Cigar Buying Guides

2019 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to Crowned Heads Cigars


Editors/Reviewers: Jared Gulick, Gary Korb, John Pullo, Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Founded in 2011 by former CAO Cigars executives, Jon Huber and Mike Conder, Crowned Heads has become a beacon of excellence in the artisanal cigar landscape. Together, Huber and Conder have used their marketing expertise to “carve their own path” in a business with no shortage of imitators.

The company’s name was inspired by the character, Professor Marvel, from the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, on whose trailer was written, “Acclaimed by the Crowned Heads of Europe.” The name also reveals a completely unintentional coincidence: the ‘C’ in “Crowned” and the ‘H’ in “Heads” also stand for C onder and H uber.

Working cigar retail stores around the country and concentrating on the social media arena, Crowned Heads has built one of the most loyal followings among cigar smokers. Add to that the frequent high-tasting scores, top cigars of the year lists, and feature stories. Additionally, Crowned Heads was recognized by as the cigar “Company of the Year 2018.”

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads cigar reviews Crowned Heads logo wall

“We believe in a marriage of tradition with innovation,” says Huber. “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.’”

And Crowned Heads has had the good fortune to work with two of the best master cigar artisans in the business to create their cigars: Don José “Pepin” Garcia at the My Father cigar factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, band Ernesto Perez-Carrillo at Tabacalera La Alianza in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Working out of their Nashville, Tennessee headquarters, Conder & Huber are literally surrounded by music, which has also been the source for a lot of their inspiration. During the day they listen to a lot of music, which is also reflected in some of their line extensions. There are references to Led Zeppelin in the Headley Grange line, to Kings of Leon in the Four Kicks and Black Belt Buckle selections, and to Johnny Cash in the Jericho Hill line.

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Jon Huber Mike Conder at Crowned Heads office
Yes, there’s even a life-size photograph of Johnny Cash in the Crowned Heads office. From their web series, “Behind the Band” on YouTube.

Moreover, like a record album, each release has a unique story and vibe behind it, from the blend in the cigars to the graphics on the box. And not unlike a record label, the company treats its catalog “the way a record album would be to a band, with Crowned Heads being the band,” says Huber. Crowned Heads even calls its newsletter the “Set List.”

From the very beginning, Crowned Heads has concentrated on the time-honored tradition of cigar making where the keystone is built from quality, pride, and integrity.

With highly anticipated limited edition releases such as Las Calaveras, Mule Kick, the Headley Grange Drumstick, and the Tennessee Waltz – made exclusively for the state of Tennessee – and the critically-acclaimed Court Reserve XVIII introduced last year, Crowned Heads continues to push the envelope.

“We are not here to do it like everyone else,” adds Huber. “When the rules don’t make sense to us, we carve our own path.”

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads cigar reviews CYOP Carve Your Own Path
“CYOP”: the Crowned Heads motto, Carve Your Own Path.

For this Advisor Tasting Guide, we’ve sampled through the Crowned Heads lineup available at Famous Smoke Shop, a total of twelve cigars (limited editions not included). You’ll notice two different countries of origin in our cigar reviews below: the Dominican-made selections hail from Tabacalera Alianza, E.P. Carrillo’s factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic; for the cigars made in Nicaragua, all but the last on our list are produced at Pepin’s Tabacalera My Father in Estelí, Nicaragua. La Coalicion, a collaboration cigar between Crowned Heads and Drew Estate’s Willy Herrera, is made across town at La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. (There’s also a Crowned Heads/EPC-Montecristo collaboration called Ciudad de Musica, which we already covered in our CA Guide to Montecristo Cigars.)

This time, we review the brand’s releases in chronological order starting with Four Kicks (and its line extensions) and finish with their two most recent smokes, the Court Reserve XVIII and La Coalicion. Read along and we’ll give you our basic impressions of one of the more popular sizes – and while we always say “reviews are subjective” and “your palate may vary”, these quick reviews should give you a basic idea of what to expect from these blends – and more importantly, if it’s the right cigar for you. Already smoked them? Tell us what you like about these Crowned Heads cigars – or which one’s your favorite – in a comment at the end.

