J.D. Howard Reserve
In case you haven’t heard. Crowned Heads released a third cigar to their already impressive line up, the J.D. Howard Reserve. After the first two releases, Four Kicks and Headley Grange, some questioned whether they could hit 3 in a row. Now technically they did release the Mule Kick, which was a special release so I’m not counting that in their core line up. They debuted this cigar at the IPCPR show a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas. I was sent a test sample of this cigar a few months ago before the blend was complete. Let’s just say the cigar that I smoked was vastly different from this final blend. I enjoyed the initial sample, but I told Jon I think there was more he could do with it. So needless to say I was excited to see what this final blend had in store for me.
The idea behind this J.D. Howard Reserve came about when Jon Huber discovered that Jesse James the infamous outlaw spent some time in our fantastic town of Nashville, TN. He was escaping from trouble and stayed in town under the moniker of J.D. Howard. Jon’s a great story teller when it comes to the inspiration behind this brand and I can’t do it justice. I do remember him saying he had an idea for a cigar and he woke up one morning at 3:37 am with the idea and it was henceforth listed as project 337 until they decided on the final name. To pay homage to this they put an embossed 337 on the band of this cigar. I remember when I got the tasting sample it was wrapped with a 337 band on it. So I’ve always lovingly referred to this cigar as 337, but I guess now I’ll have to change my thoughts and feelings over to the true moniker, the J.D. Howard Reserve. Some quick facts for you, according to Jon the blend was built around juxtaposition and contradiction. So I’m interested to find out exactly what that means. They are also releasing this cigar in 5 shapes:
HR46 – 6” x 46
HR48 – 5” x 48
HR50 – 5 1/2” x 50
HR52 – 6” x 52
HR54 – 5” x 54
I picked up the HR52’s for this review. These guys have a lot to stand up to especially after their huge success of the Headley Grange which is my favorite cigar from them. I’m ready to hop into this review and see what we’ve got how about you?
If you follow the Crowned Heads twitter account you’ve no doubt seen the numerous pictures of the J.D. Howard Reserve packaging before it’s release. I love the look of the box. It’s a big change from their previous two releases. This box has a nice rich mahogany look with gold hardware. I love the JDH on the top of the box in gold stamp. For me seeing something in gold just really makes it stand out and appear more classy. I know I’m fairly shallow like that, but hey whatever works right? These boxes hold 24 cigars, but the boxes are slightly smaller than the Headley Grange boxes and the cigars are stacked in three rows of eight instead of 2 rows of 12. I love how they tailor each package to the specific cigar. You honestly wouldn’t know they were all made by the same brand if you put them in a line up. They treat each cigar as it’s own unique product. Which I think is very cool and something not typically seen in this industry.
The next thing you’ll notice about the J.D. Howard Reserve is the band. There is a big intertwined JDH in the middle of the band. It’s gold lettering pressed against a maroon background. One thing these guys harped on when creating this brand. They didn’t want to do anything cliche or gimmicky nor anything that was too outlawish. I think they achieved a great balance with what they created here. I think setting the maroon center color against the cream colored background makes the center stand out and not appear too flashy. This is a very well done band. I think this cigar will definitely catch your eye the next time you’re walking around your local humidor. Ok, so it looks great, but I know you care than more about that right? Let’s dive into the construction and more of the meat and potatoes of this review.
As I said above, I picked up the 6×52 version of this cigar. Typically I enjoy the corona gorda size, but I picked these out for a specific reason. After this last year and seeing how everyone was stuck on the big ring gauge train, I wanted to see how this cigar performed in one of it’s larger sizes. I opted for the 52 instead of the 54 because it was 1″ longer and that meant 1″ more of enjoyment hopefully. Plus I know EP Carrillo’s Tabacalera can make great smaller size cigars, but I wanted to test the construction on a bigger gauge stick.
After looking up and down the barrel of this J.D. Howard Reserve I was satisfied with the outer construction of the Brazilian wrapper and the barrel. There was one vein that ran most of the length of this cigar which is fine, I’m just going to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t affect the burn too much. After pinching most of the barrel up and down I decided I was ready to light this baby up.
I went ahead and nipped the cap off and began puffing away and testing the dry draw. It’s incredible how every cigar I’ve smoked from Crowned Heads has a perfect draw. I don’t know what it is, well yeah I do know what it is. They have an incredible partner with EP Carrillo who constructs incredible cigars. These guys may be behind the blends, but Ernie puts the rubber to the road. So I don’t think it’s fair to give Jon & Mike all the credit here. It’s time to put the flame to this stick and see what we’ve got!
