Wrapper:  Nicaraguan Corojo 99
Binder:  Nicaraguan Corojo 99
Filler:  Nicaraguan
Brand:  Foundation Cigar Company
Factory:  TABSA (Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.)
Price Range:  $8-$10
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Foundation El Gueguense – First Thoughts

I’ve smoked this cigar a few times now, and I’ve been hesitant to review it.  The first time I paired it with Port and loved the pairing, but Port can be overpowering and I couldn’t judge the cigar from that experience.  Subsequent experiences with El Gueguense (The Wiseman) I found to be somewhat disappointing.

The conflict comes in with the review process.  I’ve been sitting on this cigar because of a couple reasons.  Given that it’s a debut release of a new cigar company, I wanted to give El Gueguense the opportunity to put it’s best foot forward.  Bias?  Maybe.  But my palate has matured by leaps and bounds over the last few months. If there’s ever a time to give it a fair shot, it’s today.

The aroma coming from the foot is of cedar and not much else.  But the cold draw?  Whoa.  It’s like Nerds candy.  Unbelievable.  Brad and I were discussing candies (specifically Nerds) the other day, so maybe this one is just stuck in my head, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t just flash back to carefully swiping my kid’s candy last Halloween.

Foundation El Gueguense – First Third

Cedar, Candy, Leather, Wood, Spice, Cherries, Molasses, Popcorn, Hickory Smoke Extract

The aforementioned candied presence makes it’s way into the first few draws along with the cedar.  Really wasn’t expecting that as the cold draw is rarely indicative of the actual smoking experience.

It’s rather short lived as leather and wood notes take the driver’s seat.  That wasabi-like sinus burn is present in the Corona Gorda but I don’t remember it being as prominent in the larger sizes.  Probably on purpose if Melillo had similar thoughts to Saka in their releases.  Spice is also present in both the mouth feel and retro hale. A retro hale adds peppercorn flavor, popcorn notes and, oddly enough, hints of hard candies.

Foundation Cigar Company El Gueguense Review | Cigar Noise

There’s also a muskiness that I just can’t place.

We talked last night on the Sultans of Smoke podcast about flavors, and I’ve got to reiterate just how life changing it is to smoke a cigar with the sole intent of extracting as much as possible from it.  The candied retrohale in El Gueguense is nothing short of inspiring, yet I didn’t experience that in any of my first test drives with this cigar.  Purposed, mindful evaluation is where it’s at.

How’s Ron Zacapa 23 with this cigar?  Glad you asked!  I would’ve thought the sweetness in the rum would bring out more of the candied notes but it doesn’t.  More like a Kansas City barbecue sauce.  Ginger ale highlights more of the leathery side of things.  Bulleit Rye?  That’s the ticket!  Adds hints of cherries and more pronounced cedar to the mix.

Taking the time to do a thorough carbonated water rinse, we’re back to El Gueguense by itself.  We’re most of the way through the first third and I’m now getting hints of molasses, popcorn, hickory smoke extract (what I use in homemade barbecue sauce) and cherries.  The cherry notes are very subdued but still present, especially in a retro hale.

If you really want to experience the sweeter side of El Gueguense, you have to take it slow and steady.  The first puff will be sweeter whereas the very next one will be darker, heartier, and more like leather, wood, popcorn.

Foundation El Gueguense – Second Third

Cherries, Hickory Smoke Extract, Molasses, Smoked Paprika, Leather

Our second third is notably absent of the wasabi-like sinus kick that El Gueguense started with.  A milder spice still lingers between puffs but I’m betting it won’t be with us much longer.

Cherries?  Yup!  Much more pronounced at this stage in the game than earlier – like maraschino cherry.  It’s present in a regular draw and amplified in a retro hale.  Leather and hickory smoke extract are also still with us for the time being making for a curious combination. Molasses comes back as well as what I would consider Smoked Paprika.  Just need to add some ketchup, cider vinegar, and garlic to make some barbecue sauce!

Foundation Cigar Company El Gueguense Review | Cigar Noise

What’s really interesting is that there isn’t a definite top flavor with underlying compliments in the second third.  Sometimes the sweeter cherry notes are more flavor forward, sometimes it’s the barbecue sauce ingredients.  Usually it follows that first puff / subsequent puffs concept noted in the first third.

Foundation El Gueguense – Last Third

Cherries, Barbecue Sauce, Bitter Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Stale Coffee, Leather, Pistachio, Roasted Almonds 

By the last third, all remnants of spice are completely removed.  The flavors are still battling between a sweet cherry component and barbecue sauces ingredients.

Bitter chocolate begins to show as I begin contemplating removing the band.  Soon it mellows out into more of a milk chocolate flavor, complimenting the cherry notes nicely.

