Back in 2017, Foundation Cigar Company quietly added an event-only cigar known as the Menelik. After two years, owner Nicholas Melillo made a decision to bring Menelik in as a limited production line, and the cigar was showcased at the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show. Production for the cigar comes out of the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Estelí, Nicaragua. Today we take a closer look at the Menelik in its post event-series release.
When Foundation Cigar Company launched, there were several brands that were introduced into the portfolio – El Güegüense (The Wise Man) and The Tabernacle. The Tabernacle pays homage to the resting place for the Ark of the Covenant, which is said to be a wooden chest containing two stone tablets representing the Ten Commandments. The Tabernacle is said to have been dismantled and superseded by the Temple of Solomon built by King Solomon. Today, the country of Ethiopia claims to be home of the Ark of the Covenant. It turns out that Menelik was an ancient emperor of Ethiopia and is said to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Menelik was also known as Ibn al-Hakim, which translates into “Son of the Wise Man” – thus the tie-ins to both brands.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Menelik and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
One thing to note is that El Güegüense/The Wise Man comes from the TABSA factory (The Wise Man) and The Tabernacle comes from the AJ Fernandez Cigars factory. Menelik comes from TABSA and consists of all Nicaraguan tobaccos, including TABSA’s signature Aganorsa Leaf tobacco. It is finished with a Mexican San Andres wrapper.
Wrapper: San Andres Mexico
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo 99 Jalapa
Filler: Condega, Estelí, Jalapa
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
The Menelik is offered in one size – a Petit Robusto measuring 4 1/2 x 52. The cigars are presented in 12-count boxes.
The San Andres wrapper of the Menelik had a chocolate-brown color to it. There was a slight amount of oil on this cigar. While there were some thin visible veins and thin visible wrapper seams, this was a cigar where the wrapper had a relatively smooth surface to it. The box-press is best described as a soft square press. The cap of the Menelik was finished with a thick pig-tail.
The band to the Menelik had a black, gold, and green color scheme. The center of the band had a green and red medieval style cross design. Just below the cross is the text “MENELIK” in gold gothic font.
As opposed to pulling the pig-tail off, a straight cut was used to remove both the pig-tail and the cap of the Menelik simultaneously. Once removed, it was on to the pre-light draw experience. The cold draw delivered notes of chocolate and slight notes of cherry and spice. I considered this to be a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to light up the Menelik and see what the smoking phase would have in store.
The Menelik started out with a mix of chocolate, red pepper, and earth as well as tangy and savory notes. Early on the earth and red pepper took over as the primary note. The chocolate settled in the background with the tangy and savory notes. By the middle of the first third, a natural tobacco note with a slight bitter component surfaced in the background. By this point, the red pepper settled in the background but remained prominent on the retro-hale.
During the second third, there was a musty component that joined the earth in the forefront. In the background, the natural tobacco, chocolate, and tangy notes remained. There was a slight saltiness that also emerged during this phase. The savory qualities that were present early during the first third were gone.
The last third saw the earth and musty notes remain in the forefront. The red pepper notes increased in intensity and became the most prominent of the secondary notes. The natural tobacco, chocolate, tangy, and salty notes were in the more distant background. This is the way the Menelik came to a close. The resulting nub was slightly soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
While there was a slight amount of curviness on the burn line, the Menelik maintained a straight burn path from start to finish. Some touchups were needed, but these were not excessive. The resulting ash was skewed toward the firmer side. This was an ash that was gray in color. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both were ideal.
While box-pressed cigars tend to have an open draw, I sometimes find a square pressed cigar to be even more open. In the case of the Menelik I found a cigar with a nice pack with just the right amount of resistance. Concurrently this was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
In terms of strength and body, the Menelik started out as medium. Just after the midway point, both attributes progressed in the medium to full range where they remained. The strength and body meshed well with the flavors delivered. When looking at strength versus body, both attributes balanced each other nicely with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
When I look back at the previous decade of cigars, if I had to pick two traditional cigars that had the most unique flavor profiles I’ve encountered – the two would be the Casa Cuba by Arturo Fuente and the Menelik. The Menelik is one that is going to deliver a nice dose of complexity, and there are many flavor nuances and flavor transitions. The one thing that seemed missing for me with the Menelik is that the sum of the flavor components just didn’t add up. It was a classic case where I couldn’t figure out what this cigar wanted to do. It’s an interesting and certainly an entertaining smoke. The fact that this cigar was an event cigar at one point surprised me as event cigars tend to be very cookie-cutter in terms of flavor. That being said, the Menelik isn’t a cheap cigar, so if possible I’d recommend trying a sample first to see if this is in your wheelhouse.
Key Flavors: Earth, Chocolate, Red Pepper, Natural Tobacco, Musty Notes, Tangy Notes, Savory Notes, Salty Notes
Burn: Very Good
Strength: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Body: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Finish: Very Good
Value: Try a Sample
News: Foundation Cigar Company to Release Menelik at 2019 IPCPR
Brand Reference: Foundation Cigar Company
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop