Rocky Patel, owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars
Your newest release is Tavicusa. Tell us about that for those people who haven’t come across it yet.
Tavicusa has a wrapper from San Andrés, Mexico. It has fillers from our own farms in Estelí and Condega, along with a Connecticut Broadleaf binder. It’s got pepper and a lingering sweetness. It’s nice and rich with a lot of meaty flavor. It’s one of my new favorites; I really like that cigar a lot.
And it’s named for the factory. How did the factory get that name?
It is named for Tavicusa, our Estelí factory. I think this is our tenth year with that factory, too.
The name of the factory was something our partner Amilcar Pérez came up with. It’s a shortening of Tabacalera Villa Cubana, S.A.
That S-A at the end is for Sociedad Anónima, which is sort of like saying “Incorporated” which is why so many Central American factories’ names end in those two letters.
Any pairing recommendations with that?
Any good rum, single malt Scotch or red wine. A lot of people like it with bourbon, but bourbon is a little sweet for my palate. I think it’s a great cigar to smoke after a nice steak.
Your Burn lounges are good places to try pairings like that. They’re each so different. What has been your approach to tailoring the little nuances of each Burn lounge to the city it calls home?
We try to bring in some of the local architecture, design and culture. In Pittsburgh, you see the overall design incorporates steel bridges, brushed metal, steel. We also bring in some flair in the upholstery and things like that. Naples had more of a Middle East or Asian look. We remodeled it and now it has more of an old Florida look. Oklahoma City has a very Native American, Southwestern theme to it. Atlanta will have a lot of Southern charm and it’s tied to the baseball stadium, so there’s going to be this giant peach made out of baseballs. Indianapolis will incorporate a lot of cool stuff from the Indy 500.
Tell us about the work of the Rocky Patel Foundation.
We’ve had the foundation for a long time. We’re working on a new factory in Nicaragua and part of the goal is to have a school there and also to have a school in Honduras. That’s our plan right now with the foundation.
For the person who hasn’t been to the region, paint a picture for our readers of what life is like for people in these towns.
These are very poor countries. They’re countries where the people are good, hard working, but have had bad governments for such a long time. They’ve had wars, political unrest, and it seems like the poor people have never gotten a shot. It’s scary when you see all the dirt roads and hillside after hillside with shacks made of thin metal. You think life is tough here or that you’ve had a tough day? You ought to see some of these conditions. It’s hard to worry about school when you’re thinking about your next meal. But when you give them work and opportunity, there can be development.
So many of the people in these towns, though, work in the premium cigar industry, and that goes a long way for them. Since I’ve been there, we’ve seen hospitals, schools, universities, more culture, more work. You see society developing in places where people seemed like they had no chance.