Crowned Heads Four Kicks Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Sublime (6” x 54 Toro)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder & Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Solidly-made. The 54 ring gauge gives this cigar a little more bulk for a nice hefty feel in the hand. The wrapper is slightly bumpy and even in color with a glossy patina, and finished in a triple seam cap.
Draw: Effortless.
Pre-light flavor: Sweet and leathery.
Toasting & Light: Using a triple flame torch from a good distance, the cigar lit fairly quickly revealing notes of earth, leather, and something that resembled butterscotch.
Base flavors: Earth, leather, sweet spices (nutmeg, cinnamon), cedar, butterscotch.
Retrohale: Smooth, with some of that butterscotch in the mix.
Aroma: Spicy.
Burn & Ash Quality: A slightly wonky edge in the first inch notwithstanding, the burn evened-out nicely and remained so for the duration. The ash was impressively firm and mostly dark grey in color with some black stippling. The first ash dropped at exactly 1-inch. (I really do measure such things.)
Balance of flavors: Excellent.

crowned heads cigars guide crowned heads four kicks cigar review by Gary Korb
Crowned Heads’ debut smoke, Four Kicks makes a pretty good intro cigar – as we found it smokes with more flavor than kick.

Summary: It’s interesting how differently a cigar can hit you when you haven’t smoked it in a long time, and the Four Kicks Sublime made me regret I hadn’t smoked more of them on a regular basis. For this 54-ringer, even in the first section I took more time between puffs, which kept its boiler a lot cooler.

This Corona Gorda also offers plenty of dense, creamy smoke. It’s very smooth and offers a laundry list of flavors that include, earth, leather, nuts, spices – mostly nutmeg and cinnamon – and herbal notes. All this wonderful complexity remained consistent through the segue into the second act. At that crossroads I picked-up flavors of cedar and a hint of butterscotch, as some pepper entered the mix on the finish.

Once the cigar got down to the final third, the smoke transitioned to a more earthy flavor along with some charred wood notes, as the sweet spice faded into the mist. Overall, a very solid and trusty smoke with plenty of flavors to discover.

Four Kicks was the first release from Crowned Heads, and I would add that it’s probably one of their best cigars to start with for anyone who hasn’t yet discovered the Crowned Heads brand. You could argue that the milder Luminosa is a better starter, but the Sublime’s medium-body and impressive variety of flavors make it a worthwhile cigar that won’t overpower new cigar smokers, while satisfying the more refined palate of experienced cigar smokers. – Gary Korb

Crowned Heads Four Kicks Black Belt Buckle Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Sublime (6” x 54 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Firmly rolled.
Draw: Easy.
Pre-light flavor: Almost like black coffee.
First Few Puffs: Peppery.
Base flavors: Dark coffee, black licorice, oak, charred wood.
Aroma: Charry.
Burn & Ash Quality: Fairly solid.
Balance of flavors: Well-balanced with consistent flavors.

Summary: This is a limited offering from the Crowned Heads clan, with the supply created exclusively for Famous Smoke Shop. And like any limited run cigar, some damned nice tobaccos were chosen for this beefy blend. Nicaraguan leaf makes up the binder and filler inside, but it’s that toothy, oily sort of rustic looking Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro leaf that gives this cigar a whole lot of intense full flavor.

Now, I thought I would experience a sharp blast of pepper at the outset, you know, front-loaded for bear. But instead there was a shot of delicious sweetness coming from that outer leaf that lasted throughout the first inch, along with a distinct note of black coffee. Oh, it’s full-bodied alright, and about two inches in to halfway through, a charry oakiness hits the taste buds with a bit of anise – a slight black licorice sort of flavor – a very interesting combination.

crowned heads cigars guide crowned heads four kicks black belt buckle cigar review by Tommy Zman Zarzecki
Four Kicks got its first Maduro treatment in 2015, a tough n’ toothy Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. It smokes darker, and a little fuller, than the original.

