Jon Huber on Making Crowned Heads a Ten-Year Overnight Success

In an industry where success is counted in “dog years,” where one year feels like seven, Jon Huber made Crowned Heads an overnight success. But! It took him ten years. 

Huber started in the cigar business in 1996 with CAO. According to Huber working for CAO was like being in a fraternity. They worked, hung out, smoked cigars, and partied together. It was a closely knit group. When CAO got purchased in 2010, Jon didn’t know where he was headed. He only knew he wanted to stay in the cigar industry. Mike Conder, his boss at the time, asked Huber if he wanted to start a cigar company with him. He agreed as long as he was allowed to do it his way. Mike gave him carte blanche. 

In December of 2010, Jon left CAO and embarked on what would eventually become Crowned Heads. Their first year, 2011, was spent determining who would make their cigars. Jon and Mike visited different factories. They came in contact with cigar impresario Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, who at the time was not doing any contract work. Eventually, they were able to convince Ernesto to produce the cigars. 

When they arrived in the Dominican Republic to develop the blend, Perez-Carrillo told them that they were going to do all the work. He said, “if it succeeds, congratulations. If it fails, it’s not on me.” Huber liked the idea. In fact, it was exactly what he wanted to hear. They went to work right away. Ernesto taught Jon a lot about tobacco and cigars in a short amount of time. Four Kicks was launched in November of 2011. 

Aside from producing a great cigar, which Huber gives the credit to the factory and its workers, Jon feels that taking care of the customer is what has contributed to Crowned Heads’ success and its cult like following. Crowned Heads works on providing excellent customer support and paying attention to customer feedback. If a customer has an issue with one of their cigars, Huber personally packs and sends the customer new cigars and follows up with them. He sees the cigars as his children who are going out the door. He wants to be sure they are held in high regard. He’s aware that his customers spend a lot of money on his cigars, and he doesn’t want that to be left unnoticed. 

Crowned Heads Jericho Hill Willy LeeNashville, Tennessee is known as the “Music City.” It is also Crowned Heads’ headquarters. The music industry has had a major impact on Huber and how the cigars are named. Four Kicks, the brand’s first release, was inspired by a song of the same name by the Kings of Leon, a Dixie-style rock band. Headley Grange is named after a recording studio in England in which Led Zeppelin recorded “When the Levee Breaks.” Johnny Cash’s interpretation of “Cocaine Blues” inspired the Jericho Hill cigar. Historical figures have played a part too. For example,  the J.D. Howard Reserve is named after an alias the “heroic outlaw” Jesse James used.
Huber considers himself a non-corporate guy. He has nothing against corporations and the people who work for them. He just doesn’t see himself in the corporate mold. In fact, when he was sixteen years old and in high school, his counselor asked him what he wanted to do after graduation. Jon said, “I don’t know what I want to do. But I know what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be like everybody else. I want to be the best at what I do. And I don’t want a 9-to-5. Somehow, I landed on those three goals.” 

Cano Aret Ozgener, the Founder of CAO, taught Huber to “find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” and “to make things happen.” It is one of the principles that has guided Jon. 

Crowned Heads Four Kicks SublimeFor novice cigar smokers, Jon recommends the Four Kicks blend. It was created to be an easily approachable blend. It can be enjoyed by a beginner, yet it has enough complexity that it will delight a veteran cigar aficionado. 

Or the Mil Dias, which is a great anytime, anywhere blend. When Jon smoked the final blend for the Mil Dias, he knew it was going to be something special. According to Jon, others who smoked it said, “Oh! This is a game changer.” 

The blend for the Mil Dias was in development since 2017. It was something he and Luciano Meirelles at Tabacalera Pichardo (and Co-Founder of ACE Prime Cigars) had been experimenting with. In January of 2021, Luciano sent him a text, which said, “I think I got it.” Then he sent Jon a sample. Huber tried it and said, “Wow!” It was the first cigar that was not launched at a trade show. So far there have been two Mil Dias limited edition releases the Escogidos and the Mareva. There is another release they plan to launch at the end of 2021. 

Crowned Heads Mil Dias EscogidosCrowned Heads Mil Dias Mareva

Besides cigars, Crowned Heads swag (hats, t-shirts, and other accessories) is a big hit among the brand’s fans who are affectionately referred to as “The Court.” A lot of its popularity has to do with the fact that Jon puts in as much time into his branded merchandise as he does into his cigars. 

During the Pandemic it was difficult to interact with customers and keep them excited about Crowned Heads products, Jon relied heavily on social media especially Instagram and Twitter to spread the word about his cigars, and to keep The Court informed about new releases. Crowned Heads does very little if any advertising. Jon believes that if he can build the brand’s core following by using a grass roots approach, he can generate the attention the brand needs to succeed. 

Jon likes to see himself as the creative director. He may not produce the actual cigars, but he is heavily involved in developing the blend and all the stages leading up to the finished product. He is always working. During the first six months of 2021, Crowned Heads released The Juarez Shots, Le Careme Belicoss Finos LE 2021, Mil Dias Escogidos, Las Calaveras, and the Lost Angel a TAA Exclusive to name a few. 

Crowned Heads La Coalicion SigloCrowned Heads has its cigars produced by four of the top cigar factories in the business: Four Kicks is made at Tabacalera La Alianza, which is owned by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the Mil Dias and Juarez is made by Tabacalera Pichardo, Jericho Hill is made at the Garcia Family Industrial Park factory, which is run by My Father Cigars, and the La Coalicion is made at the La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate. Each factory infuses its own style and nuances into the making of the cigar, which adds to the cigar’s character.  

When developing a blend Jon goes by one guiding principle, which was given to him by George Brightman who was Director of Business Development for Cigar Aficionado magazine when it first started. Brightman was so knowledgeable about tobacco and cigars that he was considered the magazine’s cigar guru in residence. He was one of Jon’s mentors when he started in the business. Brightman once told Huber, “You should create a cigar that’s enjoyable and not a challenge to smoke.” It took him a decade (or seven decades in dog years), but that’s exactly what Jon Huber has done. 

Published on June 1, 2021.

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