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Foundation Cigars

The Foundation Cigar Company is a small-batch franchise operated by brand founder Nick Melillo. Foundation cigars are handmade in Estelí, Nicaragua, at a handful of factories, including the AJ Fernandez factory and TABSA (Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.). Melillo got his start in the premium cigar business working at local cigar shops in his home state of Connecticut before taking a position with Drew Estate where he managed tobacco procurement and became acquainted with many facets of factory and warehouse operations. The Foundation brand debuted in 2015 and is home to several small-batch cigars, including El Güegüense, The Tabernacle, and Charter Oak. Foundation cigars appeal to boutique cigar lovers due the company’s colorful and complex portfolio of blends.

CIGARS

  • Charter Oak Broadleaf

    Charter Oak Broadleaf

    Price Per Cigar:
    $5.49 - $6.90
    6 options available
    Strength: Medium
    Country: Nicaragua
    Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
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  • Charter Oak Connecticut

    Charter Oak Connecticut

    Price Per Cigar:
    $5.49 - $6.90
    6 options available
    Strength: Medium
    Country: Nicaragua
    Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
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  • El Güegüense

    El Güegüense

    Price Per Cigar:
    $10.08 - $12.70
    6 options available
    Strength: Full
    Country: Nicaragua
    Wrapper: Nicaraguan
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  • The Tabernacle

    The Tabernacle

    Price Per Cigar:
    $10.65 - $13.33
    6 options available
    Strength: Medium-Full
    Country: Nicaragua
    Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
    1 Review
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  • The Tabernacle Havana Seed CT 142

    The Tabernacle Havana Seed CT 142

    Price Per Cigar:
    $10.65 - $13.33
    6 options available
    Strength: Medium
    Country: Nicaragua
    Wrapper: Connecticut Habano
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FOUNDATION CIGARS BRAND HISTORY

Foundation Cigar Company was founded by Nicholas Melillo in June of 2015. Melillo got the bug for premium tobacco from smoking cigars with his grandfather. Shortly after graduating high school in 1996, he ran the humidor at the Calabash Shoppe in the town of Hamden, Connecticut. Melillo studied at Quinnipiac University but immersed himself in the world of premium cigars throughout his college years, visiting local smokeshops at the height of the Cigar Boom of the 1990s.

During an event at the Calabash Shoppe in 1998, Melillo forged a fast friendship with Drew Estate brand founder Jonathan Drew. Over the next few years, the two stayed in touch, and Drew offered Melillo a position with Drew Estate, in 2003, overseeing the company’s tobacco procurement and fermentation in Estelí, Nicaragua. Melillo jumped at the opportunity and played an integral role in the company’s growth as he learned the factory, warehouse, and packaging operations, eventually serving as Drew Estate’s vice president of international operations. 

Melillo’s drive to start his own brand remained a central goal, and he left Drew Estate in 2014 to create Foundation Cigars, knowing that ensuing FDA regulations could thwart his chance to start a new cigar brand if he waited. The eleven years Melillo spent at Drew Estate, contributing much to the Liga Privada No. 9 and T52 releases, laid the groundwork for his new endeavor.

Melillo relied on the relationships he established at Drew Estate with tobacco growers around the world to assemble his portfolio of blends. Foundation cigars are handmade in Estelí, Nicaragua. Production of certain lines, like The Tabernacle, is handled at the AJ Fernandez factory, while other cigars are crafted at the TABSA (Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.), a factory known for rolling several small-batch brands, including Illusione and Warped. Melillo creates each line in the Foundation portfolio with a variety of provincial and cultural details in mind stemming from his travels and his affinity for history. He works closely with Estelí-based artist Alex Garcia to imbue the boxes and bands of Foundation cigars with historical and cultural references.

While many premium cigar companies are headquartered in Miami or Tampa, Melillo, a Connecticut native, chose Windsor, Connecticut, as the home for Foundation’s offices in 2017. Foundation’s headquarters are situated in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley where Melillo’s beloved broadleaf tobaccos are grown.

FOUNDATION CIGARS BRAND OVERVIEW

In 2016, the critics in Cigar Aficionado rated Foundation Cigar Co.’s first release, El Güegüense, 92 points and ranked it in their ‘Top 25 Cigars of the Year.’ Pronounced “el way-when-say,” El Güegüense translates to “the wise man” and is blended entirely from Nicaraguan tobaccos, including its oily Corojo ’99 wrapper leaf. Peppery notes of paprika, earth, and cedar provide a beefy backbone in an early hit from Foundation.  

The Charter Oak brand is named for a historic tree in Connecticut, that stood from the 1100s until the 1850s, where Native Americans gathered. Charter Oak is Foundation’s value-based line, and it’s available in two wrappers. An Ecuador Connecticut wrapper delivers hints of vanilla bean, wood, and fresh alfalfa, while the Broadleaf edition is sweet and rich with notes of dark chocolate, hazelnut, and pepper. Beneath each is a well-made blend of Nicaraguan long-fillers. In 2018, Cigar Aficionado rated Charter Oak Connecticut 93 points. 

The Tabernacle is one of the most popular lines from Foundation. The original Tabernacle is blended with a decadent Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and features a nutty profile of licorice and cedar with a sweet finish. A newer edition, The Tabernacle Havana Seed CT 142, is finished in a Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Connecticut and is characterized by notes of almond, cashew, cinnamon, clove, and dark cocoa. Both Tabernacle blends include long-fillers from Nicaragua, San Andrés, and Honduras, and both are handmade at the AJ Fernandez factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Nick Melillo has also produced a handful of cigars for George Herbert, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon and godson to the Queen of England, who commissioned Foundation to blend a cigar for his world-famous chateau, Highclere Castle, the setting of the PBS television series “Downton Abbey.” Melillo’s latest project with the Earl of Carnarvon is called Highclere Castle Senetjer, a cigar that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun – aka King Tut. The boxes of Senetjer cigars are modeled after an actual artifact that was pulled from the tomb, which was discovered by renowned archaeologist Howard Carter and George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon. Melillo’s Highclere Castle series cigars are expensive, small-batch releases, also crafted at the AJ Fernandez factory.

Explore the Foundation portfolio when you’re looking for new Nicaraguan cigars, with a good amount of buzz behind them, to add to your collection.

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