Brand evangelist, digital marketer, cigar and spirits expert specializing in consumer tasting and educational events. Matthias made the long trek from his hometown of Portland, Oregon to New York City in 2007, and in nine years has hosted more than 120 events and helped promote and launch dozens of cigar and whiskey brands in the U.S. In 2016, he joined the Cigar Journal Tasting Panel, blind-reviewing pre and new release cigars.
Tonight I reviewed the Rocky Patel 1961. This blend was created to commemorate the year Rocky Patel was born, and I found it to be a medium bodied smoke. Music tonight consisted mainly of hip-hop and alternative/rock: Kid Cudi (“Day and Night”), Kanye West (“Love Lockdown”), John Mayer (“Neon”), Jay-Z (“Run This Town”), Gym Class Heroes, and Flyleaf. Not my usual mix, but I found it to be necessary to have some interesting music on to balance out this decidedly uninteresting cigar. I didn’t have my camera, or even my phone on hand so I ended up using a friend’s Macbook to get some shots.
Wrapper: Habano (Ecuador)
Appearance & Construction:
Fair. The rich brown of the habano wrapper is attractive, and the double-label is, after closer inspection, very detailed and attractive. “1961” is prominently displayed, and below it is a dark red band with the Rocky Patel logo displayed in black. Aside from that, this cigar is far from exceptional. It had a hard time holding an ash, and the construction needed touch ups multiple times. Draw was a bit too loose, which is surprising because in my experience Rocky Patel cigars are generally very solid when it comes to delivering a very comfortable draw.
Smoking Characteristics & Taste:
The first third of this stick is hard to describe, mainly because I spent most of the first third trying to gather a discernable flavor profile. The main flavor is a natural tobacco taste, a bit of spice, and a hint of sweetness. Pleasant, but not very notable. On a positive note, this cigar produced large plumes of very smooth smoke consistently throughout.
The second third of this stick is a bit more satisfying. Still the natural tobacco flavor, but a very noticeable cocoa flavor that is very enjoyable. A few minutes later the cocoa becomes more of a semi sweet—not unenjoyable, but kind of sad. The final third of this cigar was more of the same story. Natural tobacco and a bit of cocoa.
Not a bad cigar, per-se, but this really seems like a RP cigar trying to be the Patel Bros Next Generation (a GREAT cigar). I’m not going to be rushing to pick up more of these anytime soon.
The Rocky Patel Famous Signature is a joint venture between Rocky Patel, Amilcar P. Castro, and Famous Smoke Shop. I got this cigar as part of the Amilcar Perez 12 cigar sampler, which I would highly recommend looking at and buying. This cigar is generally described as a medium-full bodied cigar, though I found it to be full bodied. While reviewing this cigar, I gave blind tasting a try – lights off, so I could get a better sense for the taste. Music for this smoke was a mix of Pink Martini, Frank Sinatra, and Putumayo: Cuba – definitely an album to give a listen to and explore. For other great music to listen to while smoking, check out the Aspiring Gentleman’s article seriesMusic to Imbibe In.
Specifications for this blend:
Appearance and Construction:
Fair. A few noticeable veins. The label, in my opinion, is not very attractive. There are a few minor blemish. On an upnote, the draw is, as is usually with Rocky Patel cigars, excellent. The wrapper is dark brown – a bit lighter than the image you will find on Famous Cigars.
Smoking Characteristics and Taste:
1/3: This cigar kicks off with a pretty good deal of spice, though it is initially medium-full bodied. Opening tastes are spice, black pepper, and natural tobacco. Certainly not the smoothest cigar, but I enjoy the spice and the complexity.
2/3: The spice pulls back for a minute or two, but is back stronger than before–a bit too much for me, honestly. This cigar reminds me a bit of the Perdomo Habano, though I think the Habano is a bit more well-balanced. The spice continually builds and even becomes a bit acidic. I hope it backs off a bit.
3/3: By the last third of this cigar, I’m starting to really feel the tobacco. This is really a cigar to take slow. Smoke it too quickly and the smoke will heat up. The heat ended up becoming a pretty big problem, so I let the cigar rest earlier than usual.
This isn’t a bad cigar, but it definitely isn’t my favorite flavor/strength profile. Main flavor notes here are natural tobacco and black pepper behind it. If this is a flavor profile you are interested though, this cigar is definitely worth a try. I’m definitely a much bigger fan of the Vudu and the Patel Bro’s Next Generation (you can find that reviewed here).
