Founder and master blender of Foundation Cigar Company, Nick Melillo boasts over two decades of experience in the cigar industry, having overseen production for La Gran Fábrica Drew Estate in Nicaragua. His vision for cigar making prioritizes quality cigars that, while marked by superior components and expert construction, also embody a degree of passion and soul — intangibles that give Foundation cigars an added edge and even greater personality. A number of the brand's lines have received considerable acclaim, with the El Güegüense and The Tabernacle cigars earning 90+ ratings and the Menelik securing a spot in Smokingpipes' Top 10 Cigars of 2019.
Two aspects in particular manifest the unique personality of Foundation Cigar Company: Melillo's affinity for and personal relationship to Broadleaf tobacco as well as the artwork that defines each of the brand's lines. The Tabernacle Broadleaf line specifically showcases both of those characteristic elements of Foundation's identity.
Originally from Connecticut, Nick adores Connecticut Broadleaf tobacco and owns a 50-acre farm in the state, and The Tabernacle Broadleaf line is blended specifically to showcase this varietal. The series' name even hints at Melillo's love for Broadleaf, taking inspiration from the temple that safeguarded the ancient Hebrews' sacred Ark of the Covenant, with The Tabernacle cigar similarly housing Melillo's esteemed Connecticut leaf.
Two New The Tabernacle Sizes
This year welcomed two new sizes to The Tabernacle Broadleaf: David and Goliath, 5" x 54 and 5" x 58 Perfectos, respectively. These shapes were designed to specifically complement The Tabernacle Broadleaf's blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers, Mexican San Andrés binder, and Broadleaf wrapper — the Perfecto being a historically classic shape for Connecticut-wrapped cigars. These two expansions of the line are unique in their shape, being the only Figurados in the series, and also feature unique artwork that fits into The Tabernacle's biblical theme while remaining distinct and individual to these two cigars.
Foundation cigars have become some of my favorites over the years. I'm fond of the quality flavor profiles and construction that Foundation produces, as well as the obvious time and care the brand devotes to all aspects of its cigars, most readily evident by their branding and artwork. Foundation excels at box and band art, and the David and Goliath are no exceptions, but this isn't an article focused on presentation. Let's explore the cigars themselves. What follows isn't intended to compare the David and the Goliath and find the "better" of the two but, rather, to overview each one's flavor profile and the similarities and differences between them.
Both cigars are covered in a dark, coffee bean-hued wrapper marked by subtle texture and visible veins, with lighter freckles dispersed throughout. On the cold draw, the David exhibited a chocolate-like sweetness with notes of hay and "barnyard funk," while the foot offered an aroma of leather. The Goliath also featured similar notes of leather and that barnyard character but had a more noticeable peppery spice evident at the back of the throat and a subtle sweetness that, for me, called to mind mint Oreos.
Tasting Notes: The Tabernacle Broadleaf David
Regarding the David, the first third presented a sourdough-like bitterness, accented by subtle pepper, malt chocolate, and a red wine-like dryness. The flavors deepened as the smoke progressed, revealing more evident notes of leather and cocoa on the retrohale and a flavor of chocolate sweetness. Into the middle third, the hint of peppery spice diminished in favor of sweeter, creamier notes alongside that dry wine sensation. At this point, the smoke was quite dense and chewy, emanating from the foot, and the sourdough flavor from the initial light started to return. Through the final third, the red wine dryness was maintained underneath a bolder reintroduction of leather balanced out by deep, cocoa sweetness.
Tasting Notes: The Tabernacle Broadleaf Goliath
As for the Goliath, rich notes of dark chocolate and coffee defined the first third, with spicy pepper evident on the retrohale and an underlying cola- or root beer-like sweetness. The smoke was immediately dense, and I was surprised at how pleasant the room note was; I'm not one ever to be bothered by a cigar's room note, but neither am I often drawn to it. The Goliath, however, exuded an appealing sweetness that caught my attention. The middle third, then, deepened in chocolate flavor with lighter notes of cream and a distinct sweetness at the finish that — bear with me — reminded me of bubble gum. While such a note was unique, it wasn't at all distracting or unwanted, combining well with the more prominent, dark chocolate foundation and deeper, smokier notes. In the final third, the Goliath presented more apparent coffee flavors, like a strong dark roast. Those aforementioned notes of cream were evident still in the retrohale, but black coffee and subtle acidity dominated the profile, making the end of the smoke the boldest portion, the first and middle third crescendoing into the final.
To sum up the main differences between the David and the Goliath: While both cigars offered flavors of cocoa and smoky leather, the David was most differentiated by that red wine-like dryness and the Goliath by dark roast coffee. Both were equally enjoyable, but the marked difference between the two surprised me and testified to the effect that different sizes of the exact same blend can have on the overall flavor profile: Even though two cigars may comprise the same tobaccos, different ring gauges alter the ratio between filler, binder, and wrapper, resulting in different flavor nuances.
Lastly, I want to remark on the burn of the David and the Goliath and how Perfecto sizes in general can and should appeal to pipe smokers. As both an avid pipe and cigar smoker, I recognize the differences between the two hobbies, most obviously regarding flavor and process, and while flavor profiles will likely remain distinct (a diversity I appreciate), there are aspects of cigar smoking that I think ought to appeal to pipe smokers.
With pipes, I enjoy the visual and tactile relationship between smoker and briar, each pipe offering its own texture and artistic composition depending on finish and shape. Cigars may not offer a particularly aesthetically pleasing shape or texture; however, unlike a pipe, they allow for visual appreciation of burning tobacco, and few shapes are more pleasant to watch burn than Perfectos, the glowing ember circlet gradually tracing the lines of the shape's rounded silhouette and leaving the ash as a perfect shadow of what once was. Perhaps I'm romanticizing it a touch, but regardless, if you're a pipe smoker who's perhaps curious about cigars, Foundation's David and Goliath are prime starting points — excellent flavor, quality construction, beautiful aesthetics. You won't be disappointed.