Introduction to Culebra Cigar
The Culebra – what a cigar? You may have heard strange stories circulating the cigar world. It’ history, production, and purpose are somewhat different from what all these myths keep going on about.
I’ve been quite interested in the history of the Culebra. In the article below, I will cover the ancestry of the Culebra. I hope you find my research and history interesting as uncover the origins and task of producing such an exquisite but strange cigar.
I find it so frustrating when I can never research or find all information covering a topic. After I had discovered several sufficient articles providing the information I was looking for, I decided to make it my own. I still don’t have all the proper evidence but it didn’t stop me from providing what I think is top-notch history.
The Spanish word for snake is Culebra. The obvious way to tell apart a Culebra from other cigars is to look out for three coiled cigars interlocked forming what looks like three snakes. This only goes for the ‘finished’ Culebra. On normal circumstances, a standard Culebra is braided and tied off at either end of the shape and made up of 3-4 under-filled Panatelas.
From the evidence of Culebra’s origins I did manage to discover an old and genuine article basically stating that the ‘Compania General de Tobacos Filipinas (est.1881) was supposedly already producing Culebras by 1890’ New Zealand’s Auckland Star. Furthermore, I found more research explaining, I quote, ‘The Culebra first appeared in the Philippines circa mid 19th Century, a Philipines cigar industry invention.’
On the other hand, I also managed to discover some dated research showing signs of Culebras being produced here in the U.S. at least as far back as 1890. This is surprisingly around the time the Philipines were making them. The photo in the top left above shows a box produced by F.P Filbert Cigar Company in Eaton, Ohio. This gives me clear evidence that there were Culebras being produced in America. If you look closely at the wording on the box above ‘Ohio’ you may be able to see “Filbert’s Twisters”. This I believe is what the company called them. There are other examples but this time located in Wisconsin like the “Cuban Twist”. This dates back to the 1920s and the “Twisted Smoke”. I think it’s safe to say Culebras were being manufactured in the U.S. as far back as 1890 and from the research I gathered. I believe Culebras originate from the Philipines.
Why Make The Culebras?
I’ve found many different views with authors expressing their many opinions. I found one interesting view suggesting the produce of Culebraas was an attempt to stop any thievery or black market ‘after-sales’.
“That may be the ‘story’ but in viewing hundreds of pictures of Cuban factory workers, I’ve yet to see anyone smoking Culebras.”
Another writer expressed his views stating he thought it would be ‘cost-inefficient’ to give the rollers the permission to produce such a special cigar if the numbers of factory rejects outnumbered the ration of cigars per day per roller.
I also found some interesting comments suggesting that he or she thought the Culebra to be a form of packaging rather than an individual ‘vitola’. They stated,
“Culebras were created based on the theory that a thicker cigar can mature better. The Culebra was designed to enable a small ring gauge cigar to mature as well as a thick ring gauge cigar.”
I don’t really understand why putting small ring gauge cigars together was for the purpose of helping them mature better. Because wouldn’t it be a lot more efficient if you boxed or bundled those cigars in groups of 20, 25, or 50. You would get a far better outcome of a fine set of well-aged cigars.
I believe the Culebra was actually a novelty form of packaging. This answer seems more valid and based on another article I found in the Auckland Star I showed you earlier, the Culebra was,
“A novelty… formed of three cigars plaited together.”
“The Cuban cigar industry never took the Culebras seriously and very few Culebras were manufactured in the pre and post-Revolution era.”
This is a statement I found a while ago above. The writer then goes on to say that Cuban H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagas were the only brands that had produced them since the Revolution. We’ll get to this later.
Because these cigars were very rare in the Cuban cigar industry. I belive they were made for more for novelty than anything else.
How Are Culebras Constructed and Produced
I smoke with a Culebra roller once and he was able to explain to me hoe these amazing smokes are made. First, find 3-4 panatela sized cigars and then make sure the cigars are underfilled so they braid together in their unique shape without any cracks or breaks. Moisten the tobacco more than usual. It needs to be flexible so they can twist and be braided.
Tie the cigars with a ribbon individually about 1/2″ down from the cats of the cigars. this holds them in place. Then the fun but also hard but – trading Braid them together. The number of twist goes for the length of each cigar. A second ribbon or string (I prefer ribbon – looks sharper) is then wrapped around the group of cigars again 1/2″ from the foot of the cigar. By tying them together the shape and form will keep even whilst aging. You have the option to print your cigar brand on the cigar. You may find some companies actually put a large-cap over the tops of the three cigars. This allows a more finished look.
There finishing look remind me of a strand of Medusa’s hair. The Culebra has such an interesting look about it. What’s more, is the draw which allows such a delicous and enjoyable cigar.
Ever since the 1800s these magnificent Culebras have been produced and were invented by the Ohullipine cigar industry. I believe it was a novelty form of cigar packaging. I tried time and time again to find a sufficient story documenting how these Cuebras were being used to rationalize or in other instances, control the cigar inventory.
When I first came to look for any sort of factual evidence regarding Culebras in general, I was shocked at the search results I was receiving. Regarding if Culebras were made in Cuba, I unsuccessful in finding a source explaining if they were or not.
Culebras are very rare in Cuba and, since the Revolution, only three brands have produced them: H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagás. This was what I was explaining earlier. All in all, I think it fits the puzzle.
Like I said earlier in this article my interest in Culebras has grown exponentially ever since my respect for the topic started. How they smoke so well in there tangled strange shape is fascinating. We smokers really do owe it to the rolling craftsmen. The heart-felt designing process of the Culebra allows us to share a stogie with our friends by splitting the figure into its original three cigar structure. Whether it’s a 3 or 4 cigar Culebra, it always feels like more fun when you can have a joyous smoke with more than just yourself and a glass of red. You allow yourself to experience every part of the flavor, taste, and nuance. I believe the Culebra is very successful in doing so.
Some Current Regular Production and/or Limited Production Culebras
Brun del Ré: Culebra Grande (7 x 44), Culebra Pequeña (5.75 x 26)
Davidoff: Special C (6.5 x 33)
Drew Estate: Medusa (6 x 44)
Illusione: Illusione 23 “tre in uno” (6.5 x 33)
Johnny-O!: A Culebra (9.5 X 47), Culebra (7 X 44), Churchill Culebra (8 X 47), Forbidden Xtasy (6.5 X 42), Magnum (7 X 47), Gold Medal (6.5 X 42).
La Flor Dominicana: Culebra Especial (6.5 x 30), Culebra Gorda (6.5 x 38), Double Ligero Culebras (7.5 x 39) [Limited to Puff ‘N’ Stuff]
Partagas (Cuba): Culebra (5.625 x 39)
Tatuaje: Tatuaje Black, “The Old Man and the C” (7.5 x 38), El Triunfador “The Old Man and the C” (7.5 x 38)