Tonight I smoked a Patel Bros Next Generation that I recently purchased in the Rocky Patel & Amilcar Perez 12 cigar sampler for just $20. So far I’ve had two: the Vudu and tonight the Next Generation. I wasn’t planning on reviewing this cigar until I started smoking it and was completely blown away.
Here are the specifications for this blend:
Appearance and Construction:
The habano wrapper, as described on Famous-Smokes is a rich brown with a reddish hue. There are very few noticeable veins, the texture is smooth, and the cigar is packed firmly, but not tightly. After clipping the cigar using a straight cut, the draw is perfect. The label is sharp and attractive.
Great construction – I only ashed this cigar twice
Smoking Characteristics and Taste:
This cigar produces thick smoke, and throughout the hour-long smoke I found that it didn’t burn hot. Construction throughout the smoke was completely flawless. What I found to be most compelling about this cigar, though, were the distinct tastes that were noticeable in the medium bodied smoke. The cigar kicked off with a bit of spice, and tastes of wood, coffee, and dark chocolate. Very rich and very enjoyable. The second third of the cigar took on more woodiness and a bit of leather. In the final third, the spice really drew back to a sweet woodiness. I wouldn’t have minded returning to the first two thirds, but I was still enjoying the cigar immensely.
It was a shame to put this cigar down.
This was, hands down, a great cigar that I would highly recommend. Perfect construction, great taste—a great experience. Pick some of these cigars up sometime. I would highly recommend checking out the 8-cigar sampler for just $15. You can find that here.
About two weeks ago I was surprised to open my email account and find an email from Barry (from acigarsmoker.com) inviting me to the La Aurora launch event at Nat Sherman in Manhattan. The event took place from 5:00pm – 9:00pm last Thursday and featured a live jazz band, samples of Guillermo Leon’s new cigar, hors d’oeuvres, and a rum pairing that complemented the La Aurora cigar perfectly. Aside from getting to finally meet Barry, I was also able to meet Guillermo Leon, John from WellCapped, and Lindsay (aka “The Cigar Chick“).
Barry from acigarsmoker
The atmosphere at Nat Sherman was simply beautiful: two floors of smoking lounge, welcoming staff, and a jazz band upstairs playing for all of the guests. Cigar smokers from all New York and everywhere else showed up, hung their jackets, and enjoyed conversation over the excellent cigars.
Guillermo Leon talks cigars
With respect to the cigar specifically, the official Nat Sherman event recap below does a better job describing the cigar, but here is the basic breakdown:
Luckily, I was able to take a few photos during the course of the night, including one of Barry and Guillermo Leon. On another exciting note, I also met a few managers from Nat Sherman and was able to introduce FineTobaccoNYC and even float the idea of holding an event at Nat Sherman’s sometime soon.
Below is the official Nat Sherman event recap:
Nat Sherman hosted an evening of live jazz music, cocktails, cigars and
hors d’oeuvres catered by celebrity chef Oliver Cheng. The event
celebrated the new Guillermo Leon cigars by La Aurora, which brings a
complex and medium-to-full bodied experience.
Guests tasted traditional Presidente Beer and Rum Zafra Master Reserve 21
year aged while they enjoyed upbeat trumpet melodies by jazz player
Waldron Ricks while discovering La Aurora’s new sumptuous cigar flavors.
León says, “Obviously, this cigar is personal for me. It is part of my
family’s legacy for the past 107 years. In this cigar, I wanted something
with deep complexity yet also a stronger smoke than most of our offerings.
I think this is something that will please today’s smokers.”
The Guillermo León sports a Habana wrapper grown in Ecuador, over a double
binder of both Corojo for strength and Cameroon for sweetness. The
fillers are from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Nicaragua and Brazil. The
Guillermo León is offered in 4 sizes: a Corona (5.5 x 42), a Gran Corona
(6 x 47), a Belicoso (6.25 x 52) and a Gran Toro (6 x 58). The MSRP,
excluding state taxes, ranges from $7.60 for the corona to $9.80 for the
Nestled on 7th street in Manhattan’s picturesque Lower East Side is Velvet Cigar, an oasis for the new and experienced cigar smoker. On any given night of the week, a visitor to Velvet Cigar is likely to experience what I have on many occasions. Walking in the door, I am met with the familiar aroma of fine tobacco, the din of friendly conversation, and a welcoming staff. A brief look around reveals exposed brick walls that provide a classic backdrop to dark mahogany wood tones, rustic leather chairs, and dim candles flickering around the room. The lounge could be considered small compared to Manhattan’s larger lounges, but don’t let the lounge’s modest 400 sq. ft. of real estate fool you – Velvet’s relaxed atmosphere is hard to beat. The lounge and its unique boutique blend cigars has won high praise from media outlets like Yelp, Time Out NY, Affluence, MartiniBoys, and StogieReview.com, to name a few.
