Recently, I had the rare, and wonderful opportunity to sit down with a new icon in the cigar business, a man that made it possible for small, independent, non-cuban individuals to blend and make premium cigars. A man who broke the limits of cigar marketing, and a man that everyone who has ever smoked a cigar knows, a man that believes in his product and travels 300 days a year to have face to face time with his customers. The story of a high power LA attorney that left it all behind on a dream ….Rocky Patel
TB: Thank you for letting us Interview you, I know you’re a busy man
RP: Not a problem
TB: Lets talk about Indian Tabac and how you got started in this whole cigar industry
Why did you even get into the industry?
RP: Essentially I was practicing law in LA, and when we were on the set, during lighting and sound, all the actors were smoking, so naturally I kinda started smoking. I knew a friend in Honduras was making cigars, who was looking for someone to join up with him in the company, so he made the cigars and I came up with all the creative marketing and packaging. Then I ended up doing a bunch of dinners for Schwarzenegger’s restaurant called Schatzi on Main in Santa Monica, pretty soon I had a bunch of celebrities in La smoking the cigars, it became a cool cult cigar in LA. Then I finally got out on the road and started introducing it to people and started liking the business but didn’t know that much about it eventually bought my partner out, and realized I really needed to learn about the business so I went Honduras and Nicaragua Dominican Republic. Spent a lot of time asking a lot of dumb questions, really learning from the farm up, farming the caring the fermentation sucking in all the knowledge I could from the top cigar makers and see what they were doing right and see what they were doing wrong and I really fell in love with it I made hundreds and hundreds of blends educating my palate so I could tell the difference between Nicaragua Honduras and The Dominican Republic, and just absolutely fell in love, everyone said “you’ll never make it this is the kind of business that is handed down through generations” you’ve gotta be that and you’ve gotta be Cuban, and that kinda got my antlers up and got me even more fired up, I’m gonna try to show them that I can succeed in this business.
TB : Cool, I was talking to my dad about you, he’s been in the cigar business for 35 years and he said that the most respected he’s ever felt, is when you used to call on him yourself. How important do you think that was in getting your brand off the ground, how important do you think that was to the success of Rocky Patel
RP: Important, you know the thing about Indian Tabac is we had other people making our cigars for us and we always had inconsistency in the blends, they wouldn’t ferment the filler properly, wrapper properly they would change the binder on you because short supply the construction was rushed they weren’t selective on choosing the best wrapper, it was always one issue after the other, even though the blends were incredible I didn’t have direct control over the all the raw materials and construction. And so we had a lot of issues when I finally got complete control over all the curing, fermentation and manufacturing, that’s when I decided it was time to put my name on the cigar because I could guarantee the consistency and the quality of every single cigar, that’s when I knew wed be successful because I knew I had a good palate and we were making some amazing blends with a lot of flavor and a lot of character, a lot of flavor and at the same time they were great, elegant and well balanced.
TB: What have you noticed the difference between the cigar industry of the early 90’s and Today is? I feel like we are inline for another boom.
RP: I’m not necessarily sure we are in another boom. The difference is the “following”. In the early 90s it was cool to smoke cigars, everyone was smoking and the quality of the cigars was very very very poor. There was not enough good leaf around and people were rushing the curing and fermentation of the tobacco, the construction was not as nice there were a lot of issues at that time with the quality both in flavor & construction , taste & consistency. I think at the time also people made more linear cigar there was really not a lot of character, flavor certainly not rich and full bodied cigars because there wasn’t ample Ligero either. Now I think now, as manufactures, we have educated the consumer. I spend a lot of time on the road talking, bring them down to the factories, we have opened there minds and educated them just like the wine industry educated their consumers. Same thing has happened for us. We have gone out and found seeds of different origin tobaccos from different parts of the world , we are growing into unique countries and finding unique tobacco with a lot more character a lot more diversity in flavor profile richer, fuller cigars, cigars in different shapes sizes and wrappers, I am always seeking to make a cigar that has character, that hasn’t been on the market before your getting better cigars as far as the construction , the quality, the curing, fermentation everything about it is much much better and superior than it was in the 90’s , better cigars at a better price than ever before in history
TB: I think that, speaking on the level of quality. I think that of all the good things you do the Java is awesome product. I think that because there is not a lot of premium flavored cigars. I don’t smoke flavored cigars, My Dad and I will smoke a Java for breakfast in the morning. We went out to Napa, and smoked them every morning. What do you think about bringing an actual premium flavor to the market, how did it go? What was the process, they are way different than anything else on the market
RP: When we started this with Drew Estate my main concern was that the cigar was to be a complete premium cigar, that had a little infusion of coffee, vanilla and chocolate, and now of course we have the Java Mint which has a little infusion of coffee, vanilla, chocolate, and mint. We really sought out to make a total premium cigar so that someone who is smoking a Decade could turn around and smoke a Java and find the construction impeccable, the fermentation perfect and the curing perfect, and at the same time get that little hint of that infusion of flavor. We worked for two and half years until we perfected it and got it right. So, your right the Java is a great premium cigar you can smoke it in the morning, smoke it after dessert or a great meal. It works everytime
TB: The new mints are really good I really like those
TB: That was a good call
TB: Switching gears real quick, I went to school for wine, and wine is really my passion , and I noticed that there was a wine that really got me into wine . Is there a cigar like that for you? Is there a cigar that you had, and you were like wow! This cigar will change my life forever.