Admittedly, I was a bit timid to try retrohaling this blackened beast and I was somewhat right as it kicked my ash pretty good. Oftentimes retrohaling will whack you with some flavors you’re not getting while smoking straight up, and this is where I got that smack of pepper and spiciness that I was originally expecting. Now, I’m not saying that you have to retrohale your cigars, but that’s how blenders get the deep inner flavors from a cigar that they are creating.

The EP Carrillo factory out of the Dominican Republic makes this hefty hitter, so as always, the construction and the draw is damned near as perfect as it gets. The ash is a fairly solid dark gray, which kind of matches its charry inner component. But there’s a nice balance here between sweet and charry, making it a unique flavor profile for a very different kind of cigar. And if you want to talk drink pairings, the sweetness of a good bourbon would match well. I’d also like to try this with a hearty red wine like a full-bodied Cab or a zesty South African Shiraz.

The Black Belt Buckle might not be everybody’s cup of tobacco, but if you’re digging the tasting notes I laid out here, I’m going to have to say it’s a must-try for your cigar bucket list. – Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Crowned Heads Four Kicks Maduro Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Corona Gorda (5 5/8” x 46)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Habano Maduro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: A dark brown wrapper that’s oily and uneven in color or form.
Draw: Somewhat tight.
Pre-light flavor: Spicy and sweet.
Toasting & Light: Spicy and nutty.
Base flavors: Bread, earth, cocoa, and sweetness.
Retrohale: Spicy, yet smooth.
Aroma: Almost floral and sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: A firm, dusty grey ash that doesn’t dislodge easily and a mostly-straight burn line that, at times, canoed slightly. My sample also seemed to burn a bit too quickly.
Balance of flavors: A great balance of spice, sweetness, and grain-like earthy flavors.

Summary: Drawing inspiration down to the name of the cigar, from the retro-rock song Four Kicks by Kings of Leon, Crowned Heads’ Four Kicks Maduro is meant to be an anti-establishment anthem.

“The song was filled with anger, rebellion, confidence, and determination,” said the cigar’s creator, Jon Huber. “In a way, the final blend we selected smokes in this same manner. It opens big, bold, and in your face.” That sounds interesting, but does the cigar exhibit this brash post-punk character?

crowned heads cigars guide crowned heads four kicks Maduro cigar review by Jared Gulick
Another (but different) Four Kicks Maduro, this one is a Habano. If you crave a little more oomph – Four Kicks Maduro is where it’s at.

Pre-light flavors were spicy and sweet, and everything seemed to be on track for the experience Jon promised. The first puff or two after lighting the cigar was quite strong, but after the initial hit the cigar settled down considerably. Notes of bread, cocoa, and muted earthiness were topped by a sweetness on the finish, especially in its aroma. The cigar continued in this regard until about the halfway mark when a sudden headiness hit like a brick through a window.

The earthy, grainy tones at this juncture were in the spotlight, and the sweetness was all but gone. Retrohaling brought considerable servings of pepper and spice, and doing so only emboldened that swimming feeling between my ears. After another two inches the sweetness reappeared on the finish and re-balanced the flavors. The smoke almost seemed to get gradually sweeter, and less heady until the end. While it didn’t pan out to be the genre of my choosing, I think at the very least it lived up to the expectations that Crowned Heads set for it. If you like cigars that surprise you along the way, especially when they’re strong, Four Kicks Maduro is the three-chord buzzfest you’ve been seeking. – Jared Gulick

Crowned Heads Headley Grange Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Hermoso No. 4 (5” x 48 Robusto)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Some modest wrapper color mismatch near the foot; firmly packed and soft box pressed, this Robusto is neatly rolled in a leaf that has a slight bit of oil and toothiness.
Draw: Two cuts with a Perfect Cutter gets me a nice, clear draw.
Pre-light flavor: Sweet, with a cedary spice and nuts.
Toasting & Light: Oak, sweetness and leather.
Base flavors: Leather, earth, nuts and coffee.
Retrohale: Slight coffee and sweet – almost floral. Adds pepper along the way.
Aroma: Warm and smoky.
Burn & Ash Quality: Tight & white; a bit wavy, but no touch ups needed.
Balance of flavors: Very flavorful…you may not notice the strength.

