The Quickest Way to the Top is With a Ladder

As I wander through the modest humidor at the newest local smoke shop, perusing their selection of uncommon cigars, a brand catches my eye. There’s a couple boxes of Southern Draw lined up next to each other and the Jacob’s Ladder grabs my attention the most. With its dark wrapper and royal looking band I grab it and figure I’ll try it out. I don’t know anything about Southern Draw and their lineup but reading through the short description and admiring the branding, I figure why not.

As I check out the owner asks if I like strong cigars. I tell him “sure,” after all I feel like I’ve grown my palate quite a bit over my short years smoking cigars. He responds that this particular stick is the strongest they have in their humidor. Well now I’m a little scared. Granted, this is a new shop and their humidor is not the largest but still, it is big enough to open a shop. At this point I had not eaten anything for a while and I do not intend to make that mistake again with a strong cigar, so I save it for a smoke at home.

Fast forward to now when I have a full belly and no evening plans other than trying to climb this ladder. And sure enough, it starts out a little intense. But it isn’t kicking my butt like I feared. It’s like spicy wings that are hot enough to get your attention but aren’t spicy just for the sake of being spicy. There is actually flavor in all this dark Nicaraguan tobacco.

The intensity brings out a lot of spice and pepper, but again it isn’t too much for me to handle. So what does my dumb arrogant self do? Goes for a rather large retrohale to prove to myself I’m now a seasoned cigar smoker. Well to nobody’s surprise, that burnt like hell. It was as if I just snorted a pepper shaker and waters my eyes a bit. So I go on smoking the Jacob’s Ladder a little more conservatively, which is no problem at all as the construction of this cigar is superb. I am easily getting two inch ashes and could absolutely get longer but after that retrohale I wasn’t trying to give the Ladder any other chance to hurt me with falling ash.

As I get through the halfway mark the spice fades away into an espresso taste. It is like an espresso drink with a bit of creamy foam at the top to mellow it out. That or a very strong cappuccino. Either way it is a welcome change and keeps that flavor going for a while. At this point I go for another retrohale. Smaller this time of course and this time it is much more flavorful and less painful. It tastes almost like chocolate covered coffee beans. There’s still that strong tart flavor of black coffee/espresso but it adds a bit more creaminess.

This middle third of the cigar is by far the best part as it gets much smoother and throws in a lot of little flavors here and there that change with each puff. However, all great things must come to an end. As I get passed the bands and to the final stretch of the cigar, the shop owner’s warning comes to fruition. Like a cat who playfully gives you their belly to scratch then attacks your hand, Jacob’s Ladder goes from a slightly strong yet smooth smoke to something I am not prepared to finish. The flavoring shifts from that creamy espresso to coffee that has been left on the burner all day and I start getting lightheaded from the nicotine.

Against the cigar lover in me, I have to call it quits for my own sake. It is not that it was a bad smoke. It was quite the opposite and I plan to grab another like it the next time I’m out shopping. It was just at this moment, I couldn’t reach the top of Jacob’s Ladder.

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