Southern Draw Manzanita | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

  • Wrapper: Habano Hybrid (undisclosed country origin)
  • Binder: Habano (undisclosed country origin)
  • Filler: Pelo D’Oro, Corojo ’99, Ligero (undisclosed country origin)
  • Size: 6 x 52 Toro
  • Strength: Medium
  • Price: $14.99

Today we take a look at the Southern Draw Manzanita.


Factory: AJ Fernandez Cigar Co, Estelí, Nicaragua

Release Date: December 2020

According to Robert Holt:

“The Southern Draw Cigars family have commissioned the AJ Fernandez Cigar Co. to produce our contemporary blend cigar, a humble effort to share the legacy of Traditional Tobacco, that is tobacco and other plant mixtures used by Native Americans for the same reasons as our family, for sacred rituals, ceremony, healing and giving thanks. FUN FACT:  Research shows that Native Americans were smoking tobacco more than 1,000 years before Europeans arrived with their own domesticated variety, possibly dating back to 2500 BC.

“The blend is being called MANZANITA  (Meaning “little apple” in Spanish)— a term coined years ago during a planning session as AJ, Rafael, Freddy, Sharon, and Robert inspected bales of rich Habano hybrid, noting the deep red oily leaves, indicative of the shimmering “red” bark of a manzanita tree, these superbly fermented leaves were destined to be the wrapper. Each tobacco involved in the blend brought an undisclosed origin during blending, which included varieties of Pelo d’Oro, Corojo 99, Habano and the compulsory, ligero.  The company has decided to keep the countries and farms of origin confidential as not to form notions prior to each person’s own actual smoking experience.

“Some 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.  Southern Draw has chosen for their contributions to go toward Nourishing Native Foods & Health,  The initiative is expected to raise a total of $30,000 for this charity in 2021, with hopes to exceed that number at the end of the program.”


You need to be in sunlight to really see the oiliness of the wrapper and the multi-colored hues. As I turn the cigar, I see bits of red, orange, burnt sienna, bronze, and amber. The stick is amply filled. Nice resistance when squeezed. I assume it is a triple cap…the cap is so artfully applied that it is near impossible to count them with certainty. I’m not saying there might be less than 3…but the seams glide naturally into each other creating a blank canvas that morphs into the main wrapper seamlessly.

Seams are not visible. A few veins are here and there but do not terminate the flow of the cigar’s veneer.


Aromas are subtle: light touches of dark chocolate, sweet berries, cream, malt, black and red peppers, cinnamon, mix of roasted nuts, black coffee, baking spices, cedar, and an even lighter touch of vanilla.

The cold draw presents flavors of black coffee, salty pretzel, creaminess, red pepper, malt, cedar, dark cocoa, sweet berries, and cinnamon.


The cigar is clear as a bell so no need for my PerfecDraw.

Oh my…the start of the burn hits me from all sides. My cheeks pucker from citrus, cinnamon, creamy vanilla ice cream, chocolate, dried apricot; plus a host of elements I cannot split like the atom…yet. Just a tease and a wake-up slap.

The cinnamon becomes Red Hots. Love ‘em. The pepper influence is nullified by the cinnamon until it melds into a ball of spice.

Strength is an easy going medium.

The cigar blend is blowing me away due to the initial complexity. If it tastes this good now…I expect by the second half I will ask Holt to marry me.

The experience is intense at only half an inch in.

Man, I have not been bombarded by this many flavor combinations so early in a cigar in I don’t know when. This is going to be fun.

The balance, nuances, and richness are at a point that most cigars don’t see til the second half, if they are that lucky.

A sweet v. savory equilibrium is on the money. And the burn is dead nuts perfect.

Ancillary flavors that just run by streaking my palate are black grapes, licorice, honey roasted peanuts, maraschino cherries, and a dose of steak sauce with those savory spices like tamarind, malt vinegar, and molasses.

As subtle as these flavors are, the blend is a flavor bomb. No single flavor outshines any of its compadres. This is a team effort by the tobacco to batten the hatches.

