To say that the past two months or so have been busy for Crowned Heads would certainly be an understatement. The company has brought two limited edition releases to market—Las Calaveras and The Angel’s Anvil—and is getting ready to release its fourth regular production line at the 2014 IPCPR convention and trade show in just a few weeks.
In addition to it being busy as far as releases and news, it’s also been a bit of a new chapter for the company, as a new production partnership emerged with the release of Las Calaveras. While Crowned Heads’ first three regular production lines—Four Kicks, Headley Grange and J.D. Howard Reserve—all came from E.P. Carrillo’s Tabacalaera La Alianza in the Dominican Republic, Las Calaveras was produced at the García family’s My Father Cigars S.A. in Esteli, Nicaragua, making it both a change in country and facility, as well as access to different tobacco, different production costs and a different production theory. To borrow from the music theme that has been a part of so many Crowned Heads releases, it’s like an artist working with a new producer in a new studio and seeing what comes of a different synergy.
While Las Calaveras is an annual limited release, Jerico Hill is the first regular production cigar to be released by Crowned Heads to come out of a factory other than La Alianza.
For Jericho Hill, Crowned Heads co-founder Jon Huber found inspiration in a song by Johnny Cash, of whom a six-foot tall metal print hangs on the wall near Huber’s desk.
“Cash has long been an inspiration to me; not simply musically, but more of what he stood for as man–he was not only a rebel, but he had integrity and authenticity,” said Huber. “That said, I didn’t want to do a literal ‘Man In Black’ cigar, but I found inspiration behind the veil of ‘Cocaine Blues.’ Buried in that song was the name, ‘Jericho Hill,’ which just struck a chord with me.”
“Cocaine Blues” is the story of a man named Willy Lee and the destructive path that his life takes, a path that includes killing a woman while under the influence of whiskey and cocaine. The unnamed sheriff who eventually catches Lee in Juarez, Mexico, comes from the town of Jericho Hill.
The song was featured on the album At Folson Prison, which serves as the inspiration for the vitola names in the line. As was mentioned in the story announcing the line’s release, .44S is the caliber of gun the criminal carries in the “Cocaine Blues” song, LBV stands for “Long Black Veil” which is the sixth song on the album; OBS is in reference to Orange Blossom Special which is the seventh song on the album, and Willy Lee is the previously mentioned antagonist of “Cocaine Blues.”
- Jericho Hill OBS (4 3/4 x 52) — $8.75 (Boxes of 24, $210.00)
- Jericho Hill .44S (5 1/8 x 44) — $7.95 (Boxes of 24, $190.80)
- Jericho Hill Willy Lee (6 x 54) — $9.75 (Boxes of 24, $234.00)
- Jericho Hill LBV (6 1/2 x 46) — $8.95 (Boxes of 24, $214.80)
Each of the four sizes come in 24–count boxes.
The company also plans to offer a four-cigar smaller featuring each of the vitolas.
Cigar Reviewed: Jericho Hill OBS
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Size: 4 3/4 Inches
Ring Gauge: 52
MSRP: $8.75 (Boxes of 24, $210.00)
Release Date: July/August 2014
Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 4
The Jericho Hill is an eye catcher, a gorgeous and uniform shade of dark, earthy brown with a healthy amount of toothiness of the wrapper that stands out in the subtle bit of sheen the leaf offers. Veins are few and sparse, and the roll is clean with no bumps or issues with the seam. Between the box-press and its relatively small size to a lot of other cigars on the market, the OBS vitola feels downright small in the hand. It’s on the firm side from head to foot with no visual imperfections at all. Aromas of molasses and thick, syrupy yet subtle and rich sweetness almost pull my nose into the foot of the cigar, while certain sticks tack on a bit of cocoa powder and some tree bark as well. There is varying amounts of spice and pepper, from absolutely none to trace amounts that are just enough to tease what the cigar might offer. The cold draw is dialed in and offers less of the sweetness, favoring notes of leather and a touch of soil. There’s no issue with air movement, with a quick squeeze reinforcing that there aren’t any spots of concern.
The first puffs of the Jericho Hill have a quick woody bite followed by a shift towards a more earth-driven flavor with a respectable amount of pepper present in the nose and a bit on the tongue. Strength out of the gate is just a touch more than medium, certainly not a flavor or pepper explosion, but more than enough to keep the senses engaged. An early retrohale has a somewhat sharp touch of white pepper that is stimulating without being overpowering. The first clump of ash breaks off incredibly quickly, probably about a third of an inch at most, and shortly after the first photo was taken. The first third develops around what has become the signature taste of good Mexican San Andrés tobacco: a bright soil note that is incredibly palate friendly with a clay note leading the way, while there is also a bit of candied citrus sweetness that gives the Jericho Hill a distinct flavor. The cigar has burned evenly with adequate smoke production through the first third, and other than the first bit of ash that breaks off quickly, the rest has held on well.
