Foundation Cigar Company debuted at IPCPR 2015 and has since become one of the most popular names among craft enthusiasts. The brand is led by Nicholas Melillo, a former member of Drew Estate and a major contributor to popular blends such as Liga Privada, Undercrown, Nica Rustica, and more.
Nick has partnered with some of the most respected cigar factories, such as TABSA and Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez, to carry out his vision for each release within the company’s first three years. And while 2016 seemed to be about filling out the brand’s portfolio, Foundation’s 2017 showing felt more concise, offering a followup to their original release (El Güegüense) with a maduro counterpart and striking a promising partnership with Highclere Castle Cigar Company.
The Foundation Cigar Co. booth had a similar feel from 2016, only offering much more depth. This was accomplished by artists Jason Williams and Foundation Cigar Co. art director Alex Garcia (aka “Thief Operandi”), showing three-dimensional, collage-style cutouts of Nicaraguan, Rastafarian, and Native American cultures, mixed with modern and historical elements for a very unique feel. Foundation received the “2017 Best in Show” award from the IPCPR for medium-sized exhibitors.
Two weeks before IPCPR 2017, Foundation announced an unusual partnership with Hampshire, England-based Highclere Castle Cigar Company. The Highclere Castle is owned by George Carnarvon, the current 8th Earl Carnarvon, and is best known for being the filming location of the award-winning drama, Downton Abbey. The Highclere’s history with premium cigars dates back to 1862 and, after discovering the Carnarvon’s cigar purchase records of the early 1900s, Nick teamed with the family to craft a comparable smoking experience for the modern era.
Highclere Castle Cigar Company occupied a corner of the Foundation Cigar Co. booth, showing their first blend in a fittingly regal display. The cigars are made at AJ Fernandez’s burgeoning factory in Estelí, using Nicaraguan fillers (including a special hybrid leaf dubbed “Nicadán”), a Brazilian binder, and Connecticut Shade wrapper. Highclere Castle is slated for a release of September 1st in select US retailers; this will be followed by a release at the Highclere Castle in Hampshire and additional retailers internationally at a later date.
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- Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
- Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
- Filler: Nicaragua (Criollo | Corojo | Nicadán hybrid)
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch
- Packaging: 20-count boxes
- Vitolas: 5
- Price: $12.00 – $16.00
- Release: September 1, 2017 (USA)
- Petit Corona: 5½” x 46 | $12.00 (MSRP)
- Corona: 5″ x 42 | $13.00 (MSRP)
- Robusto: 5″ x 50 | $14.00 (MSRP)
- Toro: 6″ x 52| $15.00 (MSRP)
- Churchill: 7″ x 48 | $16.00 (MSRP)
The Wise Man Maduro
Foundation Cigar Company’s first release was titled “El Güegüense,” debuting in 2015 with an inherently Nicaraguan concept. The look and feel were inspired by a Nicaraguan theatrical play/dance of the same name and the cigars offered a Nicaraguan puro blend from the revered TABSA factory in Estelí. As El Güegüense translates to mean “The Wise Man,” Foundation opted to name the followup blend The Wise Man Maduro, with “El Güegüense” taking the sub-title (a reversal from 2015’s release)—this is meant to represent a Nicaraguan “yin and yang.” In addition, the dressed-up packaging of the original has been stripped down for The Wise Man Maduro, offering a more simplistic, branded wood box appearance. The cigar’s bands feature the same artwork, only flipping the color scheme to focus on an overall red appearance, using the same red highlight found in the original cigar’s design.
While the cigars do not use a Nicaraguan puro blend like the original, the core recipe remains Nicaraguan, only switching to Mexican San Andrés for the wrapper. The Wise Man is offered in the same five core sizes as El Güegüense (with plans for a Lancero followup in the works), but The Wise Man incorporates a subtle, Cuban box-press not found on the original blend. The cigars are made at the same TABSA factory and are slated for a September 1 release.
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- Wrapper: Mexiacn San Andrés
- Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 (Jalapa)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Condega, Estelí, and Jalapa)
- Factory: TABSA (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Packaging: 25-count boxes
- Vitolas: 5 (Cuban Box-Pressed)
- Price: $9.90 – $12.00
- Release: September 1, 2017
- Corona Gorda: 5⅝” x 46 | $9.90 (MSRP)
- Robusto: 5½” x 50 | $10.50 (MSRP)
- Churchill: 7″ x 48 | $11.00 (MSRP)
- Torpedo: 6¼” x 52 | $11.50 (MSRP)
- Toro Huaco: 6″ x 56 | $12.00 (MSRP)
- Foundation showcased a new, limited edition humidor containing an alternate blend of 2016’s The Tabernacle cigar. Two hundred cigars have reportedly been made for King Haile Selassie’s (225th King of Abyssinia) royal family, honoring his 125th birth year this year.
- Foundation was serving their new Foundation Coffee at their booth, which consists of four blends to match Foundation’s current cigar offerings (including a Nicaraguan origin for El Güegüense, an Ethiopian blend for The Tabernacle, a Jamaican blend for The Upsetters, and an all-in-one blend that combines all three).