In November of 2010, C.A.O. Director of Lifestyle Marketing Jon Huber decided to leave the company after Scandinavian Tobacco (which had acquired C.A.O. in January 2007) moved C.A.O.’s operations from Nashville to Richmond, Virginia, where General Cigar Co., is based.
Soon after that, it was announced that Huber, along with three other former C.A.O. employees: Mike Conder, formerly C.A.O.’s senior VP of marketing; Michael Trebing, who served as C.A.O.’s creative media manager, and Nancy Heathman, who was C.A.O.’s graphic designer, were starting up a new brand, based in Nashville, Tennessee, which happens to be where C.A.O. was located until the move.
Crowned Heads, LLC, the official name of the new brand, planned on releasing just a single line by the end of 2011. The line would be called Four Kicks with inspiration coming from the Kings of Leon song of the same name.
Says Jon Huber:
It was towards the end of 2010, and my colleagues and I were in the midst of a tumultuous period of uncertainty, transition and change. The company that we held dear to our hearts, CAO International, Inc., was caught in the middle of a corporate merger between Swedish Match and ST Group (CAOʼs parent company at the time). The very foundation that CAO had been built upon–people, relationships, integrity, and loyalty–were being stripped away. The end result would be that many people whom we considered as ʻfamilyʼ would soon be unemployed and CAO would find itself being taken away from its hometown of Nashville, TN, and relocated to Richmond, VA.
When you see some 15 years of your lifeʼs work–your heart, passion, and joy–coming to an end, youʼre filled with many emotions. The song, “Four Kicks,” really spoke to me. It was filled with anger, rebellion, confidence, and determination. These were the feelings that inspired us to forge together and create what would later become “Crowned Heads, LLC.”
Four Kicks is about sticking to your guns, and remaining loyal to those whom you love, and the hometown that brought you to the dance. Four Kicks is about turning your back on the corporate machine, and making your own rules.
New cigar brands are not exactly an unusual event, especially these days, but it turns out that Jon Huber had an ace up his sleeve. In August of this year, it was announced that none other then cigar legend Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. would be producing the cigars for Crowned Heads at their factory in the Dominican Republic. This is the first time Carrillo has made a cigar under contract for another company.
Four Kicks will come in four different vitolas at launch, all in boxes of twenty-four. They are:
- Four Kicks Corona Gorda (5 5/8 x 46) — $6.95
- Four Kicks Robusto (5 x 50) — $7.60
- Four Kicks Sublime (6 x 54) — $8.40
- Four Kicks Piramide (6 1/8 x 52) — $8.65
There are initially a total of 66 stores (some accounts have multiple locations) that will carry Four Kicks, and total production for 2011 is between 30,000-35,000 total cigars. The first shipment is scheduled to arrive in Nashville next week and they will be shipping the cigars to retailers immediately after that. You can see a list of retailers that will have them first here.
I was very interested in where the name Crowned Heads came from, so I asked Huber about it, and he had this to say:
The story is that back in December I was tasked with the job of coming up with our company name/identity. I had a notepad full of names–some that some people liked, some that nobody liked, and some that everyone internally liked but our attorneys had problems with. One day I was watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ on my iPad (one of my favorite movies). I’ve always been taken by the folklore and behind-the-scenes mythology of that film. There’s a scene when the movie is still in sepia (not full color) where Dorothy is approaching Professor Marvel. The camera pans to a shot of Marvel’s caravan and it reads, “The Crowned Heads of Europe: Past, Present, and Future.” I took a screen shot of the frame. For some reason, ‘Crowned Heads’ stuck with me. I ran it by Mike (Conder) and he, in turn, ran it by some other people; eventually, once it cleared our legal team, we had a name that everyone agreed upon and approved. We’d always wanted a company name that did not pigeon-hole us just into ‘cigars,’ per se. We wanted a name that could evoke a brand, and ultimately, more of a lifestyle. We wanted a name that would be ambiguous enough to cause people to ask, “What does that mean?” Since you’ve asked that question, I suppose we were successful.
- Cigar Reviewed: Four Kicks Corona Gorda
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 5 5/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 46
- Vitola: Corona Gorda
- MSRP: $6.95 (Boxes of 24, $166.80)
- Date Released: November 2011
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 5 (Corona Gorda and Sublime)
The cigar itself is an obviously well made specimen, with a milk chocolate brown wrapper that is fairly smooth, although there are some bumps present, to the touch and has a bit of oil. It has the perfect give when squeezed and the wrapper smells of coffee, nutmeg and cinnamon.
The first third starts with an extremely strong blast of black pepper to the tongue and back of the throat. I could taste very little other than pepper for the first ten puffs or so, but after that it quickly died down to a tolerable level and I was left with flavors of oak, leather and earth. There is a nice amount of spice on the retrohale as well.
In the second third, the black pepper from the beginning of the cigar has faded quite a bit, but is still a nice background note. About the halfway point of the cigar, the profile shifted totally and I started picking up a very distinct sweet floral note that really went well with the pepper along with dark chocolate. Still quite a bit of spice on the retrohale as well. The strength is pretty constant, a not overpowering medium plus or so.
The final third seemed to combine all of the notes from the first and second thirds, just a nice combination of flavors that was quite nice. Still that black pepper in the background, still a bit of spice on the retrohale and still a nice sweetness with earth, leather, wood, floral, although not anywhere as strong as the second third and dark chocolate.
- New cigar brands coming out (and even older brands) really need to take a page from the Crowned Heads way of doing things, especially in regards to the official website and social media. Well-designed, great explanations, exclusive content and a blog that is actually updated on a regular basis with relevant info. I am sure it takes quite a bit of time and effort, but I think it really makes people more invested in the brand itself. And I don’t even mind that his latest blog post blasts cigar bloggers.
- I have to say, I love the band on the Four Kicks–which looks like an old school logo–as the gold and red really pop out. I also appreciate the fact that the bands (on all samples) were very easy to remove, a pet peeve of mine.
- The construction on all samples was excellent with wonderful draw and burn throughout and a huge amount of billowy white smoke.
- While not a palate killer, this is a fairly strong smoke, especially in the Corona Gorda vitola. I would say it ended up a strong medium.
- While the two different sizes I smoked at some differences in profile. The Sublime was a bit creamier in the last half and the Corona Gorda was stronger with each and every sample I smoked started out with that strong blast of black pepper.
- The final smoking time (for the Corona Gorda) was one hour and 25 minutes.
I was very excited to when I heard that Four Kicks was going to be produced by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr., as everything they touch seems to turn to gold. However, this being Carrillo's first venture into producing a separate brand, I was (just a bit) concerned about how it would taste. Would it be just another E.P. Carrillo blend with a different name, or something different altogether? Well, I am happy to report that it is a little of both. It seems I could taste some similarities to the E.P. Carrillo profile (I would compare it to the Short Run if pressed), but the Four Kicks stands on its own. A wonderful blend of strong and sweet, with a great kick (yeah, yeah, no pun intended) that really sets the whole cigar off. This would be a wonderful every day cigar: strong enough for you to take notice, complex enough to keep you interested, great construction that really is a joy to smoke and with a price that is quite affordable, especially in the smaller vitolas.