Cigar Memoir: How did the idea of State exclusives like the Tennessee Waltz come about? Were you always planning on doing exclusives for other states like the Yellow Rose for Texas and the Paniolo Especiale 2015 for Hawaii?
Jon Huber: The ‘state exclusive’ idea pretty much came organically, if not by total accident. Truth is, I’d wanted to use Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper before Tennessee Waltz, but it never became a possibility until I began working with the Garcias (My Father Cigars). So, last year on one of my trips to the factory, I asked Jaime (Garcia) if we could play with some Broadleaf blends; once I had the green light, we tried one blend in particular that really ‘rocked my world.’ I had the idea in the back of my mind to do something for our home state (Tennessee), so I decided to use that blend for what eventually became ‘Tennessee Waltz.’
Once Waltz was out and I saw the response, I knew the blend was solid and that we probably could’ve released that blend as a regular production brand nationwide; it was/is that good. Later last year, Marvin Chang (R. Field Wine Co. in Hawaii) approached me about an exclusive cigar. I told him we have this blend (Tennessee Waltz) that was only available in Tennessee—I thought it would be a great fit for his shop exclusive. So we created ‘Paniolo Especiale 2015,’ which is the Waltz blend in a 5 5/8 x 46 Corona Gorda vitola. Yellow Rose followed suit after we saw that we had enough distribution and support in Texas to justify a state exclusive there.
What is important to know—and is seemingly widely misunderstood—about these ‘state exclusive’ releases, is that they are REGULAR PRODUCTION releases and not LIMITED EDITIONS. These are cigars we make on an ongoing basis for each of these states. People who don’t live in these states can still get Waltz, Paniolo, and Rose; they just need to contact a retailer in one of those states (in Hawaii it is only available via one source, i.e., R. Field Wine Co/Marvin Chang). Funny enough, I was in Hawaii last week for the Paniolo launch, and I met several consumers who had purchased boxes of Tennessee Waltz from shops here in Tennessee.
CM: When is there gonna be a California exclusive? (my state)
JH: No plans for a California state exclusive. We really don’t have the retail support base to substantiate it right now.
CM: I’ve noticed that Crowned Heads has been creating an enormous amount of limited editions this last year and half. Was this a conscious decision to change the direction of Crowned Heads?
JH: Define “enormous amounts.” It’s funny that people say that about Crowned Heads, but in reality, the amount of LEs we’ve released pale in comparison to a lot of other manufacturers. Look at Tatuaje, Illusione, or RomaCraft or whatever. Pete has more ‘Monster’ facings than all of our LEs and regular productions combined. Yes, we have annual releases of limited production cigars, i.e., Las Calaveras and Mason-Dixon Project. Aside from those, we did The Buckingham (Cigar Federation), and Hecho Con Corazon (Hickory Cigar Club). AV Double-W is a regular production cigar. Tennessee Waltz is a regular production cigar. Yellow Rose will be a regular production cigar.
CM: I guess my wording wasn’t very good. I suppose what I meant is you guys had a lot of releases in the last year and half, limited or otherwise. Tatuaje has been in that game for years along with others like Viaje and Illusione. I only bring it up because for the first few years in business Crowned Heads was mainly doing a new regular-release once a year (Four Kicks, Headly Grange, JD Howard Reserve, Jericho Hill). Obviously you had the Mule Kick and the Headley Grange Drumstick but last year/this year was jam-packed with releases with the Tennessee Waltz, Yellow Rose, Paniolo Especiale 2015, Mason Dixon Project (actually two releases), Angel’s Anvil, and your project with Cigar Federation, The Buckingham.
JH: I see what you’re saying but it’s important to realize the difference between annual releases, regular production releases, and LEs (one and dones)….I kinda wish people knew how many “shop exclusives” I’ve had to turn down over the last couple years…but I /still/ get kickback and grief from the “haters”…guess you can’t win for losing…?
CM: Being a relatively small company when compared to the likes of General, Altadis, Davidoff, etc. Are you actually preparing for the possibility of an end to the embargo on Cuba? Not to mention the heavy regulations the FDA is proposing?
JH: If I was to focus and dwell upon things like Cuba or the FDA, I couldn’t free up my mind to focus upon what is important, i.e., creating the best cigars possible on as consistent a basis as possible.
CM: Is there a possibility of branching out to even more factories for future Crowned Heads projects?
JH: We are very fortunate to work with two of the best cigar manufacturers in the world: Tabacalera La Alianza (Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Jr / EPC Cigars) and My Father Cigars. I can’t see much sense in fixing what is not broken.