To me, hype is not a negative. I actually have a pretty simple definition for it in the cigar world: the disproportionate amount of popularity to sales.
There are many products that have hype, some—like Tatuaje’s Monster Series—seem to retain it. Others come and go, but it’s challenging to think of a product that ever had as much hype as All Out Kings.
The collaboration between Drew Estate and Caldwell Cigar Co. was quite simply, a hype machine. Our internal traffic numbers showed it, conversations I had with people for the better part of the last six months prove it and plenty of Instagram pictures and Facebook posts showed a lot of the cigar community was very interested in a product that almost no one had seen, let alone smoked.
Some of that—intentionally or not—was due to the nature of how the cigar was previewed at the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show and then rolled out. The cigar was late to the show, not arriving until day the last full day of the annual trade show and samples were given out sparingly to say the least. The cigar’s formal release was then delayed from November 2016 until last month.
But All Out Kings is neither the only cigar to show up late to the trade show, nor the only cigar to be delayed.
The project was popular from the beginning because of who was involved. The large following that Drew Estate built over two decades is still very much alive. In an industry full of personalities, few can enter a room like Jonathan Drew, the company’s co-founder and president. Willy Herrera, the company’s master blender, has built his own following through countless events and his eponymous Herrera Estelí and Norteño cigars.
For many years, the cigar industry was waiting for the next Tatuaje and Illusione. The early and mid-2000s saw two very talented, American-born cigar makers rise from retailers to cigar brands with bonafide hit after bonafide hit. The next Tatuaje and Illusione never came, and it still hasn’t come. But, it’s challenging to think of a brand with as meteoric and organic of a rise as Caldwell Cigar Co. has had in the last few years.
Robert Caldwell did have a bit of a head start. He owns a company called Hotel Humidor which provides cigars to upscale hotels. He then entered the manufacturing side of the business when Christian Eiroa, formerly of Camacho, returned to the business with CLE. Caldwell and Eiroa were partners in Wynwood, a brand that operated a factory out of the namesake neighborhood in Miami, and was known for creative packaging and shipping products directly from its factory to retailers with no aging.
In 2013, Caldwell left and ventured on his own, starting Caldwell Cigar Co. Since then, he has partnered with the Ventura family, who now oversee production of many of his cigars at the Caldwell Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. and Agroindustria LAEPE S.A., the Camacho factory in Honduras.
His notoriety has grown from the fresh-packed cigars and his indifference towards shirt buttons to being one of the more popular cult-like brands in the cigar industry, thanks to packaging as unique as the blends. While he may not be exactly the spiritual successor to Tatuaje and Illusione, Caldwell Cigar Co. is effectively the closest thing we’ve seen in terms of end results.
It’s also worth noting that this is the first entirely new brand for Drew Estate in some time. The last few years have largely centered around extensions to Undercrown, Herrera Estelí1] and MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured.
On numerous occasions, Robert Caldwell has stated that he isn’t particularly fond of maduro cigars, yet the All Out Kings uses a Connecticut-grown habano seed wrapper, the same varietal that is used on Liga Privada T52. Underneath that is an Indonesian Sumatra binder, and a three-country filler blend including Connecticut broadleaf ligero, Dominican corojo 97 seco and visos from Estelí and Jalapa, Nicaragua.
It’s offered in four sizes:
- All Out Kings Smash (5 x 52) — $13.80 (Boxes of 20, $276)
- All Out Kings Gimme Your Lunch Money (5 3/4 x 46) — $12.80 (Boxes of 20, $256)
- All Out Kings Foreverlast (6 1/2 x 54) —$14.80 (Boxes of 20, $306),
- All Out Kings The Fourth Pose (6 x 54) — $15.80 (Boxes of 20, $326)
The cigar is made at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate and distributed by Caldwell Cigar Co.
- Cigar Reviewed: All Out Kings Smash
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: Connecticut Habano
- Binder: Indonesian Sumatra
- Filler: Connecticut Broadleaf Ligero, Dominican Corojo 97 & Nicaragua (Estelí & Jalapa)
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $13.80 (Boxes of 20, $276)
- Release Date: March 9, 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
It’s a dark espresso wrapper that is uniform in color. I certainly think it looks similar to a T52, perhaps a bit less purple and a touch lighter than the Liga Privada variant of the wrapper, but if you stuck a T52 band on the cigar, I certainly wouldn’t think anything is off. Aroma off the All Out Kings has a lot of walnuts, a Dr. Pepper-like sweetness, some pizza crust and a bit of an unscented silk candle touch to it. The foot is more delicate with an acidic blueberry and cocoa standing out. The Dr. Pepper returns for the cold draw, joined by the cocoa, some creaminess and a bit of red pepper.