A teriyaki jerky impression is entering from the rear of the train.

The fruitiness is all over the place. There is citrus that tastes of lemon zest, lime, and oranges. Blackberries are keeping pace. There is a slight sweet vegetal thing going on that reminds me of red bell peppers.

Strength lightens up a bit…I think. The strength of the complexity is the captain of the boat and it makes all the decisions. In fact, I am not noticing the strength of the cigar at all.


The tobacco stuffing makes the burn a slow roll…very enjoyable and relaxing. No construction issues. The char line is pleased with itself.

As much of a fanboy I have become of Southern Draw, I have to say that the Manzanita is totally different than not only other manufacturer’s cigar blends…but in a zone all by itself in the SD catalog.

It’s as good as an aged Padron or an aged Opus X or any other overpriced fancy cigar you can think of. The depth of field this tobacco brings to the table is incredible.

The second third takes off on me. Holy crap. It has entered a new dimension in the time continuum. Really. Strength quickly becomes medium/full. Smooth does not begin to describe this tobacco love. It goes down like some of the most expensive liquors you have been lucky enough to sip.

My first sip of water and my face flies off my head. It lands on the floor. Charlotte will ask me later, “What is that?” I will respond, “Nothing. I will pick it up later.” I’ll get the cat to fetch it for me.

The water intensifies everything. It makes the flavor profile very glossy and intimate. Now I smoked one a few days in…sorry Robert…but it did not hit me in the puss like letting it rest and breathe for a bit. 6-9 months from now, the Manzanita will run for public office.

Strength retreats to medium. Ahh…this cigar could have been a double agent during the Cold War…if it only had a brain.

Man, I’m telling you…this is a friggin’ perfect cigar blend. I’m sitting here happy and totally stunned. I expected the cigar to be great…but I wasn’t expecting what I got.

You don’t need a sophisticated palate for the Manzanita. It is so complex that if you are alive, you will love it to death; regardless if you can taste the tidbits I taste now.

This is one of the finest examples of the whole eclipsing the parts of any cigar I’ve smoked.

I talk about balance all the time. But the Manzanita is in its own category. I couldn’t think of a single criticism for the ever-evolving morphing flavor profile and exotic experience this cigar presents. I could make a long list of momentary flavors that whiz on by but then a lot of readers would think I’m full of it. Take my word, your palate will be in a wondrous state of entropy when you taste it. You might taste something completely different than me…but you cannot deny the immense complexity that is nearly overwhelming in its intricacies.

I haven’t revealed my top 25 picks of the year yet. I will do so by the end of January. I have cigars lined up in my humidor for review I want to give a chance. And having spent months of being sick with the flu last year put me behind the eight ball. I’m now going to catch up.

With each new release from SD, I think it can’t get any better; and then it does.

SD is in the top 5 of the most consistent cigar manufacturers in the world. Every blend a gem. I can only imagine what Robert Holt will be releasing when he is 92.

The strength is not full…I think. I have no idea. But then I guess if it were a pepper bomb, I’d bring that up. Holt brought every tool he had to the table when he designed this cigar. He must be very proud of this accomplishment.

The finish coats my teeth like an army of house painters. The transitions move at the speed of sound.

More sips of water. The blend brightens like a shiny new penny. I know it’s cool to drink liquor of your choosing with a cigar…but then your cigar tastes like the liquor. If you want to truly enjoy a journeyman’s experience, just drink water. A neutral liquid. One doesn’t want to detract from any of the nuances in this blend.

Flavors are concentrating like plutonium. There must be a drill sergeant in there somewhere yelling orders at the flavors to line up perfectly.

I have no idea where the last third will lead me.


The burn line is a work of art.

Now remember, when I numerically rate a cigar, it is my reaction to that specific blend. If the rating is very high, I’m not saying it is better than any other cigar on the market. What I’m saying is how I related to the experience. Since I write contemporaneously as I smoke the cigar, I feel my score is apropos to the Now. It can be a perfect experience. So, don’t go all crazy on me when I rate this cigar.

