Left to Right: Chris, Jon Huber, Nick
Living in Nashville definitely has its perks. Not only does Taylor Swift live here, but we also have Crowned Heads right in our own backyard. Jon Huber, co-founder of Crowned Heads, was gracious enough to set aside time for us to smoke and chat about all things Crowned Heads and cigars. Jon gave us the opportunity to get a peek into the inner workings at Crowned Heads and a glimpse of the passion and dedication he, and partner Mike Conder, have for the art of cigars. Their focus and vision has contributed to the successful birth of a boutique brand of cigars, with around 250,000 cigars shipped in 2012.
Our chat took place in the new offices of Crowned Heads — coincidentally, they are the very same offices occupied by CAO before they left Nashville. Wanting to be gracious guests, we brought along a few Headley Granges to smoke while we talked. Jon joked, “That’s a bit like bringing sand to the beach…isn’t it?” So, instead of smoking the Headleys, Jon broke out a few of the now impossible to find Mule Kick. Note: We left with some extras of the Mule Kick to enjoy later, so we’ll be sure to post a review. Be warned, after we had such a great time getting to know a bit about Jon and Crowned Heads, we are most certainly biased now. But, spoiler alert, it’s an amazing blend. The Mule Kicks now resting in my humidor have become the most prized cigars in my collection.
Throughout this entire interview, we were struck by the how compelling the Crowned Heads story is — a couple of guys with a passion for cigars that are on a mission to make great cigars. Jon said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to be the face of Crowned Heads… he doesn’t want to be famous for this. Jon just wants people to enjoy the cigars they so lovingly work to create. Don’t expect in-store events, don’t expect fancy launch parties. You should, however, expect quality cigars with compelling brands.
Jon laid out for us the philosophy of Crowned Heads: Create engaging brands around blends of cigars that people want to smoke. Never sacrifice quality for quantity. Support Brick and Mortars. We walked out of this interview with the sense that Jon and the folks at Crowned Heads are more interested in doing it right than doing it big.
One of the themes that came up several times during our conversation with Jon was around creating interesting brands. To date, all of the Crowned Heads cigars were based on inspiration drawn from non-traditional sources. The Four Kicks was lyrically inspired by a Kings of Leon song. Headley Grange is a blend inspired by a Led Zeppelin drumbeat. The newest offering, the JD Howard Reserve, is inspired by the outlaw Jessie James, who was thought to have lived in Nashville under the alias of JD Howard. While the cigars draw inspiration from these sources, Jon and team are careful not to let the inspiration bleed over in the form of gimmicky marketing.
Marketing at Crowned Heads is about the cigar. It’s not about the packaging, it’s not about the label. It’s not even about the story behind the cigar. Four Kicks and Headley Grange are marketed based on their merit as cigars. As Jon pointed out, if your cigar is good enough, it will sell itself. And sell itself they have. The storage area of the Crowned Heads offices were bare. There was not a Headley Grange to be found. The limited edition Mule Kick, which was developed as a blend to use surplus tobacco, sold out in a single day.
The motivation behind sitting down with Jon was to learn more about the art of cigar making. Mission complete. In addition to that, we also wanted to get a peek at what’s in store for Crowned Heads this year. Mission also complete. In that vein, we have a few snippets available to share:
First, the piece we’re most excited about… We’ll see the new JD Howard Reserve available on store shelves in August. Jon also gave us a sneak peak at the labels. Expect a slick looking band. On that note, look for a subtle number “337” on the label. The JD Howard reserve was originally called Project 337 as the inspiration came to Jon on a sleepless night, right when the clock read 3:37 AM.
Second, Headley Grange will be available in several new sizes any day now. Jon clued us in that most of the world hasn’t yet tried his favorite, smaller ring gauge vitola. We soon will.
Finally, and most intriguingly given the success of the limited edition Mule Kick, Jon hinted at a new limited edition project popping up in September or October of this year, so be sure to keep an eye out for more information on that.
Jon shared so many interesting details about everything from the origin of Crowned Heads to the the art of making cigars that there is no way we could do it all justice in this short article. If you want to hear more of the details behind our chat, feel free to dive into the full transcript of the interview.