Just for Kicks: Crowned Heads Carves Their Own Way in A Crowded Cigar Market

by Billy Ferriolo
Just for Kicks: Crowned Heads Carves Their Own Way in A Crowded Cigar Market


Nashville-based Crowned Heads is one of the OG boutique cigar brands, breaking out into the cigar scene back in 2011. In the decade since, they've been known for two things: a dedication to traditional, small-batch quality and devotion to classic counterculture icons.

From the Kings of Leon and Led Zeppelin to Billy the Kid, rebels are at the heart of the Crowned Heads brand. Each blend is playfully named after these icons and crafted up to a standard few brands can match. And for all their rebellious imagery, Crowned Heads partners with some of the biggest names in craft cigars to create their blends – most notably E.P. Carrillo and the unbeatable Garcias.

Crowned Heads' unique marketing and branding should come as no surprise to those familiar with the company's origins. You see, the company got started when a bunch of CAO employees defected after CAO was relocated from Nashville to the General Cigars headquarters in Virginia. The still-great CAO went too mainstream and the Nashville folks decided to start their own boutique brand to carry on what they'd been doing at CAO.

Specifically, Crowned Heads is the brainchild of CAO's former Director of Lifestyle Marketing, Senior VP of Marketing, Creative Media Manager, and Graphic Designer. That's right, basically everyone responsible for building one of the most unique mainstream cigar brands around jumped ship and launched Crowned Heads to keep NashVegas wild. Not to mention, in 2011 Nashville was recovering from a devastating flood that caused billions of dollars of damage and was covered in billions of cicadas – and the Nashville locals weren't going to let their city go without a kick-ass cigar brand.

In the past decade, Crowned Heads has released hit after hit. Here are our favorite blends to-date:

Crowned Heads Headley Grange Estupendo

Fresh off their successful debut with the Kings of Leon themed “Four Kicks”, Crowned Heads announced they were working on a new and remarkably ambitious project. From a contemporary Nashville band, they were turning to the classic rebel band – Led Zeppelin.

Crowned Heads founding father Jon Huber was relaxing with a cigar and listening to his favorite tunes when he came up with an idea that many would consider insane: to create a cigar that would taste like the famous drum intro to “When the Levee Breaks”. To accomplish his mission, Huber turned to his partner-in-crime for Four Kicks and the man who would help Huber build Crowned Heads into an industry leader: E.P. Carrillo. While most cigar smokers know Ernesto-Perez Carrillo for his cigar rolling prowess, the cigar legend actually spent time in his youth trying to make it as a Jazz drummer. So he was the perfect partner for Huber's wild mission. The two started working together to create a blend that captured the essence of the Led Zeppelin song.

A year and a half later, Crowned Heads released their next big hit: Headley Grange, named for the studio where the British band recorded the cigar's inspiration.

While the trunk-pressed Robusto is manufactured in Carrillo's Dominican factory, it skips mellow Dominican tobaccos in favor of punchier Nicaraguan long-fillers with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. And it's a winning combination – the cigar made it to CA's Top-25 list in its first year.

As with all Crowned Heads releases, the Headley Grange Estupendo has an honest, almost rustic look to it. The wrapper is brown and smooth but not too fancy looking. And the gentle box-press finishes out the elegant but down-to-earth style. The cigar has just the faintest give to it, promising a perfect draw.

If we didn't know the cigar's backstory, would we be reminded of the opening to “When the Levee Breaks”? Of course not – Jon Huber and EP Carrillo aren't magicians. But knowing the story... we can kind of see it.

The cigar starts out big, bold, and straightforward – like a great drum intro. Red pepper, leather, and cream. Fantastic bass-notes building anticipation for what's to come and a delightful smoke on its own. Then about a third of the way in, the rest of the band joins in and the cigar goes off like a firecracker. Rich caramel, cocoa, and coffee start dominating, brightened by tangy citrus. It's a delicious cacophony. And a fitting tribute to one of rock 'n' roll's greats.

Crowned Heads Jericho Hill

From Led Zepelin, Crowned Heads moved onto the one and only Man in Black. Jericho Hill is an homage to Johnny Cash and the song “Cocaine Blues” from the Folsom Prison concert. The song tells the story of a man who murdered his lover in a cocaine-induced rage before getting arrested in Suarez Mexico by a sheriff from – you guessed it – Jericho Hill. You know, as happens.