Strength seems to hunker down at medium/full.

If I were anymore relaxed, I’d be dead. The calmative effect of a brilliant cigar blend does that to me.

And here we go again…the nature of the cigar reaches for the stars and grabs a handful. The Manzanita took off once again to another plateau that makes me laugh out loud. How a cigar can be so powerful and so smooth at the same time is just Bozo Crazy.

Mr. Holt said this to me:

“This is really a special moment to share the Manzanita – you shall see for yourself. Never been so excited to bring something to market. Peace. Robert”

I dig a pony.

The Manzanita is now bigger than life. A giant blizzard of flavors is doing the Texas Swing Dance. The sheer intensity keeps taking me aback.

I am so trying not to give you a laundry list of flavor elements because it would be a never-ending pile of nouns. You will laugh at me. The trick accomplished here is that every single flavor is in total balance so that the blend is in a state of perfect complementary essentiality.

The cigar industry reviewers are waiting to review the Manzanita. I thought I was taking a big chance jumping the gun with only 6 weeks of humi time. Hey guys! Dig in. Go for it. As so many top 25 lists have already been released, there was little time to assess this blend. A shame. I’ve been asked why I’m sitting on my brain and haven’t released my list. I have compiled a list. But the Cosmic Muffin wanted me to smoke the Manzanita so it would make my list for 2020.

This cigar is better than sex. Hey. I’m 71. Sex is now Charlotte and I groaning and moaning, but not in a good way. Everything hurts when your bones hit seven decades on the planet.

So, when I say, “Am I hurting you?” It’s not the way you think. I wish we had “Senso-Rings”  like the Coneheads.

“Some Kind of Wonderful” by Grand Funk is playing. I couldn’t agree more.

I rail about expensive cigars all the time. Mostly due to the fact that they are rarely worth it. I’ve eviscerated countless cigars in the $20+ range that I can’t count them. At the MSRP of $15 per stick for the Manzanita is a steal. Tell me another way you can have two hours of ecstasy for $15.

Yeah, I said two hours. This has been such a leisurely event that I took my ever-lovin’ time with this baby. It needs to be savored. The perfect amount of tobacco allows for this.

I’m going to use my PerfecDraw tool to nub this cigar.

If you have some Manzanitas, good for you. If you don’t, what are you waiting for?

My most fervent wish is that this becomes a regular production cigar. This would be pretty much all I smoked.

Robert and the team that delivered this special experience all deserve kudos and a chance to host Wheel of Fortune.

Unbelievable cigar blend. Wow. I’m going to stop writing now and enjoy the last inch without distraction.



33 replies

  1. Lotsa 100 ratings for Southern Draw stuff, bud. What’s up? 😃

    I have been smoking cigars for 25 years, my palate is not worse than yours; I smoke high end stuff; and I have had one cigar that was worthy of calling itself a 100. Educate me.

  2. Hi Bob,
    I believe I explained it in the review. I’m glad your palate is not worse than mine.
    “Now remember, when I numerically rate a cigar, it is my reaction to that specific blend. If the rating is very high, I’m not saying it is better than any other cigar on the market. What I’m saying is how I related to the experience. Since I write contemporaneously as I smoke the cigar, I feel my score is apropos to the Now. It can be a perfect experience. So, don’t go all crazy on me when I rate this cigar.”

  3. Bob, you’re reading the wrong reviewer, and with that unpleasant attitude it’s no wonder you and your super-palate have only enjoyed one 100 in twenty five years.

    No one’s impressed. Join us for the joy of hearing one guy’s impressions — which all of us enjoy and many agree with. Also enjoy reader’s comments. Really, stay. It might lead you to an even greater appreciation of a good smoke than your competitive palate alone can provide.

    Phil, loved the review, and love that you think highly of and feel great about many great cigars. And love that you save me from stinker sticks.