I wish I had some special celebratory lighter to whip out for this new release, but I don’t. So, alas, I have to use my old stand by Xikar Stratosphere. I toasted the foot all the way around before I brought this J.D. Howard Reserve to my lips to begin puffing. After I began puffing I was exhaling a ton of smoke that was just surrounding me like I was in the middle of a Phish concert. I took a look down at the foot of this cigar and noticed there was one part that didn’t quite take to the flame. I wasn’t too worried, I figured with all the heat around it that it would take off like a forest fire. It eventually straightened out and caught up with the rest of the class.
During the first third of this smoke I was just sitting here browsing online and trying to soak in the experience of this cigar. I was thinking back to the first Crowned Heads cigar that I smoked at my old apartment. I was wondering too far down memory lane and began to notice that one side of this J.D. Howard Reserve was beginning to take turn a little crooked. The draw was never affected, but it was just irritating me that it wasn’t burning correctly. So I snapped a couple of quick pics to show you guys and then I worked on correcting it. Once I got the ash that was out of line back on the straight and narrow I could head back down memory lane.
The second third of this cigar was more of the same as the first. I never had one single issue with the draw on this cigar. It was effortless to draw and the smoke just poured out. You really can’t argue about that, the minor inconvenience during the first third was no biggie to me, I just kept puffing. During the final third, I did get this cigar a little too hot. I must have gotten bored reading and was puffing too fast on this cigar. So I let it cool down some and then purged it and then it was burning perfectly again. I’m sure you’ve heard enough about the smoking of this cigar and you care more about the flavors than anything right? Well let’s hop into that next!
I believe somewhere I read an interview with Jon talking about this J.D. Howard Reserve and he said he wanted this cigar to be completely different than the first two releases. He wanted something slightly between the Four Kicks & the Headley Grange. Maybe I made that up, or maybe I didn’t. I can’t find it so maybe I just made it up. I know… I’m a terrible reporter. Well if he did indeed say that, then that’s exactly what he got. This cigar is definitely a mild – medium stick. It’s slight step down from the Headley in terms of overall ‘strength’ of the cigar. I definitely didn’t get a huge nicotine punch from it, but it was actually very pleasant. I wasn’t feeling like a big full bodied smoke tonight and this hit me right where I needed it.
During my pre light festivities I picked up a lot of sweet notes on the wrapper. At times there was a sweet tobacco smell, I know shocking right? Tobacco notes on a cigar. Then I picked up some earthy and cocoa notes on the foot, that followed with a bit of spice. I was excited to get the foot lit and start puffing on this bad boy to see if anything changed during the entire smoke.
The first third of this J.D. Howard Reserve drew out a nice bit of spice on the retrohale. What I love is that it wasn’t overpowering, it was noticeable and pleasurable. One thing that the Headley Grange has is a ton of spice on the retrohale and this stick definitely dialed it back. It’s there, but it’s balanced really well within the blend. Behind the spice there is a nice dose of meatiness and savory notes that make your tongue salivate more than usual. If there’s anything else that I can say right now, it’s that this cigar is incredibly smooth.
During the second third, this stick didn’t change up too much. The spice increased some on the retrohale and the sweetness, those cocoa notes picked up more on the lips. I noticed when I licked my lips that I got a nice dose of sweetness to compliment the spice in nasal cavity. I love the complexity and the balance thus far. It’s really and enjoyable smoke thus far.
On the last part of this J.D. Howard Reserve it felt like this cigar was beginning to dial it down and wrap things up. All the same flavors were there, but it was starting to down the volume as if it was getting ready to shut down for the night. The spice was dialed back and the flavors rode off into the sunset. See, what I did there, it’s like how an outlaw rides into the sunset, because there is the association with Jesse James and everything? Yeah, I figured you picked up on that. As this cigar faded out I was left wanting another, but realizing I didn’t have time left in the night to smoke one. So I’ll have to wait for another day to light up one of these sticks.
Would I Buy It Again?
Is It an Every Day Smoke?
Very much so, I think in a smaller size this could be a go to stick for sure.
Would I Buy a Box?
Without a doubt.
I know what you’re gonna say. Siz, seriously another 10/1o for these Crowned Heads guys? What can I say, I’m a huge fan of what they do. They bring a unique perspective to every cigar they create. They have a vision and then they knock that vision out of the park. It’s really that simple. This is a completely different cigar than the previous two and I love that. Each cigar stands on their own and you can’t really compare one to the other. I think when you combine all the essentials of a great cigar: construction, functionality/performance and flavors and you get something great like this J.D. Howard Reserve you can’t ask for anything more. So great job guys!
Now this has become somewhat of a tradition on this site. Anytime there is a new Crowned Heads release I like to do a little giveaway. I didn’t buy a box this time, but I am giving away 5 J.D. Howard Reserve cigars! To you guys. Check out the Rafflecopter and see what you have to do to be entered to win!