Interview with Jon Huber of Crowned Heads – Transcript

JD Howard Reserve

Is the JD Howard Blend finalized?
I finalized the blend in the first week of February, finally. Now we’re working on the packaging and the bands and all the little nuances that make it a brand as opposed to just the cigar.

Do you know when JD Howard will be hitting shelves?
Yes, probably by the beginning of August. We’re going to launch it at the IPCPR trade show in Vegas which is July 13-17th. We have to have everything ready by then. That means having the cigars sitting, resting, aging and then we’ll ship when we get back a couple weeks after.

Do you expect JD Howard to be popular?
That’s the hope. You never know but I anticipate it to do well I think. It was interesting at the trade show last year. We went in with basically Four Kicks and that’s all we really had. I wanted to do a sneak preview of Headley Grange. Headley Grange was always going to be a 2013 brand. It was always intended to be Spring of 2013, but I felt like I wanted to at least get it out there and get people smoking it. I felt confident enough that once they did, then the buzz would catch on. We released 1000 boxes of one size at the trade show. Those 1000 boxes sold out in two days but the pattern which they sold out was interesting because a lot of people came to our booth, “Oh you guys are new. What are you doing? OK I’ve heard about Four Kicks. What’s this Headley Grange? You got a sample?” “Sure, here whatever”. We wrote this many orders the first day [hand gesture] then the second day was like this [larger hand gesture] because people had smoked the cigar. Then by the third day it was just crazy people were coming back like “What’s this Headley Grange cigar? What’s this Headley Grange cigar I keep hearing about? We want to get it.” That’s how we sold out in two days. Passed that, Cigar Aficionado has their Top 25 of the world for 2012 and Headley Grange made top 25 off of that small release. The anticipation was such that our first shipment, approximately 2000 boxes, double what we released, is already pre-sold, already spoken for.

Is there going to be a JD Howard Reserve launch party in Nashville?
That’s another thing I am very anti — all the parties and that crap. I’m not a lot of fun. At CAO we had a lot of parties. We got to the point where one of our parties we had Lynryd Skynyrd. It became like you’re concert promoter/marketing guy/cigar guy and it had a whole different critical mass level. All I want to do is create some brands, create cigars with a small group of people. If people like the cigars, that’s my satisfaction. I don’t want to throw the best party in town, I don’t want to be in the magazines.

What will the JD Howard label look like?
[Jon shows us a piece of paper with the five finalists for the JDH label]

[recording error]… doesn’t translate to what will be embossed or what will be gold or not gold. This will be all vintage, antique white… scalloping here will be gold embossed.

Whether intentional or by accident we’ve been successful in creating interesting stories behind the cigar, but now making the stories literally translate in the packaging. Four Kicks was lyrically inspired by a Kings of Leon song. It just had an attitude about it. It became about the lyrics in a song. Headley Grange is inspired by a sound that was created in a building that was called Headley Grange. You’d never know it was a Led Zeppelin cigar. JD Howard will be the same thing. I wanted to create the monogram of an interlocked JDH thing that made it interesting that could be not only translated onto a band, but onto a hat or something like that. It’s just cool. It’s a fun thing to do.

Where do you get inspiration for these brands?
Inspiration comes from all different places. It just depends. It comes at all different times, all different paces. To me it’s just a matter of opening your mind to the ideas. You’ll see when the bands finalize, there will be a little “337” on the sides. “337” was what we called this project before I had an actual inspiration for it. Project 337. The blend idea came to me at an odd hour of the morning. I woke and was like, I can’t sleep, I’ve got this in my mind. I looked at the clock and it was 3:37. So this became Project 337.

Will you launch multiple vitolas of the JDH?
We’re not going to that cute little one size thing again. Can’t afford to really. We are going to launch all five vitolas. It’s about real estate on the store shelf. These boxes [Four Kicks] don’t really stand out.. they’re very innocuous. Headley will be a bit more noticeable. You want a bigger footprint on the shelf. This year’s goal is to have a bigger footprint.

Headley Grange

What is your favorite Headley Grange vitola?
Funny about Headley Grange; I’ve told people before that they have yet to smoke the best size of Headley Grange. We released that size because I thought it was a good intermediate size, 5.5 by 52, but the smaller ring gauges, to me, smoke much better. The thinner ring gauge really focuses and intensifies the flavor profile. The 5 by 48 is one of my favorites. The 5 ⅝ by 46 is amazing. Even the little 44 ring gauge, the Menendes is 5 1/4 by 44, and I’m not just saying this cause it’s our cigar, but I have yet to smoke a cigar in that ring gauge that had that much flavor to it. That blend is just something special.

Do you have a favorite pairing with Headley Grange?
Coffee. I don’t really sit down and pair things. When I’m really trying to evaluate blends or see how things are smoking along the way – first thing in the morning that’s when I can taste the most and the best. A lot of times I’ll come in first thing in the morning and smoke a really heavy and strong cigar. Most people would say, “that’s an after dinner cigar,” but yeah I can taste more.

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