While Southern Draw Cigars first debuted in 2014, many will contend that it wasn’t until 2017 that the Texas-based operation began hitting their stride. It was only one year after the brand was notably absent from the industry’s largest trade show (IPCPR), rebounding with two of the most talked about cigars in craft circles: Jacobs Ladder and Rose of Sharon. Like every Southern Draw release before, both cigars were rolled at A.J. Fernández’s burgeoning factory in Estelí. In addition, both cigars featured amped-up smoking profiles for their respective blend styles (Broadleaf and Connecticut Shade, respectively).
Two years later—celebrating the company’s fifth anniversary—Southern Draw capitalized on the success of both cigars, releasing even fuller-bodied renditions with the Jacobs Ladder Brimstone and Rose of Sharon Desert Rose.
Desert Rose Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
- Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
- Filler: Honduras | Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch
- Vitola: 5½″ × 52 (Belicoso Fino)
- Price: $11.99 (MSRP)
Desert Rose is a subset of Southern Draw’s Rose of Sharon (ROS) brand, which was named in honor of Sharon Holt, spouse of Robert Holt and co-founder of Southern Draw Cigars. With the Desert Rose, the blend has been tweaked, featuring higher-priming Corojo ’99 and Piloto Cubano ligero filler leaves from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. And, while the Ecuadorian cloud-grown claro-shade wrapper appears similar to the original blend (at least on paper), it is said to be a heartier, more robust version than the leaf used on the original ROS cigar.
At launch, the cigars are available in a singular, box-pressed Belicoso Fino format, sold in soft bundles of 10 cigars for $119.99 MSRP ($11.99/cigar). Desert Rose is not a limited-edition offering, being produced in small batches for 2019, with a total of 75,000 cigars being dispersed throughout July, September, and November. Production will later double, expected to hit 150,000 cigars throughout 2020 and (at least) 2021.
It’s a bold move banding a cigar in baby pink. It’s a shade formerly only secured around cigars constructed of bubblegum, as well as the kitschy “it’s a girl” cigars that are sold to inexperienced fathers.
Yes, it’s a look that the traditional smoker will undoubtedly shy away from. But, when taking the cigar’s inspiration into account—drawing from Biblical and floral influence, as well as being an homage to Mrs. Holt—the look becomes more justifiable/palatable. With Desert Rose, the formerly pink sub-band has been swapped for a primarily-black appearance, which adds contrast and is much preferable to the all-pink design of the original ROS.
The cigar boasts the same Belicoso Fino format first introduced with 2018’s Cedrus “The Hogan” cigar. It’s an impressive and very attractive look, seamlessly transitioning from a box-pressed foot to a rounded and tapered belicoso head. The wrapper is exceptionally clean (even for a Connecticut), being silky smooth to the touch and having almost no visible veins. The cigar feels solid from head to toe, having what feels to be a medium-plus bunch—though it feels slightly lighter in the hand than expected.
Desert Rose’s impeccable wrapper shows sweet and tangy aromas of buttermilk, barnyard hay, and a light, Cuban-esque muskiness. The foot aroma brings added notes of sweet cedar and lemon grass. The pre-light draw is on the firm side, offering similar qualities of grass, lemon rind, and cedar.
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Desert Rose lights up with smooth flavors characteristic of its blend style, though they are much more upfront on the palate than the mild flavors of yesteryear’s Connecticut. The most notable being that of creamy caramel-infused milk and a highly specific toasted marshmallow (with a backing sugary sweetness, this is almost a dead ringer for Jelly Belly’s beloved Toasted Marshmallow flavor). The cigar is very retrohalable, having only the slightest spice, easily flowing through the nostrils with clean and butter-like fluidity.
Through the first third, the cigar is flavor-forward, having an overall mild strength and body, with the flavor output hovering around medium-plus. The cigar’s velvety smooth texture is among its best features, harmoniously backing the blend’s mouthwatering profile. The burn is essentially perfect, with the only minor criticism (at this point) being a slightly firm draw—which could be described as a 7/10 (where 5/10 is dead medium).
The profile remains fairly steady, introducing changes in such a slow and gradual fashion that you’ll have to consciously reassess the profile every so often. The buttery sensation eventually morphs into salted butter, evolving even further to become salted caramel. By the midsection, Desert Rose is practically dripping with creaminess, having notes of cream cheese and heavily buttered toast (i.e. toast so buttered that it begins seeping through to the bread’s underside). Near this territory, the cigar accumulates some spice and heat through the nostrils, having notes of white pepper, sage, and rye bread.
Eventually, the profile begins moving away from its cream-dominated character, turning in the direction of grains and toasted bread. The primary ingredient is that of Malt-O-Meal, with a light spice and a sweet finish of white chocolate. There are also touches of florals and peanut shells, though these are fleeting and could easily be missed as the cigar fires off everything it has left in the barrel in its final puffs.
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Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Again and again and again… It’s not just an amped-up Connecticut, but the most flavorful Connecticut I’ve experienced from any 2019 release thus far. It’s not a Connecticut that can only be recommended as a morning smoke, but one I’d take on at any moment, day or night.
- Flavor: Medium-plus
- Strength: Medium-light
- Body: Medium
- Buttered toast
- Toasted marshmallow
- Cream cheese
- White pepper
- Salted caramel
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Wheatwine (White Chocolate by The Bruery would be sublime) | Light-roast coffee | Whiskey sour cocktail
- Purchase Recommendation: Full bundle (and then some)
Southern Draw partnered with A.J. Fernández before he became the most sought-after cigarmaker in the industry. With countless options from Fernández's factory now available, it's becoming increasingly clear that Southern Draw is offering among the best, if not the best cigars to come out of Fernández's Estelí-based factory.
While the original Rose of Sharon provided a flavorful preview as to Southern Draw's Connecticut capabilities, the Desert Rose takes the torch and runs with it. This cigar shows a familiar profile to its predecessor, only the experience is amplified on every level. It is not a modern Connecticut in the sense that it offers unnecessary/unwanted strength; instead, it earns its "amped-up" status through loud and lively flavors, tremendous balance, and a long-lasting finish. Desert Rose may, in fact, be the new standard as to what an amped-up/modern Connecticut represents.
- Unstoppable flavor
- Body backs flavor with tremendous balance
- Expert construction
- Slightly firm draw