Cigar Reviews

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade

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Woah! It’s actually a bit chilly here in El Paso today! And by chilly, I mean it’s 70 degrees with a nice breeze and some small spinkles. I am loving it. I’ll be spending my afternoon outside with a Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak and a bottle of Brouwerij Huyghe Delirium Argentum.

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade

The Good Stuff:

This past year Nick Melillo and Foundation Cigar Company released quite a few new blends at the IPCPR show in Las Vegas. 2 of those blends are the value-based blends called the “Charter Oak”. The Charter Oak line features two different blends. We already looked at the Connecticut Broadleaf version, so this week we are concentrating not he Connecticut Shade version.

The Foundation Cigar Company’s website has a good amount of detail on the project:

 “I wanted to choose a name that represents the greatest symbol of my home state of Connecticut, the Charter Oak.” – Nicholas Melillo” 

Foundation Cigar President Nick Melillo announces the completion of his newest brand, Charter Oak, set for release at the 2016 IPCPR Show in Las Vegas.

Charter Oak also pays tribute to Melillo’s grandfather, who while earning a modest salary working for the Winchester Repeating Arms factory after WWII, smoked exclusively, broadleaf cigars manufactured by FD Graves on State St, while, no joke, Rick Ardito’s grandfather, a guard at Winchester, also smoked FD Graves biggest selling broadleaf, Muniemakers.

“I wanted to create an economy-minded, everyday smoke for connoisseurs; something tasty and delicious but didn’t break the bank”, says Melillo.

Charter Oak Cigars hail from the same fertile valley in Connecticut that Master Tobacco Blender Nick R Agua aka Nick Melillo was born and raised. Charter Oak Cigars feature some of the most prized and sought after Cuban seed leaf varieties from the exquisite Esteli and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua. The cigars are then wrapped in either a silky, beautiful Connecticut Shade wrapper or a hearty and rich Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, leaving you with the perfect every day and every occasion cigar.

As for the brand’s signature graphic, historians estimate that this unusually large Oak tree began growing sometime during the 12th century on a plot located on what is now downtown Hartford. Native Americans, who by the way cultivated tobacco nearby long before settlers, held councils beneath its massive branches. The tree is actually mentioned in Dutch Explorer, Adrian Block’s journey guidebook in 1608. By the mid 1600’s the plot was parceled and a farm was built with the agreement that the local tribe could share this sacred tree. In 1662 King Charles II issued a Royal Charter to the Connecticut Colony granting an unusual degree of autonomy. However, when his successor, James II appointed an English Governor-General to reclaim the Charter, it was hidden in what became known as Charter Oak, one of our countries greatest symbols of American Independence.

The Charter Oak Shade features a Connecticut Shade wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan filler. Both of the Charter Oak versions are produced at the Tabacalera Fernandez S.A. factory in Nicaragua. Both blends come packaged in boxes of 20 which feature 5 formats: Petite Corona (5 1/4 x 42), Rothschild (4 1/2 x 50), Lonsdale ( 6 1/4 x 46), Toro (6 x 52), Grande (6 x 60) ranging between $4.80 and $5.80 a stick. I purchased a handful of these over from our friends over at Smoke Inn.

Size: 6 x 52
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Binder: Indonesian
Filler: Nicaraguan
Body: Medium/Full
Strength: Medium
Price: $5.50
Pairing: Brouwerij Huyghe Delirium Argentum (Belgian IPA 7% ABV)

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade


The Charter Oak Shade starts out with a very light, almost orangish-brown wrapper that’s incredibly consistent in color from the cap down to the foot. The cigar’s texture is silky smooth with a good amount of oil and almost no tooth while the wrapper feels extremely thin and delicate. The cigar as a whole its packed perfectly and there are no soft spots located throughout the cigar. There are a few smaller veins running the course of the cigar’s body up to the round triple wrapped cap. The cigar also features a covered foot where the wrapper is laid carefully over the exposed filler tobacco at the foot of the cigar. The cigar is polished off with the same manilla and black Charter Oak Band that we found on the Maduro version.