Notes of leather and earth continue to dominate the flavor, although dominate does seem a bit strong of a word for what I would call a medium level of strength. A retrohale just shy of the midway point offers as much of a bright fragrant quality as it does building levels of earth of pepper, an interesting transitional note and a unique combination that I can’t remember in recent experiences. At times the flavor is a thick combination that offers copious amounts of taste if not lots of distinctive notes, but this isn’t a bad thing as the flavor is incredibly enjoyable. Past the midway point, pepper starts to pick up a bit in the nose, confirmed by a retrohale that is about as close to exhaling peppercorns as I can imagine. In a small quantity it’s a great note, but one that if overdone defeats the purpose. There is a bright and clear aroma of coffee that wafts off of the cigar while at rest and provides a ringing invitation to pick the cigar up again. The sweetness has taken a set break, leaving the Jericho Hill to stand on its base notes of San Andrés terroir; an enjoyable flavor for those familiar with and preferential towards it.
While the final third ramps up in strength, the flavors seem to be a bit muddled and hard to pick out, almost as if the Jericho Hill is going for a stew-like strength as opposed to individual notes, at least ones that really stand out. The terroir of the San Andrés wrapper is an enjoyable constant, with a dry wood bite that lingers on the tongue at points. The final third sits at medium-full at its peak with decent a decent nicotine kick though it stops short of being what I would considered to be a true full-bodied cigar. There is a touch of candied orange sweetness in the background that is incredibly enjoyable and helps bend the flavor favorably. The cigar finishes clean and cool enough to take pretty far down, with the ash holding on the cigar’s solid construction reflected in the sharp and even burn line.
- The Jericho Hill bands have a bit of a Cuban feeling to them, reminding me right away of the Ramón Allones Allones Extra Edición Limitada 2011 band, which made me think of another similar band.
- If you’ve never heard the song, there are several recordings of Cocaine Blues on YouTube; here’s one.
- This is the first use of a Mexican San Andrés wrapper by Crowned Heads, which might shock some given the decidedly Mexican artwork used for Las Calaveras.
- The flavor of the final third of the cigar proved to be one of the most difficult for me to put words to—even smoking four samples and paying an increasing amount of attention each time, I found myself struggling to write something other than it just tastes like what it tastes like, which I don’t have great words to describe. It’s enjoyable, just hard to pin down.
- I smoked one of each of the other vitolas in the Jericho Hill line for this review; the Willy Lee had a much more complex pre-light aroma that seemed to have a much more upfront of sweetness and tree sap, while the cigar offers a bit softer smoke, strength and flavor. The .44S came across almost surprisingly smooth as I thought the smaller ring gauge would bring out more of the earth note, but that didn’t seem to be the case, and a slightly hotter finish was its only negative. Finally, the LBV offered an impressive expression of the blend, as the pepper note was clean and strong, able to rise up over the earth note without overpowering it, but also could reach out and grab control of the senses at times.
- None of the sizes seemed to help me find better words for the flavors than what I was able to achieve by smoking the OBS, however.
- Should you smoke the Jericho Hill, be very wary of when that first bit of ash will drop off; it’s a lot sooner than you might expect and unexpected.
- You’ll notice that Jericho Hill doesn’t boldly feature the Crowned Heads logo. It’s on the warranty seal and in one of the small gold coins on the band, but that’s about it. Each of the company’s lines gets branding that is distinctive and doesn’t rely on the Crowned Heads name to carry it.
- To that point, I’ve come across cigar shop employees who weren’t 100 percent sure Las Calaveras was a Crowned Heads release and wondered why it didn’t feature the company’s branding more prominently.
- The Four Kicks Mule Kick seems like it never got quite the widespread acclaim I thought it deserved, possibly due to its limited release. For me it remains one of the higher ranking offerings from Crowned Heads, at least as I recall it.
- The cigars are scheduled to begin arriving at retailers at the end of July or early August.
- The limited edition Headley Grange Snaredrum is due to begin shipping to Federal Cigar in Portsmouth, N.H. tomorrow.
- Headley Grange will also be adding the Laguito No. 6 vitola this summer, a vitola that measures 6 x 56. It’s also expected to announced a limited edition release of the J.D. Howard Reserve.
- There’s a five-issue Marvel comic book series called The Dark Tower: Battle of Jericho Hill that was released from December 2009 – April 2010.
- As far as a real place called Jericho Hill, there was a ski area in Marlborough, Mass. known by that name that operated until 1996. There’s also a Vermont-based cheesemaker called Jericho Hill Farm, and a disc golf course in Vancouver, B.C. called Jericho Hill.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 35 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Crowned Heads.
- Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar is a Crowned Heads authorized retailer.
To say that I'm excited about what this new relationship between Crowned Heads and My Father might offer would be an understatement; I remain a big fan of Las Calaveras and my first experience with Jericho Hill has been very favorable. The flawless technical performance should come as no surprise given the track record of cigars coming out of the My Father factory, and while there are times that the Jericho Hill's flavor leaves me at a loss for descriptors, it never leaves me unsatisfied; more importantly, it leaves me wanting to fire up another one. My Father's capability with Mexican San Andrés was established for me with the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor made for Ashton, and the Jericho Hill only takes another step in solidifying the company's ability to deliver a quality experience with a tobacco variety that I continue to find geared for my palate.