Foundation Cigar Company El Gueguense Review | Cigar Noise

Bitterness surges as I slide the band off (I’ve been slowly working it up.)  It’s hard to reconcile this with the first two thirds of El Gueguense. Stale coffee, leather, and pistachio join the party.

Is it wrong to slide the Flavor rating to the left for the last third?  I’m not so sure.  If I’m enjoying a cigar for pleasure that becomes less than desirable it’s too easy to toss it and grab another.  On the other hand, there are lots of my brothers and sisters that will nub a cigar regardless because that’s their code of conduct.  If you’d like to weigh in, please comment below.

Relight.  Well, damn.  That’s not going to help.

Roasted almonds, bitter chocolate take us home.

Foundation El Gueguense Corona Gorda Review
8.6 Reviewer
8.9 Cigar Noise Network (2 votes)

Beautiful Presentation

Surprising Flavors


Uneven Burn

Bitter Last Third

All in all, I'm glad that I waited to review El Gueguense. While the cherry notes were as surprising as they were enjoyable, this cigar had conflicting desires. The marriage of sweet and hearty elements within El Gueguense was one that couldn't quite come together and find common ground.
What Other Folks Are Saying: 2 Make some Noise
"to put on the Güegüense’s face"
Prelight Observations:

Appearance: Dark and oily. Like the BPA spill. There's almost a sheen to the wrapper, but my fingers aren't struggling to grasp the cigar, nor is it obnoxiously oily.
Sounds when compressed: Slight crunch of the inner leaves as the 38% humidity a few days back during my dry boxing phase was abnormal compared to the 85% atmosphere today. Wrapper no damage. whew
Feel when compressed: In as uncomplicated as I can describe, there's almost a feeling of flesh. Slight give to the touch, but firmness underneath. But not loose like skin on fat, like skin on a properly maintained muscle.
Smell: First notice the great wood smells. Mostly cedar, but a lingering aromatic waft of stonefruitwood, not specifically peach, but similar. Apricot? Also on the nose are sweet espresso, spicy dark cacao, and a smidge of leather. Ew I don't like leather.
Cold Draw: semi sweet dark chocolate, stonefruitwood, earth, and slight spice all play from 8-9 pulls.
On reading Dave's recent post on contrasting versus complimenting, I felt I would give it a whirl this FuenteFriday. I grabbed a Coronado Brewing Co. Orange Ave. Wit California Witbier hoping something light and citrus-y would contrast well.

Today I opt for a V-cut, I've been on a V-cut dig recently and enjoy that enhance surface area to increase pressure differential contact to minimize effort (read bigger/easier draw). I do enjoy the raised band, and the beautiful artwork on the band. I really like the blue and gold, not just because World Rally Blue and Bronze. Also interestingly, I found that there's four cap lines, probably from how they finished off the cap, but it's listed and advertised as a triple cap.

First Portion (1st 1/2)

Right away that wood flavor is pushing to the top of the charts. Throw on some melting sweetened cocoa and a dash of peppers, there's a lot going on in the first few draws. As I slow down the pace to a more mellow appreciation, the spiciness fades to an afterthought as well as the wood in my face. The cocoa becomes a more nuanced milky note, and that wood mix calms into a creamy cedar flavor. Noticeably the retrohale had that sweet and creamy cedar chilling throughout. A few more minutes in, and I'm finding a cereal flavor in the linger. Further investigation brings to mind millet sans sweetness. It's strange, (yet is it?) to find such a taste in a different plant and different means of consumption. Looking at the burn, it's slightly uneven, but overall is smooth. By the 20 minute mark the cigar has really calmed its frontal assault and has become incredibly enjoyable. I just can't stop smelling the head/oils, there's that cereal aroma that is just so delectable. It's a weird satisfaction to find it, and yet to continue smelling it. I am almost tempted to draw through the nose, buttttt I'll abstain...for nowww. There's still that faint leather note, but it hasn't done much but sit in the back. I hope that it stays there. I note to myself that this may be the first retrohales where I'm not tearing up, and there's just so much to enjoy. I also note that the first half of the cigar hasn't changed much aside from the first blast to the olfactory on my lighting draws. Lastly on this half, I've become increasingly aware of the layer of oils on my lips, and at this time lick my lips. Oh sweet butter, there's so much flavor on this oil that I can now taste that's undoubtedly from the cigar. Those smoked woods flavors (stonefruitwood and cedar), ground peppercorn (maybe that sweet fruity pink??), and unsalted sweet cream butter. Whoa. That's a first. I'm tempted to grab the cut cap and chew on it to see if it's there too, or if I'd have to heat it up to draw out the meld of oils.

