Menelik by Foundation Cigar Co. | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 (Jalapa)
Filler: Nicaraguan (Estelí, Condega and Jalapa)
Size: 4.5 x 52
Strength: Full
Price: $13.00 ($12.00 online)

Today we take a look at the Menelik by Foundation Cigar Co.
Bought a fiver from Cigars International.

According to Cigar Aficionado (6-24-2019):
“For the past couple of years, the only way to get your hands on a Menelik cigar from Nick Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Co. was to attend one of his events. That will change later this year, however, as Melillo has opted to offer the elusive smoke on a limited basis.

“Menelik is a soft-pressed petit Robusto with a pigtail that measures 4 1/2 inches by 52 ring gauge. It’s rolled with a Corojo ’99 binder from Jalapa, Nicaragua, along with a filler mix of Nicaraguan tobaccos grown in Estelí, Condega and Jalapa. The bunch is covered in a dark, oily wrapper from San Andrés, Mexico.

“The new cigar will carry a suggested retail price of $13 and comes packed in 12-count boxes. The boxes will only be available at select Foundation Cigar retailers, and will be shipped once per quarter in batches of 1,000.

“Like his Tabernacle cigar, Melillo was inspired by ancient history when naming the Menelik cigar. The first emperor of Ethiopia, Menelik I established the first Solomonic dynasty and is widely believed to be the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

“He’s credited with bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia and his name in Arabic translates to “Son of the Wise Man.” This ties in nicely with Melillo’s popular El Güegüense brand, which loosely translates to “the wise man,” and his Tabernacle brand, which shows a portrait of Haile Selassie, the 225th emperor of Ethiopia.

“Menelik is rolled at the Aganorsa Leaf cigar factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.”

Indoor light shows the oily wrapper to be dark chocolate brown. But with sunlight streaming in, there are highlights of reddish/orange hues that create a beautiful rainbow of color.
Seams are not hidden. Veinage is minimal. The pigtail cap is huge compared to the rest of the cigar. Must have been rolled near a nuclear plant in Springfield.
The cigar is hard as blue steel. Zero resistance.

Aromas are light but enticing: Chocolate, black raisins, creaminess, black coffee, malt, molasses, cedar, light barnyard, and black licorice.
The cold draw presents flavors of black licorice, dark chocolate, brown sugar, malt, cedar, and almonds.

The cigar is solid as stone, yet the draw is spot on. No need for my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool.
The solid filler is a precursor to the fact that this little cigar will exceed its looks and smoke a lot longer than at first glance.

First up is a fat dose of black pepper followed by an onslaught of black licorice. Immediately following the first minute, its depth begins to show along with some complex notes of smoky oak, blackstrap molasses, heavy on the malt, espresso, chocolate covered gingerbread cookies (I know, I know), and an extremely exquisite flavor of finely aged tobacco.

Transitions kick off with a bang. They are free floating in 6/8 time. The finish is already clinging to my teeth like eating a French girl’s pussy in the 1970’s.

Strength jumps to medium/full without hesitation or remorse.

Lots of talk about this cigar blend. As well there should. It is proving to be an excellent cigar. But at $12-$13, it better be. The thing is…there are so many manufacturers putting out great blends below the double-digit price point. Therefore, when a cigar hits the magic G spot of $12 or higher, I expect a great cigar. When I’m around non cigar smokers and tell them what the average cigar price is for a boutique blend, their heads explode. “You paid $12 for a cigar??” If anything will make you feel like a schmuck, that is the exact moment in time for me. (It is exactly like having your wife shake her head at your addiction).

The complexity settles down into long haul syndrome. Nice, easy going flavors morphing into long train running.

The finish changes from French pubic hair to a nice mix of savory and sweet.
No new flavors; but it’s early.

I’ve only had this cigar for a month, but I see great potential with additional humidor time.
“Urgent” by Foreigner is playing. The incredible sax solo is played by the iconic Junior Walker. I remember that when the song came out in 1981, a buddy who was an L.A. radio DJ, told me that Walker was not pleased at the session. The band made him do more takes on the song that Walker wanted to do. It soon regressed into debacle mode. The band eventually took a bunch of sax parts Walker played and edited them together to get that brilliant solo on the song.

Where was I?
Yes, my $13 Menelik.

Flavors are very nice but not powerful. I was actually expecting a little more punch. But it could be strictly due to insufficient aging on my part.

Still, I am enjoying the hell out of it. I’m a schlep when I constantly associate price with quality. I feel it is more than relevant. Most of my readers don’t have an endless supply of discretionary cash for their cigar stash and pick their cigars carefully. And then there are the ‘others’ in which price doesn’t matter. God bless ‘em.

I got a fiver for $61 at CI. Which puts it at the point of most Ezra Zion cigars. And this blend is every bit as good as the mostly excellent blends that come out of Texas. So, no real honest complaints on the quality v. price on the Menelik.

