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Staff Reviews

El Güegüense Staff Review

Zack D. D's picture

Zack D.

Today I’m smoking one of the original releases from Foundation Cigars, El Gϋegϋense, pronounced [el way-when-say], which translates to “The Wise Man,” and I’m enjoying this blend in a 7-by-48 Churchill. Foundation Cigars is barely a decade old, but brand founder Nick Melillo spent eleven years working at Drew Estate before launching his own boutique cigar line in 2015.

I’ve reviewed a handful of Melillo’s cigars, many of which are produced by AJ Fernandez in Nicaragua, including The Tabernacle, Olmec Maduro, and Charter Oak Broadleaf. When he worked for Drew Estate, Melillo spent time as the head tobacco buyer, and he brings a good deal of knowledge to the blending process when he collaborates with AJ Fernandez on the Foundation portfolio.

El Gϋegϋense is a full-bodied smoke blended from Nicaraguan tobaccos inside and out. The cigars come in boxes of 25, and when I pick a Churchill from the top row of a new box, the wrapper leaf glistens with a golden-brown color. The vein structure on the wrapper is thin. The cigar consists of a Corojo ’99 wrapper, grown in Jalapa, and Nicaraguan long-fillers harvested from Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98 seeds from Jalapa and Estelí. In 2017, El Gϋegϋense cracked the ‘Top 25 Cigars of the Year’ in Cigar Aficionado. Let’s taste how this small-batch smoke stacks up with nearly seven years of production under its belt.

When I strip off the cellophane and clip the cap on the Churchill, floral and nutty aromas of black coffee and leather greet my nostrils prior to firing up the foot. Tasting notes of chocolate, cedar, hay, and moss mingle in the cold draw. When I hit the cigar with my torch lighter, El Gϋegϋense comes to life slowly due to a slightly tight draw. At seven inches, a Churchill is a longer size, so it’s important that the binder and filler tobaccos are assembled for air to flow freely with just the right amount resistance.

As El Gϋegϋense heats up, creamy notes of caramel and cedar leave a nice impression. Like a lot of the best Nicaraguan cigars, abundant spices fill my nostrils throughout the retrohale. I pick up sweet hints of leather as each draw fades over my taste buds. After ten minutes, the profile shifts quickly as notes of oak and mesquite take center stage. Smoky flavors of fresh tobacco and campfire underscore this hardy Nicaraguan Churchill.

I’ve tapped the ash off a few times throughout the first half, but the draw is still a bit constricted. I hoped the draw would loosen more by now and lead to greater smoke production. I can pull an adequate amount of air through the cigar, but a better draw would improve its overall performance.

The floral flavor I tasted in the beginning returns in the second half. El Gϋegϋense is a cigar I would smoke with an iced coffee due its earthy undercurrent. It delivers enough spice to keep my attention, and the draw finally relaxes in the last third. If you enjoy meaty cigars with an overall peppery taste grounded by dark but smooth notes of black coffee and woody hints of hickory and oak, El Gϋegϋense is a cigar you should add to your humidor.

The cigars made in AJ Fernandez’s factories typically exhibit a high degree of consistency, so it’s rare to encounter one where the draw is compromised. I consider this Churchill an anomaly and will definitely smoke El Gϋegϋense again, perhaps in another size. The tight draw caused the cigar to burn slower, and it lasted just over an hour and a half – a long time for a seasoned smoker like myself – as a result. In closing, I’m docking a point or two for construction, but I recommend El Gϋegϋense for its complex taste and aroma. Buy a few singles and set them in your humidor for a day when you’re craving a savory Nicaraguan premium.


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