Next Portion (3rd 1/4)

Taking a look at the cigar, the burn is slightly wonky now. I've also fidgeted with the band and finagled it off. The cigar is nice and warm and has softened the adhesive. I love this band. It's so pretty and I want to probably buy a box solely for the artwork, but the cigars will be nice too. In that picture there's a beautiful path of smoke coming from both ends. Not your typical DE fanboy smoke heavy pour after a half minute or so, but still incredibly well producing leaves in my own opinion. The warmed oils of the wrapper are still preoccupying my mind, I don't even bother to touch up the burn. This portion of the cigar changed apace, from a general cereal note to a distinct honey oat. As I spent a few minutes putting my finger on the honey oat, I also noticed a dried fruit linger came through. At first it was slightly like a Lambert cherry, but stayed in the aft portion of the notes. The retrohale at this point brought through that sweet creaminess still, and a slight white pepper spiciness, but a robust cherry raisin note was dominating the retrohale now. While it may be due to sensory adaptation I felt that sweet creamy cedar fade out of the face of the retrohale. Like the first half, I found myself tasting the residual oils on my lips. This time there's a citrus dominance over spiciness. I attribute this mostly to the Orange Witbier, but don't want to exclude possibilities. noted. The cigar itself has been doing great. I'm enjoying these melds and blends, contrasts and comforts. The fun and delicious flavors are welcome, yet the new are not hostile.

Final Portion (4th 1/4!)

For the last bit, I've noticed a substantial shift in the flavor. That old stonefruitwood flavor has come back, and brought along the glutamic acid (The current scientific explanation of source for our tasting of umami) friends. This smell reminds me of my pork rib smokes, usually with a peach or apricot wood. But it's distinctly NOT peach, but close to apricot. Hrmmm. The uneasiness that accompanies the inability to discern the flavor irritates me profoundly. On the retrohale I've found that aroma of maillard reaction on a dry rubbed rack of pork ribs. If only I could eat this perfumetic fragrance. The cedar still lingers, but it's been sidelined by these recent discoveries. With just an inch left, I've hit a prodigious pronouncement of pistaccio. Not the dried salted stuff in the states, but the fresh pinkly fruits that I encountered in Italy. Then that American pistachio flavor comes through. The swell of savor brings forth even more toasted nuts. And all of a sudden, as quick as it came, it disappeared. The cigar just died almost mid-draw. The flavors were dismal, damp tobacco and wetness. I still had time! I still wanted more! Alas, things will come and go, but I really liked most of this cigar.


Smoke time was about 77 minutes, with the abrupt ending.

Value per dollar was fantastic, since it was a free cigar. I'd even pay the $10 MSRP for another!
Overall I'd rate it a great three thumbs up. Even with the weird end, it was still fantastic through most of it. This one had about a year of sitting though, so I'll try a fresh one in a little and compare.
March 17, 2017, 3:14 am
Wise to the Bitter End
Dave, I recently discovered CigarNoise; great app and website, a true community of leafers. Congratulations and best wishes for positive growth.

I had this cigar in the churchill size (7x48) with a similar experience. A bit disappointed to read that you also had problems with the draw, in addition to a “bitter end”; because I was looking forward to trying the Corona Gorda (5.6x46) which is shorter with a smaller ring gauge. I was thinking that perhaps the churchill needed more humidification, as it is not uncommon for some longer vitolas to change at the last third because of insufficient time in the humidor.

Nothwithstanding burn issues and a disappointing last third, I find this cigar to be substantive. The beautiful wrapper, impressively unique band and effortlessly smooth complexity would make me buy the churchill again and end the smoke after the second third. Yes, the first 2/3rds of the cigar is that good. El Guenguense is divine to look at, the cigar feels good in your hand. I would love if they were box-pressed, which perhaps would alleviate some of the burn issues.

The cold draw in the vitola I had, presented notes of molasses and cedar while the aromas on the foot were predominantly molasses, cherry and hay. The complex flavors were present at first light, as was the smoothness. The cigar treated me with a heavenly bouquet of sweetness, transitioning effortlessly between cherry, cocoa, cream, hay, coffee, vanilla, almond nuts, flowers and cedar with varying degrees of intensity. In a few draws there were hints of bitterness in the coffee and cocoa which added nicely to the complexity.

Wherever you have this cigar, whenever you have this cigar, sip it as best you can; it will make you “wise to the bitter end.”
April 28, 2016, 5:41 pm
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Dave West

Editor and Contributor at CigarNoise
Identifying as a Cigar Enthusiast more than an Aficionado, I enjoy trying new cigars and attempting to annotate my experience. Disclosure: As of June 2017, I began writing for SmallBatchCigar.com and will no longer be reviewing SBC exclusives
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