This past week I was visiting my son Dominic, in Nashville, TN and took some time to visit with Jon Huber at the Crowned Heads headquarters. The headquarters is a simple building, located in a small industrial complex off the Cumberland River. There is no big sign or pizzazz, just a door with the name “Crowned Heads” on it.
The story of Crowned Heads goes back quite a few years and this location is actually the third location of the company in Nashville. The company has deep roots in the cigar industry, going back to CAO cigars, also founded in Nashville, TN. Jon and his business partner Mike Conder were originally executives for CAO Cigars before that company was acquired in 2007 by Henri Wintermans Cigars, based in Holland. At the time, Jon was CAO Director of Lifestyle Marketing and Mike was CAO Vice President of Marketing.
When the newly acquired company made plans to move CAO operations down to Richmond, VA – Jon and Mike made the decision to depart and form their own company and eventually settled on the name Crowned Heads. That name, as Jon explained, was a name he got from watching the Wizard of Oz. The words Crowned Heads was on the side of Professor Marvel’s wagon that exclaimed, “Professor Marvel – Acclaimed By – The Crowned Heads of Europe – Past Present and Future”.
With the name secured, the duo set out on creating the first Crowned Heads blend, which was the renowned Four Kicks cigar that hit the market in 2011 and set the wheels in motion for the start of a long line of Crowned Heads blends, including the most famed and sought after, Las Calaveras limited edition, annual blend.
According to Jon Huber;
“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.”
The Crowned Heads website explains the company’s belief:
“We believe in continuous improvement, and in a marriage of tradition with innovation. We feel that tobacco lives, breathes, and speaks to us; it leads the blend and it names the brand. As Michelangelo once said, ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.‘”
Tobacco ‘speaking to us‘ is an understatement. Jon explained to me, when they created the Headley Grange cigar, he played a Led Zeppelin recording of “When the Levee Breaks” over the phone to Ernesto-Perez Carrillo, and said he wanted a cigar that tasted and performed as the song sounded. Mike thought he was crazy but Ernesto listened and said, “I got it!” and he indeed did get it. Now that I know the full story behind the Headley Grange, I need to go back and smoke that cigar and listen to the song over and over. Jon actually compares the blending of a cigar, akin to creating music, where each blend has a certain vibe and story behind it.
Now after decades in the business, Jon most recently collaborated with Willy Herrera from Drew Estate and they collectively produced a terrific cigar, which is hitting the shelves now, known as the La Coalición. You can check out the Stogie Press review of that cigar here:
Here is the full interview I did with Jon. We delve into cigars, life, and how being in the cigar business is the only thing he really ever wanted to do, ever since he walked into a cigar shop to buy his father a box of cigars for a gift. Listen to that and many other reveals in the video below.
I want to thank Jon for the time he spent with me during his busy day and also the time his national sales manager, Miguel Schoedel, took to introduce my son and I to some fine Nashville cigar shops during my visit.