As I peruse a list of my latest reviews, the days of a good cigar being priced at $7-$8 are sitting in the Way Back Machine. It is now a time of when manufacturers feel the economy is good enough to milk the shit out of their customer base. There are plenty of exceptions of course; but the new reality makes it tough for those on a cigar budget…and aren’t reaping the whirlwind of a good economy.

I believe the Menelik will be an extraordinary cigar with 4 months on it. I am only tasting its potential at one month.
The complex nature shows hope and promise.

I get an out of control burn issue that needs fixing.

As I near the halfway point, the overall balance and flavor intensity increases exponentially. Now we’re talking.
A perfect example of smoking a cigar too soon. The first half shows its potential and the second half disrobes and sticks its tits in your face.
Flavors haven’t changed from the earlier descriptions; but they are more pronounced now. A new smoothness emerges giving the blend a gorgeous ‘whole.’

I was wrong about the cigar having extensive longevity based upon my assumption that it being so packed, it might be a long haul. It is burning normally for a nicely filled cigar.
It’s taken 25 minutes to get here.

And then the strength goes nuclear. Nicotine kicks in. I try not to swallow my tongue.

The licorice stands out among the other flavors. The black pepper is a tad too potent but will most probably mellow after a few months in your humidor. The maltiness is very nice as it pairs with the chocolate. Black coffee is right in my face. The sweetness comes from elements of molasses, gingerbread, raisins, and honey almonds.

The complexity really takes off now. A glance into its future.
The blend is now very well-rounded hitting all the bases and sliding into home.

The top half of the cigar must be denser than the first half…as the cigar slows way the fuck down. This is a good thing.

The burn has been comme ci comme ça. It should be better; but not that much of a distraction.

I take photos as I go. I’m finding it hard to tell during the processing of each photo if the pic turned out slightly out of focus or it’s me out of focus due to the nicotine.

The Menelik is a solid $13 smoke. No frills. But solid. It certainly is not a flavor bomb. But the list of flavors it possesses work together as a team bringing a nice balance of savory and sweet, smoothness, and strength. I would definitely recommend eating something before lighting this baby up. I’m having a really hard time focusing on my laptop screen…I know…what a wuss. Picked a bad day to give up sniffing glue.

I’m now in Ray Charles mode just swaying back and forth to SRV on the radio.
I don’t remember dropping acid before I started this review. Grabbed the wrong sugar cube, I guess.

The second half is excellent except for the nicotine induced brain damage.
The Menelik is displaying and strutting its stuff at what it will offer with more humi time. Damn, it’s good.

So, I’m sitting in the bathroom masturbating to a Good Housekeeping magazine…oops, wrong story…but those ads for step-in bathtubs with those sexy 80-year-old women…homina, homina, homina.

I take my first sip of water and huge waves of flavors come to the forefront: chocolate, licorice, malt, a multitude of sweet factors, coffee, and some real nuttiness make for a real treat.
I’m disappointed by the burn but it could have been worse.
The Menelik is a very, very strong cigar. It is like dunking your testicles in Lucite and making a pen and pencil set out of them.
When you buy yourself some Meneliks, and you will…be patient. Wait the 4 months.
I’m sure the strength will be more manageable. And you won’t need to wear a hard hat while smoking it.


And now for something completely different:
1975 ~ More Curved Air

We made a bet. Whoever could piss off Darryl Way the most, within the constraints of one 2-hour concert, would be showered with lots of hashish. Darryl was the Napoleonic tyrant of English bands…right behind Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. Over the ten years in pro music, he was by far the most arrogant S.O.B. I had ever met.

The usual Three Musketeers were Stewart, Sonja, and me. We spent an afternoon playing cards at Stew’s flat in St. John’s Wood. Joining us was our favorite full-time roadie by the name of Beric Wickens. Now if that isn’t a name right out of Dickens, I don’t know what is.

We drank lots of English ale, smoked hash, and laughed a lot. What kind of prank could we do to Darryl Way that would piss him off but avoid the blame being aimed at us?

And then Sonja won the hand and said quietly, forcing us to lean in; “Why not put acid in his beer. He always insisted on closed beers and drinks. He never did drugs and was deathly afraid of them because someone once slipped him acid at a party. So, we grab a beer, carefully open it without crimping it, drop a tab of acid in it and then close it carefully. And we make sure it is the first available beer for him. “We will have to work that out. Whatcha’ think?”

We erupted in laughter. “Huzzah! Huzzah!”

Now, which gig should it be? We had a new tour coming up in a couple weeks. We would first do England, then the Continent. Hitting Holland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria.
We decided to play it on the cuff. The tour was to last two months.

It turned out to be Germany. Stew tried to do the mechanics of the bottle operation first and botched it. I didn’t even want to try so Sonja did it and it worked. We decided to make sure there were no beer bottles in the dressing room. I would enter the room with several unopened bottles of beer and hand Darryl the designated beer. I would tell him I had to buy bottles from the bar.

