Rocky Patel: Founder & CEO of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars
By Gary Korb
The one-and-only Rocky Patel talks with Cigar Advisor Executive Editor, Gary Korb, about the latest in the ongoing battle between the cigar industry and the FDA, a look at Rocky’s best cigars of 2016 (including his bestselling cigar of all time – can you guess what it is?), what he’s loved most about his long career in the cigar business, and much more.
There are few cigar industry personalities who require no introduction, and Rocky Patel is right there at the top. Born Rakesh Patel in what is now Mumbai, India in 1961, who would have thought this son of a ball-bearing factory owner would someday be one of the world’s leading producers of premium handmade cigars. Following his parents’ move to Wisconsin in 1973 when he was a teenager, then later, a law degree from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, with help from his cousin Nimish Desai, and brother, Nish, the three men built an empire that began with licensing the Indian Motorcycle logo to market their first blends under the Indian Tabac Cigars imprint.
Then came Nestor Plasencia whom Rocky met during the Cigar Boom ’90s. They agreed to produce a brand under Rocky’s name. Of course, the big question was, “Who the hell wants to smoke a ‘Rocky Patel’?” But after the release of the Rocky Patel Vintage series, which debuted in 2002, it was quality that trumped the lack of a familiar-sounding Cuban brand name. In 2004 Rocky’s bestselling The Edge and Sun Grown selections entered the market, and the resounding success of The Edge series marked the beginning of a long and prosperous career for the now iconic brand that has released so many editions to-date, for both Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, as well as numerous private labels for cigar retailers across the country, it’s hard to keep track. Nonetheless, it’s all the proof you need to show that hard work, including a travel schedule of diplomatic proportions, running two cigar factories, acquiring thousands of loyal customers, and close family ties, can payoff in the proverbial “American Dream.”
During this podcast, Rocky looks back at his more than 20 years in the business, talks about the current status of the FDA tobacco regulations, in which he’s been heavily involved, his master blender from Cuba, Hamlet Paredes – a star in his own rite – an upcoming project with A.J. Fernandez for 2017, and since this podcast was recorded before Cigar Aficionado released their “Top 25 Cigars for 2016,” it should be noted that the Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro Robusto made the No.2 cigar of the year.