If there was one theory of branding and marketing that Crowned Heads seemed to eschew, it was putting its name on its products.

Four Kicks, Headley Grange, J.D. Howard Reserve, Jericho Hill, Tennessee Waltz, La Imperiosa, Le Carême—the list goes on, and they all are presented without the Crowned Heads name, of course, it was never a secret that they all resided under the Crowned Heads banner.

In 2018, that changed with the release of the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII, a project that saw the brand return to Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.’s Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. in the Dominican Republic. A Mexican San Andrés wrapper was selected to cover an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaragua fillers.

“The genesis and inspiration of the company name ‘Crowned Heads’ was a far cry from anything ‘royal;’ however, over the years the Crowned Heads legion of supporters has been quietly and reverently referred to as our ‘Court,’” said the company when announcing the cigar. “By literal definition, a court is an extended royal household, which in some cases would be comprised of thousands of individuals. CHC Reserve was crafted specifically with a spirit of gratitude and humility towards those and for those that have supported Crowned Heads over the years.”

The Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII is offered in three sizes.

  • Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Corona Gorda (5 5/8 x 46) — $9.50 (Boxes of 20, $190.90)
  • Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Robusto (5 x 50) — $11 (Boxes of 20, $220)
  • Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Sublime (6 x 54) — $12.50 (Boxes of 20, $250)

There’s a total of 150,000 cigars created for this release, though it has not been disclosed how many were made for each size. Additionally, each vitola was blended specifically to the size.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Sublime
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
  • Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Binder: Ecuador
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro Extra
  • MSRP: $12.50 (Boxes of 20, $250)
  • Release Date: October 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: 150,000 Total Cigars*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

*As noted above, there is a total of 150,000 cigars made between the three sizes.

The Mexican San Andrés wrapper skews to the rustic looking side: dry in the fingertips with a healthy amount of tooth and texture. Veins aren’t terribly prominent, though on some samples it seems like I see some protruding from the binder, but the ones on the top are small. It’s a firm, but not rock hard roll, with seams and caps that show how the cigar was created due to a bit of color difference in the leaf. There is a touch of sweetness from the wrapper leaf on its own, a smell I want to call cranberries but I have a feeling that’s not quite right. The foot shows the same fragrance but omits any semblance of the taste. The aroma is generally light and bright in the nose with hardly any pepper or heavy notes to ground it, though the final sample has a smoky raisin aroma that is a departure from the other two. Flavor-wise, it’s not as bright as the aroma but has a cedar sweetness and some very light wood undertones, again lacking pepper. Much like with the aroma, the third sample is quite different, exhibiting more of the dark raisin sweetness though without the smoke, with a much more developed wood flavor behind that.

The difference between the pre-light aroma and cold draw to the flavor of the first puffs is remarkably stark, my palate and nose are greeted by a much earthier and fuller profile that has a decent amount of pepper to it, particularly through the nose. It’s not a full-powered bang, but it’s close, especially if you take a full first retrohale. The final sample continues to differentiate itself from the others, this time with a bit of burn and chili pepper. By the time the cigar has burned its first inch, the flavors are appreciably mellower and softer in the mouth, though retrohales are full of a sensation that has the body of black pepper but the brightness of white pepper. I’m not getting a ton of sweetness from the cigar, instead, some coffee beans start to come and shift the earth note—and flavor profile as a whole—into a slightly different direction. Smoke production has been plentiful if shy of copious, while the draw has been smooth and the burn line even.

The second third has a hint of creaminess at its onset that I generally wouldn’t associate with the components of this blend, but that doesn’t stop it from being very enjoyable, and at least lightly scratches my itch for some sweetness. There is still some earth and pepper in the blend, and once again the nose gets the cleaner and fuller of the two expressions, though both are starting to tick up in intensity. What is lacking—quantitatively, not qualitatively—is a bit more pronounced sweetness, something I tend to expect from Mexican San Andrés wrappers. There’s no shortage of earth as the cigar hits the midway point, and while it’s a flavor I enjoy quite a bit, it is on the dry side of the spectrum, so that comes with its expected drawbacks. The cigar continues to burn quite well, never suggesting any issue with combustion or smoke production. The tail end of this section sees the profile get a bit dryer on the palate and introduces a new spin on the pepper note, it too getting drier than it has been previously.

The start of the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Sublime continues on the dry and earthy side, and my hopes for getting any appreciable sweetness are getting more and more dashed by the puff. The profile does add some roundness at its core flavors, almost chocolate brownie-like but without the chocolate-forward flavor. More specifically, it’s like the crust of a well-baked brownie. Dovetailing with the change in the profile, my mouth gets dryer with each puff as the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Sublime progresses through its final third, and sips of water are becoming more needed and appreciated. Heat increases in the final inch-and-a-half, and there’s now a very unique sensation of the smoke hitting the roof of the mouth and biting into it, while the front half of the tongue gets the secondary impact. The finish gets a bit earthy with some lingering pepper for the palate, but the cigar never gets so hot or overly rough as to be unsmokebale, just a bit more robust as it burns down to about an inch in length.

Final Notes

  • The Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII is a prime example of a cigar that likely got punished on year-end lists by its release date. It began shipping in late October 2018, which means it got into people’s hands by early November at best. For halfwheel, that meant it was easily a few weeks away from review and to do so would mean bumping other cigars off the 2018 calendar and into 2019.
  • That said, the cigar placed eighth on The 2018 Consensus, which shows that a good number of media outlets found a way to get it reviewed and on their lists and scored it fairly highly.
  • The contrast in color between wrapper and filler isn’t consistently as stark as the first sample, but it is consistent.
  • My first encounter with the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII came at the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, when Brooks Whittington and I interviewed Jon Huber, and he brought some along for us to smoke.
  • The difference between the third sample in terms of vibrancy of flavors was quite noticeable, though it didn’t seem to affect the scoring that much.
  • Not surprisingly, there is some nicotine strength to be found in the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Sublime, enough that I could feel it once I stood up and started moving around.
  • Overall, I’d peg this at medium-plus to medium-full for the majority of the smoking time, with a few ventures into a full strength body and flavor profile.
  • While I didn’t notice it as much on the foot when I cut the cap of the first cigar a stark difference in the shades of tobacco used for the wrapper and the filler is revealed. I don’t consider the wrapper to be overly dark, but the filler leaves have the color of fresh cut firewood and the two create a visual contrast. The other two samples didn’t show as big of a difference.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was just over two hours on average.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Cigar Hustler, Corona Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop, JR Cigars and STOGIES World Class Cigars carry the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Sublime.
91 Overall Score

As I've mentioned before, I don't really get the chance to smoke a lot of cigars during the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show; between the workload and a lack of hands to hold a pen, notepad, camera and a cigar, it's just too much. That doesn't mean I don't get to light up the occasional cigar, and one of the ones I did was a Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII. It's also one of the few I actually remember smoking—and enjoying—so much so that I had been waiting to pick up a few more once they released. Six months after that initial cigar, the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII lives up to my memories of it: it delivers heaps of flavor via its rich, full and earthy blend while generally staying balanced and never overpowering the senses. While it could use a bit more sweetness to add complexity and a balance to its other flavors, it's not a overly detrimental absence from the profile, as the rest of the flavors do a more than admirable job. A solid offering from Crowned Heads that more than fits its name as an offering for the brand's true fans, and one that I anticipate I'll return to before long.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.