Summary: So a couple things to unpack with Headley Grange…Hermoso means “handsome”; it’s also the traditional Cuban factory name for cigars rolled to 48RG, and from 5 to 6.5″ (named Hermoso No. 1, No. 2, etc.). It’s a bit thinner than a Robusto, so it’s passable if you want to call this a Grand Corona.

Crowned heads cigars guide crowned heads headley grange cigar review by John Pullo
This CH smoke lays down a solid flavor groove – and saves some of its best riffs for last.

There’s also the Led Zeppelin tie-in that’s now famous in cigar lore, how Huber played the drum beat from When the Levee Breaks to EPC over the phone and said, “Blend this sound.” (that’s the short version.) As for Headley Grange, that’s the name of the estate where Zeppelin recorded for a time. So armed with a Zeppelin playlist of my own, I got to work…

The downbeat hits with a taste of oak, leather and a peppery-sweetness (but more sweet than pepper). Toasty, too – there’s not a ton of pepper in the smoke, but I can feel it tingle on my lips and tongue for sure.

It’s bold but not brawny – John Bonham had some nuance, after all. Overall, the first half smokes warm and sweet. Then the flavors take a dry turn: leather, earth and nuts show up in the profile, just before dark coffee notes take over. Then the Headley Grange ups a bit in intensity – pepper muscles its way forward, and a later retrohale burns with a little ginger.

Good smoke production throughout, and the slight box press makes the Headley Grange comfortable to hold in the hand and in the mouth.

It may have been inspired by Levee, but the smoke as a whole has some sweet riffs and subtleties that make me think it smokes more Bring it On Home or How Many More Times. Good stuff, if you’re in the mood for a hearty Nicaraguan cigar that doesn’t overpower – because no one sticks around just to watch a drum solo. – John Pullo

Crowned Heads J.D. Howard Reserve Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: HR52 (6” x 52 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Brazil Arapiraca Maduro
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: An “average” shade of maduro, it actually looks more rosado; very rustic leaf is more leathery than oily.
Draw: Some resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Earth, wood and dry spice with a sweet cocoa-ish smell at the foot.
Toasting & Light: Wood, red wine and leather.
Base flavors: Coffee, wood, pepper, cocoa.
Retrohale: Wood and brown sugar; later, it’s fresh ground coffee and sweet (but potent) spice.
Aroma: Meaty and sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: Some wonk gives way to an almost straight burn. Salt n’ pepper ash stacks nice and tight – holds well at an inch-plus at a time.
Balance of flavors: Intense flavors – heavy on smokiness.

Summary: As with all Crowned Heads cigars, a nod to history is in order…here, it’s the alias – J.D. Howard – that Jesse James took upon his retirement from an outlaw life of liberating money from banks and trains.

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads J.D. Howard Reserve cigar review by John Pullo
J.D. Howard Reserve smokes with a sweetness that belies its rustic look.

Out of the gate, this Toro smokes like a saddlebag: rich with leather and earth, along with a smoked wood and black cherry finish. There’s even a Teriyaki kind of taste; together, it hits the senses like someone’s cooking over mesquite wood.

By 1/3, the J.D. Howard shows a bit of creaminess as it takes off from medium body, and adds a solid backdrop of pepper as the intensity slowly climbs. By halfway the flavors tighten up a bit and get a little dry: there’s a wicked outpouring of coffee flavor, laced with a bit of baker’s chocolate. Soon enough, the taste goes from coffee to the coffee beans, while the pepper borders on char.

