The culebra has recently regained popularity amongst cigar smokers mostly because of the mediums we use now to share what we’re smoking. Twitter and Instagram allow rare items to be immediately shared to a mass audience. The stranger the item, the quicker it spreads! The shape of this cigar does little for its taste and often these cigars are simply a different vitola in an existing line of cigars. Nevertheless they’re one of those must-haves that should be smoked once with two of your best smoking buddies, and then another one purchased to store in the humidor as a great conversation starter. But what’s the deal? How did they start? Who makes them now? And how exactly do you smoke these twisted sticks?
The story behind the culebra cigar is a bit of a legend and depending on who you ask the story may vary.
Take One Home:
This is the version I first heard and that I’m the most familiar with. The story goes that while working in the cigar factories in Cuba the workers were allowed to take home just a single cigar per day. To get around this limitation the workers would braid three sticks together and put a single band around them. When the worker got home they could simply untwist the bundle and enjoy their cleverly hidden three cigars.
In this story the it’s said that the rollers were only allowed to take home cigars which failed to pass rigid quality control tests. At the end of the day the rollers take three sticks and bind them together in a manner that would of course cause the quality tests to fail! The roller could then take home his improvised bundle to smoke individually.
The final version, that I’m aware of anyways, is that the workers were allowed to take home three cigars every day for their own personal use. Fearing that the workers would sell the sticks to make a profit, the manufacturer would require that the sticks be wound together thereby ruining their resale value but still being an enjoyable product for the roller.
Whichever story you believe is up to you! I’m not sure we’ll ever know for certain what the true root is. Perhaps it’s simply a combination of the stories.
Who Makes Em?
Davidoff: The “Special C” is a 5 3/4″ x 39 Dominican cigar with an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper. You can read a review of the Davidoff Special C culebra at puff.com.
Drew Estate: Drew Estate is known for some unique styles so it’s no surprise the chose to do a culebra. The “Natural Medusa” is described as a 5 1/2″ x “culebra”. The wrapper is Nicaraguan and the filler is an exotic blend of tobaccos from all over the world including Syria, Turkey and St. James Parish. You can read more about the Drew Estate Medusa at seriouscigars.com.
H Upmann (discontinued): These were a cuban machine-made stick discontinued in the 1980s. They were an odd 5.7″ x 39 . Some details are available on the H Upmann Culebra at cubancigarafficionados.com
Illusione: The “2/3″ is 6.5” by 33 Nicaraguan puro. You can read a review of the Illusione culebra on cigarguideorg.wordpress.com.
Partagas: This 5 3/4″ x 39 Cuban puro is probably the most “original” of the available culebras. You can read about the Partagas culebra at cigarinspector.com
Pinar Del Rio: This stick is part of the Classico line from Pinar Del Rio. Asides from having a Connecticut wrapper there is very little information available on this stick.
Sol Cubano: This line has a Habano seed natural wrapper with a Hondura/Nicaraguan filler produced by Oliva. It is 7″ by 38. You can read a review of the Sol Cubano Culebra at cheaphumidors.com. It is a member of the Sol Cubano Cabinet line.
Tatuaje: The “Old Man and the C” is a Nicaraguan puro with a Sun Grown Criollo Estelí wrapper. It is a 7.5″ by 38 and made by My Father Cigars. You can read a review of the “Old Man and the C” at halfwheel.com.
How to Smoke Em
Remember, these are three cigars bound together. It is not just one cigar in a strange shape! Remove the band, strings or ribbons that are holding it together and unwind the three sticks carefully. Don’t try to smoke these as a single cigar!
The cigars are generally more humid in order to be bent the way they are. It seems to be the general consensus that fresher is better and that they don’t really benefit from any aging.
Regardless of the story you buy into, these novelty items are worth buying two of. One to share with two of your favorite smoking buddies and the other to save in the humidor to share as a conversation piece while your guests look enviously through your humidor.
Know of some others out there? Let us know in the comments!