Southern Draw Cigars was founded by U.S. Veterans—namely Robert Holt and his spouse Sharon Holt—in 2014 and is based in Austin, Texas. The company’s philosophy is multifaceted, representing the old fashioned notion of the “Southern gentleman” and the “culture of honor” that is associated. In addition, Southern Draw (SD) has long maintained the promise of a “Simply Perfect Draw” on every cigar.
In the company’s fourth year, the SD lineup has expanded to include five brands—of which there are upwards of eleven blend variations. Of these five, four are considered core brands (Kudzu, Firethorn, Rose of Sharon, Jacobs Ladder) and are built around floral, biblical, and/or craft beer/spirit pairing concepts.
In 2016, in the wake of FDA regulations after cigars failed to be seen as “premium” and separate from other tobacco products such as cigarettes, Southern Draw was forced to take a step back and reevaluate. This included the decision to refrain from the annual IPCPR trade show, a price increase across core-line cigars, revamped packaging, and the introduction of two brands ahead of schedule. Both Rose of Sharon and Jacobs Ladder were introduced on Aug. 5, 2016, days before the FDA’s imposed deadline of Aug. 8, 2016 (the cigars were originally slated for 2017 and 2018 releases, respectively).
Southern Draw returned to IPCPR in the summer of 2017, showcasing their re-focused brand with a healthy outlook. Though Rose of Sharon (ROS) and Jacobs Ladder had both been announced in 2016, ROS was officially launched in March of 2017, making Jacobs Ladder the star of the show for SD at IPCPR 2017.
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Jacobs Ladder Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf (Lancaster, PA)
- Binder: Undisclosed (Maduro)
- Filler: Nicaraguan Viso | Jalapa Seco | Estelí Ligero
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch
- Vitola: 5½″ × 54 Robusto
- Price: $9.49 (MSRP)
Jacobs Ladder marks the most full-bodied blend from SD to date. The blend features multiple maduro tobaccos and is highlighted by a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper, using the esteemed Tabacalera Fernandez factory for production, as with all SD cigars.
The inspiration for the name is threefold, with floral, biblical, and familial elements. Like the flower of the same name, Jacobs Ladder features a blue/purple design; the name also describes the connection between heaven and earth, as told in Genesis 28:10; and the name is also a reference to SD co-founders’ son, Ethan “Jacob” Holt.
A dream with angels ascending and descending upon the earth and a powerful story of how the Lord may indeed lead us to a place of desolation to preserve our holiness, we may need to come away from everything that pulls us away from the Lord and take a time of rest or prayer which is the case with how Southern Draw Cigars has come about.
Jacobs Ladder was sold on a first come, first served basis at IPCPR 2017, with the company releasing the first batch of cigars in July, followed by a second release in October (among others to follow as demand is established). In addition to the three sizes that are offered (5½” x 50 Robusto, 6″ x 52 Toro, 6½” x 60 Gordo), SD made 1,000 petacas/coffins of two cigars in a limited edition Toro size; these are selected from a stash of original blending samples and left to age for roughly two years before release (this was first seen with ROS and will be carried over to all future SD releases).
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Jacobs Ladder will be a familiar site for anyone that’s ever experienced Southern Draw cigars before. The core band shows the same basic design that reads “Southern Draw” and “Soli Deo Gloria,” which is a Latin term for “Glory to God Alone.” The key differentiator here is that the main band and sub-band feature a matching Persian blue color scheme—where SD cigars have previously shared a common core band.
The cigar’s wrapper is instantly apparent as the showpiece of the presentation; with the simplistic band amplifying the Broadleaf’s ultra-dark hue. The shade hovers around oscuro, having a dark chocolate resemblance. Surprisingly, the wrapper is void of tooth, thick veins, and other imperfections commonly associated with the Broadleaf varietal. It is smooth and has the look you’d expect to find on a Connecticut Shade, only being on the opposite side of the color spectrum. The construction is heavy, giving a solid papier-mâché-like feel in the hand—the bunch appearing on the firm side.
On the nose, the Broadleaf wrapper shows light notes of earth. This is made sweeter on the foot (which features an extended wrapper / covered foot), with notes of aged tobacco and dried fruit. The pre-light draw is firm—most likely due to the closed foot—and offers additional flavors of black cherry, chocolate, and cedar wood.
A cigar with a closed foot can be toasted (as you would normally begin the lighting process) or drawn, which allows the smoker to taste the wrapper leaf before the binder/filler components kick in. For Jacobs Ladder (JL), I simply toasted the covered foot and was treated to a sweet aroma of pipe tobacco. The actual smoking experience begins without the expected pepper blast of most Nicaraguan maduros. Instead, flavors begin with juicy notes of dark fruit. JL receives its advertised full body / full flavor from a double ligero blend, and this is noticeable relatively early in the smoking session—with a building, prickling nicotine sensation on the back of the tongue and throat. This is not to say that JL is a “nicotine bomb,” with the profile catering much more towards flavor over strength throughout the cigar’s first half.
JL progresses with a wavy burn, producing chunks of ash that cling for roughly one inch at a time. As indicated by the dense bunch, the draw is on the firm side; though the smoke output is seemingly not affected. The smoking texture weighs heavy on the tongue, showing an overall profile of medium-full strength, flavor, and body.
At the halfway point, JL shows a zesty chili spice in the retrohale—this is a sharp, burning spice that is reminiscent of Hot Tamales candy at times. Core flavors are of deep and dark sensations, such as earth, mineral, and espresso. These notes are the building blocks, allowing highlights of wild cherry liqueur (complete with a unique alcohol-like buzz in the nostrils), lemon cake, or even a more offbeat combination that instantly struck me as caramel-filled and fruit-filled chocolates—chewing one of each candy simultaneously.
The flavor/strength/body builds to full at one point, but is otherwise best described as medium-full, with the flavor component hanging in the “full” spectrum for the longest of the three attributes.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I’d love to. Southern Draw is already on the boutique side, and Jacobs Ladder is among their most rare offerings, so it can be a bit of a chore to track down, but it is a smoking experience well worth the effort. It’s a unique profile that really accentuates dried/fermented stone fruit and other juicy components; and it’s paired with just enough strength to give it a sinful and indulgent, alcohol-infused dessert ambiance. Without breeching the ten-dollar price range, it’s hard not to recommend the box purchase here—which will be best enjoyed with stout ale, espresso, and double-chocolate bread pudding with strawberry sauce (or other devilish desserts).
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: barrel-aged stout, chocolate-based desserts, espresso, dark fruit liqueurs
- Purchase Recommendation: full box
- Deep, heavy flavor profile
- Great balance of strength and flavor
- Outperforms its price point
- Draw on firm side
- Profile can feel one-noted at times