In there came one of the most vivid retrohale experiences of my life: rich, ground coffee, like you just buried your nose in a pile of the stuff. THAT opens up the sinuses…

The blend, according to Huber and Conder, promises ”a rugged yet balanced smoke that is medium in body and full in taste.” That it is – and if you enjoy cigars with a more rustic and woody flavor, but find a fire cured smoke too much for your liking, this J.D. Howard Reserve hits the mark. – John

Crowned Heads Jericho Hill Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Willy Lee (6” x 54 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Maduro
Binder & Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Perfect. The wrapper is flawless and seamlessly rolled. There were no soft spots and the box pressing resulted in some nicely rounded edges. The color has a slight tawniness to it, and the cap was applied with two seams. The weight of the cigar felt good in my hand, too.
Draw: Just right. (with a V-cut)
Pre-light flavor: Leathery with a hint of saltiness.
Toasting & Light: The cigar lit well and with little effort revealing notes of earth, sweet wood, and salt.
Base flavors: Earth, cedar, vanilla toffee, sweet spices, roasted coffee, black pepper.
Retrohale: Nutty and earthy.
Aroma: Pleasantly sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: The burn was perfect right from the start revealing a good density of smoke plus a nearly white and fairly solid ash. The nuggets landed in half-inch pieces.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.

Summary: Something about the narrower shape of the box-pressed head inspired me to use a V-cutter on this cigar. It just sort ‘a called out to me – V-cut, V-cut! Some full disclosure is also in order: The Jericho Hill selection is among my top 3 favorites in the Crowned Heads stable, so not only was I already familiar with the line (I usually smoke the OBS and LBV), but I was expecting it to be every bit as wonderful. Moving along . . .

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads Jericho Hill cigar review by Gary Korb
Don Pepin-made, Johnny Cash-inspired: Jericho Hill is very full flavored, and makes a great pairing cigar.

At only half-an-inch in the flavors were already caramelizing into a rich, balanced mix of earth, cedar, and vanilla toffee, as a smack of pepper lingered on the finish with a little scratch on the back of the throat. The smoke was especially smooth and produced a respectable volume of creamy smoke.

Moving into the second act, the flavors carried over. Everything was moving along nicely in harmony, while some of the peppery finish began to lighten-up at this stage. It was the transition to the final third where the rubber met the road. Sweet spices and notes of roasted coffee rose to the surface, the earthier notes opted for the down elevator, and a hint of saltiness nudged the pepper out of the way on the finish.

I suggest letting the cigar rest longer when moving into the final inches since taking lighter puffs will reveal more flavor nuances and prevent any charry flavors from bubbling-up.

All-in-all, an enjoyable full-flavored cigar that pings all the bumpers on the table. Try pairing a wine with the Willy Lee, like a Spanish Rioja – or if you prefer something stronger, a good single malt like The Macallan 12 year-aged. – Gary

Crowned Heads La Imperiosa Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Double Robusto (6 3/8” x 50)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano Oscuro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Oils and a faint bit of tooth on this leathery Oscuro – deep, rich coffee bean brown color.
Draw: Moderate resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Dried fruit, earth, mild spice.
Toasting & Light: Pepper, wood and nuts.
Base flavors: Dried fruit, leather, creamy spice, nuts, wood.
Retrohale: Earth, with a hint of spice.
Aroma: Dark chocolate.
Burn & Ash Quality: Grey-white. Tight. Clean stacks. Holds well, burns pretty straight.
Balance of flavors: Strikes a great balance between the layers of flavor and overall strength.

Summary: Consider this a second bite at the apple – this is the same blend that My Father Cigars assembled for Crowned Heads’ highly coveted and much raved-about 2014 Las Calaveras Limited Edition. So whatever magic Huber/Conder & Co. whipped up to make this a regularly available smoke, send them a thank you note.

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads La Imperiosa cigar review by John Pullo
If you are put off by overspiced cigars, then set your sights on La Imperiosa – it’s a great example of Nicaragua’s more savory side.

After the opening volley of firepower, a delicious, buttery-rich and sweet layer of flavor drops on top of this Oscuro; add a little meatiness, and it’s savory already.

Before long, a faint bit of cocoa appears – the smoke is laced with creamy pepper. Things get even more rich in the second half with a nice bit of kick from the Nicaraguan tobaccos, leaving a sweet n’ salty taste on the finish.

La Imperiosa smoke medium plus and cool to the nub, but it’s going to take you a while to get there as this Double Robusto is a solid 2 hour cigar. Don’t be surprised if this thick Oscuro wrapper needs a touch up along the way…it’s just what they do.

