A month after announcing that his cigar brand would be named Foundation Cigar Co., Nicholas Melillo surprised some in the cigar world with the news that the company’s first blend would not contain any broadleaf tobacco, a varietal that he had become well-known for incorporating into cigars. Instead, his first release—named El Güegüense after the main character of a Nicaraguan folk dance that is performed annually during the country’s San Sebastián festival in Diriamba—was a Nicaraguan puro consisting of a corojo 99 wrapper from Finca Puntalito in Jalapa covering a corojo 99 binder from Finca San Jose in Jalapa and a mixture of corojo and criollo filler tobaccos from Estelí and Jalapa.

Two years later, Melillo announced a followup line named The Wise Man Maduro, which—while keeping the same binder and filler tobaccos as the original release—replaced the corojo 99 wrapper from Finca Puntalito in Jalapa with a Mexican San Andrés maduro cover leaf. Although five different vitolas were available when the maduro-wrapped regular production brand launched, the thinnest size at the time came in at 46 ring gauge.

That changed in June 2018 with the announcement of a lancero vitola that measured 7 1/2 x 40 and featured a soft box-pressed foot. However, there were more differences between the lancero and the other five sizes in the line: not only was it the only vitola to come packaged in 13-count boxes, but it was also the only size to be limited to only 500 boxes in the first shipment, although it is not specifically a limited edition.

Nicholas Melillo, Foundation’s founder, explained the release:

I was inspired by the reputation of the Lancero format, known for an appeal that tends to run deeper into the cigar connoisseur realm, to use an artistic rendering of El Güegüense, also known as Macho Raton, as the central figure on our 13 count box. As this deeper story goes, El Güegüense traveled between the different colonial territories of Mexico and Central America in order to sell his goods. Accompanied by his sons, Don Forisco (his right hand) and Don Ambrosio (his detractor), they, and four mules (machos), ‘Machomoto, Macho-viejo, Macho-Mohino and Macho-guajaqueno were used for his heavy work, and symbolized how the indigenous population was being treated by the Spanish colonizers.

The Wise Man Maduro includes six sizes, all of which are made at the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

  • The Wise Man Maduro Churchill (7 x 48) — $11 (Boxes of 25, $275)
  • The Wise Man Maduro Corona Gorda (5 5/8 x 46) — $9.90 (Boxes of 25, $247.50)
  • The Wise Man Maduro Robusto (5 1/2 x 50) — $10.50 (Boxes of 25, $262.50)
  • The Wise Man Maduro Toro Huaco (6 x 56) — $11.50 (Boxes of 25, $287.50)
  • The Wise Man Maduro Torpedo (6 1/4 x 52) — $16 (Boxes of 25, $320)
  • The Wise Man Maduro Lancero (7 1/2 x 40) — $13 (Boxes of 13, $169)

Here is what I wrote in my original review back in May 2019:

I am a big fan of what a lancero vitola can bring to the table for most releases, and the Wise Man Maduro Lancero is a great example of how much impact it can have on a blend. Having said that, the thinnest ring gauge in the line does not actually make the blend better, rather it changes it pretty significantly. While the richness and complexity continue to be a major part of the profile compared to the other two sizes I have smoked—namely the Corona Gorda and the Robusto—the pepper that was so prevalent in the larger sizes has been tamed noticeably. The dominant flavors are also quite different, with the lancero full of chalky cocoa nibs and creamy oak, along with a distinct raisin sweetness on the retrohale that binds everything together wonderfully. In the end, while The Wise Man Maduro Lancero is very different in almost every way than the rest of the vitolas in the line, the most important attribute remains the fact that it is a cigar easily worth the time and effort to track down.

  • Cigar Reviewed: The Wise Man Maduro Lancero
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Binder: Nicaragua (Jalapa)
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Estelí & Jalapa)
  • Length: 7 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 40
  • Vitola: Lancero
  • MSRP: $13 (Box of 13, $169)
  • Release Date: September 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 13 Cigars (6,500 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

From a visual perspective, The Wise Man Maduro Lancero is covered in a gorgeous espresso brown wrapper that is parchment rough to the touch, accented by the fact that there is virtually no oil to be seen. The cigar is nicely spongy when squeezed and the foot shows signs of a light box-press. Aroma from the wrapper and foot is an intoxicating combination of rich dark chocolate, leather, cinnamon, oak, manure and earth, while the cold draw brings distinct flavors of cocoa powder, oak, creamy nuts, leather, vanilla sweetness and earth.

Starting out, The Maduro Lancero features a strong, dominant dark chocolate note combined with cinnamon, followed by flavors of hay, creamy oak, freshly roasted coffee, leather, anise and bread. There is a very nice sweetness on the retrohale that reminds me of real maple syrup, and it combines wonderfully with the slight black pepper that is also present. I am also picking up some very interesting orange citrus and popcorn notes on the finish, although they do ebb and flow a bit, a least in the first third. While the dark chocolate and cinnamon combination easily remains dominant in the second half of The Wise Man Maduro Lancero, the maple syrup sweetness on the retrohale increases in strength noticeably as well, easily overpowering the black pepper that also continues to be a factor. There is also a bit more of the orange citrus note on the finish, along with secondary flavors of espresso beans, hay, creamy oak, hay, peanuts and a touch of anise, the latter of which actually increases in strength a bit just before I put the nub down with less than an inch left to go.

In terms of construction, the draw is excellent throughout the cigar after a simple straight cut, and although the burn is far from perfectly razor-sharp, I never have to even come close to touching it up. Finally, the overall strength has decreased a bit since the first review, finishing up a just under the medium mark after one hour and 26 minutes of smoking time.

92 Overall Score

There have been times when readers have asked what the point of our Redux reviews are, and The Wise Man Maduro Lancero is a perfect example of why we put the time and effort into them. The first time around, this blend in this vitola was very, very good, albeit not as enjoyable as its corona gorda brother, which happened to take the number 22 spot in halfwheel’s Top 25 for 2017. However, almost a year of age has done wonders for the profile: while the dark chocolate is still as dominant as it was the first time around, the flavor is more refined, more distinct and significantly richer on the palate. Along with a more aggressive cinnamon flavor, there are also a number of new notes that have been added to the profile which really put it over the top, namely an orange citrus on the finish and a distinct maple syrup sweetness on the retrohale. Throw in the excellent construction and the fact that there was just the right amount of black pepper to accentuate the flavors without overwhelming them in any way, and you are left with not only an excellent example of how a blend can improve with age but also one of the better cigars I have smoked so far this year.

Original Score (May 2019)
Redux Score (April 2020)
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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.