Monday, December 19, 2011

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads Four Kicks

Robusto, 5" x 50 ring gauge / approx. $7.75
Sometimes things work out for the best. A little over a year ago, my friend, Al, and I were among the last visitors to the old CAO headquarters in Nashville. We spent time talking to Susie Clark and Jon Huber about where they had been and what was happening. Jon told this hilarious story about Hank Williams Jr.’s visit to the office. Commiseration seemed to be the order of the day, though, as a job that had been a way of life for many people was coming to an end. I had already been given hints that something else was being worked on, but I was not privy to details until later and who besides God could have known how it would all work out?

In February, we heard about the new company, Crowned Heads, founded with four CAO ex-pats: Jon Huber, Mike Conder, Michael Trebing and Nancy Heathman. A new cigar company for Nashville and the public would get to see the building of it from the ground up. The barebones office in the vintage building near downtown, the trips to Nicaragua and other far-flung locales, the unveiling of new artwork and swag that this time seems not to be destined to fill a “Merch” page on the company’s website.

Later on the team sent out some samples of blends they were considering for their first cigar to about a dozen bloggers and friends, including me. Of the four I smoked, one stood out...and it stood out to almost everyone else, too. And with a little tweaking by one of the acknowledged "Masters of the Leaf," Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Jr., it became Four Kicks. And is it good? Yes...it is very good.

So good, in fact, that I'm willing to throw tradition out the window this time and tell you exactly what I think of it right here: the Four Kicks by Crowned Heads is not only “very good,” it is a masterpiece of dried, fermented and aged leaves. This team put out some very good and some excellent cigars during their tenure with CAO, but this beats them all. Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Jr., has been behind many great blends, from the El Rico Habano, La Gloria Cubana Serie R, EP Carrillo Core Maduro, Elencos, and New Wave Connecticut...but I believe this is the finest blend he has ever produced. Now let’s talk full review and the details of why I believe all this...

After having a chance to early-sample all four sizes, I decided on a box of Robustos, 3 of which I smoked before I got around to this review. When I opened the box to pull out a sacrificial cigar, I stuck my face down in the box to fully inhale the amazing cedar and tobacco aromas...I don’t buy that many boxes, so it’s hard to compare this with others, but what an intoxicating smell. The Four Kicks had a medium brown color, with a touch of red in certain lighting and a little darker mottling as well. The wrapper leaf was exceedingly oily to the eye and the touch and there were nothing larger than medium-sized veins in evidence. The banding and packaging is traditional, yet unique, and cool all the way around. My wife remarked that the look of the logo on the box was “American” with the vaguely old-west type style and use of guns. The guns and stars and other elements are use in embossing in the gold side sections of the band, too, creating subtle echoes of the design from the box. Putting the cigar to my nose I got a nice rich cedar aroma, which shouldn’t be too surprising since that’s the biggest smell element I got from the open box, too. The foot had a note of earth and a bit of sweetness. After clipping with a Xikar Xi cutter, I got a great draw with mostly natural tobacco flavor along with a little earth and a little molasses sweetness.

Lighting was easy with a single flame torch, even in a slight fall breeze. While not exactly Pepin-esque, the Four Kicks opens with a spiciness that is indicative of its Nicaraguan filler and binder. Soon after an earthiness kicks in, and adjust a few minutes later I got a sweet molassesy note in a creamy smoke. The finish had a nutty aspect to it. I know Jon Huber is not a huge fan of all these descriptors, but I'm just telling what I tasted...your experience may be different. Regarding the things we taste when we smoke cigars, it is not unusual or unexpected to taste things that a out of nature, many times from the same geographical areas that produce our favorite smokes...coffee, cocoa, molasses, spice...these are all items you would find in my regions that also grow tobacco. As promised, this is a medium bodied cigar with full flavor. The first third rounded out with earth and sweetness up front with a spicy burn building at the back of the palate and throat.

Earthiness and sweetness were joined in the second third by a distinct woodiness of cedar. The Four Kicks continued to burn evenly with a great draw and solid ash, even during the aforementioned autumn breeze. By the end of the third the spice was toning down a bit on the palate, but I started to get a spicy tingle on the lips instead.

The final segment of the Four Kicks turned out to be just as pleasant as the first two. I continued to get notes of cedar and earth in a creamy smoke with touches of molasses here and there. Every now and then you come across a cigar that is truly remarkable. I almost never smoke the same cigar twice in one day, but in the forty eight hours following my purchase of a box of Robustos, I smoked three of those and one of the Corona Gordas I picked up as individual sticks. I would get done with one and want to light another up almost immediately, even if I didn't have time. This was all facilitated by the fact that the Four Kicks is easy on the palate with its medium body and easy on the wallet with its very reasonable price tag. If you can get your hands on these (I say "if" because I expect the first shipment to be sold out by the time this posts) then definitely do so. Try all the sizes if you can and find out which one hits you just right. For me it's the Robusto, followed by the Sublime (Toro). I have to finish by saying "Congratulations" to Messrs. Huber, Conder, Trebing, Heathman, and Carrillo for hitting this first ball out of the park.

Body: 6/10
Strength: 6/10
Complexity: 8/10

AFP Scale
Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 5/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 10/10

3 comments:

  1. Nice review. Very well-written. I have a 4-pack sampler of these that I won sitting in my humidor waiting for just the right day. Which, may be closer after reading this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You hit the nail right on the head. I smoked a robusto yesterday at uptowns, and was floored. Do you think the blend shines in a particular vitola? Because I definitely see a box purchase in the future if I can get my hands on them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You hit the nail right on the head. I smoked a robusto yesterday at uptowns, and was floored. Do you think the blend shines in a particular vitola? Because I definitely see a box purchase in the future if I can get my hands on them.

    ReplyDelete