The cigar I was most excited about going into IPCPR 2013 was the J.D. Howard Reserve from Crowned Heads. The J.D. Howard Reserve marks the third major release (not counting the Mule Kick) from Jon Huber and Mike Conder. The Four Kicks was met with rave reviews and the Headley Grange turned out to be one of my favorite cigars of the year. So, to say that I had high expectations for the J.D. Howard Reserve (JDHR) would be an understatement. The problem with high expectations is they are hard to meet.
J.D. Howard Reserve is a throwback to an era where times were wild, yet values were still upheld. It is an outlaw’s take on the laws of tradition. It’s an homage to our country’s history, and a look towards the future of cigars.
The J.D. Howard Reserve blend was built around juxtaposition and contradiction. Its character is bold yet refined; its flavor profile is simple yet complex. It meets your palate with a spicy pepper rush and leaves it with subtly sweet cocoa notes. It is a rugged yet balanced smoke that is medium in body and full in taste. – Crowned Heads
J.D. Howard Reserve – Crowned Heads
Size: HR52 – 6 x 52
Wrapper: Brazil Arapiraca
Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra
MSRP Range: $8.50-$9.70
Pre-Light: I’ve said on many occasions that I am a visual guy. I’m easily attracted by the look of things. I guess I never grew out of the “distracted by shiny objects” stage of development. I mention this because the JDHR falls into the “I’ll smoke it solely based on its appearance” category. It featured a maroon band with cream accents and gold lettering. The JDH monogram is the main image and has a classic “wild west” feel to it.
The Brazil Arapiraca wrapper had a few veins and a toothy texture that combined to create a worn leather look. The wrapper gave off notes of leather, warm spice and a bit of earth. The foot smelled strongly of chocolate, nuts and beautiful premium tobacco. Sometimes tobacco just smells like tobacco. I went with a Xikar V-Cutter on this one and found a cold draw full of sweet, nutty flavors.
Beginning: Based on the blend, I expected the JDHR to have a fair amount of sweetness. Combine that with Jon’s comment that it tastes like a “jalapeño pepper drizzled with honey” and I knew I could safely expect some spice. With all that being said, I was still blown away by the spice in my first puff. There was a ton of red chili pepper spice on the retrohale. To go with that, there was a ton of sweetness on the finish. That sweetness rested on the tongue after the first puff and it never went away. As I inched forward, the chili spice began to hit the sides of the tongue as well. The profile was bolder than I anticipated, but it managed to be complex and balanced at the same time.
At the 3/4″ mark, the complexion took on a creamy quality and I began to taste a sweet and tangy berry note in the background. It never became more than a side note, but it added an interesting facet to the profile.
Middle: The beginning of the JDHR was an onslaught of flavor. As I got to the middle section, the flavors settled into a nice little routine. I would break down each puff like this: creamy smoke, hot spice on the retro, honey and nougat sweetness on the tongue and finish, followed by a green bell pepper/vegetation note on the back end. The complexity and balance were the “wow factor” for me. There was a lot going on with the flavor, but it never felt muddled or unfocused. Every flavor had a job and they each delivered flawlessly.
End: There was not a lot of movement as I reached the end of the JDHR. The sweetness became more of a sweet cream flavor, which added some tanginess. The chili pepper spice kicked up a notch or two and an interesting smoky flavor joined the finish. These changes were subtle and didn’t have a huge impact on my experience. This is where I get to enter my one complaint. There was a bitterness that picked up in the last inch or so. It didn’t ruin the cigar for me by any means. It was a minor hiccup in an otherwise beautiful cigar.