You may be put off by overspiced Nicaraguan cigars – let me assure you that this is not one of them, leaning instead on the rich and savory notes these tobaccos bring to the mix. An acclaimed return to the market is also an indicator of why, when this was Las Calaveras, that this was such an in-demand Crowned Heads cigar. Smoke it for yourself, and see. – John

Crowned Heads Le Carème Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Canonazo (5 7/8” x 52 Toro)
Strength: Medium Plus (listed Full)
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Inconsistently taupe in color, slightly toothy, and oily, the cigar is well rolled and adorned with a deep cap of three turns.
Pre-light flavor: Raisins and an almost honey-like hint.
Toasting & Light: Dry and nutty.
Base flavors: Caramel, raisins, and dry nuts with a dash of fruit and smokiness.
Retrohale: Peppery and spicy with nuances of caramel and fruit.
Aroma: Creamy, sweet, and woody.
Burn & Ash Quality: Solid grey ash with a thin, cool burn line. While it holds well, the ash does get a hair flaky once it comes off. I needed one touch up, but nothing more.
Balance of flavors: Complex, interesting, and delicious with a broad scope of flavors and nuances.

Summary: Le Carème cigars are named for the legendary 1800s chef Marie Antoine Carème whose parting gift to the world was the popularization of chocolate soufflé. Blended by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo for Crowned Heads, it’s meant to serve as a dessert cigar after a hearty, savory meal. The cigar was supposed to exhibit that soufflé character. It didn’t, and truthfully, it doesn’t really matter.

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads Le Careme cigar review by Jared Gulick
Le Careme – extra complex, with “a broad scope of flavors and nuances.” A nice kick to it, too.

Let me start things off with a spoiler. This was far and away one of the best cigars I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The cold draw was raisin-flavored and sweet. We often say that tasting notes are not meant to be literal associations, that they reside more along the lines of reminiscence. Usually something in the smoke will remind you of something, or possibly give off the taste you get from a specific aroma – like when someone says that something tastes like something else smells – but this note was pure flavor, like I had literally popped a raisin into my mouth.

Setting the cigar alight made for dry and nutty nuances that soon gave way to more notes of raisins, caramel, dry nuts, and a dash of fruit. The smoke was chewy, and on the finish it got a little smoky at times. I’d almost be prone to believing there was a dash of fire-cured tobacco sprinkled in the blend, but there isn’t.

The second half of the cigar took a slightly earthier and spicier turn. The power kicked in a bit here, but I still wouldn’t say the cigar ever reached full-bodied status. The raisins and caramel could still be found on the retro and in the base profile, but the cigar settled-in and the spread of flavors had tightened. Still, it seemed just when I thought the cigar had dialed back, the sweetness popped up, or one of the notes of nuts, caramel, or smokiness reiterated itself.

The brass tacks: Le Carème is a connoisseur’s cigar. It’s not meant for aging or sitting in a collection. It’s simply meant to be smoked straight out of the box. Cigars like this are few and far between. If you haven’t yet tasted Ernesto’s blends, this, in my humble opinion, is one of his finest. – Jared

Crowned Heads Las Mareas Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Olas (6 1/8” x 46 Churchill)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Nicaragua Corojo ’99
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Reddish brown and consistently colored, smooth, and four turns to its cap.
Draw: Consistent and easy.
Pre-light flavor: Slightly spicy.
Toasting & Light: Peppery and heavy-hitting.
Base flavors: Dark wood, rich tobacco, and savory nuances.
Retrohale: Spicy, peppery, and intense.
Aroma: Woody and pleasant.
Burn & Ash Quality: A bit of a canoeing issue and a flaky, grey ash.
Balance of flavors: Up front, power is front and center; the second half is much more flavor-oriented.

Summary: Las Mareas translates to The Tides, and visually, every aspect of the cigar follows a wave-like theme. From the box art, and even its wood grain, to the band design and the names of the vitolas, the brand oozes Hawaii surf-culture from which Crowned Heads’ John Huber drew his inspiration. So, did this cigar ride the barrel, or did it end up as a junkyard dog?

