Back in March of 2015, Carnival Films and MASTERPIECE on PBS announced, Downton Abbey. Interestingly, 2015 was the year Nicholas Melillo (Nick-R-Agua), the former head of Drew Estate Nicaragua, formed the Foundation Cigar Company. Now here we are in 2017 and we learn there is a connection between Nick and Downton Abbey. Well, more like Nick and the Highclere Castle that was featured in the show.would be the final season of the hit drama series
By now, unless you have been living deep in Sherwood Forest, you have heard of the new cigar, that Foundation Cigars is making for Highclere Castle.
The cigar was is a joint collaboration between the two companies and reflects the rich cigar history of the castle all the back to 1862 when cigars were first introduced to England. The Foundation Cigars website exquisitely point out:
“The tradition at Highclere Castle has always been to retire to the library after dinner for a cigar and whiskey. In 1922, the current Earl’s great-grandfather undoubtedly celebrated his and Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s Tomb with a cigar in hand. Recently, Highclere Castle’s archivist discovered letters and personal account records of the Carnarvon’s cigar purchases in the early 1900s from dealers in London as well as the Ritz Hotel.”
When contacted by George Herbert, the current Highclere Castle owner and 8th Earl Carnarvon, Nick set himself in motion to create a cigar that aptly reflects the early British cigar history. The result was not only a fine smoking experience but also a new cigar company to be known as the Highclere Cigar Company. Officially, the new company has 4 founders:
- George Herbert – 8th Earl Carnarvon
- Nicholas Melillo – Master Blender
- Adam von Gootkin – CEO
- Peter Kowalczyk – CFO
The current Earl, George Herbert describes on the Highclere Castle Cigar website:
“Enjoying a Highclere Cigar together, we had the most companionable hour in the warm summer late evening on the castle lawn, as we looked back towards Siddown Hill. You couldn’t imagine a more perfect sense of the relaxed enjoyment of life!”
The Highclere Castle Cigar
In order to create such an elegant smoke, worthy of the name Highclere Castle, Nick sought out some of the finest tobacco available and ended with a unique and appealing blend consisting of:
- Wrapper – Connecticut Shade
- Binder – Brazilian Mata Fina
- Filler – Nicaragua (Jalapa and Ometepe)
- Nicadán (Exclusive Hybrid Seed)
The Highclere Castle Cigar is available in 5 vitolas, each packaged in 20-count boxes:
- Churchill – 7 x 48
- Toro – 6 x 52
- Corona – 5 x 42
- Robusto – 5 x 50
- Petit Corona – 5.5 x 46
The Highclere Castle Cigar is being manufactured at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua and they have a retail price set between $12.00 and $16.00 USD.
For this review I spent the evening with my Stogie Press associate Alton Otto who stopped by last night with a couple of Highclere Castle Toros. It was a perfect fall evening here in Central Florida to enjoy a cigar, cool and crisp with a light breeze and lower than normal humidity. This is my castle, and though I may not have a huge lawn, we did sit and gaze out on it just the same as we savored this new creation. I agree with the Earl, a perfect sense of the relaxed enjoyment of life.
The wrapper on the Highclere Castle is beautiful to look at, darker than a normal Connecticut Shade with a slight orange hue to it. There is a decent sheen on the wrapper with tight seams and few veins running through it. It is finished with a well applied double cap. The cigar is solid and certainly packed tight as the weight in the hand divulges.
Adorning it, is a an interesting band that has the raised Highclere Cigars logo printed in gold and centered in a white background along with the words “HECHO A MANO ESTELI, NICARAGUA” below. Looking carefully you will also notice ruby-red and blue sapphire running around the border. On the far right side is the notation “Foundation Cigars”. I actually like the band on this, for some reason it reminds of a ring of royalty.
Alton was quick to note the bread and cinnamon on the cold draw. Personally I rolled it about, savoring a light earth and baking spice, before I picked up the cinnamon which was akin to a licking a cinnamon stick where the flavor ran down the middle of the tongue. The draw was perfectly restricted.
With the preliminary pre-light exam out-of-the-way, we anticipated the full journey the Highclere Castle was about to offer.
Cigar Review Notes
- On first light there is a heavy pepper blast on retrohale – ouch!
- Cinnamon enters on the tongue
- Alton describes a creamy nougat
- Medium grey ash develops resting on a thin char line
- Earthy notes enter
- Sweet floral aroma engulfs the air around us
- Pepper still present after an inch of burn – was not expecting that
- Honey sweetness enters to temper the pepper
- The ash is solid and growing
- Sprinkle of salt on the finish
- Honey moving up into the profile
- Alton picks up dry leather into the end of first third
- Ash falls after first third fairly revealing a fairly well centered cone
- We both picked Orange zest appears moving into the second third
- Pepper remains on the nose
- I picked up a burnt caramel
- Orange turned tin citrus peel
- Honey and citrus blending well like an orange blossom honey
- Medium strength so far
- Pepper finally fades near the band
- Alton getting creamy cappuccino and citrus peel – I got Espresso
- Moving into the final third the pepper returns
- Honey mixes back in
- Almond aroma that slowly morphs into maple syrup
- So much going on here
- Total Smoking Time was one hour and 20 minutes down to the nub!
Overall, the Highclere Castle cigar was simply exquisite. The balanced complexity of this cigar is a testament to the blending skills of Nick Melillo. It had some especially unique flavor notes including the orange blossom honey that played through the burn. This one that has to smoked to the nub to truly appreciate the complexity as that is where it seems to fire up all taste sensors. There is so much going on in the final third it was like smoking the first 4 inches in just two inches. The burn was pristine from foot to nub. This is for sure a 2017 top 25 candidate in my book. Oh yea, if I was to pair this, it would be an aged Highland Single Malt with a doubt!