Reviews by Scott W.

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Invasive Species Welcomed

Scott W.

Not too long ago, there was buzz about a little company in the cigar industry called Southern Draw. In a very short period of time, Southern Draw has become a name that we now get asked about frequently. Throw in the fact that none other than AJ Fernandez makes the Southern Draw product line, and you will begin to get an idea of why this US Veteran owned and operated company has the buzz that it does...

This cigar is wrapped in a beautiful double-fermented Habano rosado wrapper. The wrapper has a beautifully soft, sweet aroma to it, with just a hint of spiciness. Underneath the beautiful wrapper lies a Mexican binder enclosing Nicaraguan grown Cuban-seed long fillers. The cigar is well rolled with no soft spots. I opted to do a straight cut with my twin-guillotine cutter.

After toasting, then puffing through the covered foot, I am initially greeted by a nice natural sweetness, warm baking spices, and earthiness on the palate. Retrohaling the cigar brings cedar and sweet baking spices, reminding me strongly of the aromas in the kitchen when my wife is baking a carrot cake. While I do enjoy the aromas of this treat, she knows I won't eat it, because I am a firm believer that all desserts should be vegetable free...

The sweetness found on both the palate and in the retrohale are definitely coming from that beautiful habano rosado wrapper. In my opinion, there are not a lot of manufacturers that can do a rosado wrapper without fermenting it to the point of making it thin and brittle. That is most definitely not the case here, as the wrapper seems sturdy and cut beautifully with no cracking. 

The earthy notes are what I have come to expect of Nicaraguan tobaccos. They're never overpowering, but rather beautifully balanced with the baking spices and natural sweetness of the wrapper. About halfway into the first third, the retrohale picks up a rather Cubanesque floral note, making me enjoy it even more. 

Construction and burn wise, this cigar has been nothing but stellar throughout the 1st third, staying lit even after an unintended 5 minute break on my part while holding an inch and a half of ash. My initial impression is that this cigar is solidly within the medium to full-body realm.

Entering the 2nd third of the cigar, I'm noticing something new. A very soft chocolatey note is appearing on the palate, something that I seem to pick up out of a lot of Mexican tobacco. It's almost as if this cigar is designed to allow one of the components to shine in each third.  

I am still getting all of the components I found on both the palate and the retrohale in the 1st third, although the floral note is a bit stronger now, relegating the cedar to a more minor role. The cigar is still wonderfully balanced overall.

Construction continues to impress me. The burn has a razor-thin carbon line, a great indication of quality wrapper leaf, while the ash continues to grow to over 2.5 inches of white ash so far, with no need to relight the cigar since I fired it up. The spices I am still getting now have me thinking of filler leaves from both Esteli and Jalapa in Nicaragua, considering there is both that sweet and spicy element to them. 

If you've met me at the Hamburg Superstore, or seen my Wet Your Whistle Wednesday pairing videos on our store's Facebook page, you probably know I've been thinking about a drink to enjoy with this cigar. Robert Holt believes that his cigars pair well with both craft beer and whiskeys. I would definitely agree with that for the Firethorn. My preferences would be to enjoy a Belgian-style beer for a spices to spices complimentary pairing, or go with Glenmorangie to boost sweetness and spiciness on both the cigar and scotch.

Robert Holt seems to have multiple reasons behind choosing the names for his cigars. Firethorn happens to be a beautiful, but non-native invasive plant species in the USA. For me, being an avid golfer, and in addition to Robert hailing from the state of Georgia, the name Firethorn always gets me thinking of hole #15 at Augusta National Golf Club, the home of The Masters. Hole #15 at Augusta is named Firethorn, and Southern Draw released a unique size of the Firethorn called the Augusta last year to honor Robert's Georgia roots, released rather fittingly the week of The Masters tournament. 

Entering the final third after an hour of burn time, I am noticing that there is a soft oaky note appearing on the finish after the smoke has left my mouth. A new flavor element for sure, but still solidly balanced against the rest of the spices, sweetness, and earthiness. This cigar is well-finessed to maintain flavor balances as it evolves. AJ Fernandez is a master of doing this, speaking to his skill as a blender. Strength, body, and flavor are all still solidly medium-full. My only concern is that the cigar is swelling just enough to make small cracks in the wrapper. Continuing on, the cigar is burning through them with no issues other than needing one very minor burn correction. 

To sum up, if you prefer flavorful, well-balanced cigars in the medium-full body range that can be paired with whiskeys and craft beer, the Southern Draw Firethorn is a very worthy addition to your rotation. My only regret is that I was unable to enjoy an adult beverage with this cigar while reviewing it... sigh...