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads Las Mareas cigar review by Jared Gulick
Inspired by the waves, but Las Mareas is more tsunami-esque when it comes to strength and body. But it is a Pepin, so we’re not all that surprised.

On the cold draw, Las Mareas was somewhat spicy and peppery. There was a slight burning sensation at that point, but the intensity only increased from there. An eruption of pepper and spices were evident within a few puffs, and the retrohale was utterly unforgiving. It took me by surprise and left me with one piece of advice to throw your way – don’t smoke this cigar in the morning!

During the first inch-and-a-half there was a lot of canoeing going on, but it corrected itself without touching it up, so I chalked it up to a damp spot on the foot. The flavors at this stage were a little muted. It seemed like the emphasis was on strength. Most of what I perceived was dark wood and rich tobacco flavors, but they were both overshadowed by a headiness and that all too familiar feeling you get in your gut with powerful cigars.

At the halfway point, my Las Mareas throttled down considerably, and new flavors emerged. There was a savory nuttiness and a sweetness on the finish reminding me that it is Corojo-wrapped and this continued through until the finale. I wish the cigar had been this way all along. There’s something to be said for a strong cigar, and admittedly, sometimes I just want a decent nicotine buzz, but the second half’s tastiness was worth much more than the swift kick in the ass from the first. If you love front-loaded pepper bombs, Las Mareas will probably pass your premium tobacco litmus test. My parting piece to you is that the flavor on the backend is worth the wait, as long as this cigar serves as dessert to a filling meal. – Jared

Crowned Heads Luminosa Cigar Review


Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Toro (6 ½” x 52)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Superb hand rolled construction.
Draw: Buttery smooth.
Pre-light flavor: Tobacco sweetness.
First Few Puffs: Nutty & creamy.
Base flavors: Nuts, cream, citrus, spice.
Aroma: Very toasty.
Burn & Ash Quality: Fairly solid.
Balance of flavors: Not overly complex but very flavorful.

Summary: The boys at Crowned Heads are known for their beefy, full bodied cigars. But Jon Huber must have been a baseball pitcher at one point in his life because man, did he ever throw a wicked curveball with Luminosa.

“I felt there was a void in our portfolio of blends”, says Jon Huber, “We really didn’t have your traditional cigar you could pair with coffee.”

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads Luminosa cigar review by Tommy Zman
If you’re more in the mellow-medium camp, we consider Luminosa an easy way to introduce yourself to the Crowned Heads “taste.”

Created in conjunction with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, this mellow to medium bodied stick sports an Ecuadorian outer leaf that’s a little more golden brown than a typical Connecticut. But the beauty of this cigar lies in the all Nicaraguan core that gives some really nice spice on the palate.

The second you light up, a nutty creaminess comes through with a natural sweetness that is incredibly pleasant to the senses. As you work your way down an inch or so, a rich and almost buttery creaminess comes into play, and it’s not subtle at all. There’s a nuttiness that’s quite prominent, and as it crept towards the halfway point, a wonderful hit of citrus developed to the point where I said out loud, “Damn, I really like this cigar”. This cylinder of light had now grabbed my undivided attention. At this point I performed a hearty retrohale and the base flavors intensified to the point where I had to do it a few more times. Even without the retrohale, the flavor profile began to ramp up a few notches bringing it into the category of medium in strength but very full flavored. And like Mr. Huber suggested, I paired mine with my morning coffee and that’s really all I needed for breakfast, although a slab of crispy bacon might have been the only thing to make it better.

Construction wise, you can’t make a cigar any better, but you would expect nothing less from EP Carrillo. The draw is pretty much perfect letting off a whole lot of fragrant sweet smoke. All I can say is, if you want to try taking a swing at a curveball, the Luminosa is one heck of a nice change of pace, kind of like a bases-loaded double off the left field fence. – Tommy Zman

Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Robusto (5” x 50)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Ecuador
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Nicely built and seamlessly rolled. Wrapper has an attractive ebony color from head to toe. Finished with a two seam cap.
Draw: Open. Smoke flows freely through the head.
Pre-light flavor: Nutmeg and hazelnut.
Toasting & Light: The cigar lights pretty easily. The first few puffs offer a rich-tasting mix of white pepper and sweet spice.
Base flavors: Earth, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, nutty elements, cocoa, leather, charred wood.
Retrohale: Pepper and raisins.
Aroma: Sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: Burn is even with a barely noticeable carbon line. Ash is almost entirely grey and very firm.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.

