The folks at Holt’s Cigar Company were kind enough to send me this Rocky Patel Sampler, and even though it did not widen my smoke-filled horizons in any considerable fashion, I am happy to repay the favor with a few honest words on some classic cigars. Okay, they’re not all classics, but I’d say the RP Decade and the Vintage 1990 have achieved that status by virtue of their quality and longevity. Augmenting these are a Holt’s house brand — the Ocean Club; one that I think might also be a house brand — the Velvet Edition; and my current goto proletarian workhorse — Renaissance.
The Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 was first reviewed for this blog in 2006, so I thought it would be interesting to compare notes from ten years ago. The toro in the Luxury Sampler is a pressed cigar, maduro in shade with a slightly oily sheen. Unless the recipe has changed, this is a broadleaf wrapper grown in Honduras. Construction qualities are excellent across the board. My tasting notes from this time around are “Cedar, chocolate and dried cherry. Medium body.” Ten years ago I wrote:
It’s a medium bodied smoke that I find extremely smooth up to the finish when it gets a bit heavier and the taste turns slightly tarry. The predominating flavors are wood and cherry. The broadleaf is very aromatic and worth the price of admission alone.
And it’s still true. Rocky churns out new blends every year, but the Vintage 1990 is still one of my favorites.
The Ocean Club is a Holt’s exclusive. With a colorado claro Nicaraguan wrapper, Mexican binder, and filler from Nicaragua and the DR, the Ocean Club is remarkably distinctive for a house blend. Like the Vintage 1990 the toro comes in a pressed format and exhibits excellent construction.
The cigar is well named — the salty character of the smoke calls the sea to mind. The primary flavor is earthy and vegetal, accented by a floral aroma. In the mid-section there is a minty taste that made me think there might be a touch of Cameroon in the mix, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It is a refreshing and welcome addition to the mix of earth and salt.
The Velvet Edition is presented in the round and features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper that is largely responsible for the creamy (velvety?) body of the cigar. It’s a mild to medium bodied cigar with a gentle demeanor. None of the filler tobaccos overwhelm the subtle wrapper aroma, which is a good thing. There is some light caramel and a hint of coffee that blends to create a latte sweetness. A nice morning smoke.
Decade is another classic that doesn’t require much of an introduction. The blend is undisclosed, but the star of the show is a dark chocolate colored Sumatra wrapper from Ecuador. This one is pressed and burns as beautifully as one could expect. The flavors are sweet and earthy, reminiscent of ye olde peat bog. The smoke is smooth with an acidic tang and offers up a rich aroma of coffee and cedar. I mostly agree with my 2009 review:
There are some cherry notes mingling with the char, and a bittersweet chocolate aftertaste…The center section features an acidic tang that I always associate with Nicaraguan tobacco… the chocolate and cocoa flavors remind me a lot of the Olde World Reserve… The aroma is sweet and woody. The last third continues along the same trajectory, rich and rife with bean flavors: chocolate, cocoa, and coffee.
I’m so happy I agree with myself, but I have to admit that I didn’t notice the cherry notes this time around.
The final entry in the Luxury Sampler is not a classic cigar exactly, but it might be the best deal around right now. The Renaissance, a reincarnation of the Edge Sumatra, has been a catalog centerfold for more than one company lately, and I, for one, am not complaining. It’s a stellar cigar for the asking price.
I’ve been smoking the Renaissance for the past couple of years in the robusto and corona sizes, and the Toro performs equally well. My notes this time around include cinnamon and cedar on the nose, a crisp clean aftertaste, and a zingy bite on the tongue. Six years ago my thoughts on the robusto ran along similar lines:
…a piney aroma with fruity notes; the cherry that comes through reminds me a lot of the Decade. There is a touch of chocolate and a sweet spice — not pepper — that is easy on the palate. The aftertaste is pleasant and mild… smooth and genteel with an excellent aroma and no bite. The smoke is medium in body, with moderate nicotine.
I never thought I’d be tagging the Vintage 1990 or Decade as “bargain cigars,” but that’s what I’m doing, because the Rocky Patel Luxury Sampler is now only $29.95 at Holt’s. Three bucks a stick. That’s kind of nuts… but my kind of nuts. In addition to being a fantastic deal, this is the perfect sampler for a new smoker who wants an introduction to the Rocky Patel oeuvre. These are easy smoking cigars, at an even easier price.