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Staff Reviews

Olmec Claro Staff Review

Zack D. D's picture

Zack D.

I’m smoking a 5-by-50 Robusto from Foundation Cigars in a new blend called the Olmec, and I’m reviewing the Claro today. A second version, Olmec Maduro, was released at the same time in the fall of 2022. Both blends are finished in a San Andrés wrapper leaf, making the Olmec line a great way to taste the difference between a Natural and a Maduro wrapper from one region.

Foundation Cigars brand founder Nick Melillo has been steadily building a small-batch portfolio since he launched his company in 2015. Melillo spent a decade working for Drew Estate before branching out to do his own thing. Foundation cigars are rolled in a handful of different factories. The Olmec line is blended and crafted at the AJ Fernandez factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, where another popular Foundation cigar, The Tabernacle, which I’ve reviewed previously, is made. Let’s see how the Olmec Claro stacks up.

Olmec cigars are named for the ancient Mesoamerican civilization who occupied, as early as 1500 BC, what we know today as the states of Veracruz and Tabasco in Mexico. The area includes the San Andrés Valley where the Turrent family grows a phenomenal amount of tobacco sourced by many of today’s biggest cigar-makers and where the wrapper on Olmec cigars is cultivated. An aged blend of Nicaraguan long-fillers completes the cigar.

Melillo turns to history for the inspiration behind many of his cigars. The orange and black bands on Olmec cigars feature an image of a monolithic stone head, an ancient artifact famously associated with the Olmec people who carved large stone heads weighing several tons. Olmec cigars are box-pressed and come in 12-count boxes, and when I remove a fresh Robusto from the top row, the cigar’s reddish-brown wrapper displays minimal veins and looks to be flawlessly applied.

I pick up crisp aromas of hay, raisin, cedar, and spice from the open box. When I clip the cap and take a few puffs, flavors of cedar, pepper, and chocolate mingle with hints of salt before the cigar is lit. Once I toast the foot, tasting notes of dark chocolate and black pepper mix with woody and charry notes of cedar and pine. The initial is aftertaste is toasty, but as the first few minutes pass, spicy notes weigh in heavily while strong aromas of espresso and red pepper fill my nasal cavity on the retrohale.

After about twenty-five minutes, an earthy taste is revealed. The dark chocolate flavor of the Olmec Claro comes to the front while bitter, charry, and leathery notes layer the palate. Despite its intensity, the profile is complex, and the flavors work well together. Olmec Claro is robust but not too strong. I think it would taste best smoked after an afternoon of eating barbecued ribs off the grill.

The flavors pan out nicely as I peel the band off and prepare to consume the nub to its bitter end. Olmec Claro is very well made, exhibiting a stable ash every time I tap it into the ashtray. Throughout the final five minutes, I can savor the tasting notes with greater clarity as the heat culminates on my palate. Olmec cigars have received some decent reviews from the critics in Cigar Aficionado. I’m giving the Olmec Claro 87 points and recommend you sample it if you love Nicaraguan cigars and, especially, if you’ve had some of the best AJ Fernandez cigars before. Fire up an Olmec Claro for comparison today.


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