J.D. Howard Reserve & Henry McKenna Single Barrel

J.D. Howard Reserve Paired with Henry McKenna Single Barrel


Pairing Method

For choosing this pairing method I used my ‘academic’ approach. I had previously smoked the J.D. Howard Reserve and remembered it being fairly sweet overall with a hint of spice. So I knew that I wanted to pair it with a spicy bourbon and something that I had on my shelf already. I was going back and forth between this Henry McKenna Single Barrel or the Prichard’s Rye Whiskey. As you can see by the title of the post I went with the Henry McKenna. I had not drank any from this bottle for quite a while so I figured it was a good time to give it a go.

J.D. Howard Reserve & Henry McKenna Single Barrel
J.D. Howard Reserve & Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Before getting everything going though I did want to make sure to cut this bourbon some because otherwise it’s going to fry my taste receptors and the cigar will just be a empty hole of flavors that I can’t experience. So I took one of my giant square ice cubes and sat poured the bourbon over the top of it to chill the bourbon and cut it some in the process. I sat it out on the porch while I was getting everything else out there. I’ve got quite the setup that I have move when I’m getting ready to do a review. So by the time everything was out there and set up I was ready to get to it. I pulled out the ice cube let the last of the bourbon drip off it back down into the glass and then tossed it into our bushes to water them a bit. I’m sure they were thirsty. Well let’s hop into this pairing and see what’s going on.

First Third


Right out of the gate I took a small sip of this Henry McKenna Single Barrel, it’s starting off a lot sweet than I remember. I think the ice cube cut it quite a bit and it’s letting it’s true colors show through. The bite and burn of the bourbon is still prevalent, it’s just more sweet than spicy this time around. Just as I started puffing on the J.D. Howard Reserve I was hit with spice up front and it’s like my worlds have completely flip flopped. I chose these two for the exact opposite reasons of how they’re reacting. I’m so confused and everything I know is being turned upside down right now.


I picked up some interesting combinations during the first third of this cigar pairing. Right at the beginning the cigar was giving off this charcoal like flavor. It’s as if the cigar was acting as the maple cured charcoal that’s used in Tennessee whiskey mellowing. Especially once I combined it with some bourbon it gave off that sweet charcoal flavor. Which some might find repulsive I find kind of endearing. There is also a rich velvety smoothness going on. Typically I take a drink and hold it on my tongue and then press my tongue against the roof of my mouth to coat it and then take a nice long puff on the cigar. This makes it feel like the smoke is infusing with the bourbon on the roof of my mouth and it created this very smooth velvet experience. Hopefully that clarifies it in case you didn’t follow the previous statement.

J.D. Howard Reserve & Henry McKenna Single Barrel
J.D. Howard Reserve & Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Second Third


I’m still blown away by how well The Crowned Heads cigars perform. I never have a single draw or burn issue with them. They are just flawlessly constructed and it makes for such a great smoking experience. I love it. This J.D. Howard Reserve is no different. The burn and draw are just flawless and it’s just churning out smoke left and right. Absolutely loving this cigar right now. The bourbon is beginning to lose some of that chill that it had earlier from the ice. Luckily it’s not that warm outside right now so it’s not heating it up too much. However when the temperature starts rising on this Henry McKenna Single Barrel the spice starts rearing it’s head again!


The flavors have started to really build here. The spice is building from the cigar especially in the retrohale. It’s producing this really nutty flavor that has an interesting finish to it that I can’t really put my finger on. I’m enjoying it. No flavors are really clashing right now. I wouldn’t say they’re working in perfect harmony but everyone seems to be getting a long swimmingly for now.


Final Third


As the bourbon continues to warm it also begins to take over the palate. I probably should have cut it again towards the end of the glass because by the time I got to the final third of this J.D. Howard Reserve I was barely picking up any flavors. The Henry McKenna Single Barrel had pretty much numbed my taste receptors at this point. I tried to cleanse my palate a couple of times by drinking room temperature water, but it wasn’t helping. The only way I could really pick up the flavors on the cigar were through the retrohale. What started out as an equal match has quickly turned into a lopsided knockout. Let’s be honest, I’m still thoroughly enjoying this pairing, but the bourbon has taken over the show for sure. So I tried to to change up my game plan just a bit. Instead of drinking first and then taking a few puffs, I flipped it around to see if that allowed me to experience any more detail in the pairing. Unfortunately, I think it was too late into the pairing and there was nothing that could be done for my taste receptors. They were toast.


This final third was difficult to pick up flavors. I noticed that initial char flavor come back into the mix though. The nutty flavors fell to the wayside and it was this char that seemed to be amplified. It wasn’t as sweet as it was initially and not quite as appealing either. This wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for at the end of this pairing, but oh well it happens sometimes.

J.D. Howard Reserve & Henry McKenna Single Barrel - Nub
J.D. Howard Reserve & Henry McKenna Single Barrel – Nub


Overall I enjoyed most of this pairing between the Henry McKenna Single Barrel and J.D. Howard Reserve. I set out on an idea of what the pairing my taste like and I wasn’t even close. It had some interesting qualities, I really loved that initial char that I picked up it was an interesting combination of flavors. I definitely like the 2nd third of the cigar pairing because it brought out more of the traditional flavors from each product. The final third was a bit of a wash though because my taste receptors were fried and it was really difficult to pick up any new flavors. So, overall it was good, but I think I would cut the bourbon down a little more next time I pair it.

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2 thoughts on “J.D. Howard Reserve Paired with Henry McKenna Single Barrel

  1. Cliff Conklin

    Nice review. Looks like a fresh ice cube may be the recipe for the final third. Really like the Henry McKenna SB as my go to.

    1. Eric Scism

      Probably a good idea. I tried not to cut it too much, but I probably need to more next time.

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