Rocky Patel is known as the hardest working man in the cigar business — he’s constantly on the road, hobnobbing with cigar execs and enthusiasts alike — and he still manages to find the time to create numerous new blends. The Indian Tabac label was his first (the Rocky Patel label wasn’t launched until 2002) and it is this, his entry into the world of cigar making, that he is celebrating with the ITC 10th Anniversary. Granted, I’m a little late to the party. Indian Tabac debuted in 1996, placing the 10th Anniversary in 2006. But since the cigar itself was late (it wasn’t released until 2007) and the Salomon is a recent addition, I’m going to make my late entrance without apology.
Rocky actually developed two “anniversary” cigars: this one, and the Rocky Patel Decade. Like the Indian Tabac label, the ITC Anni blend was developed first, though at the time it was supposed to be for the Decade. The blend for the ITC, in Rocky’s opinion, turned out to be more elegant and refined, so he switched labels. The original ITC blend became the Decade, and the later blend became the ITC. So what we have here is the original Decade, which is now the ITC 10th Anni. Got it?
The Salomon vitola is a large and unusual figurado that flares at the foot and tapers in the other direction to a torpedo head. The format is similar to Fuente’s Work of Art or Short Story, but much bigger — this one measures 7 1/8 inches in length and has a 58 ring gauge at its thickest point. Usually only a couple of rollers in each factory know how to roll a cigar with proportions as strange as these; in Cuba they are frequently rolled without molds, making the process even more challenging. Like most vitolas this one has a Cuban genealogy, though Salomones have recently become more popular in the Non-Cuban world.
The ITC 10th Anniversary is made in a small Esteli (Nicaragua) factory that Rocky describes as once being “an upstart factory that was making inexpensive bundle cigars.” That factory has obviously come a long way, in terms of skill as well as tobacco quality. In addition to the ITC 10th they also produce the Rocky Patel Summer Collection and other “very special limited projects.”
The Salomon is not easy to find, but the other sizes are readily available:
- Lonsdale: 6.5 x 44
- Robusto: 5 x 50
- Toro: 6.5 x 52
- Torpedo: 6.5 x 52
I was surprised to learn this is a Nicaraguan puro, because it doesn’t smoke like one. The wrapper is Nicaraguan corojo, and the filler and binder is a blend of tobaccos from Nicaragua’s premier growing regions: Esteli, Condega and the Jalapa Valley.
This is an impressive looking cigar. It takes a large leaf to wrap a cigar of this size, and this one is a smooth and even claro. The foot is nicely finished, though I noticed one small flaw, and the head is tightly wound. The cigar feels light in the hand, but the roll is solid with no soft spots. After clipping about half an inch from the point at the head I found the draw had just the right amount of resistance.
The burn was neither too slow nor too fast, and despite some inconsequential flaking the ash proved to be solid enough. The volume of smoke produced was nicely balanced with the body of the cigar.
The perfecto “nipple” at the foot of the 10th Anniversary Salamon fires up nicely on a single match and for the first few puffs produces a creamy sweet aroma. The steadily growing cinder quickly reaches the main shank of the stick and the flavor shifts to a light wood with mild tannins and a touch of black pepper. The texture is very creamy and there are subtle spices of balsa or sandalwood on the nose. The finish is fleeting and there is a slightly dry aftertaste.
The middle section continues the woody theme, but is a little heavier than previously — think oak instead of balsa. The aroma continues to please, bringing an accent of honey and fresh cedar saw dust. The nicotine content here is very moderate; this could be a morning cigar for many (if you have an hour and half to spare after breakfast.)
The last third grows a little more somber. Wood gives way to roasted nuts for a few minutes, and then around the secondary band the flavors pick up some char and become earthier. The finish lengthens and the aftertaste gets dirty. Maybe I was smoking this one a little too fast, but it seemed to go downhill pretty quickly. (It’s easy to see why when you consider that the business end of this stick has been filtering smoke for almost an hour and a half. Some cigars are able to this better than others.)
The biggest surprise about this cigar is how smooth and mellow it is. From other reviews I was prepared for a harsher, more “Nicaraguan” experience. Not so with the Salomon — in fact it’s hard to believe that the wrapper here is really Nicaraguan corojo. I would guess Ecuadorian instead, but multiple reference sources point to Nicaragua.
The ITC 10th Anniversary Salomon scores high for construction and smoothness, though it does lack a certain complexity. That said, there was still enough mild woody spice here to keep me interested over the 90 minute haul.
I haven’t found a source for the Salomon online, but my B&M had these on the shelf for around 8 dollars each. Not a bad price for a cigar of this stature.
Final Score: 90
Other Reviews of Note:
Jeff reviews the Robusto for Cigar Jack.
Barry gives the Toro an 86 for A Cigar Smoker’s Journal.
George from the Stogie Guys awards the Robusto 3 out of 5 stars.
Walt suspends judgement on the Robusto for the Stogie Review.
Lisa checks out the Toro for Her Humidor.