We hadn’t let anyone in on our secret. So, Stew and Sonja and I sat in the dressing room watching Darryl drink. We got impatient. But we waited for him to finish. Our only hope was that he didn’t throw up before going on stage; which was a ritual before every gig because of his nerves. The dummy would always eat a big dinner, get queasy, and then puke 10 minutes before hitting the stage.

We were still a good hour before going on and hoped the beer and the acid made it home before his ritual vomiting.

Twenty minutes before stage time, Darryl would always begin to practice his viola. He was always called a violinist in the press, but he really played a viola; which is a bigger and deeper sounding violin. Plus, it was made of clear Lucite, had flashing lights inside, and was electric. So, he could put on quite a show with that carnival act viola.

We walked on to the stage to thunderous applause and I could hear Darryl moaning in the darkness. I looked over to Stew and Sonja and they nodded.

I have to hand it to Darryl. He somehow got through the two and a half hours without running off stage screaming like a banshee. He had figured out that he had been slipped some acid but thought it was the bar’s fault, not mine. He didn’t think anyone was smart enough to pull a stunt like we did.

Darryl’s playing that night was hysterical. But funniest of all was that he always insisted on being the one to count us in to a song with the “1-2-3-4” And while high on acid, he couldn’t remember the numbers. So, I started us in, ignoring Darryl. The three of us tried very hard to keep from laughing. Like kids in school or church. We were spewing spittle all over ourselves to keep from just letting out a big belly laugh. Any laugh at all would signal Darryl that we knew what happened.

Although, he would probably never remember it.

Darryl was a classically trained musician. He loved the composer, Vivaldi…who lived during the 17th-18th century and died in 1741. Vivaldi liked to use the perfect circle of fifths, a lot, in his music. That is where you play the root note, and then play its fifth. Then you play the fifth of that note, and so on. It takes 12 chromatic notes to complete the circle. And it is very easy to get lost if you don’t really pay attention. Being stoned was not an option…ever. That was reserved for after the last song of the night and just before the encore(s).

The diagram below shows it simply. Start with the C note at the 12:00 position and move clockwise to see its perfect fifth. Those are the chromatic notes in a major chord. The interior notes are a circle of fifths in the minor key. Both are written in treble clef. For bassists, it will be written in bass clef. Get it? Got it. Good.

The diagram below shows both circle of fifths on the left and circle of fourths (blues) on the right in the Dorian Mode. And shows the musical staffs in both treble and bass clefs. Dorian mode is represented by the natural diatonic scale D–D (containing a minor 3rd and minor 7th). Get it? Got it. Good.

Most blues tunes are based totally on the 1-4-5 chordal changes. The root (1), then the 4th, then the root (1), then the 5th, the 4th, and back to the root (1). That’s all you need to play basic blues songs.

So, the band’s theme song was “Vivaldi.” A song dedicated to the composer totally based on that circle of fifths. But instead of repeating the same root over again, after the 12 chords were completed, we went up half a step…go to the sharp (#) on the root note. In other words, the circle starts on the C chord, the next time it comes around, it starts on C# and all the following chords change by half a step, and so on and so on. If you got lost, you were fucked. I’m fucking lost just writing about it.
When I first started playing with the band, I had a couple space outs where I lost my place. Darryl got really angry at me those two times I screwed up. He had no patience whatsoever. He had played that song for years. I had two weeks rehearsal for 2-1/2 hour concerts with all very complex song structures. I also was very nervous as I had never played in front of 20,000 people before. That can shake you up. Really.

The audience never got the joke. Darryl was frying. Darryl was on another plane of reality. Not of this planet.

Darryl kept screwing up the circle and we tried to follow him so as not to make him look bad…and because we didn’t want him to yell at us. Mick, the guitarist, was completely perplexed by what was happening.

Back in the dressing room, after the gig, Darryl was really peaking on the acid. He wanted to be angry but Stew, Sonja, and I talked him down, so to speak. We kept him calm and clucked our tongues at how someone in the bar could have done this to him.

We went back to the hotel. Darryl was the only one of the band who got his own room. The rest of us had to double up. (Ever smell 1970’s British musicians on the road? Yuck. I got made fun of because I took a shower every day. They took showers on Saturdays. No shit. Sonja had G-Strings that could stand up in the corner of the room. Guess whose pussy never got eaten? But she was a masterful giver of head. Truly inspiring.)

I was also made fun of in the dressing room when they saw I wore boxers while changing into my stage gear. Only 85-year-old men wore those. Europeans wore underwear smaller than Speedos. So, Sonja spoke to my girlfriend and told her she better get me some hip and happening shorts. And she did. And I wore them on the road. And the laughing stopped.

Where was I?
So, we three musketeers spent the night with him making sure he did nothing foolish. He finally fell asleep around 6am. We were exhausted. It was a hard-fought battle for that practical joke and it wore us out too.

We were late leaving the hotel because of Darryl. The road manager was furious.
The rest of the tour, Darryl bought his own beer at pubs or liquor stores before the concert and never let them out of his sight.
It was a glorious night. And I don’t think he ever figured out who did this to him.


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