It is interesting to me to learn how tributary or homage-based cigar ideas come to light. Some are for a country, others are to an individual and their successes. This one is a little different. The Southern Draw Manzanita came to life when Robert and Sharon Holt were visiting with A.J. Fernández, and a youthful memory was triggered. As previously mentioned in the cigar’s release announcement:

Manzanita a term coined years ago during a planning session as AJ, Rafael, Freddy, Sharon, and Robert inspected bales of rich Habano hybrid, noting the deep red oily leaves, indicative of the shimmering “red” bark of a manzanita tree, these superbly fermented leaves were destined to be the wrapper.

Robert Holt says, “Some nostalgic names were thrown around, but, when we saw this leaf, its deep red color, observed the texture, rolled the tabaquiados and smoked them together, there was a unanimous endorsement that Manzanita (meaning “little apple” in Spanish, describing the tiny, apple-like fruit) was perfect.”

Southern Draw Manzanita Toro Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Habano Hybrid
  • Binder: Habano
  • Filler: Pelo d’Oro | Corojo ’99 | Ligero
  • Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernández Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
  • Production: Regular Production / Small Batch
  • Vitola: 6″ × 52 (Toro)
  • Price: $15.00 (MSRP)

Appearance

This cigar makes a special statement right from the start. Fans of Southern Draw Cigars will immediately notice the changeup in box style from their normal presentation. This 10-count display is presented in a flat layout, finished in high-gloss black, red trim, and the word “MANZANITA” emblazoned on the top. Upon opening the box, we are greeted to a gloss black border on the box, again featuring the logo, the name, the vitola, and dimensions of the cigar. The ten gorgeous cigars arranged inside make the whole experience akin to a piece of fine art.

The cigars themselves feature a shiny and oily dark brown wrapper, with a reddish hue and a little bit of tooth. The seams are practically invisible, as are the veins, aside from a few smaller raised ones running through the wrapper. The cigar has just the slightest amount of give, with no soft spots detected from foot to cap. Aroma from the foot is chocolate, cinnamon, and earth. The pre-light draw, which offers just the right amount of resistance, has notes of chocolate, black cherry, and cedar.

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Smoking Experience

Getting the cigar fired up, during the first few puffs the most dominant notes are dark chocolate and pepper—both on the tongue and in the retrohale. As the cigar starts to settle in, hints of barnyard, cinnamon, and hazelnut appear, giving the cigar a very pleasant profile. Just a little farther in, a creamy chai note appears on the finish, adding an overall creamy sweetness. The retrohale has settled into a white-peppery cabinet spice combination, with a surprising light floral note to the finish. At about an inch and a half in, the draw is just about spot on, and the burn is straight and true, with a high volume of smoke pouring from the foot. Strength has settled in the medium range, while body is probably a notch up into the medium-to-full range, as the flavor notes are readily noticeable.

Southern Draw Manzanita toro cigar ash

Getting into the middle section of the cigar, it has taken on more of a nutty profile, pushing the dark chocolate to the back but not out of the picture. There is still quite a bit of barnyard and cinnamon in there as well. The cabinet spices in the retrohale remain almost unchanged at this point, with the floral note actually increasing in intensity, making for a somewhat complex overall profile. The creaminess of the chai seems to blend everything together, as the cigar is actually hitting all flavor points on the tongue. This leaves a sweet and creamy finish, with just the slightest hint of bitterness to it. The burn and draw continue to perform very well. There have been no changes in strength or body.

Getting towards the end of the cigar, the profile begins to shift from sweet and creamy to dry and earthy. While hazelnut is still dominant, along with quite a bit of cinnamon spice, dark chocolate is just barely there. A barnyard note makes itself seen again, and notes of leather and cedar—not present before this point—are now very noticeable. The retrohale has also changed from cabinet spice and floral to almost straight black peppercorns. This is where the cigar ends.

Southern Draw Manzanita toro review

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

As a general fan of Southern Draw’s cigars, that is a definite yes. Though definitely not an everyday smoke, this cigar lives up to the standard that I have come to expect from Southern Draw’s more high-end offerings.

Additional Info
  • While the initial release of this cigar was a toro, limited to 1,000 boxes, and available only through 10 specific retailers, it is still considered regular production. A robusto and gordo will be released later in 2021, with a total production slated of 180,000 cigars, 60,000 of each size.
  • Some proceeds from the sales of the cigar will go to the First Nations Development Institute charity to support Native American communities.
  • This cigar takes a unique approach with blend specifics, reverting from the more prominent strategy of revealing country of origin (and not varietal), to offering up varietal/priming (and not country).
  • Billed as Southern Draw’s most luxurious (and therefore expensive) release to date.

Profile
  • Flavor: Medium / Full
  • Strength: Medium
  • Body: Medium-Plus
Core Flavors
  • Hazelnut
  • Dark chocolate
  • Barnyard
  • Cinnamon
  • Chai
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: Single malt scotch | Barrel-proof bourbon | Dark and stormy cocktail | Root beer
  • Purchase Recommendation: Buy a box. Part of the proceeds go to charity, so it’s almost a must!

Southern Draw Manzanita toro cigar nub finished

Southern Draw Manzanita Toro
This was an interesting cigar for sure. I had no expectations going into it other than an overall positive vibe, as Southern Draw Cigars typically do not disappoint. The flavor notes right off the light were very pleasant, and while leaning towards complex, were very well balanced. The overall change in profile at the end was a little unexpected, but not unpleasant. I felt the cigar was very well mannered in the strength department, and never ventured out of the medium range, making me feel confident that seasoned as well as newer smokers can enjoy what this cigar has to offer.
Appearance90%
Burn/Construction89%
Draw87%
Flavor86%
Complexity86%
Price/Value85%
Pros
  • Artistic appearance/packaging
  • Readily detectible flavors
  • Great balance of complexity
Cons
  • The change in the final part of the cigar was abrupt
  • Cigar will be hard to find for most until later in 2021
  • A bit pricey considering overall performance
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