In April, Foundation Cigar Co. added a new cigar to its line-up, this time in the form of an event only cigar. Called Menelik, it is named after the ancient ruler of Ethiopia who is said to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. While it may leave you scratching your head why owner Nicholas Melillo would name a cigar after an old ruler from Biblical times, let’s look into it a little further.

Menelik also went by the name Ebna la-Hakim, which is Arabic for Son of the Wise. This alone would tie the cigar into the rest of Melillo’s brands such as El Güegüense, which is a play off the main character of the Nahuatl word huehue which translates into wise man. In addition, Menelik I was the first descendant of Solomon to rule during the Solomonic Dynasty, while Haile Selassie I was the last. Haile Selassie I is considered to be the returned messiah in Rastafarianism, and Melillo has said himself he is an admirer of Jamaican culture, which is where the Rastafari movement was founded.


The Menelik comes in a five-pack, has an undisclosed binder and filler, is only available at events and to top it off, can’t be purchased at the event. From start to finish, everything about the Menelik makes this an intriguing cigar.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Menelik
  • Country of Origin: n/a
  • Factory: n/a
  • Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo Maduro
  • Binder: n/a
  • Filler: n/a
  • Length: 4 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Petit Robusto
  • MSRP: n/a
  • Release Date: April 2017
  • Number of Cigars Released: n/a
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

While the Menelik is somewhat rustic wrapper and unassuming in appearance with the lack of a band, overall it has a pleasing shape and a nice finishing touch with the pigtail cap, making it a cigar that would catch my attention anyway. While the wrapper looks rough, it certainly doesn’t feel that way, with a smooth and oily feel to it instead. There is an even give all along the cigar, with no soft spots that I notice. A brownie-like sweetness and earth comes off the wrapper, while the cold draw at first reminds me of a flat cola. On the finish there is a touch of earth, cinnamon and chocolate chip cookie that gives it a unique and intriguing start.

Lighting the first third, there is immediately a lot of spice and black pepper up front on the nose, while a light nuttiness, a general sweetness and some earth move about in the background. A slow but steady heat of chili peppers grows, and where it wasn’t there at all in the beginning, has quickly taken over as the leading note. The ash doesn’t appear to be very dense, and just as I’m noticing this, a large chunk falls into my lap as I’m moving the cigar towards the ashtray, where the remaining ash easily taps off the end. Though the burn isn’t perfect, it doesn’t need any intervention from me, keeping on track enough that I can ignore it.

Moving into the second third, the leading chili pepper note has died down a bit, allowing the sweetness and spice to shine a little brighter than before. Earth, a bit of cocoa and some smoky oak notes round out the profile nicely. While I wouldn’t say the ash has firmed up a lot, it does appear to not want to fall off in my lap anymore, though a wispy flyaway of wrapper does pop up here and there. The burn continues its mostly even but not perfect trek, keeping itself up enough that I don’t need to do any touch ups. The chili pepper continues to subside while the smoky oak keeps increasing, which alongside the spice, sweetness, earth and hints of cocoa, blends together quite well.

It seems the Menelik hits its stride, with the same oak, sweetness, spice, earth, cocoa and chili pepper continuing into the final third. Not much has changed save the burn has finally gotten uneven enough that a small touch up is warranted. As the petit robusto wraps up, the profile is smooth, cool and flavorful until I’m burning my lips on the nub.

Final Notes

  • The cigars come in a five-pack that has two pieces of cardboard on the outside of the cigars, wrapped in paper. Some factories actually use this method for box-pressing.
  • If you took note of these earlier in the year and were hoping they would be announced as a regular release at the IPCPR Convention and Trade Show – there was no mention of it when we covered the booth in July.
  • Event only cigars that you can’t outright purchase are certainly not a new thing, but they are a great incentive to get people to in-store events and encourage them to make purchases once at the event.
  • Not having smoked a plethora of Foundation Cigar Co brands, and likewise having the different lines made at various factories, I wouldn’t even begin to make an educated guess at comparing this to any of the regular release lines or where it was made.
  • Cigars for this review were provided to halfwheel by Foundation Cigar Co., which advertises on halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time averaged an hour and 10 minutes.
90 Overall Score

I was intrigued by the Menelik, not only for many of the reasons stated above, but just because event only, rare or limited editions cigars tickle my interest. Luckily, it delivered in a good way, which is slightly unfortunate if only for the reason that I will have a hard time getting my hands on more. Despite the flaky ash and less than perfect burn, the profile developed and changed enough from beginning to end that it delivered an interesting and engaging experience with the flavors staying cohesive enough to continuously mesh well. It’s certainly a cigar I can suggest getting your hands on if you can, whether that means tracking it down on the secondary market or simply just going to a Foundation Cigar Co. event. I know I’ll be looking for the next one in my area.

Brian Burt
About the author

I have been smoking cigars since 2005 and reviewing them as a hobby since 2010. Initially I started out small with a 50-count humidor and only smoking one or two cigars a month. Not knowing anybody else that smoked cigars, it was only an occasional hobby that I took part in. In March of 2010 I joined Nublive and Cigar Asylum, connecting me with many people who also shared an interest in cigars. Reading what they had to say about brands I had never heard of, I quickly immersed myself in the boutique brands of the industry and it was then that cigars transformed from a hobby into a passion. Besides my cigar hobby and job in the IT industry, my wife and I love traveling, trying new restaurants and relaxing at home with our two dogs.

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