  4. Thank you, Tom, for the kind words.
    Palates are as individual as fingerprints.
    Yes, my reviews are simply one man’s opinion.
    If you love a $6 cigar to death, then it is worthy of a rating of 100 to you. It is perfect in that moment.
    I do not try to construe that any cigar is best in the world. There is no such thing.
    After 50 years of smoking cigars, I am not a high falutin’ cigar aficionado. I’m not a connosieur of the finest things in life. I’m a conduit to my readers of my own experiences.
    Bob may have a much better palate than mine. He might be much choosier than me. It is his life experience. Not mine. I speak for myself and that’s all.
    Because of my popularity, some smokers confuse me with cigar industry reviewers. Never worked a day in that industry. I just got lucky by being different in my approach to writing.
    And discussing cigar preferences is heads above discussing politics…so it’s win/win.
    All the best,

  5. Phil – I couldn’t agree more. Back 25 years ago or so I smoked this little machine made cuban that I bet 99 out of 100 “professional” reviewers would have rated somewhere b/t 80-85. Can’t remember the name, maybe La Flor De Cano? Anyway, it was pretty one dimensional, but WOW was a a good dimension! Straight up chocolate bomb that paired perfectly with my coffee. It was one of the best cigar smoking experiences I’ve ever had. I gave it a 98 (my personal rating). It’s all in the eye of the beholder my friend!

  6. Amen brother Darren…
    It’s all about timing, mood, and palate.
    Working a good part of the year in a cigar lounge, I saw smokers by the billions come in and enjoy a cigar I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. But they enjoyed the hell out of it…so who am I to argue?

  7. One thing…There is a very distinct difference between sitting and relaxing while smoking a cigar and sitting in front of a computer reviewing a cigar in real time.
    The concentration required is light years harder than smoking on your own time…hence, I pick up flavors I normally might not pick up. It is pretty intense writing a 2500 word cigar review. Everything about you shifts into high gear. You are a detective.

    I have offered to readers countless times the opportunity to write a cigar review on my site. Only one person has taken up that challenge in 10 years.
    It’s bloody hard to do.

    And then add the caveat that I am expected to be witty, clever, and entertaining? Lawdy, lawdy, Miss Clawdy.
    It is like anything else in life…walk a mile in my shoes before you judge.
    But then I am a judge. Not jury. Judge. That is what reviewers do. Judge. And if I smell a ripoff, lord have mercy on their soul. The industry guys can’t do it because it’s their careers at stake…and they have industry relationships they don’t want to tarnish.
    I’m too old to give a shit. That’s the way it is supposed to be.

  8. Excellent! My box arrives tomorrow, and I can’t wait to try them!

  9. Bryant…You sit on that box before you smoke one. If you can’t control yourself, smoke one a few days in. But you will realize you just wasted a $15 cigar 6 weeks from now when your cigars have rested and taken deep breaths.
    I take my cellos off when I know I’m going to smoke them in a few months.
    Report back please when you smoke one.
    Nice hearing from you.

  10. Loved this review. It’s not a “bad time” to be in love with a good cigar. I am smoking a H. Upmann Hispaniola by Jose Menendez as I read this review (that I first tried due to it being in your top 25 list for 2019), and it made the cigar ever more enjoyable. Cannot wait to try this Southern Draw smoke that you rate so highly. Thanks for the interesting review.

  11. Spot on Phil. I got one of the first boxes from Skallywag Cigars in Scottsdale. (Good folks by the way!)

    USPS was up to their usual high standards of service and it took for ever to get here. Freezing temps, so I put them in the winador and let them sit. I gave them 2 weeks(?) before I fired one, even though it was killing me.

    It was amazing. I gotta roll with your review for sure. Love it. The rest are in their box, cello trimmed at the foot, aging until at least spring. Those are my “Gorgeous Day going to indulge” cigars for sure.

