The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: USA Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Mexican San Andrés
Filler: Nicaraguan (La Soledad), Honduran
Size: 7 x 54 Doble Corona
Body: Full
Price: $10.83
Humidor time: 9 weeks
Number of cigars smoked prior to review: 0




Photos courtesy of Foundation Cigar Co.:



Today we take a look at The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co.
Thanks to Miguel Castro for the stick.

This blend has been getting rave reviews. Big scores. It came from my boy, AJ’s farm. Good enough for me.

This is fun…never skim about a subject and then write about it. Read this quote first:
“The packaging is emblazoned with an image of Haile Selassie, the 225th emperor of Ethiopia (and regarded as a deity by the Rastafari movement). Selassie is said to be a descendent of King Solomon. The Tabernacle was said to be a protective resting place for the Ark of the Covenant.”
Makes sense.

I read a review in which the writer said the image was either a kohen (He meant Kohain) or a Jewish priest.
Funny thing about the ancient Israelites. There were 3 castes. There was the everyday populace. And there were the Levites. The Levites were the caretakers of the Jewish temple. Rank and file folks were not allowed into the temple. (Don’t ask. I can’t remember why.)

And then all the Jewish priests, or rabbis to be named later, were the Kohains. Only the Kohain family could run things. Clearly, as a Kohn, I am of Kohain descent. In my case, instead of running the show, I got thrown out of my synagogue the moment my Bar Mitzvah (age 13) was over. I flaunted authority at the tender age of 13 like I do now.

I found a photo of little Phil, and my rabbi, during my Bar Mitzvah holding the Torah at the ark…bottom of review.

Debuted at the 2016 IPCPR trade show.

From Cigar Aficionado (7-12-2016):
“Nicholas Melillo, owner of Foundation Cigar Co., has gone Old Testament with his new cigar line, The Tabernacle, which encompasses themes of King Solomon and the legendary Ark of the Covenant.

“The Tabernacle is a dark, Connecticut broadleaf cigar made in Nicaragua at A.J. Fernandez’s namesake factory Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua. Under the broadleaf wrapper is a Mexican San Andrés binder and filler tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua, most notably tobacco from La Soledad, a farm in Nicaragua owned by Fernandez.

“”A.J. grows some of his tobacco on the farm, La Soledad, where I lived when I first moved to Estelí in 2003,” Melillo said, “I know firsthand that A.J.’s farm is blessed with the perfect location for growing filler tobaccos.”

“The tobacco is easy enough to understand, but you might have to brush up on your Bible studies and Babylonian history to fully appreciate what Melillo is doing. The packaging is emblazoned with an image of Haile Selassie, the 225th emperor of Ethiopia (and regarded as a deity by the Rastafari movement). Selassie is said to be a descendent of King Solomon. The Tabernacle was said to be a protective resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. What’s the connection? According to the Old Testament, The Tabernacle was located in King Solomon’s temple.

“Though the existence of the Ark itself has never been verified outside of the Bible, there are many claims of possession, among them the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which boasts that it houses the Ark in the city of Axum.

“Being a Connecticut native, it’s no surprise that Melillo regards Connecticut broadleaf to be a sacrosanct plant.

“I want to show my love for Connecticut broadleaf,” he said. “I was born in New Haven where, at the turn of the century, there were many cigar factories.”

“The Tabernacle comes in six sizes: Torpedo, at 4 1/2 inches by 52 ring gauge; Corona, 5 1/4 by 46; Robusto, 5 by 50; Toro, 6 by 52; Double Corona, 7 by 54; and Lancero, 7 by 40. All come in 24-count boxes, save for the Lancero, which comes in a box of 12. The cigars are slated to retail from $9 to $13 and will be shipping to a few select retailers at the end of next week before a formal debut at the IPCPR trade show.

“I started smoking cigars with my grandfather, and it was a time I always considered to be sacred,” Melillo recalls. “I was able to learn valuable life lessons, and it all revolved around broadleaf cigars. My humidor became my tabernacle.”

“Melillo previously ran production at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate in Nicaragua before he branched out on his own and started the Foundation Cigar Co. last year. His first brand, El Güegüense, which is made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa (TABSA) in Nicaragua, was rated favorably in a January Cigar Insider vertical tasting, with two sizes scoring 91 points.”

The oily wrapper goes way past coffee bean in color and approaches charcoal.
The stick is firm but rustic…visible seams, monstrous veins, and a nice triple cap.
They use relief mode for Selassie, the lettering, the border, and the filigree. Nice.
I’m going to need to shave again before I finish this cigar.

