Plasencia family. They took a risk on me and we would fight, there would be screaming matches, but I said, “Listen, you have all these factories, but your legacy is as great farmers, not great cigar makers. Allow me to use these tobaccos and I promise we’ll have a solid brand.”
It was hard to get Nestor Sr. to change his ways, but they eventually allowed me to work. Thanks to them, we came out with the Edge and the Decade and all these things. They took risks for us and I have to give them a lot of credit.
What was the feedback from family and friends when they found out you were leaving the law to get into cigars?
They thought I was crazy. “You’re leaving a successful law firm, you spent all this time and money getting this degree, and now you’re going to invest in this thing where you’ll never make it.”
One of the other things that happened … I was carjacked in L.A., so my parents wanted me out of there. They’re used to small towns in Wisconsin. I grew up in Green Bay. But that was part of the equation. I was burnt out on L.A. and moved to Florida, so that went into the mix.
We were running the company out of my house. The extra bedrooms were converted into humidors. Even I thought I was nuts. It was work, perseverance, sacrifice, and thinking outside the box. I don’t believe in luck.
Back to this Special Edition — what pairing recommendations would you make for this one?
I would go with a very oaky Chardonnay or an aged Highland single malt.