When it comes to the world of cigars, Rakesh “Rocky” Patel is no stranger. A self-made millionaire, Rocky Patel is owner of Rocky Patel Premium cigars. Patel has become one of the best-known names in the world of premium cigars.
Early in life, Patel learned a lot about plants from his grandfather. He says his grandfather was like a “secretary of horticulture” Who would take him to remote farms in very poor areas of India to learn.
“We had to learn everything about plants, everything about horticulture. When we went on vacation, it would be two hours in the morning he take you around and teach you stuff, and then there would be a quiz in the afternoon after you got up from your nap.”
After attending a boy’s-only boarding school in the mountains in Dehradun, India, Rocky Patel’s family moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin in the United States. He was 14.
After secondary school in Green Bay, Patel moved on to the University of Wisconsin. Law school and a move to Hollywood followed.
Living and working for a while in Los Angeles, Rocky Patel will tell you cigars were a byproduct of his job as an entertainment lawyer. He was introduced to cigars through a friend.
“You know we'd be on the movie set of some Hollywood studios, waiting for lighting waiting for sound waiting for make-up and they would start smoking cigars, so I started smoking cigars,” he recalls.
Instantly fascinated, Patel acquired a taste for the smokes.
In the mid-1990s, Rocky Patel became a founding member of the Grand Havana Club, an exclusive members-only cigar club. Soon after, Hollywood celebrities joined.
“A lot of celebrities joined, everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis to Harrison Ford, and Demi Moore,” he says.
From Entertainment Lawyer to Cigar Icon
Rocky Patel’s passion for cigars soon turned into more than just a social activity. After being approached with an opportunity to manufacture his own brand of cigar, Patel smelled opportunity. But he met much resistance from friends and colleagues.
“Everyone said, ‘This is a business that's handed down from generation to generation. You can't just start a cigar business on your own. You're from India. You're an attorney. What do you know? You're not of Cuban descent or Latin descent.’ When somebody tells me I can’t do something, then I'm going to work even harder, says Patel.
So he went to top-end growers and tobacco plantations in countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, and Dominican Republic to ask a lot of questions and work in the farms. He learned about the curing, fermentation and construction of cigars. He created thousands of blends to educate his palate.
After several years of his hands on experience, Rocky Patel knew it was time.
“I decided that the only way I would ever last in this business is to control my own destiny. To have complete control of the manufacturing, consistency, the strictest quality control standards one could implement,” he says.
In 2001, he launched the first Rocky Patel cigars. Now, he has complete control of the cigar-making process, from seed to finished product.
Patel says there is not a moment in the day when he is not thinking about cigars. From marketing, to improving the blends, it is what Rocky does to makes sure his premium cigars are the best in the business.
Spending much time traveling the world, Rocky also enjoys allowing his customers the experience of meeting the man behind their favorite smokes.
In 2010, Patel opened his first cigar lounge, ‘BURN by Rocky Patel’ in Naples, Florida.
“‘Burn by Rocky Patel,’ it's something that transforms you so that when you sit in a chair and smoke a cigar, you're just looking around and you can't tell whether you are in Morocco or you are in Asia or India or here in Havana and it takes you on a journey,” says Patel.
There are another eight to 10 more of his lounges in the works, with the next one coming to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.