4.5 x 52 Torpedo $9.46
5.25 x 46 Corona $8.13
5 x 50 Robusto $9.46
6 x 52 Toro $10.38
7 x 54 Doble Corona $10.83
7 x 40 Lancero $11.29

From the shaft, I smell dark chocolate, pepper, sweetness, cedar, caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg, baked apples, and espresso.
From the clipped cap and the foot, I smell strong red pepper, chocolate, coffee, sweetness, hickory, cedar, floral notes, whipped cream, and pancakes with maple syrup.
The cold draw presents flavors of chocolate, red pepper, malt, honey roasted nuts, hickory, maple, cedar, and espresso.

Despite this cigar being such a huge, fully packed Rodan, the draw is simple and clean.
Too soon for boundless flavors to appear, but these appear: Creaminess, malts, chocolate, espresso, marshmallow, sweet nuts (I have those), and cedar.

I may jinx the rest of the stick because I am now mentioning how beautiful the char line has become. So far, a fantastic job of construction.

Strength is a solid medium.

Crosby, Stills and Nash are playing “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Into the way back machine to the late 1960s…my band played this song and the entire catalog of CSN&Y. All 5 members could sing like birds so we had a big advantage over other bands.
Steven Stills had a thing with folk singer Judy Collins and they broke up. Hence, this song.

This will be my first 16,000 word review. So much for Mr. 150 word count maximum cigar reviewer.
I can tell this blend is going to need some time to warm up. I have very high expectations due to the countless rave reviews. Of course, no one reviewed a redwood tree like I am doing…they stuck to Corona Gordas, Robustos and Toros.

Black cherries, sourdough toast with butter (Yum. I love that), the malts begin to spread out, black raisins, and prunes.
The red pepper attacks the beach. Chocolate soars.

What a nice change up. A well-made cigar with zero burn issues. I just knew they were out there but I just never get to smoke them.

The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co is not a barn burner. It starts off slowly. No rush as I await for it to slap me in the face with the ferocity of an enraged Duke challenging me to a duel.

It is mighty pleasant, though. I’m going out on a limb by saying that I’m pretty sure the smaller sizes would have started out with a bigger bang than this rain forest monster.
I will need to pay my dues with this stick before it lifts its skirts and shows me what’s underneath.
That analogy works for a 1952 Studebaker as well.


As subtle as the flavors are at this point, a nice element of complexity begins to settle in. Flavors get that edge that makes them crispy around the edges.

I don’t believe I will see a shift in power til the last third. And if Murphy’s Law kicks in, a big dose of vitamin N will make its move at the same time.
But that’s OK. I have a vial of Narcan at the ready should I go into nicotine anaphylactic shock.

With 1-1/2” in, I get a nice surprise. Bold flavors decide to expose themselves in public. Now we’re talking.
Nothing new. Just big and beautiful.

Waiting a mere fraction of the cigar’s length is a small price to pay for the Thanksgiving cornucopia.
Oh lord. Charlotte and I are expected at the in-laws for Thanksgiving. We have absolutely nothing in common with these nice people. Nothing. The dad is shy around me and never talks…or he hates me. Either works for me.

The mom gets shit faced, starting early, on cocktails. She becomes a lunatic fairly quickly…which I could weather; but no one in that house can cook worth a shit. Now I make a great dinner for turkey day. So we will make our own dinner a couple days after the holiday. What is Thanksgiving without leftover turkey sandwiches?

The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. is on cruise control. I shall stop meandering til I get to the next third.

Smoke time is a whopping 45 minutes.

The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. inches along making nice transitions and improving with each puff. The flavor profile seems to be in the same place as I earlier described but the stick does nice things with them.
Strength remains at medium body.

Unless you want to look like Tony Soprano while driving your huge SUV, I’d suggest a smaller size to start with. I’d bet a nickel that they are much more potent in the flavor department. I know. The last third will open up like a raging koala bear and show me what I could have had with a Robusto from the beginning.


No way is this a flavor bomb blend. At least not in this size. I know I call out a lot of blends as being very smooth…yet, The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. really fleshes out that adjective nicely.
We have entered the muy delicioso phase of the cigar experience. Like a warm blanket on a cold night, my palate is covered with a multitude of toothsome impressions.

The char line is unrelenting in its goal to be 100% perfect. Nice. Goes to show what happens when experienced rollers are allowed to do their job.
Without equivocation, I can state that tree trunk sized The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. is worth every dime of its $11.00 price point. And I haven’t reached the halfway point.

The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. is a long luxurious smoke. Nearly decadent in its approach to tantalizing the palate. What a wonderful stick this would make on the patio on a warm summer evening. Some excellent scotch or…better yet, premium Mescal. Yeah, baby.

Halfway point is upon me. Smoke time is one hour 10 minutes.

