“I assert that nothing ever comes to pass without a cause.”

—Jonathan Edwards

It was my great pleasure to witness the unveiling of not one, but two of Southern Draw’s newest releases at the 2019 IPCPR (now PCA) Trade Show. As a father, it was especially meaningful to witness the unveiling of the Jacobs Ladder Brimstone. Ethan Jacob Holt, son to Southern Draw’s Robert and Sharon Holt, was flanked by his parents during the presentation and I admit it was a moment I both admired and was envious of. While my children are much younger than Ethan, it’s certainly a moment that is etched in my memory and I would love to have an opportunity like that down the road.

The Jacobs Ladder Brimstone is an extension of the initial Jacobs Ladder line from the Holts, but it has been tweaked slightly to offer an overall different blend. Once known as Southern Draw’s most powerful blend (in terms of body and strength), the original Jacobs Ladder was only meant to be dwarfed by what Brimstone aims to bring to the table.

The name of the cigar carries the tradition of Southern Draw’s core competency, naming cigars after flowers, but in the Brimstone’s case building on the Biblical metaphor (the cigar’s full title being Jacobs Ladder – Hail, Fire and Brimstone). Reflecting on Edward’s aforementioned words above, it seemed poignant for what the Holts’ intention was for the family’s latest creation.

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Jacobs Ladder Brimstone Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf (Lancaster, PA)
  • Binder: American Maduro
  • Filler: Nicaragua | Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernández Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
  • Production: Small Batch
  • Vitola: 6″ × 56 (Perfecto)
  • Price: $11.99 (MSRP)

The Brimstone boasts three types of ligero leaves in the filler (each of which being named after hail, fire, or brimstone), giving the blend added punch compared to the original Jacobs Ladder that contained only two. Those ligeros hail from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The cigar is wrapped in a Pennsylvanian Broadleaf capa that envelopes a binder leaf described as American maduro.

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Appearance

The Brimstone has an incredible presentation. The traditional Southern Draw logo showcases gold lettering with gold accents on top of a Royal Blue background. A secondary band with “Jacobs Ladder Brimstone” has a similar color scheme and is topped with a cedar sleeve, wrapping the body and foot of the cigar. After removing the sleeve, the remnant aroma of cedar continues to linger with earthiness and black pepper. The wrapper has some tooth to it but is not overly rustic. The regal presentation lends well to the eye and refines any imperfections.

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Smoking Experience

As with all figurados, perfectos, and torpedoes, I always cut the cap at a slight angle to create more surface area for smoking. I decide to light the small foot with a match. The aroma coming off the foot is one of earth and black pepper. As I take in the first few puffs of the cigar, the black pepper flavor does deliver quite a punch. But there is a surprising sweetness that I get almost immediately: orange marmalade. That sweetness and orange peel translate over the retrohale for an immediate and delightful balance in the cigar’s beginnings.

As the cigar progresses, however—and this is quite perplexing—a definitive, grassy herbal tea character becomes a prominent flavor note. In the two samples I smoked, it was consistent and very dominant for the first half of the cigar. I say perplexed, because I cannot remember a time where a cigar with this dark of a profile had such a dominant grassy note. It was truly bizarre and set the smoking experience off-balance.

Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Brimstone review

The draw and construction are impeccable. Figurados are unpredictable sometimes when it comes to construction, as user error plays a huge role. In my experience, the Brimstone is terrifically constructed and draws well.

The star of show is truly the retrohale. While the first half of the cigar’s flavor is dominated by grass, the aroma and nose are filled with the rich notes of orange marmalade and spicy black pepper. In the second half of the cigar, the retrohale continues to shine and, to my delight, the grassy notes fade to a memory. In its place is a complex combination of flavors that has me truly perplexed. Where were these amazing flavors in the first half? Nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger mix with the sweet orange marmalade on the retrohale. The palate is kissed with rich creaminess, black pepper, leather, and espresso. It’s complexity personified. The finish has me wanting for more, but ultimately still in a state of confusion over the first half of the cigar.

Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Brimstone cigar ash

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

Ultimately, I think I have to. Yes, I do.

Additional Info

Profile
  • Flavor: Full
  • Strength: Full
  • Body: Full
Core Flavors
  • Orange marmalade
  • Black pepper
  • Grass
  • Baking spices
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: Espresso | Orange blossom honey-sweetened tea | Hefeweizen | Clementine and almonds
  • Purchase Recommendation: Grab 5 to 10

Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Brimstone cigar nub finished

Jacobs Ladder Brimstone
This cigar really is a tale of two halves. Let me be clear, I didn’t loathe the first half—it was more confusing than anything else. And the fact that the second sample was consistent with the first made it even more so. The second half was chock-full of alluring flavors and the retrohale was dynamite. Ultimately, though, the question on everyone's minds is undoubtedly this: is it better than the original. The answer is no, as the Jacobs Ladder of old is a more balanced, harmonious, and complex expression of the targeted profile.
Appearance90%
Burn/Construction91%
Draw91%
Flavor85%
Complexity89%
Price/Value87%
Pros
  • Dynamite retrohale
  • Sensational finish
  • Excellent construction
Cons
  • Off-balance as a whole
  • Off-putting first half
89%Fire & Ice
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