Launching a new company is a significant challenge, a big part of which is making sure that what you promise gets delivered and that there are no weak links in the chain from announcement to launch to follow-up. The steps have to be exactingly measured and executed near flawlessly, more so than proverbially crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s. 2015 wasn’t a year of numerous new companies entering the market, and by the middle of the year two companies—Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust and Foundation Cigar Co.—quickly emerged as contenders for this award.


While both made solid debuts this year, it was an outstanding execution at seemingly every turn that earned Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Co. the new company of the year award with a unanimous vote.

El Gueguense Corona Gorda Box 2

When Melillo left Drew Estate in May 2014, there was no doubt he would return to the cigar industry, and in June 2015 he announced the launch of Foundation Cigar Co. A month later he announced his first line—El Güegüense—and just about three weeks after that showed it off to the cigar industry at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, complete with a well-appointed booth explaining the roots of the cigar’s name and samples to handout to prospective retailers and other industry personnel. Then in the final week of September, the cigars began showing up at retailers, right on schedule.

This award was neck and neck, but we felt like when naming new company of the year, it was important to recognize the accomplishments of the company itself. Some of Dumbarton Tobacco & Trust’s most impressive accomplishments, namely showing up to the trade show without any samples and still taking a seemingly endless amount of commitments, would have been a kiss of death for a new company if it wasn’t a new company from a respected veteran like Steve Saka.

Since its release, El Güegüense has received its fair share of critical acclaim, and now Melillo faces the same task of every cigar company: not just making the first sale, but making the second, the third and beyond. Melillo followed the blueprint for successfully launching a new company almost to the letter, from announcing to exhibiting to delivering.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.