When cigar companies create an extension to an existing cigar line, it usually involves releasing a line with a different wrapper, and maybe a slight tweak to the tobaccos underneath that leaf but generally keeping most of the components intact. For Caldwell Cigar Co., the latest extension to its The King is Dead line keeps the wrapper and binder but changes the filler blend, and then gives the cigars a box press.

Specifically, The King is Dead Escape Plan is not a Dominican puro like the main line, as the filler includes tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru. It is offered in four box-pressed vitolas:

  • The King is Dead Escape Plan Short Cut (5 1/2 x 46) — $14 (Box of 20, $280)
  • The King is Dead Escape Plan Grand Tour (5 x 54) — $15 (Box of 20, $300)
  • The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar (6 x 52) — $15 (Box of 20, $300)
  • The King is Dead Escape Plan AutoPilot (7 x 48) — $15 (Box of 20, $300)

Robert Caldwell, founder of Caldwell Cigar Co., told halfwheel that Escape Plan will be an annual release for the company. For 2022, each size is limited to 300 boxes.

  • Cigar Reviewed: The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura
  • Wrapper: Dominican Republic (Negrito Mejorado)
  • Binder: Dominican Republic
  • Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Peru
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $15 (Box of 20, $300)
  • Release Date: February 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: 300 Boxes of 20 Cigars (6,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar gets a strong box press, and while the body of the cigar feels like it has fairly squared off corners, the foot looks a bit more like an oval. The wrapper is one of the more interesting ones I have seen in some time; the veins pucker in the way that those on many Cuban cigars do, and there’s also some fine mottling of the color. The colors above and below a seam line can vary enough to be noticeable without much effort, but it’s the more subtle shifts in color between the lines that give the cigar some visual depth. Those seams are generally flat, but the occasional vein runs into a seam line with the expected results. As expected, there is a pillowy feel to the density of the cigar, a common trait of box-pressed cigars such as this.  That means it’s softer front-to-back than side-to-side, though on the whole this is a bit more pillowy than average. The aroma off the foot has cool, slightly damp nuts, reminding me a bit of boiled peanuts. It hits the nostrils with a somewhat earthy, soil-like texture—though one sample is much more muffin-like—and while I could make the case for some sweet cream, there doesn’t seem to be any pepper. Clipping the cap, with its twist of tobacco creating a little bump of tobacco, reveals a cold draw that is smooth and easy, with one of the three samples a bit firmer than I would have expected, though it is nowhere near plugged or obstructed. The flavor is soft and chewy, reminding me a bit of a muffin once again, and with some of the damp peanut flavor that I picked up in the aroma. Again, I could make the case for a bit of creaminess, and in one sample, a bit of banana pudding, though there is still no pepper.

The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar starts off with more of the boiled peanut flavor, as well as some light, room temperature coffee, a bit of pepper, and the familiar combination of wood and light, dry earth. It’s a familiar start, agreeable to the palate and fairly tempered in its intensity and body. Pepper begins to emerge slowly on the palate and more quickly via retrohales, which are quite pepper-forward when the first clump of ash drops around the one-inch mark. Some of the creaminess I picked up on the cold draw is the next to emerge, though it battles with dry earth to gain a foothold in the profile, with the latter one ultimately doing a better job. That earth can get a bit loamy at times, which is not a surprise given the prevalence of Dominican tobacco in the blend, but what I find most interesting is a bit of saltiness in the profile. Flavor is medium to medium-plus in the first third, while the body and strength are medium. Construction is very good, though the combustion seems a bit more in need of quicker puffs than what I’d consider an average rate.

The second third gets underway with a dry wood note joining the profile, rising up through the profile and sitting atop the still thick-bodied smoke. Whatever creaminess was trying to join the profile seems to have given up on that mission, with the net effect being that the profile is now drier than it was in the first third, which leads to a distinct tingle on the front half of my tongue. Thankfully the pepper settles down a bit so as to not double down on that sensation, which keeps the overall profile just a touch over medium. The aroma has a bit of barnyard to it at times, which is a bit of a pleasant surprise given where the flavor is, as it provides some complexity and counterbalance to a largely dry profile. While a bit of white pepper tingles the tongue and the tobacco seems to tingle the lips, dry wood is still the lead note as this section comes to a close, nudging the profile to medium-plus, while the body seems to fall back to medium-minus. Strength is medium at best, not really imparting much of an impact thus far. Construction is still very good, though I find myself needing a reminder that combustion requires a quicker puffing rate.

There are a few times when I think the profile of The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar is shifting and getting mellower, possibly giving me a starting point for the final third that is flavor-driven as opposed to having burned a certain number of inches. Each time I start to think that the flavor is setting down a bit, the dry wood and white pepper rush back into the profile, dashing what had been a return of creaminess into the mix. That profile continues cycling through its core flavors, moving into peanut shells and then an earthier profile, and one that is unique enough to make me wonder if I’m getting a taste of Peruvian terroir. While retrohales have been consistently peppery, the aroma is now quite peppery as well. It might not seem like much of a distinction, but the unexpected nostril tingle from the exhaled, now ambient smoke catches me off guard as opposed to being ready for some pepper on a retrohale. The final inches of the cigar see the dryness of the profile really focus on the center of my tongue, bringing the wood, pepper and earth together with some impressive complexity. It finishes medium-full in flavor, medium in body, and barely medium in strength. The final third can struggle with combustion a bit, as it seems more finicky when it comes to needing quicker puffs, but otherwise it burns well, with a good amount of smoke, an even burn line and no draw issues.

Final Notes

  • First things first, the consistency among the three samples was remarkably impressive. Each one seemed to follow the game plan to the letter.
  • I had no idea what a dry beggar is, but the internet once again comes to the rescue. It’s a person who asks or pleads for something without actually asking for it, beating around the proverbial bush.
  • The secondary band always seemed to be just a bit off-center, sometimes just a touch and other times quite noticeably. Additionally, two of the samples had the band attached at an angle, one of which was bad enough that I was surprised it passed a quality control check.
  • I didn’t pick up any nicotine strength from The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time averaged two hours.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop and JR Cigar carry the The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar.
86 Overall Score

If there's one thing about The King is Dead Escape Plan Drybeggar that stands out, it is the remarkable consistency among the three samples. Not only were the specific flavors nearly identical, but their progressions from start to finish were followed as if completely automated. As for the profile, it is enjoyable and fairly dynamic, but not always the most complex, and if a dry palate isn't your thing, you'll likely find this lacking a bit. The profile is driven by dry wood, dry earth and a mix of white and black pepper, which provide plenty of sensation and stimulation for the palate and nostrils, but it does get a bit monotonous by the final third. While quite enjoyable, I'd recommend it in the Short Cut vitola, as that smaller vitola should be able to offer plenty of the profile without overdoing it, which I thought this toro vitola got close to doing.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.