In February of 2016, it was announced by Cigar Federation that an unusual collaboration would be making its way to consumers this year. The cigar involves the likes of Drew Estate, Joya de Nicaragua, and Caldwell Cigar Co. and is dubbed All Out Kings.
For Caldwell, All Out Kings (AOK) checks yet another major cigar-producing country off the list – now offering primarily Dominican cigars (working with the Ventura family), the Honduran-made Blind Man’s Bluff (Agroindustrias Laepe, aka Camacho factory), and finally, AOK for a Nicaraguan experience.
Drew Estate is no stranger to collaborations either, although the projects are usually on a more limited scale, such as Cigar Dojo’s Undercrown Dogma and Shady Records’ Undercrown ShadyXV. But DE seems to be shifting to a more open strategy with these types of projects, producing the small batch Pappy Van Winkle cigars for Pappy & Co., the new Archetype line for Ventura Cigar, and even a Herrera Estelí cigar outside the Drew Estate factory (working with El Titan de Bronze in Miami). Although it’s safe to say that AOK is the most highly anticipated collaboration yet, potentially even one of the most anticipated cigars for 2016, period.
The project involves a creative collaboration between DE and Caldwell, a collaborative blending process between Robert Caldwell and Drew Estate Master Blender Willie Herrera, and is rolled at the Joya de Nicaragua factory – of whom DE partners with frequently.
The cigar is marketed as a Caldwell product and will be distributed by Caldwell Cigar Co. AOK was not on display at the recent IPCPR show, although it was occasionally shown to various attendees and samples given sparingly.
All Out Kings Breakdown
- Wrapper: Connecticut Stalk Cut & Sun-Cured Habano
- Binder: Indonesia Sumatra
- Filler: Jalapa Viso | Estelí Viso | Dominican C-98 Seco | Connecticut Broadleaf Ligero
Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Release
- Vitola: 5¾” × 46 “Give Me Your Lunch Money” corona
- Price: $12.80
The cigars arrive in 20-count boxes and feature four vitolas: Smash (5 x 52), Gimme your Lunch Money (5 ¾ x 46), Foreverlast (6 ½ x 54), and The Fourth Pose (6 x 54). The bands showcase pencil-sketched artwork, similar to other lines in the Caldwell Collection (The King is Dead, Long Live the King, etc.). The imagery is three pencil-sketched hands grabbing a crown, using copper foil, as well as the cigar’s name on the side of the band. The name and imagery invoke multiple possibilities, such as Caldwell’s third “king-related” cigar, or the three hands being Jonathan Drew, Willy Herrera, and Robert Caldwell, or even Caldwell Cigar Co., Drew Estate, and Joya de Nicaragua…
As you can see, on paper, the wrapper appears to be the same as DE’s Liga Privada T52, and it has been rumored to be true. Although, it’s not certain whether it’s the same priming, fermentation, etc. In the samples we were given, the shade looks darker than the T52.
The wrapper is actually quite dark, almost oscuro, with a subtle red/purple hue. There is a light toothiness on the wrapper and a decent amount of oil. Construction looks great – mostly light veins and about medium pack. Although, it looks to only use a double cap. It feels consistent all the way down, no soft spots, etc. And there is a nice oily texture left on your fingers from inspection.
The smell is hay and cedar, with a bit of stone fruit on the foot. The pre-light draw is smooth and easy, giving notes of oak, cedar, and earth.
Right away you’ll notice a superb draw – it’s on the medium-loose end, making large and/or double puffs completely unnecessary. This can only be a negative if it impacts smoke output, which it most certainly does not. With little effort, creamy smoke pours from every puff. If you’re wondering if it “smokes like a liga”, the answer is yes… Not quite as billowing as the standard No. 9, but there is a continuous stream of smoke flowing from the cigar’s foot that most will be quite familiar with.
Surprisingly, there is no bite or punch of pepper – it’s very smooth, almost velvety in texture (maybe Willie toned down his “signature spice” a bit more than he let on). The profile is delicate, smooth, and creamy – requesting your full attention to decipher its subtle nuances. It starts with cream and caramel, not unlike your standard Caramel Macchiato (minus the bitter coffee…). There are notes of powdered sugar and Swiss Miss milk chocolate powder (hot chocolate) – it’s sweet but not quite in the “dessert stick” range.
The texture is one of AOK’s stronger points, it’s silky smooth and allows for a full retrohale with ease. As the smoke progresses, there does appear to be a little pepper, this seems to reach its max within the second-third, showing a nice mix of black and red pepper – but even this is more of a flavor on the palate, rather than a zesty sensation in the nostrils. The profile is incredibly balanced though, so much so that it is often very difficult to pinpoint specific notes. However, there are very intriguing moments when flavors peek, revealing ingredients from the overall recipe – sweet malt, oak, mineral, and brown sugar, to name a few.
The profile began around medium on all fronts (strength, flavor, body), but eventually amps up, with flavor jumping to “full” in the second-third and eventually swapping places with strength nearing the end. The oils begin to collect around the rim of the foot, bringing darker flavors nearing the cigar’s end. There is toasted bread, dark fruit, a little tang, floral notes, and eventually some harshness. This last third was overall not my ideal profile, but there is a moment or two when the flavors make a go for the fullness once shown throughout the second-third.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Very much looking forward to it! It was refreshing to find a Nicaraguan maduro of this nature that favored balance, refinement, and subtlety, rather the usual nicotine or pepper bombs that flood the market. This “Give Me Your Lunch Money” corona gorda vitola suited my tastes, showcasing that ultra-premium wrapper nicely, but it will be interesting to see how the experience changes throughout the lineup. I have my eye on the 5 × 52 “Smash” robusto next…
The final third was clearly the weak point here (usually is), but the cigars were quite fresh and will no doubt buff out the more rough areas with proper acclimation.
Samples for review were provided by Drew Estate. They were final production grade (not test blends) and used pre-release banding. We typically do not review cigars of this nature, as we want to give opinions on the same cigars consumers will experience. However, we were assured they are of the same quality by Drew Estate.
- Velvety smooth smoke texture
- Lots of flavor and complexity
- Refined and balanced
- Multiple touch-ups
- Harsher notes in last third