Rocky Patel – What’s in a name? A damn good cigar
Last time around, I reviewed the Vintage 90 Churchill from Rocky Patel, a good cigar. Today I come back with a review of Rocky’s Vintage 92, a “sibling” of the Vintage 90. Both cigars represent a very successful line created by one of the stars in the contemporary cigar industry. You might say to yourself, “Rocky Patel -- What would a guy with a name like Patel be doing in the cigar business?” He is often mentioned in the same breath as the legends in the business, and virtually all of them have names with Hispanic roots (often Cuban). Names like Arturo Fuente, Carlos Torano, Rolando Reyes, etc. The last name, Patel, is an Indian name from the home of the Taj Mahal and Gandhi, not the land of the cowboy and American Indian. (Although the latter might make some sense because the American Indian is often credited with introducing rolled, smoking tobacco to the “west”). The first name, Rocky, turns out to be a North American nickname for the Indian name Rakesh (still no link to Latin America).
My appreciation of the man’s cigars, a direct exposure to and appreciation of the culture and people of India, and the fact that I have an inquisitive, restless mind, led me to research the question. Because I have been discussing his cigars recently, I thought I would share a little of Rocky’s journey into the cigar industry and his success story as an entrepreneur. This info is based primarily on available content retrieved via the web, and the sources were perceived to be credible.
In India, the name Patel is associated with a class or caste of people who are known to be shrewd, successful businessmen. Rocky saw an opportunity to make money in cigars in the mid-to-late 1990s, during the unprecedented cigar “boom.” Knowing little to nothing about cigars at the time (compared to his knowledge today), he quit his “day” job in the legal profession, and went headlong into the cigar business. An entertainment and product liability lawyer by training, he licensed the Indian Motorcycle brand and founded the Indian Tabac Cigar Co. He began selling cigars, leveraging the motorcycle company’s brand awareness. Still today, almost a decade after the boom, Indian Tabac branded cigars are still on the market and they represent excellent value.
While practically all of the other companies founded in the boom years have gone the route of the dinosaur, Rocky survived and now thrives. He accomplished this the old fashioned way, through hard work and his innate salesmanship skills. He spent significant time in Latin America, in places like Honduras, learning every aspect of the business and making key contacts within the industry. When in North America, he hit the road going to trade shows -- and more importantly to the smoke shops around the continent -- always promoting his wares. He does this still today, while introducing new, top-notch cigars with his name on the label. He has successfully branded his name, Rocky Patel, to be associated with excellent smokes, both in quality and taste. One of my favorites is profiled below. Rocky has enjoyed a number of successful cigars in the market, and the Vintage and Edge lines seem to be most popular.
With that said – Let’s get smokin’!
Rocky Patel Vintage 92
Size: Torpedo (6.1 inches in length, 52 ring gauge)
$8 to 9.50 range
I’ll review the RP Vintage 92 and compare it to its “sibling” cigar, the Vintage 90 that I reviewed last week. Both cigars are identical from a filler/binder perspective. The wrapper is the differentiator and it drives two unique smoking experiences.
- Wrapper: 10 year old Ecuadorian Sumatra broadleaf (the 90 had a 12 year old Honduran wrapper)
- Filler and binder: Dominican, Nicaraguan blend (same
as the 90)
The Vintage 92 Torpedo is just the right size cigar for me. It's marketed as a medium-bodied smoke, versus the 90, which is mild. I’ve smoked enough of them to validate the claim: the 92 is not a mild smoke and the 90 is flavorful, but still mild. I smoked two of the Torpedo 92s one week apart. The first was smoked seaside in Miami, late night after one too many vodka tonics. I finished it the next day, semi-hung-over, at the same seaside location with an afternoon beer in the sun. The second, I smoked after some hard work around the house (clearly back in the real world), on my patio, sober with a glass of ice water. To provide a more thorough and unbiased review, I chose to use the latter experience for this review.
Look and feel
Pre-lit, these are classy, expensive-looking cigars, using the exact double banding as the 90, maroon and gold, with a simple design, but with 1992 in place of 1990. This is a good-looking cigar with an aged wrapper leaf, dark in color. It is a fatter cigar with a foot that tapers to a point, hence the “torpedo” style. It is box pressed in the old Cuban tradition, but it seems to be a lighter box press than the 90 Churchill. The Churchill had a distinct, four corner press, while the torpedo-shaped 92 had corners that were less defined, more rounded. Construction appeared solid and the burn was admirably even, never needing a relight, even as I had to walk away for a couple of short periods to tend to some family activities around the house.
Aroma and Taste
Unlike the open on the 90, the 92 opened with a strong flavor of burnt toast. Quite frankly not the best flavor for me, and it hung around for the initial half inch of the cigar. The good news: (unlike the 90) the amount of smoke was plentiful. The bad news: the amount of smoke was plentiful. If you like the taste, a lot of smoke is good; in this case for me, with the burnt toast flavor in the beginning, a lot of smoke was bad. The cigar smoothed out and seemed to hit the taste notes that the blend was designed for. By the middle of this smoke, I was reminded why the 92 torpedo is one of my favorite Rocky Patel blends -- it was smooth and had mellowed into a rich and glorious smoke. The flavors were now completely balanced and stayed that way until I almost began smoking the flesh of my finger. Yes, I nubbed this one, which I have not done since I had my last good Cuban cigar, a Cohiba.
At the risk of sounding too much like Randy Jackson’s American Idol reviews, I offer the following: The opening was a little rough and only OK for me, especially since I did not recall a 92 with that burnt toast flavor in the opening. However, it found its groove relatively quickly and just kept bringing it all the way to the end. It was the bomb! Again, the larger ring gauge brought the heavy volume of smoke that I prefer in a favorable tasting cigar, though it may be a little much for a newbie.
Let me know your preference. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
RATING: 9.3 (on a scale of 1 to 10)
In this case, I really did not subtract much for the opening flavor, due to my familiarity with this cigar and the fact that I deemed it a rare occurrence. In the smoke-off between the 90 and the 92 Rocky Patel Vintage’s, the 92 wins hands down for me. However, more importantly, the smoke-off illustrates a couple of key points that I have made in the past.
- Size matters (in a cigar).
- Know or at least discover your taste preference profile. I typically like a medium-bodied cigar over a mild one, hence my scoring in favor of the 92.
Interestingly, the 90 has tended to get at least equivalent, if not more recognition, in some of the popular cigar publications.
"A woman is a woman but a good cigar is a smoke." –Rudyard Kipling
DISCLAIMER: At the risk of sounding too much like a TV commercial, I do want to sincerely state: This feature is NOT intended to advocate the smoking of cigars any more or any less than you already do, nor do I intend to influence the non-smoker to begin smoking cigars. Make no mistake about it; CIGAR SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH.