El Güegüense (pronounced Way-When-Say) is the debut release by Nicholas Melillo‘s Foundation Cigar Company. Melillo is best known for his tenure at Drew Estate where he served as Vice President and Director of Tobacco and Production at Drew Estate. Early in 2014 Melillo departed Drew Estate and launched Melillo International, a consulting operation around tobacco blending and tobacco purchasing. Just before the 2015 IPCPR Trade Show, Melillo announced Foundation Cigar Company, his own cigar company and launched El Güegüense at the trade show itself. To produce this cigar, Melillo teamed up with Casa Fernandez at the TABSA company. Recently I’ve had an opportunity to smoke El Güegüense in the Churchill format. Overall I found this debut cigar by Foundation Cigar Company to be excellent offering.
El Güegüense is the name of a literary work that is very much a part of the fabric of Nicaragua culture. Back when El Güegüense was announced, we provided some background on the name and what it means
The name El Güegüense means “the wise man”, but it is also the name of a drama that is considered one of the oldest literary works in Nicaragua. It deals with rebellion from the native inhabitants against colonial rule against the Spanish Conquistadors during 16th century Nicaragua. Over time this play has continued to play a role in Nicaraguan culture. It is often performed in elaborate costumes. The packaging and banding of the El Güegüense brand reflect the symbolism from the play.
Given that Melillo spent many years in Nicaragua while at Drew Estate, it is natural that Melillo picked a cigar name connected with the culture of Nicaragua. In addition, Melillo pays homage to Nicaraguan by making El Güegüense a Nicaraguan puro using all-Nicaraguan tobacco. Back when El Güegüense was announced, Melillo explained this a little more
“This brand is all about Nicaragua and my love of Nicaragua. Yes, this is a new cigar but this brand is over a decade of walking the factory floor and breathing tobacco as my life. This is twelve years of being with the people in Esteli, building relationships and getting to know friends and their families. I really want this brand to show my passion and love for a country that has become my home. It’s also the reason we are using only Nicaraguan tobacco in this cigar, it is pure Nicaraguan.”
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look the the El Güegüense Churchill and see what this cigar brings to the table.
As mentioned, the blend of El Güegüense is a Nicaragua puro. The blend incorporates Criollo 98 and Corojo 99 tobaccos from Jalapa and Esteli. It features leaves from third, fourth, sixth, and medio tiempo primings.
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo 99
Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo taken from 2011 and 2012 Harvest Years
Country of Origin: Nicaragua (TABSA)
El Güegüense is available in five sizes. Each are packaged in 25 count boxes.
Robusto: 5 1/2 x 50
Corona Gorda: 5 5/8 x 46
Toro Huaco: 6 x 56
Torpedo: 6 1/4 x 52.
Churchill: 7 x 48
The Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper of the El Güegüense Churchill has a medium brown color along with a Colorado red tint. There was a slight amount of oil on the surface of the wrapper. Any visible wrapper seams were on the thin side. While there were some visible veins on the wrapper, I found this to be a wrapper on the smoother side.
The front of the band has a blue square shape with gold trim. On the center of the band is an image reflective of the El Güegüense celebrations. Above the image is the text “EL GÜEGÜENSE” in white font. Just below that text is the text “THE WISE MAN” in a smaller white font. Below the image is the text “ESTELI, NICARAGUA”. The left and right of the band is blue with thick gold trim. as well as blue, gold, and orange striping. There is a gold medallion on both the left and right side of the band closest to the front of the band.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
As I normally do, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut to remove the cap of the El Güegüense Churchill. Once the cap was successfully removed, I moved on to the pre-light draw. The dry draw delivered a mix of sweet natural tobacco, baker’s spice and white pepper. Overall I was quite pleased with the pre-light draw of this cigar. At this point, I was ready to light up the El Güegüense Churchill and see what the smoking phase would have in store.
The start to the El Güegüense Churchill delivered more of the natural tobacco sweetness I got from the pre-light draw. I also detected some notes of cedar, white pepper and earth in the background. On the retro-hale, there were both white and black pepper notes present.
During the first third of El Güegüense Churchill, the flavor profile expanded. The cedar notes moved into the forefront joining the natural tobacco notes. Meanwhile, I still detected the white pepper and earth in the background. In addition there was a both a musty and mesquite note that surfaced in the background. The musty note should not be looked upon as a negative as it was not overpowering and in a way it actually complemented the other flavors quite well. Both the musty and the mesquite notes were not dominant but contributed to making this flavor profile unique.
By the second third, the cedar notes moved into the forefront. The natural tobacco notes receded into the background joining the pepper, earth, and mesquite notes. As for the musty notes, they further subsided into the background.
The last third of the El Güegüense Churchill saw the cedar continue to be the primary note. The white pepper notes moved closer to the forefront. I still detected some natural tobacco and mesquite while the earth and musty notes had pretty much dissipated. This is the way the flavor profile came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch, but cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
From a burn standpoint, the El Güegüense Churchill scored nicely. The cigar maintained a relatively straight burn path from start to finish. There was some occasional unevenness, but this was easily remedied with some touch-ups and I didn’t find this cigar needed an excessive amount of touch-ups. The resulting ash had a salt and pepper color scheme to it. I found the ash itself to be on the firm side. The El Güegüense Churchill had an ideal burn temperature. As for the burn rate, I found this cigar burned a little fast, but this didn’t have any adverse effects other than reduce the smoking time.
The draw to the El Güegüense Churchill performed excellent. This was not a tight draw, not was it a loose draw. Overall, this was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavors from.
Strength and Body
From both a strength and body perspective, I assessed the El Güegüense Churchill to be a solid medium. As I smoked the El Güegüense Churchill; there was an increase in both the strength and body, but overall I didn’t find either attribute got out of medium territory. In terms of strength versus body, I found the strength and body balanced each other very nicely with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
There are two things that struck out at me when it came to the El Güegüense Churchill. First up, several people had told me the Churchill format was the best of the line. While I’m not ready to render a final judgment on that just yet, I will say this blend performed extremely well in the Churchill size. Secondly, this cigar was different than anything I had out of the TABSA / Casa Fernandez factory before – and I viewed that as a positive. Overall this was a very enjoyable smoking experience. It’s a cigar I would recommend to either a seasoned cigar enthusiast or a novice. As for myself, it’s definitely a cigar I would smoke again – and it’s certainly worthy of a box split.
Assessment: 3.5-Box Split
News: Foundation Cigar Company to Debut El Güegüense
Stogie Geeks Podcast: Episode 153, Episode 163, Episode 180
Stogie Feed: El Güegüense Churchill by Foundation Cigar Company (Paul), El Güegüense Churchill by Foundation Cigar Company (Will)