Flash back to August 2016, and you might remember Southern Draw Cigars announcing two new lines, Rose of Sharon and Jacobs Ladder. Both were released as part of the rush to get new cigars to market ahead of U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Aug. 8, 2016 deadline that once passed, would require new cigars to get the agency’s approval before they could legally be sold.

Both cigars would get limited releases via select retailers, but it wouldn’t be until 2017 that both lines started appearing on a more widespread basis. Rose of Sharon, which uses an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, started appearing more regularly in March 2017, while it would take nearly a year for Jacobs Ladder to appear in any sort of quantity, getting its full release at the 2017 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, with an additional batch released in September.

Jacobs Ladder was billed as being the company’s fullest premium offering, and a glance at the blend notes shows why: a broadleaf wrapper from Lancaster, Pa. was paired with an Ecuadorian maduro binder and fillers from Nicaragua, including ligeros from Estelí.

While the company had initially promised seven sizes for the Jacobs Ladder, it was released in three sizes which are produced by Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.

  • Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Gordo (6 1/2 x 60) — $10.99 (Box of 20, $219.80)
  • Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Robusto (5 1/2 x 54) — $9.50 (Box of 20, $190)
  • Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Toro (6 x 52) — $9.99 (Box of 20, $199.80)

Each size is offered in 20-count boxes, but the toro size is also getting a limited run of 1,000 two-count petacas priced at $25.99, which contain cigars from the initial run of 2,000 produced.

As for the name, it builds on the company’s established pattern of using the names of flowering plants for its cigars. Second, the name refers to the Biblical story of the connection between heaven and earth that Jacob, son of Isaac, dreamed about in the book of Genesis. Third, it’s a symbolic reference to Ethan “Jacob” Holt, son of two of the Southern Draw Cigars founders, who provides sales and technical support for the company.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Toro
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
  • Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf
  • Binder: Ecuadorian Maduro
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $9.99 (Box of 20, $199.80)
  • Release Date: August 2016
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There’s a lot going on visually to take in on the Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Toro; the cedar sleeve provides a contrast to the dark, earthy brown wrapper, while the dual bands pop well with the blue base standing out from the wrapper, and the gold font standing out from them both. Once the cedar is removed, it reveals a wrapper with some shimmering crystallization, a fine grit texture, small but noticeable veins, and the fact that the cigar features a covered foot, some more cleanly than others. The roll is clean and firm, with the occasional cap being the only thing with which I can take issue. The covered foot offers an aroma that is cool and sweet at first whiff, opening up to show some earth, chocolate and cookie dough. The cold draw is easy—downright loose in one sample—with a sweet cedar note the first thing to cross my palate, followed by baking chocolate, meat, and Worcestershire sauce, finished by a bit of pepper.

The first puffs of the Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder are medium in flavor and strength, with seemingly all of the pre-light flavors and aromas coming together at once to offer a fairly complex introduction, spiked occasionally by a strong pepper note. The first retrohale shows the sweet and peppery punch that the cigar seems to be billed around, as the company makes it well known that the cigar features Pennsylvania broadleaf and plenty of ligero. It’s also a great example of getting the sweetness from ligero that is often overlooked or overshadowed by the pepper. The profile begins to focus on the rocky and peppery earth by the time the burn line is at the one-inch mark, a bit unevenly but nothing requiring a touch-up. A bit of cocoa powder comes out shortly thereafter, but I’m becoming more intrigued by the aroma of the cigar, which is bright and complex, marked by touches of cedar, campfire, mint, and pepper. Once the first clump of ash drops off the first sample, the draw loosens up a bit, but nothing I’m concerned about.

The start of the second third sees the flavor mellow just a bit, and as such the cookie dough flavor slides forward along with some vanilla. The retrohale is still punchy and peppery, though both are a bit more blunt at this spot and don’t have the same pop as they did earlier. The texture of the smoke begins to thin at various points in this section, usually within half an inch or so of the midpoint, leaving a slightly less fulfilling sensation in the mouth. Just ahead of the midpoint, the Jacobs Ladder has kicked up the strength a couple of ticks and is close to full territory, while body and flavor are still medium-plus. The overall strength retreats a bit ahead of the final third, and when a clump of ash departs from the first sample, it seems to signal the transition to the final third, with the cigar now billowing smoke while continuing to otherwise burn quite well.

Through the first two thirds, I’ve certainly got the full flavored billing of the Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder blend, and it’s quickly setting in that the full strength portion is quickly approaching on the horizon. The ligero component continues to build, with pepper starting to re-tingle the tongue, a bit of tree bark settling in on the tip of the tongue, and a profile change starting to emerge. It’s not immediate, but the cigar seems to be unpacking all of its stronger components, which while exciting, does cause a bit of a messy explosion of flavor. The cigar gets a bit out of balance when the burn line crosses where the upper edge of the primary band would be; while the pepper is still clean and strong through the nose, the smoke leaves a slightly sour, slightly metallic finish on the tongue as it exits the mouth. There’s also a bit of bark on the finish that dries out the mouth, sapping whatever moisture may be present and gets me reaching for some water. The nicotine strength really kicks in with about an inch to go, and I suddenly feel the punch that the cigar has been promising. It finishes a bit on the sharp side, which lands it in the ashtray with just under an inch left.

Final Notes

  • Blue bands remind me of Diamond Crown Julius Caeser, particularly the ones used for the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation sets recently.
  • The lack of an apostrophe in Jacobs Ladder bothers me like you wouldn’t believe.
  • There is an exercise machine called the Jacobs Ladder, which I’ve heard offers quite a challenging workout.
  • There is also a film with the title Jacob’s Ladder.
  • I can’t attribute it solely to the draw, but the second cigar smoked noticeably different from the first third, lacking much of the vibrance and depth of flavors.
  • The first two thirds had me excited about smoking another one almost right away, but the strength that comes through in the final third had me wanting a respite before lighting up any cigar, let alone another Jacobs Ladder.
  • While most two-count coffins or petacas that I recall seeing have been slide-lid tops, but this and the Rose of Sharon have a lid that pops off of one end. I can’t say I’ve seen this used by a company other than Southern Draw.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Southern Draw Cigars.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 55 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsor JR Cigar carries the Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder line.
84 Overall Score

I'm always a bit weary of cigars promising to deliver what Southern Draw said the Jacobs Ladder would do: delivering a very rich and complex cigar with a full body and full flavor profile, yet for the most part, that's exactly what it does. The first two thirds are quite good, particularly when the sweetness and peppery strength of the ligero and broadleaf shine through to create a tongue-immersing profile. However, it all comes at a cost as the final third unravels and the profile shows the less desirable parts of the tobacco, particularly a metallic, sour earthiness that gets compounded by a gut punch of nicotine strength that sits in the system for quite a while. This is an interesting and educative cigar about just how flavorful and complex tobacco can be and what can go wrong; as such I'd readily smoke the first two thirds over and over if I could guarantee to know exactly when to stop.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.