Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Co. is diversifying its portfolio with two new Nicaraguan-made cigars. Highclere Castle, a new brand with a light Connecticut-seed wrapper, and El Güegüense Maduro, a darker version of the company’s debut brand, will soon be arriving at retail.
“I just got word that Highclere Castle is enroute from Nicaragua,” Melillo told Cigar Aficionado. The brand is expected to begin shipping next Monday. El Güegüense Maduro is heading to retail now.
Highclere Castle is something of a collaboration cigar between Foundation and Highclere Castle Cigar Co., a new company named after the 19th century English castle that served as the primary setting for the popular PBS television show "Downton Abbey." The company is owned by George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and current owner of Highclere Castle, who teamed up with Melillo to try and create a cigar with the flavor profile and smoking characteristics of a cigar from the early 1900s.
Melillo blended the cigars using an Ecuadoran Connecticut Shade wrapper, Brazilian Mata Fina binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. Highclere Castle is produced at A.J. Fernandez's Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua, the same factory where Foundation produces its Tabernacle brand.
The cigars come in five traditional sizes: Churchill, measuring 7 inches by 48 ring gauge; Toro, 6 by 52; Corona, 5 1/2 by 46; Robusto, 5 by 50; and Petit Corona, 5 by 42—retailing from $12 to $16. They will ship in boxes of 20.
For El Güegüense Maduro, Foundation returned to Tabacos Valle de Jalapa (TABSA), the factory that produces the natural version of El Güegüense. The maduro edition swaps the Corojo ’99 wrapper for a San Andrés wrapper grown in Mexico, allowing Melillo to blend what he says is a bold, but well-balanced version of the cigar.
“Maduro uses the same binder—Corojo ’99 from Jalapa. The filler blend has been tweaked to accompany the change in wrapper,” said Melillo. “It uses the same fillers from the same regions as the natural-wrapper Güegüense, but I have kicked up the amount of ligero in the blend since the wrapper was able to handle it without becoming too harsh or unpleasant.”
El Güegüense Maduro comes in the same five sizes as the natural blend: Churchill, measuring 7 by 48; Torpedo, 6 1/4 by 52; Toro Huaco, 6 by 56; Robusto, 5 1/2 by 50; and Corona Gorda, 5 5/8 by 46. They come in boxes of 25 and will retail between $9 and $13 per cigar.
Melillo, formerly the head of production at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate, created Foundation Cigar Co. in 2015. In June, the company opened its headquarters on the grounds of a 50-acre tobacco field in the Connecticut River Valley.