PROLOGUEI made mention recently that the Crowned Heads La Imperiosa has become my 'go to' stick of sorts. I, a big My Father fan, make this alright to myself by the fact it is too made at the “Garcia Family Industrial Park” in Esteli, Nicaragua. I know it don't mean a lot. but it means some, and I'm a guy that looks for connections and meanings, and sardines -- always on the lookout for a nice canned fish.
I digress and as I do so, remove the 1922 Le Bijou foot ribbon from my Tennessee Waltz. The color too says Tennessee Vols and all is good on my frigid front porch. Let's get to --
THE CIGARCrowned Heads
Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper
5 1/2 x 52 Robusto Extra
Courtesy of Mr. Huber.
PRE-LIGHTEyeballin' the stick beyond the 'range swatch, It's a good bit rustic. Not faux rustic. Rustic. Quite veiny even on the hand-feel, there are three veins broad enough to potentially redirect the burn. Seams are quite visible and a tick away from even. There's a nice fine+ tooth on the thing, which adds again to the rough n' ready hand-feel. Nice sheen, not too much oil, not too little oil. Triple cap is sloppy but almost purposefully rough hewn -- cosmetic roughness, not construction roughness. I'm spinning it in my hand as I perform my silly examining and I notice that the balance is superb, sure, but too the stick's nature is an easy one. I can't explain it any better than it's ruggedness inspires confidence; and kid's gloves are gladly not required.
Complexion is a medium roasted coffee bean with a burnt sienna undertone throughout and a darker marbling over-top. The foot tobacco is a good few beats darker with dirty blonde highlights and an overall dark vibrant luster. It seems by looks to be a medium packing, but it's a good tick looser to the pinch. A Charmin squeeze of the shaft shows a -medium density which runs a bit stiffer in the final third. Springy throughout and is an even transition to that denser third.
Lifting it to the schnoz, the shaft gives me a good whiff of citrus and spices, both sweet. Mulling spices, that's the ticket. From the shaft I get, pardon my forthcoming French: chicken shit. I could have said barnyard, but this is clear as day chicken shit...undertones of rest-of-barnyard. I nibble off the cap and I'm gonna stick with Mulling spices and chicken shit on the cold draw. Orange zest highlights and a decent dose of cream -- I almost want to say orange cream soda, a flat and syrupy mix of the stuff. Another cold draw through the -medium resistance yields a shot of chocolate malt and a further away coffee note that might be hazelnut flavored. Oh! The tobacco -- earthy -- topsoil on a sunny day. I really am digging the cold draw and the orange cream soda finish backed by mulling spices, but I should probably --
Toasting the foot sends off aromas of creamy coffee and sweet cedar. Heavy dose of quickly toasted cream on the first hot draw. Coffee to mocha. Coffee fades and it's then chocolate alone until the start of finish, where an orange zest comes in. Barnyard backing and a touch of sweet compost. Second hot draw is retro-haled to showcase a nice zetz of black pepper that drops to the tongue in a peasant tingle -- also it introduces a less noticeable malt which clings to a chocolatey palate. Mouth-feel is that creamy cocoa stuff. A third hot pull is mulling spice cleared out by black pepper, then that maltiness comes in and the coffee to mocha transition starts in the same fashion as already noted. Barnyard is still the undertone, and it's crisping up a tad now.
Lots of billowy off-white toward blue smoke. Foot-note is the foot toasting note; room-note is that and earthy tobacco, very kind. Burn-line is a slightly wavy razor, ash is pale grey to grey in close but loosely formed ladder rungs -- I lay my schmatta across my lap to catch ash and to perpetuate schtick. Construction softens a tick a half inch away from burn.
Primary notes are chicken shit and mulling spices with orange rinds tossed into it. Secondary notes have all been mentioned and remain almost startlingly delineated. I feel like I'm looking at an Edvard Munch while on acid. But enough about high school.
ACT IThere's a thin coating of clarified salted butter on my lips and palate and cheeks and hey! I like that. That mouth-feel does cushion a lot of the flavors, and delineation of notes is a little calmer and less near-maddening. We're settling into a nice go, gentlepersons. Very orange and I'm thinking that foot ribbon works in a third way, as well. My Father nod, Tennessee nod, and flavor nod. Cool.