Dan Bsharat – Managing Partner at Velvet Cigar
I recently had the opportunity to sit down for a cigar and conversation with Dan Bsharat, Managing Partner of Velvet, and he described for me a bit of the lounge’s history and his business philosophy. I also had a chance to light up a cigar from Velvet’s new line, the Bowery – more on that later.
Dan started by telling me a bit about the history of the lounge. Velvet Cigar Lounge existed by the same name before Dan and his business partners purchased the lounge in 2005. After making Velvet a favorite place to hang out, they were inspired to consider buying the lounge after an employee overheard Dan complimenting the lounge’s natural charm. The employee mentioned that the lounge was on the market, and the seed was planted. In Velvet, Dan and his partners saw a golden opportunity because the lounge exemplified cigar culture and the perfect hang out. Soon after, they had purchased the lounge that they now own today.
Dan described the philosophy behind Velvet as a “new approach to cigar smoking for a younger generation.” He said that Velvet approaches cigar smoking differently, and that the boutique blends offer paradigms of different cigar tastes by using a variety of wrappers.
Just as inviting as the lounge’s warm environment are the humidors that line the high-seated bar. Although Velvet does have a small selection of big-brand cigars, Dan said that the main focus is on the boutique blend, which until recently featured three main lines named after famous NYC city areas: the Tomkins, Astor, and Cooper blend. These Dominican blends are made by a family owned farm in the Vila Gonzalez region and rolled in New York.
The most recent addition to the Velvet boutique arsenal is the “Bowery” line, named after the famous lower east side neighborhood that Dan said has recently experienced “a revival.” Although new on the scene, the Bowery is already Dan’s favorite boutique blend (and I must admit the same is true for me after trying each line).
Made in the same Nicaraguan factory that produces quality cigars for Rocky Patel, the Bowery is a real piece of artwork. The Bowery features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos for fillers, all rolled and produced in a classic box-press style. The Bowery comes in four sizes: Robusto, Toro, Torpedo, and Churchill, and is available in packs of 6 and boxes of 20 online and in-store.
As I mentioned, during my interview with Dan, I had the opportunity to enjoy my third Bowery (Churchill), and whenever possible I jotted down a few notes for a quick review. Fortunately, I have realized since the interview that notes on the cigar were not really necessary as it had a distinct flavor profile that provided for a memorable smoke. Below is my review of the cigar:
Pre-light: There really is no other way to say it: the Bowery is a beautiful cigar. The dark Habano wrapper is complimented perfectly by the dark red and gold label that displays the Velvet logo. Admittedly, I’ve only had three of these sticks so far, but from what I’ve observed construction has been impeccable – well packed, no serious vein issues, and no visual blemishes. The foot of the cigarsmells of mocha, and a hint of sweetness.
Smoking characteristics: The draw was just about right – a tiny bit tight, but still a great amount of smoke. This stick is a medium-full bodied smoke, though for the most part I found it to be medium.
Flavor: To me, the first two third of this cigar are the most distinct. This cigar opened up with tastes of spice, mocha, and woodiness. I found that the spice on this particular cigar started off pretty strong, but as I started 2/3 the spiciness faded into the background while the mocha and woodiness started to really stand out. From there the stick smoked perfectly. During the end of 2/3 and beginning of 3/3 I noticed a bit of leather coming through along with pepper. Ultimately, the flavor profile on this cigar has really captured me – it is simply a delicious stick.
Overall impression: This cigar is beautiful, well constructed, and packs a great and distinctive taste. I didn’t have any burn issues during the smoke, and enjoyed it all of the way through. Even though this particular line is more expensive than Velvet’s other blends, this will probably be my standard pick during my visits to Velvet.
I’ve always enjoyed business and love to see thriving new organizations expand, so after visiting Velvet at least a dozen times in the past two years, one of the biggest questions I had for Dan near the end of the interview was “where does Velvet go from here?” Taking a moment to think, he cracked a smile and said that “expansion is on the table” and that another lounge is a “possible option.” He went on to explain, however, that the owners of Velvet are focusing on expanding their business contacts and looking for ways to network around the city to make their cigars more widely available. As I’m not always near the Lower East Side, I hope he makes it happen!
One Classy Establishment
If you haven’t visited Velvet cigars, then put it high on your priority of night life attractions to see in New York City! The Bowery can be found for order at Velvet Lounge and online at the Velvet Cigar site.