Words: Ambica Gulati
The aromas of cigar mingled with the January night fog as the tikkas and snacks did the rounds and single malt whisky floated in our hands. The occasion was Marriage of Cigaro hosted by Cigar Conexion at The Oberoi rooftop in Delhi. The marriage of cigar with malt was an experience of the luxurious life that Rocky Patel brings from the US of A to his home country India. An entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, Patel decided to form a cigar company about a decade back. Rocky Patel Premium Cigars Inc. is a $30 million business which produces 16 million cigars a year. Patel also owns tobacco plantations in Honduras and Nicargua. Excerpts from my conversation with Patel:
I know nothing about cigars. What are they?
Cigars are an art form. They are literally born over generations as it takes four to five years to make a cigar, from the seedlings to the final product is work all done by hand. Cigars have different flavours such as nutty, pepper, caramel, full bodied, smooth, light and more.
Are cigars about lifestyle? What is that we are trying to say with cigars?
Cigars are about good food, good wines, good spirits. It is about sitting back and relaxing in a chair and enjoying time with friends. It’s not about some old men sitting in dark room in leather chairs.
Your journey into the cigar business.
Cuba is the place known for cigars. But my cigars are made in Honduras and Nicargua. And people of Latin descent and Cubans are cigar makers. Everyone thought I was crazy when I wanted to get into this business. But I did a lot of research and learned a lot before getting into this. We focus on quality. We even have a cigar lounge in Naples, Florida, which has live music, and the architecture is a mixture of the palaces of Udaipur, Moroccan, Asian influences.
Why don’t you have a cigar lounge in India?
I will meet the Prime Minister for a proposal to open a cigar rolling factory in Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh. The laws are strict here, so we can’t open a cigar lounge. In fact in the US we are lobbying that there be different regulations for cigars from the other tobacco products.
How safe or addictive are cigars?
Cigars are not like cigarettes. The tobacco has been fermented for almost five years before it is rolled into a cigar. You don’t inhale the tobacco like a cigarette. It is a symbol of fine life like single malt or wine. Also, no cigarette brand owns a cigar brand. And we would like to keep it that way.
How much does a cigar cost?
Depending on the quality, it could be anything between Rs 500-5,000.
India is a price sensitive market. Do you feel you will find takers for this?
They are not aggressively overpriced if you see the value line. Even the middle class can afford it. It is a lifestyle product, not a mass product or a habit.
What do you pair with your cigar?
My favourite is red wine but it would depend on the cigar flavour also. Johny Walker is my best friend with a full bodied cigar.
Where all are the Rocky Patel cigars available?
In Khan Market in Delhi, across five stars such as the Taj, The Oberoi, The Leela and across some e-retail sites.
Which would you suggest for me?
Vintage 1990 which has a nice mild, creamy flavour with nuttiness to it.
Are you looking for a celebrity to endorse your cigars?
If someone right comes along, then why not.
About Cigar Conexion
Founded in 2011, Cigar Conexion is the exclusive importer and distributor of finest hand made and machine made cigars in India. Based in Bangalore, the company is associated with TSTH – The Spanish Tobacco Trading House S.L – Barcelona. The brands in their portfolio include Ashton, Debonaire, JC Newman, Oliva, Padron, and Rocky Patel. The company also offers a wide range of Machine made cigars and cigarettes from DJARUM, Indonesia and Flor Di Filipinas from Philippines. Visit: http://www.cigarconexion.in