Cigar Review: All Out Kings by Caldwell Cigars

  • AOK_straightVitola: Smash (Robusto)
  • 5” x 52 ring gauge 
  • MSRP ~$14
  • Purchased at Burns Tobacconist

Background

Hard to believe, but it’s been over a year now since we first started hearing word that Robert Caldwell was hanging out in Nicaragua with Willy Herrera…and they were working together on something called “All Out Kings.” Official word and further details about the project were forthcoming during the summer of 2016, especially at the IPCPR trade show, and initial projections were for the cigar to ship as early as October or November. But that didn’t happen. I talked to someone in the Caldwell camp about it in early October and he told me they were delaying it until March or so because they felt the cigars just weren’t ready. A month or two later that information became public…and in March the cigars did start to ship.

The make-up of the cigar is a complex one: fillers include Nicaraguan Jalapa Viso and Esteli Viso, Dominican Criollo 98 Seco, and Connecticut Broadleaf Ligero. The binder is an Indonesian Sumatra and the wrapper is the same type used on the Drew Estate Liga Privada T-52: a Connecticut-grown Stalk Cut and Sun Cured Habano leaf (although I’ve heard it said that it’s a different priming).

Though not the first time Drew Estate has collaborated with another company (they have made Java for Rocky Patel for a very long time, had a short-lived partnership with Illusione, and produced several cigars for Swisher’s nascent premium brand before the large company bought DE), it probably is the most high profile simple because both Drew and Caldwell have large and persistent cult followings, as well as sizable social media footprints. This review is based on my second smoking of the All Out Kings (AOK) blend, both of which I bought at Burns Tobacconist.

AOKPrelight

The packaging for this cigar is an odd and interesting mixture of imagery that includes classic-looking figures dressed in ancient garb and surrounded by books and boom boxes. One figure appears to be a woman with six breasts, while all have red skin and seem to be holding odd implements. Both DE and Caldwell logos are visible in stereo speakers and on book pages. It all appears to be a result of some kind of fever dream that Robert Caldwell and/or Jonathan Drew may have had one night after smoking something besides tobacco (not judging). The band shows three hands grabbing different parts of a crown, with 3 medals to the right. The medals are a fairly typical cigar branding trope, but these have the DE and Caldwell logos again, along with “AOK” in the third one. “All Out Kings” is scrawled in a handwriting type font to the left of the hands. The whole thing is rendered in grayscale with copper foil brightwork.

The wrapper leaf was a mahogany dark brown with a touch of red under certain lighting, an excessive amount of oils to the eye and the touch, and a bit of lumpiness. The wrapper smelled leathery with a touch of earthiness, while the foot of the stick had a mix of espresso bean, cocoa powder and earth aromas…and certainly no foolishness like pizza crust or silk candles. I will note that at one time we had a box of Smash and a box of Everlast (Toro) open side by side and while each stick in each box matched the others in the same box, the difference in wrapper color between the two boxes was startling. In this case the Everlast was so much lighter in color that most people assumed it had a totally different wrapper type.

After cutting the head with my favorite Xikar Xi cutter, I got a very good cold draw that tasted of cedar and earth, with just a touch of nuttiness in the mix.

AOK_bandFlavor

The All Out Kings opened up with a funky, almost fungusy earthiness that immediately made me think of Davidoff…though not exactly because this wasn’t quite as distinctive and strong as their signature Olor. Over a couple puffs, I got notes of light-roast coffee and leather up front, followed by a cedary finish and a good amount of roasted nuts in the middle of it all. The retrohale had more roasted nuts and a strong black pepper component that burned my sinuses just the way I like. All that was left to look for was something sweet, which I got in the way of a faint dark chocolate note. Quite a complex profile and good balance from the outset.

Moving into the second third, the flavor profile was predominantly leathery with a rich espresso bean note and an introduction of pepper spice on the palate to go along with the peppery burn that continued on the nose. Notes of dark chocolate and cedar continued in the background as occasional accents.

The last third saw the leather receding a bit and the coffee note come through more prevalently. Pepper continued as a continuous minor burn and slightly sweet flavors came through from time to time.

Construction

I had a very good draw, straighter than expected burn line (based on previous T-52s I have smoked) and ash that was as solid as the concrete its color resembled.

Value

The price on these is not in the “bargain” range, but it’s not too much out of sync with either the Caldwell Collection or Liga Privada lines. Therefore, I would say the experience is worth the money.

Conclusions

My take is this: if you like the Liga Privada T-52, you will like All Out Kings. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s similar enough that you can immediately tell they are cousins. They share strong leathery flavors, though this has more complexity from time-to-time, diverging from the T-52 with more coffee and chocolate flavors. Definitely a very good cigar and one that I will enjoy fairly often…at least as much as I smoke the T-52. Some have balked at the price point, but since it falls right in line with its cousin line, I think the All Out Kings is definitely worth the money.

By-The-Numbers

Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 9/10

David Jones

David has been smoking premium cigars since 2001. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leaf Enthusiast. He is a full-time retail tobacconist, working for Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, where he has also organized the Chattanooga Tweet-Up for the last four years. He is also an independent graphic designer and typesetter. Twitter: @dmjones1009

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