Smash begins medium-full with cedar, walnuts and a bit of that Dr. Pepper sweetness, a distinct sweet cherry flavor. The draw is a touch open and like many Drew Estate-made cigars before it, smoke production is intense. It settles into a somewhat familiar pattern: a dry semisweet cocoa joined by orange, bark, creaminess and a red pepper. While all three samples are pretty similar, one had a unique flavor that reminded me of salty bok choy. Flavor is medium-full, body is full and strength is medium-plus.
The trip down the vegetable aisle continues with some roasted zucchini in two of three samples. In both cigars, it’s overshadowed by the core, which is creaminess on top of some grainy bread and earthiness. The semisweet cocoa is still present, very much a secondary flavor, though the fruity flavors are gone by the halfway mark. Strength picks up a bit, but body and flavor remain the same. One sample needs a touch-up to prevent it going out. Once the lighter touches one part of the wrapper, smoke production returns to insane levels.
It’s a pretty interesting mixture for the final third. There’s definitely an increased amount of grains in the profile, which dries my mouth out a bit, but there’s also a floral flavor as well as something that reminds me of a gumball shell. With an inch and a half remaining, I get a lot more white bread than generic grain mixture, with white pepper present throughout. Strength creeps close to full, but never gets there and things otherwise remain the same.
- The intro to this review is notably different than our normal form, it was done to help explain my concept of hype and this release. I realize the word has a negative connotation with most.
- There is one problem with this release: the price. Longtime readers will know we don’t factor price into scores, that hasn’t changed. Cigar prices have gone up across the board, they’ll continue to increase whether we like it or not, but this is a challenging cigar to spend $14 on, I mean $13.80.
- Guillermo León might hate this,2 but to contextualize it, the Padrón 1964 Exclusivo, a 5 1/2 x 50 robusto extra, retails for $12.
- I really like the logo for this release, but it looks a bit odd to me as a band. The band looks much better when it’s undone and spread out so you can see the text on the left and the medals on the right of the center logo.
- Gimme Your Lunch Money is one of my favorite names for a cigar.
- I’ve mentioned this before, but cigar names at this point are largely an art form. I cannot imagine consumers asking for the vitolas by name.
- As I noted a few weeks ago, there was a time—not too long ago—where Drew Estate didn’t make cigars for other people not named Rocky Patel.
- Drew Estate and Illusione once collaborated for a cigar called Nosotros, it didn’t go as planned.
- The wrapper is the same as what’s used on T52, just a different priming, meaning it’s from leaves at a different height on the plant.
- While I had to touch up one cigar, another got pretty uneven but then corrected itself fairly impressively. Smoke production was what I’ve come to expect from Drew Estate: copious and then some.
- I found the cigar to be medium-full in strength, right in between where Undercrown and Undercrown Corona ¡Viva!
- I am a bit surprised just how many cigars seem to have shipped to stores. Many retailers were advertising these as an item with limited supply that would sell out, but most of our site sponsors seem to have all sizes in stock.
- I smoked one sample down to about a half inch, and as long as you didn’t take a full puff it wasn’t too harsh. A deep draw, however, covered the upper part of the mouth in bitterness.
- Jaclyn Sears, who designed the artwork for many Caldwell releases as well as Lost&Found, now works at Drew Estate.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was a pretty quick one hour and 30 minutes.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Corona Cigar Co., JR Cigar and Smoke Inn have the All Out Kings Smash in stock.
After I finished smoking the cigars for this review, Brooks Whittington asked me what I thought of the cigar, saying he had heard good things about it. I told him that it’s a good cigar, priced too high. I then made the comparison with the Padrón Exclusivo and he was notably surprised by just how pricey this cigar is. In fairness, many cigars would fail the Padrón comparison, but I suspect that example will keep a lot of people from smoking as many All Out Kings as they might want. It’s pricey. To some degree, I’m not sure what I should expect: Drew Estate’s offerings have increased at a steady pace and Caldwell isn’t known for making cheap cigars; but the price point makes this a special occasion cigar for me—and I think the flavors fall just short of a special occasion.