  12. Hey vincent,
    Everyone is conplaining that the mail shipping systems are behind the 8 ball at the moment. I orderd some sticks from Cigar Page on Jan.3 and three weeks later…nothing. Tracking is stuck on Jan.6.
    I know the “Just killing me” syndrome well. I bet if there was online cigar sales during the time of Freud, there would be a mental disease named after the issue.
    Be well,

  13. 😲😲😲😲 I am so excited to try this cigar! Thank you for the riveting review Katman! As always your descriptive prose is entertaining and informative. We must have similar palates because whenever you gush about a cigar and I find and smoke one I am similarly impressed by the experience and I know it’s not just your influence imposing it’s will on my young and impressionable brain because I have smoked a number of cigars and then looked up and read your review after the fact and been in sympatico more often than not. If the trend continues this cigar may cause me to spontaneously combust! I can’t wait. 😁

  14. Hi Eric,
    This makes me happy. I get around 50 comments per day that I must either approve or toss. You guys never read them because I have thousands of reviews…and someone may read a cigar review I wrote in 2012 or 2014 or 2017 and the only way to see these comments is to specifically look for the cigar the person who wrote a comment did.
    And the highest praise is that we have similar palates. Yes, I know I’m a wonderful asshole. The more praise the better, but seriously…to know I’m connecting with my readers gives me a boner this big. It doesn’t get better than that. I’m talking about the palate comparisons; not the boner.
    Thank you again brother,

  15. Dang it! After this review I have to restart my buying hiatus!

    (Said in my most sarcastic voice…) Thanks Phil!

    But you know what, it’s 80 degrees right now…so take that Katman! LOL!



  16. You fucking 80 degree this..(grabs crotch and sways hips suggestively).
    It’s a balmy 22 and about to see 4-5″ of snow overnight.
    It’s a great stick…be patient.

  17. Conan, they are freaking good. Very good. I do not think you would be disappointed.

    Shoot me an addy, I’ll hook you up buddy.


  18. So I guess a lap dance isn’t in my future?


  19. VN;

    All good, thanks. Placed an order with Famous right before my OP. Used their code to get 17% off but ‘cause I’m in Hawaii, don’t qualify for free shipping. Also got charged tax so basically a wash.

    Guessing I’ll get my order early next week.


  20. Yeah Phil, Conan and I are acquainted.

    He’s hard to track though. 🙂

  21. Don’t toy with me, son…

  22. No worries my friend. No worries.


  23. Well, Phil, I too am a Southern Draw fan boy. I’ve never smoked a bad one! Ever.

    And, I have found that when Phil Cohn recommends a stogie, and gives it a good rating, I too will become a fan boy of that ceegar.

    So, sir, based upon your observations, I ordered a box of ’em from Atlantic Cigar, which at the moment seems to be the only place to buy them!!!

    Thanks very much for pointing me in the right direction!


  24. Hi Vance,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you…
    Robert Holt has found a magical way to work with AJ. And I hear he isn’t so easy to work with…AJ, not Robert.
    I hope that SD can at some point make the Manzanita a regular production cigar.
    All the best,
    Phil Cohn

  25. Kool. You changed the spelling of your last name. You are so flexible, Cohn. haha.

  26. Hi Mark,
    Anything to please a beloved reader.
    Phil Kohen

  27. Okay Phil…they arrived today. And ya know what? I’m a-gonna smoke one this evening! Cain’t wait! I might age the nine others if I like Numero Uno!!! YOW!

  28. Hey Vance,
    Go ahead and try one. And then remember a few months from now when you smoke one and go Wowie, you’ll realize you may have wasted one upon receipt.
    OK. I’m no better. I have no patience either.
    But ROTT? Oy. At least wait a day or two.
    Either way, you will enjoy the fruits of Robert Holt’s loins.

  29. OK…I waited a week for the second one. Better. But as to the fruits of Robert Holt’s loins? Mmm…NOH! LOL

  30. I finally found this cigar in a local shop and I’m smoking it now. Holy smokes!!!! Outstanding!!!! Yet again, you’re spot on! The Manzanita has just pushed Jacobs Ladder to my #2 Southern Draw fave.

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