Way back in February of this year murmurs started flying about the followup to Crowned Heads’ popular debut, Four Kicks. Jon Huber announced the cigar, which was then known as “Project HG” in an email and gave a few details about the release—which he also announced would be available for the first time at the IPCPR show which starts today in Orlando.
While the name Four Kicks, the initial release of Crowned Heads, was inspired by the Kings of Leon song by the same name, Headley Grange is actually the name of the building in England where Led Zeppelin recorded parts of the album IV, among others. Jon has said that he wanted to blend a cigar that tasted the same as the distinctive drum beat in the song “When the Levee Breaks” which was recorded there. As with Four Kicks, cigar legend Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. is producing the cigars for Crowned Heads at his company’s factory in the Dominican Republic.
I wrote about all of the new sizes of the Headley Grange last month:
Headley Grange, the second release from Crowned Heads, will have five sizes as part of its full 2013 release according to Jon Huber. The cigar will debut at IPCPR in the Estupendos size (5 1/2 x 52) and will be limited to 1,000 boxes. Although not a limited edition, production will be limited for 2012.
Joining the Estupendos will be Eminentes (5 1/4 x 44), Corona Gorda (5 5/8 x 46), Hermoso No. 4 (5 x 48) and Dobles (6 1/8 x 50). Huber confirmed to halfwheel he expects the full release to ship by Spring 2013 and plans to announce pricing at IPCPR.
But enough of that, let’s get down to business, shall we?
- Cigar Reviewed: Headley Grange Estupendos
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuadoran Sumatra
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 5 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto Extra
- MSRP: n/a
- Date Released: August 2012
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production*
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 5
The wrapper is a great milk chocolate brown color with a few prominent veins, but fairly smooth to the touch other than that. It is perfect when squeezed and the slight box press is a nice touch. The wrapper smells slightly of barnyard, sweet cedar, hay and leather.
The first third starts with a strong leather note, along with some sweet fruit, maple, hay and creamy cedar. There is a slightly bitter undertone—but it is not overly strong—only noticeable, and does not last long. Just a touch of spice on the lips, but it never gets beyond that. There is some black pepper on the retrohale, but it is not overly strong at this point, and there is almost none in the mouth. Burn is wonderful and the draw is perfect. Strength starts and ends as a mild medium by the end of the first third.
At almost exactly the halfway point, the Headley Grange’s profile changes dramatically. First, a really great flavor that I can only describe as a doughy, sweet chocolate note. It does not stick around longer than 10 puffs, but it is quite distinctive for the time it is there. After that flavor fades, but is replaced by notes of earth, leather, nuts and just a touch of cinnamon. The largest changes are in the strength and the amount of pepper, both of which really start to pick up right at the halfway point, and continue to get stronger until the end of the cigar. The pepper note reminds me strongly of wasabi, a combination of pepper and spice with some heat behind it. However, the flavors are quite balanced with the strength, and the overall effect is quite pleasing on the palette. The construction remains excellent, both burn and draw.
The final third sees the strength continue to increase and the flavors continue to change. The wasabi note is still very much in the forefront on the retrohale and the flavors of dark chocolate, espresso, earth, hay and leather fight for dominance. While the creaminess from the first third increases, the sweetness is totally gone. The strength continues to increase as well, hitting the full mark and staying there for the rest of the cigar, but not going any further. The burn and draw continue to impress as well, and the Headley Grange is easily nubbed—not even getting warm at the end of the smoke.
- I smoked five of these samples and all were remarkably consistent in profile, flavors and construction. The profile changes at almost exactly the halfway point all all of the samples, although it does take a while to actually happen, so consistently that by the fifth sample I smoked, I was almost able to tell when it was going to change before it happened.
- The smoke production was impressive and it smelled amazing: sweet and rich with just a bit of a bite.
- The major increase in black pepper at about the halfway point was a very welcome change, but I find it extremely interesting that despite the strength, it was a note almost totally relegated to the retrohale, with almost none to be seen on the lips or mouth. In other words, if a smoker does not retrohale, they are going to miss the vast majority of that note.
- I said it in my review of the Four Kicks Corona Gorda, but it bears repeating: new (and older) cigar brands coming out 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 and exclusive content and a blog that is actually updated on a semi-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.
- All sizes are actually trunk pressed, not box-pressed. There is a distinct difference between the two, which you can read about here.
- You can see the video that Crowned Heads put out announcing the Headley Grange here.
- Jon Huber was once a drummer in a jazz band, which makes sense when you think about the fact that each of the releases Crowned Heads has released so far have musically based names.
- Much like the Cuenca y Blanco, I think it is cool that Crowned Heads is releasing this line in smaller ring gauges, while most of the market is going with larger and larger cigars. As mentioned above, the largest announced RG of the Headley Grange is 52. Once again, I seriously cannot wait to taste this blend in the Corona vitola.
- I LOVE the band, very classy without being overly simplistic. Having said that, the second I saw the band for the first time, I instantly noticed the similarities between one of my favorite Cuban releases this year, the La Escepción Selectos Finos Edición Regional Italia (2011). I asked Huber about it, and he mentioned that he was inspired by the band. You can see how they compare for yourself below:
- I have always been a fan of the Sumatra wrapper, as I think that it tends to add a nice creaminess, complexity and even some strength on top to almost any blend that it is used with. The Headley Grange is no exception.
- While Headley Grange as a line will be regular production in 2013, the company will only release the cigar in one size this year—the Estupendos. There will also only be 1,000 boxes.
- The ash is not overly attractive, salt and pepper gray, but does hold on for quite a while.
- I really like the trunk press, it quite distinctive, and really makes the cigar easier to smoke. It also differentiate the Headley Grange from the Four Kicks quite well on looks alone, since none of the Four Kicks are box-pressed at all.
- The building Headley Grange, which is a former poor house in East Hampshire, UK, has a very interesting history that you can read about here.
- The construction, burn and draw on all samples were excellent, and smoke production is outstanding.
- E.P. Carrillo, the cigar company of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.—who makes Headley Grange—is a site sponsor.
- The samples smoked for this review were sent to halfwheel by Jon Huber.
- The final smoking time for all samples averaged around one hour and 35 minutes.
The Bottom Line: If this cigar were a book, I would call it “A Tale of Two Halves.” The first half is nice and even, with just a touch of pepper and strength, and some nice, enjoyable flavors. You are thinking you have everything down, you already know how it is going to end, and then BAM!, the whole profile goes crazy. At almost exactly the halfway point, things change dramatically. While I would prefer a slightly smaller ring gauge, the trunk press makes up for it, and it is an easy cigar to smoke and enjoy. It seems to me that the Crowned Heads people are trying to produce a cigar that is different from Four Kicks at almost every turn: trunk pressed instead of round, stronger medium/full medium, strong black pepper/wasabi note, almost totally different profile, etc. It’s a very good cigar—one that I could smoke at any time of the day—and I predict they will fly off the shelves once people try them.
Final Score: 91