Picture this – the year is 1876 and the lawless Wild West is in full swing. Bank robber and infamous American outlaw Jesse James has recently had a run-in with the law, resulting in the arrest and death of several of his gang members. Seeking solace, James and his family move to Nashville, Tennessee, going under the alias of J.D. Howard. Living a relatively peaceful life, James manages to avoid his history of violent tendencies – well, at least for a short while…
Flash forward to the present, cigar manufacturer Crowned Heads has recently released its third cigar line: J.D. Howard Reserve. An idea devised by brand owner Jon Huber when he realized James’ momentary stint as an upstanding man living in the very same city more than 100 years ago. Huber saw this as a perfect opportunity to pay homage to an American legend.
Coming into its fully-realized form, I now hold in front of me the J.D. Howard Reserve HR50, a 5 1/2 x 50 robusto. A very stylish auburn, cream, and gold band conceals the fuzzy, Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper of the cigar. The look of the cigar is rustic, with a woodsy red-brown shade to the wrapper, yet there is an unmistakably modern twist.
On the nose, J.D. Howard is very pleasing, with smells of leather and hickory wood. The pre-draw exposes more of the woodsy elements from before, I would describe the flavors as tree bark and brown sugar, what a combination!
At this point, the cigar is batting a thousand. The backstory is intriguing, the look and feel of the cigar are fantastic, and the smell and pre-draw are exactly what I would have imagined, and this is when you expect me to say something negative about the Howard Reserve – guess again. Hickory-smoked flavors, charcoal, and even bacon are swirling around my palate. A medium-firm draw invites a healthy dose of smoke into the mouth, and retrohaling the smoke through the nostrils reveals cherry and cedar, with a touch of spice to cap it off.
As I said before, the Howard feels rugged, rustic, and gritty. I can’t help but imagine Clint Eastwood biting the head off of one of these before gritting it between his teeth and filling some poor sucker with bullets. The only difference is, Clint wasn’t smoking anything half as good as this J.D. Howard.
Halfway in, and J.D. is smoking like a champ. The burn line has wavered and also corrected itself, requiring no touchups throughout. The ash holds on extremely well, falling just after the halfway mark. At this point the Howard is picking up some strength, going from a medium-plus, to a medium-plus-plus (if that makes any sense). On the downside, I am picking up a slight ashy flavor on the finish every few puffs.
The ash has now fallen and the flavors are showing an evolution. The woodsy flavors of cedar, tree bark, and hickory smoke are taking over, along with hints of coffee and anise creeping in. And this is the part of the story where you’re going to have to trust me: maybe it’s because I was really hungry, maybe it’s the ambiance, but I can only peg this next flavor change as buttered squash. I’ll leave you with that delectable thought, as the embers go down and J.D. Howard goes the way of ol’ Jesse himself.
Would I smoke this cigar again? I was really pleased with this smoke, this is a cigar that takes you for a ride, it makes you feel something, and that’s exactly what a good cigar should do. I will most definitely smoke this cigar again, I feel it makes for a great anytime smoke, with a body that’s not too intense but has the flavors to keep you interested. J.D. Howard Reserve falls perfectly in line with Crowned Heads’ other offerings, differentiating itself from the others, while retaining the essence of their core lineup. In my opinion, this is Crowned Heads’ best cigar to date.
- Great construction
- Reasonable Price
- Hickory flavor
- Minor ashy flavor at times