Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo 99
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo 99
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.
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!
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.
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.
Bitter Last Third
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