Foundation Cigar Company often themes its cigars around different cultures. Over the years, the branding of Foundation has paid homage to the cultures of Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Egypt, Jamaica, and England as well as Melillo’s home state of Connecticut. That continued in 2023 as the owner Nicholas Melillo’s company’s new releases honored Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Connecticut. A couple of the releases showcased this year were quite personal for Melillo, as there is a release honoring Melillo’s grandfathers and one for a special honor that Melillo received from the country of Ethiopia. Foundation has worked with the Aganorsa and AJ Fernandez’s factories to handle his production. This year, the focus was on the AJ Fernandez-produced brands.

The Knight Commander is a new line extension to The Tabernacle line. This is a planned annual limited line. It’s described as a more “nuanced” version of The Tabernacle line. Priced at $40.00 per cigar, it will be Foundation’s most premium offering to date. Though it carries a high price point, Foundation has said that all proceeds from the sale of The Tabernacle Knight Commander will go to charity.

The inspiration behind Tabernacle Knight Commander came from a prestigious honor the Ethiopian Crown Council bestowed upon Melillo, the title of Knight Commander of The Ethiopian Star of Honor. The Order was established by Emperor Menelik (who has a cigar in the Foundation portfolio that pays homage to him) in 1889 as an order of Knighthood of the Ethiopian Empire to foreign and domestic civilian and military officials and individuals for service to the country. Upon receiving this honor, Melillo pledged to work on Ethiopian philanthropic initiatives. The blend features a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over a Mexican San Andrés binder and fillers from Nicaragua’s Estelí and Jalapa regions. The cigars are available in one size – a 6 3/4 x 52 perfecto and are packaged in 12-count boxes. The packaging is adorned with the Star of Ethiopia on the bands and packaging.

Metapa is a new two-blend cigar line highlighted by an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. This is the first time Melillo has released a cigar with a Sumatra wrapper. Like 2022’s Olmec, the Metapa will be available in a Claro and Maduro wrapper option. This new brand pays homage to Rubén Darío, who is a famous poet and a national hero in Nicaragua. He was born in the town of Metapa (which today is called Ciudad Dario), thus how the name came to be. Melillo said the image of Dario reminded him of Bolivar, and he was surprised nobody had used the Dario imagery before. This allowed Melillo to create a very classic-looking brand in Metapa.

In addition to the Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, the remainder of the blend features a Connecticut Broadleaf binder and fillers from Nicaragua. The cigar is available in the same four sizes for both the Claro and Maduro blends: Corona Gorda (SRP $14.50/cigar), Robusto (SRP $15.50/cigar), Toro (SRP $16.50/cigar), and Double Corona (SRP $18.00).

Charter Oak is getting two limited production line extensions – Pasquale and Pignaturo. Charter Oak pays homage to Melillo’s home state of Connecticut but also to Melillo’s two grandfathers – who smoked Connecticut Broadleaf and Connecticut Shade Cigars. The new Pasquale and Pignaturo offerings are named for each of the grandfathers. Both are more premium offerings than the current Charter Oak line.


Pegnataro is a Connecticut Shade wrapper offering, while Pasquale is a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. These wrapper choices reflect the wrapper choices preferred by each of Melillo’s grandfathers. The remainder of each blend consists of Nicaraguan tobaccos. The underlying blends for each of the wrappers are different. Both Charter Oak Pegnataro and Charter Oak Pasquale are being released in one size – a 5 1/2 x 48 viola. The cigars will be sold in 12-count boxes, with production capped at 500 boxes per quarter. Pricing is set at SRP $13.00/cigar for both blends.

Finally, the Highclere Castle Senetjer, a limited edition project launched last year, is returning as an annual limited edition. Highclere Castle is the brand produced in partnership between Foundation Cigar Company and George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and the famed Highclere Castle Estate’s owner in Hampshire, England. The name Senetjer, the ancient Egyptian word for “incense,” literally translates as “of the gods.” There is a reason for this release under the Highclere Castle. Last year was the 100th anniversary of Herbert’s great-grandfather (the 5th Earl of Carnarvon) and Howard Carter’s discovery of Pharoah Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922. The box of the Highclere Castle Senetjer is a replica of the storage boxes discovered within Tutankhamun’s tomb. Plans are for the Highclere Castle Senetjer to be released in November to coincide with the 101st anniversary of the discovery.

Highclere Castle Senetjer – PCA 2022 Photo

Blend-wise, things will remain the same with the Senetjer. It features a 7th priming Habano Ecuador wrapper, a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper, and undisclosed filler tobaccos aged for three years. The cigar comes in one size – a 6 3/4 x 52 perfecto. The cigars are presented in 12-count boxes with pricing set at $33.00 per cigar.

All of Foundation Cigar Company’s releases are targeted for the fall of 2023, with the Senetjer specifically targeted for a November release.

Interview with Nicholas Melillo, Foundation Cigar Company

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Product Reports

Photo Credits: Cigar Coop