The orange is a zest in the mulling spices and also in the cream. Barnyard, and yes chicken shit, have subdued and that compost is looking like a player. As is the chocolate malt. Coffee stays put, and as such gets a bit less of my attention. There's a wheat happening in the chocolate malt now. I'm gonna wind up writing a novel length review of this Tennessee Waltz. Look for it wherever fine schlock is sold. The pending novel, not the Crowned Head.
Burn has slowed and its line is thin and mainly even but there's always a notch from a vein or two. Softening has ceased. Smoke out-put remains robust. Profile is a solid medium. Mouth-feel has a perfect moisture level with a bit of tingle balanced by cream. Coffee hits the retro-hale hard as black pepper subdues there. I get perhaps a distant cumin, but I hesitate adding yet another flavor. Something savory is beginning to trigger my umami senses. My lips smack at their own accord.
At the end of the opening act, my fingertips are getting sore from typing. I cannot fathom anyone reading this. I'm already not looking forward to reading it as I edit.
ACT IIWheat is really settling into the chocolate malt. I'd say it's a primary one alongside mulling spices and an orange cream end of draw to finish. Finish is getting leggy and is a good medium and growing. Secondary notes are compost and coffee, mainly. Other notes still come in and dance on occasion. I take off an inch+ of silky ash that has a definite talc feel to it. There's a very thin oil there; the clarified butter from my lips. I think there's a second shot of malt headed to the java note.
What started as a very full yet simple menu is becoming quite nuanced and complex. Refined, even -- once again proving you can't judge a book by its cover. Speaking of cover, all notes to construction hold. I realize I've been at the edge of my seat, I sink a little further in now. There's a brushed leather crisping up the compost undertone. Good golly.
The midpoint is nigh and black pepper re-emerges. Remember the savory that was hinted at earlier? Me either, but it's headed back. With it comes a desert vibe of graham cracker and a heavier cream with a bigger dairy quality, stiffer, follows. There's a green note now, crissakes, it's a sprig of mint.
The mint is slight, but is cleaning house post transition. Umami never fully came in. Dessert did, but it's leaving. Graham cracker is bye-bye and we're back to a clarified and warmer butter. Saltiness is up a half tick there. Also up a half tick is the profile; I'd say medium+ on account of a new roasted nutty flavoring. Leather leaves the compost and if yer bad at math, that means we're left with compost. Coffee hangs on loosely, but citrus and a lot of the mulling spices are gone. Malt notes be all leavin'.
The ash is attempting to build a sheath, or at least loosing the ladder rung look. Burn is mainly even, the burn-line up to a thin+ thickness. Construction holds. I retro-hale to a nice enough seasoned and inherently sweet cedar and find the leather, too. But the pepper fades fast. Green notes are gone.
Mind you, I ain't complaining; I'm enjoying the heck out of what is now a very relaxing stick.
ACT IIICoffee climbs back up and there's half and half in it. Black pepper is gone, but white pepper rises from nowheresville. Citrus arrives with it -- a very orange citrus, meaty even. Fleshy orange. Compost yields to a clean and mild almost breezy but somewhat deeper tobacco. Perhaps with a note of vanilla. Profile tickles at full. Malts check back in. Black pepper, sauteed in the salted butter, comes back again on the retro-hale. Finish is long and complex, there are both peppers there and orange and malt. At the band a sprinkling of hot cocoa mix is felt. Ah, balance. Ah, complexity, Ah, I feel like a third "ah," would have been beneficial to the rhythm here.
A joy ride turns into a Sunday drive, turns into a cruise through the countryside. Then we arrive at the BBQ and I reach for a toothpick and finally, FINALLY, I shut my smoke-hole. The flavors stay in longer that way.
NOTESWhat, I didn't write enough yet??? Room-note is the best around. You'll get a lesson in malts from this Crowned Heads Tennessee Waltz stick, as well. I would say (warn?) it ain't no beginner. A less evolved palate than my own superior one, might well enjoy -- but on a simpler level. If that read as egotistical, it's only because I meant it to.
PAIRINGSWhatcha got? Do you have an old fashioned Egg Cream? If you do, give it here, because I'd kill for one. Warm up some Brandy and plop in a spoon of orange blossom honey.
These are hard to come by, make it a point to come by one. This review is as fawning as I get. To find a nice balance, please allow me to lose some moolah for ya, ya schmuck--
12/15 noon post time (Pacific)
[At the nub: orange marmalade.]
Check out the Crowned Heads website.