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade

The wrapper on the Charter oak gives off a good amount of honey and cashew aromas while the foot of the cigar carries some cedar, honey, and dirtiness. The cap cut very clean and like butter using my Xikar double bladed cutter. The cold draw produces some soft honey, sweetness, soft spice, and a ton of cedar with other natural tobacco flavors.

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade

First Third:

The Charter Oak Shade started out with a huge pepper blast that completely caught me off guard. After the pepper began to fade out a bit I was greeted with some great cedar, honey, and spice with a great floral and piney aftertaste. I wasn’t expecting this cigar to start off in the medium/full range, but it did. The draw is fantastic. Each puff kicks out a desirable amount of thick white smoke while the Charter Oak gives off a good amount of stationary smoke as it rests in my ashtray. The burn line is pretty rough with quite a few waves and one large crevice that is burning much faster than the rest of the cigar. I haven’t had to reach for my lighter yet so I’m ok with that. The ash left behind is very dark and very flaky. It only held on for a little over a half inch before falling in my ashtray.

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade

Second Third:

The pepper has completed it’s exit in the Charter Oak Shade’s flavor profile and all the flavors have really began to simmer down while the cigar falls solidly into the medium-body range. The main flavor is still the sweet honey and cedar backed by floral, cashew, very light spice and a real subtle creamed coffee. The retrohale helps add a bit to the body as it still carries some of the pepper with a good amount of cedar. The burn line has really started to clean itself up without any extra attention from my torch. I close out the second third of the Carter Oak with no signs of any nicotine at all. A note, the ash if very light and flaky on this cigar and fell more often then expecting. That’s not a bad thing, and changes almost nothing with the experience. Just something to keep in mind if you’re wearing black pants like I was.

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade


As I venture into the final third of the Charter Oak Shade, not much has changed. The flavor profile still carried much of the cedar, honey and cashew with a bit of natural tobacco flavors, but that’s about it. Everything else has really dropped out. The burn line completely corrected itself and I never one had to touch up the cigar despite the issues at the start. It took me an hour and a half to take this cigar down to the nub. I experienced no harshness at all, not an extra heat build up however, a bit of sap/tar began to build up toward the very end of the experience so it didn’t really bother me as I was just about to put the cigar down anyhow.

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade


I’ve been very big on a lot of the new-style Shade cigars released lately and hoped that the Charter Oak would be the next hit on my list. While I enjoyed the cigar, and can find myself going back to it, it seemed like it was just missing something after the incredible flavors in the first third. After the first third the flavors just kind of fizzled out. It wasn’t a bad cigar by any means, I think I just got a bit excited and then was slowly let down a bit. Maybe a smaller ring gauge will help solve that issue. I plan on trying a few of those out then returning to this review. Either way, for the price, this is a great cigar to have around for this times you’re craving a milder smoke.

Foundation Cigar Company Charter Oak Shade


Delirium Argentum is a limited edition 7% ABV IPA brewed only once in 2014 by the Brouwerij Huyghe brewery in Belgium. One thing I have always loved about Belgian IPAs is they keep the bitterness while introducing a much more malty, sweeter flavor profile with less hops. Not that I don’t love me some hops, but Belgian IPAs usually make for much better cigar pairings since you aren’t overwhelmed by them. The Argentum leads with a great malty character with lots of sweetness, pear, and citrus with some slight hop and a very light mouthfeel before finishing crisp with more citrus and hop over a ton of malt and sweetness. This pairing was incredible and actually really helped add a bit of the missing elements to the cigar itself.

Delirium Argentum

Tony Casas is a 32 year old Creative Managing/Webdesigning/Craft Beer Drinking Cigar smoker from El Paso, Texas. When he isn't loving his wife he is either sleepy, hungry, or suffering from a headache.

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