Someone I always look forward to seeing every year at IPCPR is Nick Melillo of Foundation Cigars. As one of the brain children, along with Steven Saka, behind the iconic Liga Privada lines and its off shoots, you can rest assured that his offerings from his new company, Foundation Cigars, should be pretty tasty. After the successful launch of last year’s El Gueguense, I couldn’t wait to try out Nick’s new stuff. One of the new releases this year is the Charter Oak, named after the famous oak tree from Nick’s home state of Connecticut.
I love the stories behind each line he introduces and, as a amateur historian, I loved the back story of the Charter Oak line. Here is background from the Charter Oak press release:
“I wanted to choose a name that represents the greatest symbol of my home state of Connecticut, the Charter Oak. Historians estimate that this unusually large Oak tree began growing sometime during the 12th century on a plot located on what is now downtown Hartford. Native Americans, who by the way cultivated tobacco nearby long before settlers, held councils beneath its massive branches. The tree is actually mentioned in Dutch Explorer, Adrian Block’s journey guidebook in 1608. By the mid 1600’s the plot was parceled and a farm was built with the agreement that the local tribe could share this sacred tree. In 1662 King Charles II issued a Royal Charter to the Connecticut Colony granting an unusual degree of autonomy. However, when his successor, James II appointed an English Governor-General to reclaim the Charter, it was hidden in what became known as Charter Oak, one of our countries greatest symbols of American Independence.
Charter Oak also pays tribute to my grandfather, who while earning a modest salary working for the Winchester Repeating Arms factory after WWII, smoked exclusively, broadleaf cigars manufactured by FD Graves on State St, while, no joke, Rick Ardito’s grandfather, a guard at Winchester, also smoked FD Graves biggest selling broadleaf, Muniemakers. I wanted to create an economy-minded, everyday smoke for connoisseurs; something tasty and delicious but didn’t break the bank.” Says Melillo.
Charter Oak Cigars hail from the same fertile valley in Connecticut that Master Tobacco Blender Nick R Agua aka Nick Melillo was born and raised. Charter Oak Cigars feature some of the most prized and sought after Cuban seed leaf varieties from the exquisite Esteli and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua. The cigars are then wrapped in either a silky, beautiful Connecticut Shade wrapper or a hearty and rich Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, leaving you with the perfect every day and every occasion cigar.
Nick gave Brian and I a sample bag with two Charter Oak rothchilds, in Connecticut shade and Connecticut broadleaf, along with the new Tabernacle. For this review, I chose the Connecticut shade. Here are the specifics:
Size: 4 1/2 x 50
Wrapper: US Connecticut Shade
Now, bearing in mind this was a show sample, the cigar looked pretty good. Nice, smooth golden brown wrapper with a closed foot. There was one blemish on my wrapper about 1/3 of the way up the foot where a thick piece of tobacco leaf vein protruded from the wrapper. It didn’t break the wrapper, but it was odd looking to say the least and I was worried what would happen when I smoked it to that point. The cap was well applied and the draw was spot on.
The first half started off with a bang. Upon lighting the cigar, I was met with flavors of pecan, cedar and hazelnuts with a creaminess that got sweeter as the cigar reached the midpoint. After about a half an inch into the cigar, it also picked up a nice, subtle caramel buttery sweetness. I paired this cigar with my morning coffee which it accompanied excellently. The cigar had a long finish and burned very well the thick piece of vein didn’t impede the burn much at all.
The cigar didn’t change too much on the last half except it did lose a little of its punch. The cigar developed a bitterness and the caramel and sweet cream notes lessened. The bitterness actually added a little to the flavor as it reminded me of a bitterness you get from coffee or a nice IPA. The pecan note along with the cedar note was still present. The burn got a little crooked, but it corrected itself pretty quick.
This is a very good cigar, especially for only $4.50. The cigar smoked much better than its price point suggest it should. I really enjoyed the flavors from the cigar especially the sweet creamy notes with the balanced nutty and woody notes. Overall, this is an excellent cigar and I can see these selling out a lot at your local cigar shops. At that price point, you are getting a huge bargain. This is one of those times the hype matches the result.