I first saw these posted on my local cigar shop's Instagram recently (@tohberetania), and not only did they look incredible (we'll get to that in the appearance notes), but Southern Draw is also a US Veteran-owned cigar company, so I knew any money I spent on them would be going to a worthwhile place. A quick search on the business told me the company seeks to both evoke the founders' southern traditions, and honor the history of tobacco and the families who cultivate it and produce some of the finest smoking experiences we have had the privilege of enjoying. I'm very pleased to sit down and write my first review of one of this company's cigars, and I'm sure it won't be my last.
Cigar: Jacob's Ladder by Southern Draw
Vitola: Toro (6”x52)
Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro
Rating (out of 10): 9.9
The wrapper on this beauty is a dark, veiny maduro, rich with oils, and a “glittery” appearance from the fine crystals that the oils have formed against the dark Pennsylvania leaf. Pensylvania broadleaf is a rarely-seen wrapper leaf; I'm told it is also used by Black Label Trading Company, whose cigars I have yet to experience.
It features a double band, both in a gold-on-blue motif, the top band featuring the company name, the bottom marking this blend as the Jacob's Ladder. Southern Draw's cigar blends are named for flowering plants, but there's a few other connotations to this name which I learned of while looking up the company. First, the cigar also honors Ethan “Jacob” Holt, the son of SD's founders. In a Biblical sense, Jacob's Ladder refers to the bridge between Heaven and Earth (Genesis 28:10). Obviously, the Christian Bible is not quite my thing, but in my own way I can contemplate on the Norse Bifrost while smoking it (the “Rainbow Bridge” which connects Asgard and Midgard). So... skal.
The construction on this stick is perfect; rich veins, a flawless cap, and a closed foot. Not too densely packed, but nicely rolled with just the right amount of give between the fingers.
The barrel gives off a soft, musky and floral scent, balanced by a sweet, cedar and chocolate aroma at the closed foot.
Before I get into the cigar itself, I have to talk a little bit about accessories. I've been talking up the Xikar XO cutter for a good long while in my reviews, and I'm using it again tonight. I've had this fine piece of cutting technology for almost two years now, and it has never dulled or required cleaning, and still cuts perfectly every time. I figured it was well past time I show you exactly what I mean.
Absolutely perfect cut.
The next accessory I definitely need to brag about is the Xikar XFlame lighter. I just bought this thing yesterday, and it may well already be my favorite lighter, period. It's a USB-rechargeable (no butane to refill!) heating coil, making it 100% wind-proof, and gives an even light every time, in a fraction of the time it takes to toast with a torch or a match, or, gods help you, a Bic lighter (sorry about your thumb; just run some cold water on it!). The lack of any lighter fluid makes it TSA-safe (though it's recommended to keep the battery and the heating element separate just in case), and it lights a cigar at about ¼ to 1/3 of the normal temperature of a butane torch, allowing you to light up without overdoing it and scorching the tobacco for your first few draws. I'm absolutely in love with this lighter.
I even got a nice, even light on the somewhat uneven closed foot of this cigar. To be fair, it's burning at a slight angle early on, but it's an even burn line.
Cold draw carried a flavor of cedar and chocolate, but once it was lit, the flavor cracked off with a powerful burst of chili pepper spice. After an explosive start, however, the flavor tamped back down to a sweet, powdered chocolate, with notes of cedar on the retrohale, and the slightest little touch of mint.
As it burns, there's still the occasional 'pop' of chili pepper in this rich, complex blend of flavors.
The ash is a medium-grey in color, and is firm, but still taps off easily. As much as I enjoy a firm ash column that holds together for a long, long time, I find myself ashing more frequently out of an abundance of caution, especially when I'm in shorts, because dropping a hot stack of ash on yourself is not altogether pleasant. I'm sidetracking.
The first inch seemed to burn down really quickly, but then it slowed considerably once the initial “fireworks display” closed out. The burn remains even, if not razor-sharp, and there's a such a faint resting smoke, I'm tempted to call it non-existent; but when I draw on the cigar, it belches fine, white smoke.
As I near the second third, it's tasting more and more like dark chocolate with little bits of chili pepper.
Jacob's Ladder really mellows out in the second third, presenting a primarily cedar character with soft chocolate notes underneath, and a sweet, graham cracker retrohale.
Still burning evenly, and the angle on it has evened out, as well.
There's still the occasional chili pepper zing, as well as a soft, creamy finish to each draw.
As the last third approaches, the cigar takes on a meatier flavor, like a steak being smoked over cedar.
That steak flavor carries into the last third, where the burn is perfectly even now. I credit the Xikar Xflame for the success of this burn and the complete lack of touchups.
As the last third burns down, that chili pepper is coming through more and more.
Near the final draw down, the primary flavors are cedar and chili pepper, and getting spicer.
This was a fantastic cigar; it was far more rich and complex than I expected from a relatively new company, and there were so many flavors blended seamlessly together that I could barely focus on anything but the cigar. That's a difficult accomplishment, since I'm a habitual multitasker. I loved every moment of this stick, and I can't wait to smoke and review another of Southern Draw's blends.