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Staff Reviews

Menelik Staff Review

Zack D. D's picture

Zack D.

Foundation Cigars brand founder Nick Melillo recently released his latest version of Menelik, an annual limited-edition cigar, originally reserved for in-store events, that’s produced in small quantities and available online while supplies last. It’s handmade in two box-pressed sizes, a 4.5-by-52 Petite Robusto and the 6-by-52 Toro I’m smoking today. I’ve reviewed several Foundation cigars so far, including El Gϋegϋense, Olmec Claro, Olmec Maduro, Charter Oak Broadleaf, and The Tabernacle. Let’s find out how Menelik stacks up.  

Most Foundation cigars are produced at the AJ Fernandez factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, but Menelik is one of a handful that comes from the Aganorsa factory. Menelik is named after the first Emperor of Ethiopia, Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. Melillo often turns to biblical and historical themes to name his cigar lines.

Like other cigars in the Foundation portfolio, Menelik packs a wallop. It’s blended from a dark and oily San Andrés wrapper leaf over a potent core of well-aged Nicaraguan long-fillers. An Ethiopian cross adorns the top of the box while the inside of the lid depicts an image of Menelik I gazing at the sun and mountains – the logo of the Foundation brand. This densely packed cigar comes in a 12-count box, and the bands are done up with a green-and-red cross with gold accents.

Sweet, floral aromas of earth and pepper emanate from a row of perfectly uniform Toros when I crack the lid on a fresh box. Menelik cigars are finished with a meticulous, tightly wound pigtail at the cap. You can tell the cigars are firmly rolled, and their oily, dark-chocolate-hued San Andrés wrappers look immaculate. After I pick out a Toro and cut the cap, spicy notes of leather, charred oak, and espresso bean show up in the cold draw.

The smoke is hearty and thick, even from the first puffs, when I toast the foot on a Menelik Toro. The draw is tight, too, but I prefer a bit of resistance over a cigar that’s loosely rolled any day. Noticeable notes of black pepper, cocoa, and oak meld over a charry foundation while the retrohale preserves the floral nuances I tasted in the cold draw. As Menelik develops over ten to fifteen minutes, the binder, filler, and wrapper tobaccos come into focus with a potent, straightforward profile of black coffee and wood.

After nearly forty-five minutes, Menelik kicks into overdrive as the second half gets underway. This is a hearty, slow-burning, after-dinner cigar. Have a steak or big meal before you smoke it and sip a peaty Scotch or a well-aged bourbon if you’re looking for a whiskey to pair with it. Luckily, the cigar’s powerfully spicy taste is balanced by its creamy texture.

The profile changes little throughout the second half but its nicotine density will overwhelm you if you’re not prepared to handle it. Menelik reveals a consistent portrait of woody and earthy flavors of hickory, mesquite, and charcoal. Despite its intensity and spice, the Menelik Toro is a balanced cigar. And the ash hangs on like it’s made of mortar thanks to the cigar’s sturdy construction. 

After well over an hour, Menelik comes to a head with a final punch of leather, earth, pepper, and wood in the nub. I can smoke some pretty strong cigars, but it’s only fair I disclose this small-batch smoke gave me the nicotine sweats before I took the last few puffs. And I spent much longer than usual smoking a Toro on account of the cigar’s strength. Explore the Menelik Toro from Foundation Cigars while we’ve got them in stock and broaden your horizons with this full-bodied Nicaraguan smoke.


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