Summary: I smoked my first Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII shortly after their arrival at the Famous Smoke Shop retail cigar store. That cigar was the Toro-sized Sublime, and I remembered it fondly. So, how was the sequel?

Following a nutmeg and hazelnut flavored cold draw, once lit, the cigar got off to an uber-creamy start with a spicy mix of pepper and sweet tobacco. There was also a fair amount of earth, nutty elements, and a copious amount of dense, chewy smoke. The mix rounded out after the first inch leaving the peppery notes in the dust. What remained was a well-balanced, medium-plus smoke consisting mostly of earth, nuts, and sweet spice.

Crowned Heads Cigars Guide Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII cigar review by Gary Korb
Crowned Heads’ “thank you” cigar to their fans, Court Reserve is limited to 150,000 cigars that have been described as “stunningly good” – which is why it made our Top 25 cigars list for 2018.

As the burn approached the midpoint, some cocoa-like notes chimed-in with a hint of leather in tow. At the midpoint, more sweet spices rose to the surface revealing the “sweet spot.” More defined notes of nutmeg and cinnamon fell-in, underscored by a thin layer of earthiness. Everything was in play at this point, and what we had here was a deliciously complex smoke with a healthy, full body. A retrohale was in order at this point, and that came with a mix of pepper and raisins. Interesting.

The last act held-up with a chewy mix of nuts, cocoa, and sweet spices, but in the final inch some charred wood arose. It was far from a buzz-kill, since most of the base flavors remained at the surface but you have to keep in mind that this is only a 5-inch cigar.

Suffice it to say. . . the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII is one of the label’s most refined and complex blends. There seems to be a pattern here, starting with the mellow, creamy Luminosa. As you work your way through the stable the blends become more intriguing, and the XVIII is the chart topper. Best reserved for the experienced cigar smoker, this Robusto would be well-served as an after dinner smoke paired with a fine single malt, Port, or espresso. – Gary

Crowned Heads La Coalicion Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua – La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
Size: Siglo (6” x 52 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Binder: Sumatra
Filler: Dominican Republic and Nicaragua

Construction: Vintage leather brown in color with a spattering of dark spots and precisely rolled.
Pre-light flavor: Fruit and salted crackers.
Toasting & Light: Butter, light spices, earth, and pepper.
Base flavors: Rounds out quickly with waves of nuts, black pepper, wood, and a hint of cream.
Retrohale: Smooth, warm, spicy, and offers some citrus notes.
Aroma: Roasted nuts.
Burn & Ash Quality: Evenly marbled grey and white ash with a solid burn that required no touch-ups.
Balance of flavors: Perfection.

Summary: Crowned Heads are no strangers to partnerships. Their duets include Montecristo, among their regular go-to factories – My Father and Carrillo Cigar Company. When they rocked the industry with news that they were splitting blending duties with Drew Estate’s Willy Herrera for La Coalicion at 2019’s IPCPR, the anticipation was palpable. But does it stack up to the hype?

Yes. Yes, it does… The cigar opened more mellow than I expected. There was butter, gentle spices, pepper, and earth. At that point, the profile was dead-center medium.

La Coalicion intensified as it burned, but it also rounded out and smoothed in its flavor. Its earthy qualities – those took the back seat. And near the second inch, nuances of nuts, black pepper, cream, and wood were at the forefront.

By the time I reached the middle, it was a medium-plus performance. Flares of citrus poked through the retrohale – with a mule’s kick of nicotine felt deep in the belly. That edge wears off a bit toward the end, but I’d still pair the cigar with a full meal.

The verdict? Some cigars look great on paper, but flounder after the buzz has quieted. This isn’t one of them.