Late last year, Southern Draw released a blend that was created to pay homage to the origins of tobacco itself.

The cigar is named Manzanita—which translates to little apple from Spanish—and while we don’t know where the tobacco comes from, we do know that the wrapper is a habano hybrid leaf, the binder is a habano leaf, and the filler contains pelo de oro, corojo 99, and ligero tobaccos. The regular production line launched in a single 6 x 52 toro vitola priced at $14.99 each packaged in boxes of 10 that are being produced at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. factory.

According to Southern Draw, the somewhat unusual name came about while Abdel Fernandez, Robert Holt and Sharon Holt, along with members of their respective teams, were inspecting bales of the habano hybrid leaves that would be used for the wrapper and noticed how they had an oily, deep red color, reminiscent of the red bark of a manzanita tree.

“We have long desired to share the history of traditional tobacco and its spiritual importance and then we had an epiphany while working on names for our new cigar release,” said Robert Holt, founder of Southern Draw, in a press release. “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.”

The Southern Draw Manzanita debuted on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 at 10 retailers, each of whom received 100 boxes.

  • F&M Cigars (Phenix City, Ala.)
  • Burn Premium Cigar Specialists (Burnsville, Minn.)
  • Famous Smoke Shop (Easton, Pa.)
  • Ambassador Fine Cigars (Phoenix, Ariz.)
  • Atlantic Cigar Company (Folcroft, Pa.)
  • Casa de Montecristo (Multiple locations)
  • Heff’s Place (Mishawaka, Ind.)
  • Skallywag Cigars (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
  • Davidus Cigars (Multiple locations)
  • Cigars International (Multiple locations)

  • Cigar Reviewed: Southern Draw Manzanita Toro
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
  • Wrapper: Undisclosed (Habano Hybrid)
  • Binder: Undisclosed (Habano)
  • Filler: Undisclosed (Pelo de Oro, Corojo 99 & Ligero)
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $14.99 (Box of 10, $149.90)
  • Release Date: Dec. 19, 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Visually, the Southern Draw Manzanita is covered in a reddish mocha brown wrapper that exhibits not only plenty of oil, but also a number of protruding veins. In addition, the cigar is slick smooth to the touch and extremely firm when squeezed. The aroma from the dark wrapper is a combination of strong cedar, raisins, leather, sweet manure, earth, barnyard and hay, while the cold draw brings flavors creamy cedar, bourbon, earth, raisin sweetness, dark chocolate, generic nuts and a small amount of musty mushroom.

Immediately after lighting the foot of the Manzanita, I am inundated with dominant flavors of dark chocolate and cedar, followed by notes of leather, earth, salted peanut shells, nutmeg and slight floral. There is a small amount of both spice on my tongue and black pepper on the retrohale, both of which combine nicely with some rich raisin sweetness that seems to have been pulled directly from the cold draw. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent after a simple straight cut while the burn is giving me no issues so far, while smoke production is quite high off of the foot. In terms of strength, the cigar increases steadily from a stronger mild to a lighter medium as the first third comes to an end.

Dark chocolate is easily the star of the show in the second third of the Southern Draw Manzanita, taking over the dominant spot in the profile, although the creamy cedar note from the first third is still very much present. Secondary flavors of dried tea leaves, earth, leather, hay, sourdough bread and slight floral also flit in and out in various amounts, while both the black pepper on the retrohale and spice are noticeably reduced compared to the first third. The raisin sweetness is still a major factor in the profile as well, albeit not as much as it was in the preceding third. In terms of construction, the burn continues to give me virtually no issues at all and the draw remains excellent. The strength increases enough to come within spitting distance of medium by the end of the second third.

Unfortunately, the profile of the Southern Draw Manzanita starts to fade a bit as the final third begins, with the same dominant dark chocolate flavor becoming noticeably less distinct on the palate. The secondary flavors are also not as complex, with notes of hay, cinnamon, leather, cedar and tea leaves having less impact than I expected after smoking through the second third. Having said that, the black pepper and raisin sweetness on the retrohale have gained some prominence, and both are easily strong enough to impact the profile in a positive way. Finally, there are no issues whatsoever with either the burn or the draw, and while the strength increases enough to pass the medium mark, it stalls out there as I put the nub down with a bit more than an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • According to Southern Draw, some of the proceeds from the Manzanita will go to the First Nations Development Institute, an organization endeavored to ensure the sustainable, economic, spiritual, and cultural well-being of their communities. Specifically, the Nourishing Native Foods & Health initiative, which the company expects to send a total of $30,000 in 2021, with hopes to exceed that number at the end of the program.
  • Interestingly, Caldwell Cigars actually already sells a a 4 x 42 petit corona vitola named Manzanita in his The King is Dead Line; however, owner Robert Caldwell agreed to allow the Holts to use the name for this release.
  • While the toro is the only vitola in the line at the moment, Southern Draw has stated that robusto and gordo sizes are slated to be added later this year.
  • The overall construction was excellent, with only one sample needing a touchup once in the second third and virtually perfect draws throughout.
  • Although the press release notes that this is a full-strength blend, after smoking three of them I would put it at a strongish medium at most.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were sent to halfwheel by Southern Draw.
  • Final smoking time average one hour and 39 minutes for all three samples.
  • Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar Co. carries the Southern Draw Manzanita but is currently out of stock.
89 Overall Score

I admit I am a sucker for a cigar with an interesting origin story or background and the Southern Draw Manzanita certainly qualifies in that regard. Thankfully, there is more to this cigar than just the story: the blend is both rich and complex, with a wonderful combination of both dark chocolate and creamy cedar, along with a wonderful raisin sweetness on the retrohale. Even though the flavors in the profile have a noticeable drop off in both distinctness and complexity in the final third—leading to an ending that is less than ideal—the first two thirds of the Manzanita are easily enjoyable enough to recommend trying the blend if you can find it.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.