RP: As far my own cigar, when I blended the Decade and had that blend I was completely taken back by it, it was after I had made like 127 different blends and when I actually got too it I was like, wow that’s pretty amazing. I enjoy the Padron Anniversary . Years ago it wowed me and I thought that it was a cigar that impressed me very much. I’ve come across other blends that we made like the Edge blend it also wowed me, I thought it had a unique taste profile that no other cigars ever had before. Those are the types of cigars that blow me away
TB: Lets talk about the Decade. What about that cigar makes it so special ?
RP: I think the Decade, like the Edge, we don’t tell anyone what the filler is, but we use filler from a particular country in the world that no one else uses. That makes it unique in flavor we have a very very high priming of Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, very dark, very oily that adds to a lot of the flavor. That tobacco has been aged for 17 years its gone through extreme fermentation which makes it very clean, elegant and well balanced, and the beauty about the decade is it delivers so much flavor at the same time its so balanced on the palate.
TB: think its one of the best cigars I’ve ever had personally
RP: Thank You
TB: We recently had an event at Havana House, our store, it was our best event to date, and I think partly because of the accessories we were able to give to our customers. We had the decade humidors, rocky lighters, wooden cigars and other things.
What do you think is next for Rocky Accessories and do you think its crucial to selling your products
RP: We are coming out with the Rocky Patel Luxury Lifestyle Collection, we are trying to be innovative, its ironic that you asked me this because just yesterday we sat down and were looking at different versions and samples of some unique humidors. We are going to go back to some really classic antique style humidors, and retro style ashtrays, classic antiquey stuff. We are pushing back time again into what old cigars used to look like, what old humidors used to look like, because everything now is so modern, we are pushing the envelope on that side. Our clothing line that we came out with has been very successful so far. We are looking to expand on that and do some innovative stuff on that. I’m always looking to push the boundaries and bring to the cigar consumer stuff that they enjoy and is not always cigar related. We are also looking at our own wine, we were just in Argentina visiting wineries interviewing people, and we are looking at some wines in California.
TB: Well that will be awesome
TB: Last question. How do you feel about being in the retail industry now? You have your own lounge now, how’s that going for you? Do you enjoy it?
RP:I really enjoy it I spend a lot of time there. The unique thing about “Burn” is that it really is an experience. When you go to “Burn” you feel that you’re transcended into a journey. You can’t tell if you’re in Cuba or India. It has fun architecture, lifestyle, comfort, wine, spirits we have the best of everything there. It has a wow factor and I wanted to make sure we did it right because, you know most lounges look like a library, and I wanted to show people that with cigars you can have a fun, lively, real experience. We have live music every night and I enjoy that we carry some of the finest cigars in the world, and people from all over the world come and see us, and its cool so I want to make cigars more fun, its not an old boring thing were you just sit around on a couch. I guess I made it more exciting lively exciting experience, and hopefully we can spread this to other cities around the world.
TB: Well I think your doing a great job, Ive always loved your product, My Dad has always loved your product and we are proud to have it in our stores.
RP: Thank You
TB: I really appreciate your time
RP: Anytime, tell your Dad I Said hello
TB: Talk to you later