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During these unprecedented times, CIGAR.com focuses on our community of cigar enthusiasts, bringing interviews right into your home with some of the most prolific names throughout the industry. See our CIGAR.com Facebook Page for the full-length Virtual Herf Seminar with Miguel Schoedel of Crowned Heads.
LH: Good afternoon everybody. This is Lindsay again coming to you from CIGAR.com. This is our new timeslot, four o’clock. We heard you guys on the West coast, even you guys out in Hawaii who wanted to be able to join us live, and we listened. So now every two weeks, you’ll see us at four o’clock.
I have with me Miguel. Miguel is from Crowned Heads. He’s a national sales manager. And for those of you that don’t know him, despite his almost 20-year tenure in the industry, the best thing that I can tell you about him is I’ve been told you own over 100 baseball bobble heads.
MS: That is very true.
LH: There are definitely some people you work with, who are mutual friends of mine, who I asked them. I said, “What can you tell me that’s really interesting about Miguel that people are never going to forget,” and it was the one thing that everybody told me. Seconded by the fact that you are a Pescatarian, my friend.
MS: Yes, I love seafood. Seafood is my thing. I’m all about seafood. That is a very interesting fact about me. The bobble head thing is a little crazy. My office and my house is full with memorabilia. I have a healthy amount of bobble heads; my wife says it looks like a 12 year old boy’s room. Right now I’m out on my lanai enjoying the weather, so unfortunately I won’t be able to show my bobble head collection off.
LH: That’s okay, I’ve certainly seen some of your bobble heads in Instagram posts and Facebook posts. I know you’re a rabid baseball fan.
MS: Die hard, yup.
LH: Well, let’s get down to business. There’s a lot, I think, that needs to be said about Crowned Heads. I have a distinct recollection of when the brand itself sort of landed in the industry. There was all this talk, here’s Jon Huber coming back; there’s sort of this rebel spirit going on with the brand, and I remember when Four Kicks first entered the store that I was managing. No one knew what the heck it was; they didn’t know what to make of it.
I used to go around and basically tell anybody that came into the store that was curious about trying something new, I said, “if you don’t like it, I’ll buy it off of you. Here’s a Corona Gorda; sit down, smoke it, tell me what you think.” I’m very happy to say that I never had to buy back a single cigar. Then it turned into, how the heck do I get more boxes in my humidor because everybody wanted to buy boxes.
To be able to start off on such a strong foot is insane.
MS: Well, Jon Huber and Mike Conder are the owners of Crowned Heads, and they met as employees at CAO; and that’s where I met them, because I was at CAO. CAO was sold to Scandinavian Tobacco Group, who eventually bought like 51% of Swedish Match, which eventually CI and General Cigars, and the corporate offices out in Richmond, Virginia. Mike and Jon, they love Nashville. They were offered to go over there, but they really wanted to stay in Nashville, so they created their own brand; and they created Crowned Heads.
So you have Jon and Mike, who together, have 60+ years of experience in the premium cigar world. Saying you know what, let’s start our own brand. The first cigar was Four Kicks, and Four Kicks definitely has that kind of rebel… to kind of bring something that was very ‘them’. It was very much, let’s try to do our own thing. Let’s not do CAO 2.0; let’s do our own thing. They hooked up with Ernesto Perez Carrillo, his factory, Tabacalera La Alianza which is in Santiago, and they created Four Kicks. That’s been almost 10 years ago and, in a very short amount of time, have become a leader in artisanal craft…boutique…whatever the name is for the cigars. They’ve become a leader in that atmosphere. I’m very proud to just be a part of it, and very proud to be working with guys that I’ve worked with for years at CAO.
LH: You just said the adjective—artisanal—which I think is a really, really important word that I know your company tends to use a lot in reference to its blends, its packaging, everything about the whole concept. Do you think that because there is this emphasis on being artisanal, that it actually takes a little bit longer for you guys to execute from concept to final blend? Or is it kind of still go with the flow of your average timespan?
MS: No, I think being artisanal allows us to be more flexible. We have more tobaccos that we can use. If there’s tobaccos that are in smaller supply that larger companies cannot utilize because their production numbers, but we’re able to utilize those tobaccos. The people that we’ve partnered up with—Ernesto Perez Carrillo, Don Pepin Garcia, Drew Estate, My Father Cigars in Nicaragua—those guys I think really understand or come from the same place that we are at, and they understand our concept of artisanal.
I would tell you that no, I don’t think it takes longer for us. I think because we can be more nimble. I’ll give you an example, sometimes in the bigger cigar companies if you design something, it’s got to go through five or six hands to get approved. With us, it’s really simple. It’s Mike and Jon. If they like it, they like the feel of it, we’re all about going and making it happen. There are many times—a lot of people love our limited edition stuff that we do all year. Many times those artisanal products are available for us to produce, because we can produce smaller numbers and use tobaccos that are just not readily available in large supply. I think it’s been a blessing for us as we continue to grow and grow.
We’re past that boutique size, if you will. It’s hard to understand what that term means anymore. For a long time a lot of people said, “Well if you make less than a million cigars, you’re probably more boutique.” We’re way beyond that. But I think it’s in our roots, it’s who we are, and we still kind of take that road of being ‘carve your own path’. CYOP, that’s our hashtag. That’s about who we are, and being artisanal allows us to do that. We’re very proud to carry that flag, and I believe that artisanal, craft, boutique—we really helped create unique trends or things in the industry that really have a tremendous effect on the business—and bringing in a lot of new cigar smokers under that. You know, artisanal cheeses, artisanal wines, artisanal beers are so popular right now, and I think the cigar industry was way ahead of that curve for many, many years.
LH: I have to agree with that. It’s hard to not be artisanal on some level when blending and creating a cigar, but there are definitely people that take it to new heights that interpret it differently. That’s why we have all these different brands. I’m glad you mentioned the term ‘boutique’ almost being sort of overused; it’s kind of like the example of when somebody tells you they love you a million times all the time that you wonder if they really mean it. It’s non-stop.
Before we get into some other stuff, obviously everybody saw the announcement: Mil Dias, 1000 Days is the next cigar. It looks, and sounds, and seemingly feels so different from everything that you guys have done leading up to this point. There’s no national tie-in; there’s no grittiness, outlaw, country, cowboy kind of feel to it. I was intrigued to read, I think it was from Cigar Aficionado, that everything sort of began almost three years ago? Summer of 2017?
For the full-length Virtual Herf Seminar with Miguel Schoedel of Crowned Heads, visit our CIGAR.com Facebook Page.
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