At the 2022 Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nicholas Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Company introduced a two-blend cigar line known as Olmec. It pays tribute to the culture of the Olmecs, who were the earliest known major Mesoamerican civilization. They flourished in the period of 1600 and 400 BCE. According to Foundation Cigar Company not only were they among the first to create mathematically precise pyramids and calendars, but they were some of the earliest tobacco users. For Olmec, Melillo created a San Andres blend using two variants: a Maduro and a Claro (a lighter San Andres wrapper). The name was selected because San Andres wrapper comes from the same region of Mexico (Veracruz, Tabasco, and San Andrés, Tuxtla). Today we take a closer look into one of the blends, the Olmec Claro in the Toro size.
One thing I have really liked is as Melillo has built his portfolio of brands, he has incorporated a common theme in that Foundation Cigar Company’s brands pay homage to different cultures globally. Some of these have included Nicaraguan Folklore (El Güegüense, The Wise Man), Biblical Culture (The Tabernacle, Menelik), the State of Connecticut (Charter Oak), British Culture (Highclere Castle), and Jamaica (The Upsetters).
For now, let’s turn our attention back to the Olmec Claro Toro and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
Both the Claro and Maduro wrappers come from the San Andres region with the maduro a darker, stronger version.Both blends incorporate Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The fillers come from the Estelí and Jalapa valleys. After fermentation, the filler tobaccos are bale-aged for three years before arriving on the production floor. Production is handled by A.J. Fernandez.
Wrapper: San Andres (Claro or Maduro)
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua SA
Olmec is offered in five sizes for both Claro and Maduro blends. Currently, the vitola sizes and shapes are identical for both blends. Each is presented in 12-count boxes.
Corona Gorda: 5 1/2 x 48
Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 6 x 52
Grande: 6 x 60
DBL Corona: 7 x 52
The San Andres Claro wrapper of the Olmec Claro Toro had a darker caramel color to it. There was a very light sheen of oils on it. The wrapper had some visible veins and some visible seams. While many these days opt for a softer Cuban box-press style that with some rounding to it, the Olmec Claro Toro seemed skewed more toward a sharper, firmer box-press.
A straight cut was used to commence the cigar experience of the Olmec Claro Toro. Once the cap was removed, it was on to the pre-light draw ritual. The cold drew delivered notes of leather, earth, and cocoa. Overall this was a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to toast up the foot of the Olmec Claro Toro and move on to the smoking stage.
The Olmec Claro Toro opened up with notes of natural tobacco, fruit, cocoa, earth, and cedar. Early on the cocoa notes moved into the forefront. The fruit, natural tobacco, earth, and cedar settled into the background. On the retro-hale, there were some additional layers of cedar and fruit. Toward the end of the first third, the natural tobacco joined the cocoa in the forefront. The fruit component increased slightly in the background. The earth and cedar were also in the background and were now joined by some black pepper.
During the second third of the Olmec, the earth notes moved into the forefront joining the natural tobacco notes. The cocoa notes receded into the background and joined the fruit, cedar, and pepper notes. As the Olmec burned through this section both the pepper and cedar notes started to increase in intensity. There was now more in the way of black pepper on the retro-hale with touches of cedar and fruit still present.
The final third saw the natural tobacco and earth remain in the forefront with the natural tobacco having a slight edge in intensity. The pepper and cedar were in the background. The cocoa and fruit notes were slightly further back and at times had a slight intensity increase. This is the way the Olmec Claro Toro came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
Overall the Olmec Claro Toro performed great when it came to the burn. The cigar required minimal touch-ups to maintain a straight burn path. There was a slight amount of jaggedness from time to time on the burn line, but this was more cosmetic in nature. The resulting ash was on the firm side. This was an ash that was silver-gray in color. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both maintained ideal levels.
The draw to the Olmec Claro Toro was on the open side. Normally I prefer a little more resistance on the draw. In this case, the draw wasn’t overly loose, nor did it create any adverse effects in terms of the smoking experience.
Strength and Body
The Olmec Claro Toro started out medium in strength with flavors that were medium-bodied. There was a slight increase in strength along the way, but the cigar didn’t get out of the medium range of the spectrum for the duration of the smoke. The flavors also increased in body and by the second third moved into the medium to full range.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
I’m not the biggest fan of the black, yellowish, and white bands of the Olmec. My bigger issue isn’t so much the bands as much as it is very difficult to tell the difference between the Claro and the Maduro releases without making some sort of a physical note (and there is no cello, so other ways will need to be utilized). In fairness, I have the same problem with Padrón when it comes to their natural and maduro offerings.
One thing I like about the Olmec series is that there are two blends – and it can make for an interesting debate as to whether the Claro or Maduro is the better blend. That being said, while I’m not ready to make that conclusion until after the completion of the Olmec Maduro review cycle, I can safely say the Olmec Claro is a nice cigar. The best part of this cigar was definitely the first third as I enjoyed many of the cocoa-like flavors. While this cigar is on the pricier side at $14.50 SRP, I can say this was a consistent cigar each time I smoke it. Coming in at 89 points, this cigar is still one I would recommend to any cigar enthusiast It’s a cigar that I would buy and smoke again. I certainly also want to explore some of the other sizes in this line.
Key Flavors: Cocoa, Natural Tobacco, Earth, Fruit, Cedar, Pepper
Draw: Very Good
Complexity: Medium Plus
Body: Medium (1st Third), Medium to Full (Remainder)
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy One
The Smoking Syndicate Review
Back in February 2023, Ben Lee of The Smoking Syndicate assessed Olmec Claro in the Corona Gorda size and gave it a 92.
News: Foundation Cigar Company to Introduce Olmec at 2022 PCA Trade Show
Brand Reference: Foundation Cigar Company
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop
Video Credits: The Smoking Syndicate
Originally posted on June 13, 2023 @ 6:18 pm