Foundation Charter Oak Broadleaf Grande

Nick Melillo is right. The word ‘boutique’ is over used and inaccurate. Every hand-made cigar maker is a boutique, compared to those mass-producing machine-made cigars sold in drug stores and gas stations. A more apt descriptor would be artisan. And for the last 4 years, the Connecticut native, who also goes by the nom de guerre, “Nick R Agua”, has proven his artisanal chops with a stable of blends that has garnered numerous accolades and cultivated a global fever. After launching his brand, Foundation Cigar Co. in 2015, Melillo’s first blend, El Güegüense, which caused riots in some cigar shops, landed on Cigar Aficionado’s top 25 in 2016. Beginner’s luck?

No chance. The former right-hand man of Jon Drew knows a thing or two and followed up this success with blends like The Wiseman Maduro, Highclere Castle, The Tabernacle and The Upsetters. But, shortly after releasing El Güegüense, Melillo wanted to not only pay homage to his roots, but also create a solid cigar with an attractive price point that could be enjoyed anytime. The blend became Charter Oak which sports your choice of either a Connecticut shade or broadleaf wrapper. The story and history behind the name is worth a read here.


Connecticut broadleaf is some of the most difficult tobacco to cultivate and it’s expensive. In looking at our Grande, the $5.80 price tag is a head scratcher. The espresso-colored broadleaf wrapper is seamless and shows lots of trademark tooth. Oily and semi-veiny, the body is firm but not hard. The cap is well done, but the initial cold draw is firm with just a punch. Ugh. Aromas are light featuring a tang of citrus zest from the wrapper and dark fruit and cocoa from the foot. There is a ripe apricot tang on the palate from the cold draw.

The first impressions after lighting are a thick, chewy body of sweet espresso, cocoa and toasted almonds. There’s a nice chocolatey sweetness on the long finish, a nice spice arrives and it gets creamier over time. Initially rich, complexity wanes in transitions but maintains a smooth, balanced character. Transitions feature more wood, an uptick in spice and a bold, smoky texture complemented by a floral essence, nougat and dark fruit.

The draw did not improve, so after 10 minutes or so, I tried a shallow ‘V’ cut which did help. Combustion is solid, but the burn is wavy at times. The Broadleaf smokes fast for a gordo, so take note. Overall, a surprisingly enjoyable smoke for the price.  When you don’t want to tap into your lusty Liga Privadas and just need a basic broadleaf fix, the Charter Oak Broadleaf is designed for just that. – In Fumo Pax!

Did you Know:  A good friend of Jon Drew, Nick Melillo was employed by Drew Estate from 2003 – 2014, serving in roles including Head of Tobacco Production and VP Int’l business

  • Profile: Medium
  • Vitola: Grande
  • Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″x60
  • Purchased: B&M
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Filler: Nicaraguan
  • Cutter: Xikar Punch
  • Lighter: Colibri Firebird
  • Price: $5.80
  • Humidor Age: 12 mo.
  • Box: 20
  • Other Vitolas: Toro [6″x52], Lonsdale [6.25″x46], Rothschild [4.25″x50], PT Corona [4.25″x42]

 N O T E S

Smoke Time: 1:38
Draw: Firm
Build: Firm, but not hard; espresso-colored wrapper; oily; toothy; nice cap; semi veiny; invisible seams; shaggy foot; holds tight 1″+ ash.

  • WrapperCitrus zest
  • Foot – Dark Fruit; cocoa powder
  • Cold Draw – Apricot


  • Initial: Thick, chewy and sweet w/heavy espresso and cocoa; toasted almonds on draw; dark chocolate medium finish; gets creamier with a floral essence and hints of salted caramel; smoky texture; develops more cedar on draw/retro; spicy.
  • Transition: Woody profile with notes of nougat; spice and dark fruit carry over; rich.
  • Transition: Bold charred wood body with notes of earth and espresso; fragrant floral and cedar on retro; strong spice in nose; long, toasty, woody finish.

Complexity: Very good
Balance: Excellent
Touch ups: N/A
Combustion: Very good
Weaknesses: Burn gets wavy at times
Recommendation: 2. 5-packer

Recommendation scale:

  1. Go-to (boxworthy)
  2. 5-packer
  3. Yard ‘gar
  4. Smoke a banana instead

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