Like sitting in the San Quentin electric chair, the flavors move to the next echelon and zap my brain with an overload of electricity.
The creaminess is like eating vanilla Italian gelato. The red pepper hangs back. Not potent but ever present. The mix of malts, chocolate, coffee, nuts, baking spices, cedar, hickory, and a bevy of dried fruits assault my frontal lobe like being smacked with a ball peen hammer.
We are cooking now.

The new series, “Mars” begins tonight on the National Geographic Channel. Been looking forward to this. Hope it doesn’t disappoint. I’ve been a space junkie since I was a little guy. I got to watch, live, all the Mercury missions, the Gemini missions, and the Apollo missions. The world stopped in its tracks each time we went up. I wanted to be an astronomer, in college, but my math skills, at that time, were sorely in disarray. I changed my major to engineering instead. Big disappointment. My mother had just died the summer before I entered college and my father was out doing his own thing so I was on my own. I think, now and again, that if my dad had gotten me a tutor that I may have gotten to see my dream come true and be a working observer of the Cosmos to this day.


Godamm this is one delicious cigar blend. It is like a fancy French dessert. This is cigar making at its finest. The overpriced double digit priced blends should take lessons from Foundation Cigar.
Last year’s Foundation release of El Güegüense placed No.8 in my 2015 top 25 cigar list.

Foundation doesn’t crank them out but when they put their mind to it, they produce winners.
The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. just keeps on chooglin’ improving in giant steps with each sequential puff.
This is a cigar for aficionados. Another candidate for my 2016 top cigar list.

Strength makes a sudden move to medium/full with nicotine beginning to blur my vision. Oh lord. At this rate, I still have another hour and 10 minutes to go. Good chance for brain lock.

I couldn’t find if this is a limited production cigar, but there are stores still carrying them: Famous Smoke, CI, Cigar Federation, MD Cigars, Cigar Hustler, and Jack Schwartz Importer.
Some are charging reasonable price points. Others are gouging. Be careful when you shop.

It is only 44° and I am sitting next to an open window. I’m freezing my tuchas off.

Time to crank the “Joe Bonamassa Live at the Greek” concert. It is called a tribute to The Three Kings…Albert King, B.B. King, and Freddie King. Unfortunately, it is only a one hour concert. His web site states there are 22 songs played. Not in this special. A Blu-ray is $20. This will be a must buy for me next month.


Smoke time is one hour 40 minutes.
I am going to grow old and die before I finish this review. I now highly recommend the reviewers who use only 1/10th of the words I use in a review.

Godamm the Pusherman. There is no turning back. The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. is a killer blend. I’d love to try a Robusto or Corona Gorda. I’m sure my rating would be even higher.

Nicotine is even keeled and hasn’t begun to fuck with my cognitive functions yet.
The last third seems a bit more packed than the previous two thirds so now we sloooow down. Oy.
The reward is that The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. hits its stride and attains super sweet spot status.
Definitely medium/full.


I’m a happy fella. This has become a truly exhilarating cigar experience. Normally, the smoke time would annoy me if I’m writing. Now? Every moment is a real pleasure.
Flavor profile expands: Creaminess, beef jerky, hickory, chocolate, strong red pepper, malts, fruits, espresso, cedar, baking spices, and roasted nuts.

The last third is about to dub The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Co. a flavor bomb.
This must be how a smaller size would behave from the start.
Strength hits full. Nicotine is raging against the machine.

The cat brings me my crash helmet. He is already wearing his and lies down next to me.

Bonamassa is playing a ‘58 Gibson Flying V guitar. Man, the sounds he gets from that axe are stupefying.


As the cigar begins to see its exit at the end of the tunnel, I now declare this is the best use of AJ tobacco ever. Everything else pales.
You need to try this cigar. Plenty of places to find it online. You will name your future children after me.

Final smoking time is two hours 15 minutes.


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6 replies

  1. I was curious how many times you’d need a nap while smoking this cigar. I’m with you, the size is too much. I love me a corona size, unfortunately I nabbed this late when all they had were these behemoths.

  2. I napped through the entire review.

  3. Got the lancero. One of my favorite new releases. I like the budget Charter Oak as well.

  4. Aloha Katman,

    I am a big fan of your reviews. They are on point much like his one. I have finally become a follower.

    A fan in Hawaii

  5. My cigar reviewing acumen, well there is no acumen, just an awareness that something special just happened. During and after smoking the lancero version of The Tabernacle, I was in cigar heaven. The flavor(s) are wonderful, just please don’t ask me to let you know what fruit it reminds me of. I bought a box of these- yep, went further into debt in my holy pursuit of pleasure and happy for it! I never buy boxes of cigars. I mean, I have, but not in a few years. This smoke was that memorable.

    I love reading your reviews, Phil. I love hearing about your family and your rock and roll days- just want you to know you are deeply appreciated! To the maven of the cigar, Shaloha!

  6. Thank you Bobby. You picked a great cigar to indulge in.

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