Wednesday, April 05, 2006

May 2006: A Tour of ROCKY PATEL and INDIAN TABAC

Indian Tabac is a line of Honduran cigars created by former product-liability lawyer Rocky Patel. Although Rocky is from India, his company licenses the name and logo--a Native American war chief in full headress--from Indian Motorcycle Company.

By Rocky's own admission, the Indian Tabac brand started as a barely average cigar with a slick marketing campaign to capitalize on the cigar boom in the early 1990's. However, Patel quickly became a rising star in the business, and began blending his products for high-end, sophisticated tastes. His Indian Tabac line has improved a lot since the early days, but still garners most of its sales through catalogs and online sites rather than traditional B&Ms. In 2003, Rocky turned over management of Indian Tabac to Swisher International to focus on a new "RP Vintage" line, which has since become very popular, scoring over '90' in many Cigar Aficionado taste tests.

Here are my reviews of some Indian Tabac and Rocky Patel products:

(1) Indian Tabac Cameroon Legend
Size: 6.1" x 54
Price: $6.00

Mister MaDuroo from ClubStogie sent me two Cameroon Legends after I posted a question in the online forum. He had warned me to be careful handling them, but of course I didn't listen, and I had to learn the hard way how fragile a cameroon wrapper can be. I dropped one of the cigars in the car as I was lighting it, and the entire wrapper split down the middle, completely seperating from the binder, ruining the cigar. (I found out you can't even light a cigar without its wrapper).

I was more careful the second time, and my drive to the paper mill in Courtland, AL was enhanced by this smooth, mild cigar with an interesting tangy taste. I might consider smoking them again, except the delicate-as-glass wrapper is probably a deal-breaker for me.

(2) Indian Tabac Limited Reserve
Size: Bear (5" x 50), Buffalo (7" x 47)
Price: $2

Boxes of Limited Reserve used to sell for $100, but they are now distributed solely through Cigars International for half that price. These cigars come individually wrapped in spanish cedar. They have a deep, rich aroma that always makes me think of pirate ships in the carribean. Unfortunately, they taste very mild/bland, with a slight bitter aftertaste. I won't buy them again.

However, I should note the Bear is the perfect size for driving home in rush hour traffic on I-240. I light it as I turn out of the office parking lot, and I finish it just as I'm pulling into my driveway.

(Update 07-23-07: I saw a box of IT Lmt Reserve on sale at Tobacco House in Memphis, for $5.36 per stick. I can't believe they sell for that much, but I guess they are no longer distributed solely through CI)

(3) Fire by Indian Tabac
Size: 6" x 50
Price: $3.50

These are sometimes also marketed as "Fire by Rocky Patel", which I'm sure is an attempt to position them at the upper-end of the market, closer to to the highly rated and more expensive "Vintage" lines.

They have a rich golden color, with a subtle if not spectacular aroma. They are made with triple-fermented wrapper and fillers, and the taste is both "heady" and "slightly sweet". Definitely worth a repeat look in the future. My only complaint is that I can't leave them unattended for more than two minutes without a relight.

(4) Indian Tabac Super Fuerte Corona Maduro
Size: 5.2 x 43
Price: $3.60

I won a "Friday night fights" sampler pack from CigarBid. The idea is to pit two similar cigars of competing brands in a head to head contest to see which one you like better. Mine contained 5 Super Fuerte coronas versus 5 Gurkha Regents. The price was $20 (after shipping) so I thought it was a good deal.

I was disappointed when I saw how small the Super Fuertes were; they're hardly any bigger than a Punch London Club. But, I must say, they have quickly become my favorite of the Indian Tabac brands; they pack a nice little punch -- full of flavor. They make a great cigar for doing something short like mowing the yard or trimming the shrubs.

(5) Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 "Euro"
Size: 5.5" x 42
Price: $5

The RP Vintage cigars never took off in Europe like they did in the U.S., so Rocky adjusted the formula by fermenting the tobacco less and removing some of the spicy ligero leaf from the filler. This new "Euro" blend is marketed as being lighter and milder.

I smoked one at sunset on Pensacola Beach and was very impressed. It is medium-bodied; and in fact made me want to try the original, stronger recipe. It lasted for over an hour, with virtually no construction or burn problems, despite a stiff ocean breeze that would have ruined lesser smokes.

Here are some of the Rocky Patel lines I have not tried yet:
1. RP Vintage
2. RP Sun Grown (Connecticut)
3. Indian Tabac Classic
4. The Edge

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