If you’re one of those aficionados that like an enjoyable cigar, at a great price, with a very interesting backstory, then look no further! Nick Melillo, the mastermind behind Foundation Cigar Company, just added his first “budget cigar” to the market. And although the brand launched only a year ago, Foundation is quickly becoming a household name with enthusiasts. This is due, in part, to Nick’s intriguing backstory with Drew Estate, and bolstered by an award-winning performance by Foundation’s 2015 freshman release, El Güegüense.
For Charter Oak, the cigar’s concept draws inspiration from two facets of Nick’s background. The first (and more prominent) concept tells the story of Hartford’s infamous Charter Oak tree:
Historians estimate that this unusually large Oak tree began growing sometime during the 12th century, on a plot located on what is now downtown Hartford. […] By the mid 1600s, the plot was parceled and a farm was built with the agreement that the local [Native American] tribe could share this sacred tree. In 1662, King Charles II issued a Royal Charter to the Connecticut Colony granting an unusual degree of autonomy. However, when his successor, James II appointed an English Governor-General to reclaim the Charter, it was hidden in what became known as Charter Oak, one of our countries greatest symbols of American Independence.
The second iteration describes the project as an homage to Nick’s grandfather:
Charter Oak also pays tribute to my grandfather, who, while earning a modest salary working for the Winchester Repeating Arms factory after WWII, smoked exclusively broadleaf cigars manufactured by FD Graves on State St. While, no joke, Rick Ardito’s grandfather, a guard at Winchester, also smoked FD Graves biggest selling broadleaf, Muniemakers. I wanted to create an economy-minded, everyday smoke for connoisseurs; something tasty and delicious but didn’t break the bank.
Charter Oak Broadleaf Breakdown
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera Fernandez S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Produciton
- Vitola: 4½″ × 50 Rothschild
- Price: $5.00
Now, if broadleaf is not your cup of tea, don’t fret. The Charter Oak’s Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper offering is accompanied by a Connecticut Shade version as well. In addition to the varied wrappers, this blend boasts some of the most acclaimed Cuban-seed tobacco hailing from the Estelí and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua. The whole theme plays on Nick’s backgrounds in both Connecticut and Nicaragua, with the cigar’s subtitle reading, “Connecticut-Nicaragua”.
Initial appearance is a nice brown broadleaf wrapper with a closed foot. The cigar I used for this review had a couple of tiny holes in the wrapper, but not through the binder. The wrapper felt very smooth and almost oily. It felt firm and well-constructed, with a little give to it. The scents emitted from the Charter Oak showed notes of chocolate and hay. The band itself was primarily an off-white and black color. An image of the Charter Oak tree was prominently centered on the band, which has significance to the backstory of the blend. The band is void of embossings, foils, or high quality paper; setting itself apart from Foundation’s premium releases and passing savings onto the consumer.
The pre-light draw was easy, with sufficient air flow. The most prominent flavor I was able to take note of was reminiscent of hay that was stored in an upper level of a barn during the summer. Right off the bat, there was a noticeable amount of roasted almond and black pepper within each puff of medium-plus smoke output. After about an inch in, the retro-hale became less peppery and more pleasant. This is also the same point where (for some reason) I wanted to pair it with vanilla ice cream…
- Flavors: slightly singed caramel, brioche, and waffle cone
- Retro: hazelnut, chestnut, and mixed dried fruits
The second-third maintained much of the experience of the first-third after 1″, only increasing in the nut-like flavors found in the retro-hale. The burn line evened out finally, as there had been a continuous waviness since sparking up this cigar. Outside of these two items, it maintained a consistent experience compared against the first-third.
- Flavors: light, nutty, chocolate pastry
- Retro: creamy almond hazelnut
The final third was signified by a noticeable jolt of red pepper, a fulfilling flavor that remained on my tongue long after the smoke had cleared. It wasn’t a significant amount that will blast away your taste buds, but a lingering zest that helps keep the profile alive.
- Flavors: toasted nut » earthy root & dried sweet pepper with hints on ammonia
- Retro: smoked walnut mixed with red pepper
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
If I couldn’t pick out a cigar to smoke or if it was the last cigar of the night. I would definitely lump this cigar into those categories for myself. Don’t get me wrong, this is the first time I have smoked the Charter Oak and the cost is on point with the experience. In that respect, there is certainly more offered with Charter Oak than many of today’s similarly priced maduros. Pairing options I can see going well would be coffee, rum, or a hazelnut liqueur. I do believe there is an aging potential, but I would purchase a 3 to 5-pack first before purchasing a box.
- High value
- Easily enjoyale flavors
- Good smoke time for small cigar
- Low complexity
- Lacks transitions
- Wavy burn