Annual releases are nothing new in the cigar industry. But a once-every-five-years cigar? That’s an idea.

It also happens to be part of the backstory behind the Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum, the other half being that it celebrates the fifth anniversary of the company.

The cigar is a Nicaraguan puro highlighted by a medio tiempo habano wrapper grown on the volcanic island of Ometepe. Medio tiempo is notable for being one of the highest primings of leaves, and while it would have previously been just another type of ligero, it has recently begun to earn its own name and designation.

“If we were entering a BBQ cook-off this summer and only had a single cut of meat to submit to the judges, the Lustrum would be a consensus choice by the family,” said Robert Holt, Southern Draw’s founder, in a press release. “Offering extravagant and rather pricey vintage tobaccos at a blue collar price, a thank you to those who have supported the brand over the last five years. We think we have a cigar worthy of celebrating the first five years of Southern Draw – a family company that by the Grace of God and for the love and support of an industry – has made it longer and been more consistent than many expected.”

The primary size of the line is a 5 1/2 x 52 box-pressed belicoso fino, of which just 2,500 bundles of 10 cigars were produced. It was unveiled at the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show in late June and shipped to retailers on July 10.

However, it’s not the only size that has been produced, as the line debuted in early June as a 6 x 52 toro released to JR Cigar for the retailer’s Smokin’ in the Carolinas event. There were 220 boxes of 20 cigars produced, which were sold exclusively through JR Cigar and Casa de Montecristo.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum Belicoso Fino
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua
  • Binder: Nicaragua (Criollo 98)
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Belicoso Fino
  • MSRP: $11.89 (Bundle of 10, $118.90)
  • Release Date: July 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Bundles of 10 Cigars (25,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Besides the secondary band, which I will discuss later, the first thing I notice about the Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum Belicoso Fino is the box press, because it is done so well. The corners are sharp and the cigar pressed quite well, including how the wrapper absorbed the process. The head of one cigar has a small spot where the tobacco isn’t laid flat, but nothing to be concerned about. The leaf is a milk chocolate brown that leans earthy with a good amount of tooth and a matte finish. But what really stands out is how smooth the leaf is. Given the box press I’m surprised by how firm the cigar is as two of the samples lack the firm, pillowy softness generally found in such shapes. The foot of the cigar is cloyingly sweet and fragrant, enough to get you to take a deep inhale of the aroma only to be rewarded with some sneaky pepper at the very end. The aroma varies a good bit between the three samples; the first has me thinking of candy canes or other minty Christmas candy, particularly one that a retailer in Seattle used to sell that was a unique spin on taffy, while the second reminds me of the bread notes found in Champagne and the third has a rich brownie chocolate smell. Even taking a conservative clip on the belicoso fino head results in plenty of airflow, delivering a somewhat oily texture to the tongue, much like fresh almond butter would. There’s a bit of earthiness and pepper in the background, but both are largely restrained accents, with cocoa powder being the one thing that jumps out sporadically.

While the first puffs of the Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum Belicoso Fino seem fairly innocuous at first, I can taste the distinctive pepper of the ligero setting up camp on the tip of my tongue. It’s not long after that a very clean, crisp black pepper begins to take center stage both on the tongue and in the nose by way of my first retrohale. One sample has a much earthier profile to start out with, an interesting variance to find in the final sample I smoked since it definitely tastes like the amped up version of the previous two, but it comes with a bit more of a physical sensation I could see being off-putting at times. As the first clump of ash breaks off unceremoniously at about one inch into the first sample, I’m nudged to remark how good the construction has been so far, with a dense ash, easy draw and plenty of smoke, if it is a bit thin and not much for sticking around. It’s also the consistent time when the cigar gets a bit stronger and fuller; at its fullest there’s a dense woody flavor, which helps with complexity. The cigar is very enjoyable—assuming the signature flavor of ligero is enjoyable—if a bit singular for most of the first third, and with the burn line approaching the next portion, I can already begin to feel a bit of nicotine strength from it in my system.

There’s some development out of the Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum Belicoso Fino as it gets into its second third, though it seems to be coming at the cost of more nicotine getting into my system. One sample has a very distinctive tar twinge that hits the front half of the tongue; it’s a bit chalky and sour, enough so that I clip a bit of the head off to rid it of the brown ooze that has suddenly appeared. Beyond that, there’s a bit more earthiness coming out, which seems to give the pepper a heartier, black pepper taste now. Around the midpoint, the flavor settles into a solid medium-plus and nudging up into full-bodied territory, with flavor plentiful if not necessarily detailed or delivering the kind of profile that inspires a litany of specifics. The last puffs of the second third see the profile get a bit smokier and much more robust, as the pepper has fully shifted into a more traditional black pepper flavor backed by a rockier earth undertone. The construction and draw are both quite good, and while it’s not lacking, I’m a bit surprised the cigar isn’t putting off more smoke.

If it’s strength you’re craving, the start of the final third of the Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum Belicoso Fino should more than scratch that itch, while retrohales deliver a much more pepper-forward expression of the smoke. If the second third was a bit stewy, the final third unpacks that pretty well, lightening up the wood to make it stand out more distinctly while pepper continues to be more of an accent than a focal point or driver of the profile. The final inch sees the flavor get a bit hot, with the rockiness of the earth absorbing and seemingly reflecting most of that heat. A few final retrohales tie everything together, finishing on a fairly bright note and getting the cigar to its conclusion very well.

Final Notes

  • There is something about the foot band’s design that I really like, though I can’t quite place my finger on it. It feels like it has sort of a throwback design to mid-century signage with a fair amount of details and selling points neatly packed into a small space.
  • The color scheme of both the band mesh very well with the color of the wrapper leaf. I’ve never known if this is intentional or just good luck, but either way it works quite well here.
  • This is a strong cigar, no doubt. You’ll almost certainly be feeling some nicotine strength after smoking one of these, and almost certainly wanting some white sugar to neutralize the effect. Two of the three had me searching out an antidote, while the third was a bit more restrained.
  • Charlie Minato visited Southern Draw Cigars at the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Southern Draw Cigars.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 30 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop and JR Cigar carry the Southern Draw Kudzu LUSTRUM Belicoso Fino.
90 Overall Score

When I lit my first Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum Belicoso Fino, there was a side of me that was concerned that it was going to be nothing more than a strength bomb that was going to be so rooted in strength that nothing else would show through. While it's not shy with strength, earth and pepper, it doesn't overdo it for the most part, managing to deliver an enjoyable flavor profile backed by the hearty terroir of Nicaragua and particularly the Ometepe region. The draw and burn are both impeccable, making it a problem-free cigar, an added bonus and bit of praise to heap on top. If strength isn't a concern, the Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum Belicoso Fino is certainly worth lighting up both to celebrate the anniversary of the company and for a solid smoke in its own right.

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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 previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.