Foundation Cigars Highclere Castle
This week I take a look at a cigar that flew under most people’s radar. Foundation Cigar’s Highclere Castle pairing it with Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Chili Hazelnut Break.
The Good Stuff:
The Highclere Castle was revealed at last year’s IPCPR show in Las Vegas. Nick Melillo tamed up with Sir George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon who is the current owner of the Highclere Castle which is famously known for it’s location on the hit TV show Downton Abbey.
The Highclere Castle Website has all the details:
Highclere Castle Cigar was meticulously crafted by master blender, Nicholas Melillo, inspired by the style and flavor profile of cigars imported by the earlier Earls of Carnarvon to Highclere Castle at the turn of the 19th century.
The result is a hand rolled cigar from Estelí, Nicaragua, using the best Connecticut Shade wrapper available. The filler includes both Criollo and Corojo from the volcanic soils of Jalapa and the island of Ometepe. For the binder, the ancient Mata Fina, a carefully selected dark tobacco from Brazil, is used to tie the flavors together. Our special blend is finalized with our very own exclusive hybrid seed that we have named Nicadán, whose flavor is reminiscent of tobacco leaf from a bygone era.
The resulting smoke is silky smooth, exceptionally creamy with a lite peppery profile. Close your eyes and you’ll get a nose of fireplace and leather books that brings you right to Highclere Castle’s library. Subtle, sweet notes lend themself well to hints of citrus and the finish is elegantly clean.
We control each step of the production process starting with carefully selecting the tobacco, monitoring the weather and growths year to year, and managing the rolling process. Even our boxes are hand made from sustainably grown cedar logs grown on Nicaragua’s east coast at our friend Pedro’s family business, also located in Esteli.
The Highclere Castle comes in five size: Churchill (7 x 48), Corona (5.5 x 46), Petit Corona (5 x 42), Robusto (5 x 50), and the Toro (6 x 52) all packaged in boxes of 20 ranging between $12 and $14.40 a stick. Big shout out to my buddy Jason for hooking it up with a few of these.
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade
Binder: Brazilian Mata Fina
Pairing: Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Chili Hazelnut Break (Imperial Stout 11.5% ABV)
The Foundation Highclere Castle starts out with a beautiful light, orangish brown wrapper that’s extremely consistent in color. The wrapper’s texture is silky smooth with a good amount of oils and almost no tooth or grit. There are almost no present veins, only natural webbing running through the wrapper’s leaf as it’s laid seamlessly over itself. The wrapper feels very thin and delicate while the cigar itself is packed nicely, not to tight or too soft. The cigar features a standard body with a round double-wrapped cap. The cigar is then polished off with a manilla band with gold, red, and orange metallic in featuring the Highclere Castle crest boldly on the front of it.
The Foundation Highclere Caste’s wrapper gives off light cashew and cedar aromas while the foot of the cigar features subtle cedar scents over natural tobacco. The cap cut like butter under my Xikar XO double bladed cutter. The cold draw features a nice subtle sweetness and pepper mixed with spice, cashew, and naturally tobacco flavors.
The Highclere Castle starts out with a massive cayenne pepper blast that totally caught me off guard and left both my lips and tongue tingling. The pepper only really lasted through the first few draws but my lips felt the sting for quite some time. After the pepper fades I was greeted with lots of cedar, spice, nutmeg and honey flavors along with soft coffee and hazelnut. Some nice saltiness started to transition to my lips mellowing out the pepper sting. The burn line was thin with slight waves leaving behind a good amount of rightly compacted medium gray ash which held on for an inch before falling into my ashtray.
Into the second third of the Foundation Cigars Highclere Castle and the flavors have really creamed out into a more balanced experience. Creamed coffee, hazelnut, honey and spice lead the charge backed by a soft brown sugar sweetness. I just wish this cigar carried over the body it started out with, I feel it mellowed out a tad too much. The retrohale brings out some of the spice and pepper that I picked up in the first third. The burn line is still a bit wavy but I haven’t had to reach for my torch so no complaints there. I close out the second third feeling absolutely nothing in terms of nicotine.
Into the final third of the Foundation Cigars Highclere Castle and the cigar has continued to mellow out more and more as the experience progresses. There is no more spice or pepper all I am really left with at this point is some lightly creamed coffee, light hazelnut, soft honey and spice. The cigar took me a little over an hour to smoke down to the nub and I experienced no harshness, nor extended heat.
The Highclere Castle started out with a bang, but quickly began to fade out into something just a bit too mild for my preference. The cigar was beautiful and burned brilliantly but the flavor profile left much to be desired. One thing I had to keep reminding myself was that this cigar was blended for a different market. Usually the European cigars tend to resemble the Cuban cigar market a bit closer producing much more milder cigar experiences which is exactly what the Highclere Castle delivered. For the price though, I think I can think of quite a few mild cigars that I personally would reach for before this one.
Because of the existing hazelnut flavor I repeatedly picked up in the Highclere Castle I decided to pair this cigar with Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Chili Hazelnut Break. The 11.5% Imperial stout leads with roasted malt, cocoa, hazelnut, caramel, and even a nice tartness with a medium mouthfeel before finishing with gobs more hazelnut and cocoa along with a great sweetness and good amount chili with a decently boozy aftertaste.