Rocky Patel, owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars
How would you describe the smoking experience with Sun Grown Maduro?
The Sungrown Maduro is a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper with fillers from Estelí and Condega. That brand has a lot of caramel, coffee, espresso, some lingering white pepper. I would describe that brand as medium plus in flavor profile. Very complex, very rich. It’s a really well aged cigar with a lot going on.
Right there in the name, you’ve got sun grown. For the person who’s not as familiar with the process, what’s the significance of it being sun grown?
There are two types of tobaccos grown on a farm. There’s sun grown tobacco and there’s shade grown tobacco. The sun grown tobacco is literally grown in the sunlight. The plant gets to be about five and a half feet tall, the leaves are very thick and rich and deliver a lot of flavor.
Shade grown tobacco is grown under cheesecloth that blocks out about 75 percent of the ultraviolet rays. The plant gets about nine feet tall, the leaves are very thin, very long, and usually the tobacco is lighter in flavor.
Is there a specific vitola that you’d recommend people go to to try these cigars?
I would recommend Robusto or Toro.
Was there a product or a moment in your career in cigars when you can remember thinking, “All right… We’ve made it”?
I think probably the launch of The Edge. We had had success with the Vintage 1990 and the Vintage 1992, and when we launched The Edge, which was a total departure. It was in a 100-count box, no cellophane. We just wanted to show a raw product from the factory. It was a big change also because half the filler was from a country nobody was using. That’s still one of the staple brands.
You’ve been among the cigar makers most involved in the fight against FDA regulation of premium cigars. What’s your involvement looked like?
I was lucky to be able to enter into this industry, work hard and be successful. Others should have the same opportunity. In wine, for example, there are always incredible young entrepreneurs doing incredible things. That same opportunity should be available to people in cigars. You don’t want an industry controlled by three or four large manufacturers. The best thing for consumers is choice. This regulation would suck the creative energy out of the industry.
Having my legal background and being a bulldog, I got tied up in persuading people in Washington. We’re speaking the truth here. There is no reason to regulate an industry that is so well behaved, that makes a legal product, that is truly an art form. There are families like the Padróns, the Fuentes, the Plasencias, that have generations of history in this art form, and that’s what drives me every day to protect it. It’s a matter of principle.
You’ve also got all these Burn lounges. What was the vision there?
In all my travels, there hasn’t been much change in where and how you smoke cigars. We wanted to show that smoking cigars can be fun and can be enjoyed by everybody. Women, men, any adult who wants to enjoy a nice place where you can have a drink, enjoy good music, and a have a cigar. Each Burn lounge is completely different in design and architecture. You’re in a very cool room with clean air, a fun atmosphere, the finest spirits, and the ability to enjoy a cigar.
People are learning about this culture. We’re creating a culture of awareness and making it fun to enjoy a cigar.