Like the legendary singer himself, the cigar is dark, brooding, and deeply layered. It showcases a Mexican San Andres Maduro wrapper in honor of Suarez and the Man in Black. This silky-smooth baritone of a wrapper gets plenty of edge from potent Nicaraguan binder and long-fillers. It wouldn't be a Johnny Cash tribute without a little danger, would it?

Unlike the Headley Grange, the Jericho Hill is sharply box-pressed, making for a striking presentation in its rustic dark-wood boxes with its wild west themed band. In the years since its release, the Jericho Hill has become one of the biggest hits for Crowned Heads thanks to its punchy, Maduro-powered palate.

The San Andres brings creamy waves of dark chocolate and spiced Mexican hot chocolate that are as close to purely delicious as tobacco can get. But the Nicaraguan long-fillers are never far behind with their potent one-two-punch of black pepper and dry earth. It's a spice bomb with creamy chocolate – a winning combination. Perhaps a bit controversial but destined to become timeless, just like the Man in Black himself.

Crowned Heads Las Mareas

Hot on the heels of Jericho Hill comes a surfer-culture homage that translates to “The Tides” from Spanish. You see, before Huber called Nashville home, he used to live in Hawaii where he'd take in the sun, enjoy a good cigar, and watch the surfers compete to catch the biggest waves. Years later, he's paying tribute to those surfers with his most Cubanesque blend yet – an indisputably island cigar that's the perfect companion for a warm sea breeze.

Now, who would Huber choose as his partner to create a Cuban-inspired blend? EP Carrillo would be more than up to the task, but Huber knew he needed a specialist in Cubanesque blends with access to his own tobacco reserves to create the perfect blend.

So he chose none other than double Cigar of the Year winner Jose “Pepin” Garcia. That's right, Las Mareas is the brainchild of the same mind behind early Tatuaje sticks and your favorite My Father blends. And it is just as amazing as a Pepin Garcia-Crowned Heads collab sounds.

Las Mareas is a Nicaraguan puro made entirely of tobaccos grown under the watchful eye of Don Pepin himself on the family's farms. The long-fillers are as earthy and peppery as you could hope and the Corojo '99 wrapper adds leather, coffee, and cedar. For a truly heady brew.

Every puff is savory-sweet with a funky floral note that will have you dancing the luau in no time. There's black pepper galore but nowhere near as much as the Jericho Hill – this is an impeccably balanced cigar. Sweet caramel and rich oak come in for a memorable second-act that is fuller and smoother than the pepper-coffee opening. They're all classic Cuban flavors that are also recognizably Pepin Garcia, but put in a new and interesting mix that develops delightfully over the length of the cigar.

Crowned Heads J.D. Howard Reserve

Moving on from their Nashville music origins, Crowned Heads crossed over to the wrong side of the law with this Billy the Kid tribute blend. It's another EP Carrillo creation that's rough, tough, but with a heart of gold – just like the famous outlaw himself.

And there is a Nashville connection: JD Howard was Billy the Kid's pseudonym when he was hiding out in the city. Not the kind of info most of us cigar smokers have floating around our noggins, but that's Jon Huber for you.

How does this cigar convey rebel outlaw, you ask? Well, it all starts with the funky and fermented Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper (try saying that ten times fast). It's thick, tough, and leathery just like a well-worn saddle or pistol holster. Underneath is an aromatic Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Nicaraguan long-fillers, more traditional Crowned Heads components. Even it's vitola, 6x46, has a bit of an old world, Wild West vibe.

And the flavor – well you'll have to see for yourself. But expect tons of red pepper, hot cinnamon, raw earth, and cocoa powder. It's an intense combo but one that works surprisingly well. And the cigar has a lingering sweet finish that helps balance out the spicy and occasionally bitter palate, encouraging you to take just one more puff...

The J.D. Howard Reserve isn't a cigar that asks forgiveness for what it is or tries to change for anybody. It knows exactly what it's doing and does it superbly well – and if you don't like it then get out of it's way.

Check out our full selection of Crowned Heads Cigars at your leisure.