The Spanish word “culebra” translates to “snake” in English and when looking at these cigars it makes perfect sense. Culebra cigars are unlike anything else in the industry.
Aesthetically they are puzzling and intriguing. Three cigars, intertwining with each other through a plaiting technique and held together at both ends.
The mind starts to try to assess how these cigars came to be and why? One could be mistaken and assume they were some form of defunct panetelas, but these cigars are intentional. In the following we will look at the interesting history behind these idiosyncratic cigars.
The history of the culebra has been passed on through oral tradition and it is unclear as to its authenticity. That being said, this is the universally accepted origin story. It begins with the workers within the factories. In the 1800s each worker would be permitted an allocated amount of cigars that they were allowed to consume. An issue that plagued cigar companies and still persists today was that of black market sales. This is when workers smuggle out of the factory cigars to resell on the streets at a cut price. As these cigars aren’t counterfeit the demand for them is high, although in the process many counterfeits are passed off as genuine.
To try and curb this practice factory owners looked towards a realistic solution. They didn’t want to abolish the smoking of cigars by the workers, rather they needed a substitute that would differentiate cigars that were to go to market and ones that were for staff consumption. It is unknown as to who first created the culebra, something that could have only been thought of and executed by someone with a wealth of experience.
What we modern cigar smokers find intriguing about the visual elements of the culebra is the precise reason companies thought these cigars would be unwanted by consumers. Their imperfect appearance and rather small ring gauge being the main dissuading features. It has to be stated that these cigars would have taken longer for rollers to manufacture than their regular counterparts, this adds credence to the level of concern there was about black market sales at the time of their creation.
How They Are Rolled
As stated previously, the high skill that is required to roll these cigars makes them a scarce sight in the present day.
The first step in their construction is the rolling of the three separate panetela cigars. Each cigar uses Nicaraguan and Honduran long filler, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and shade grown wrapper.
These cigars are a 34 ring gauge and measure 5¾ inches long. Leaves are moistened and the cigars under packed to make them malleable. A careful hand must be used as the moist leaves could easily tear and warp if not handled correctly.
Once the three cigars have been rolled they are plaited together in a similar fashion to hair. Next, the roller attentively fastens the three together loosely before allowing them to rest. These cigars are more than just a curio, they are fantastic to smoke!
As with all the Chinchalero cigars that use the original blend, these are medium-bodied. They are supposed to be smoked individually. Once separated from the trio, the cigar will still look crooked, but fret not for this is normal. Simply cut the head and proceed to light the cigar as usual.
Once lit the cigar opens up with an impressive draw for its ring gauge. A steady stream of soft caramel tones with a creamy complexion meander on the palate. There are some earth and wood-like elements that can become present as the cigar gradually gets oilier. Due to the coiling shape of the cigar and gravity taking its course, the ash will not hold for long. Throughout the rest of the cigar the flavours change very little. Perhaps a hint of cocoa and some other transient flavours can be attained by the more disciplined palate.
In conclusion, these cigars have a fascinating history and are a great talking point for when around other cigar lovers. A must try for any self appointed cigar aficionado, there is no other style of cigar with such a striking look. Without a doubt you will always remember the first time you saw a culebra!