Culebras (Span.: snakes) number among the most eccentric formats. Their characteristic form is achieved by plaiting and binding together three still damp cigars (frequently Panatelas).
A popular story about the origins of this unusual format tells how Culebras were originally intended for the factory workers. They were not supposed to take the cigars they made out of the factory and either smoke themselves or sell them, so, in order to prevent this, their daily ration of three cigars was woven into a bundle.
Whether there is actually any historic justification for this story is doubtful, not least because factory workers could easily turn the cigars they were making into Culebras at any time. Furthermore, it should be noted that the waste produced per worker per day amounted to more than three cigars, and separate production of Culebras would only have caused unnecessary costs.
Min Ron Nee, without doubt a recognized authority in the industry, claims that the country of origin for Culebras is the Philippines. The format was developed there in the mid-19th century, the thinking behind it being that thinner cigars would mature better if woven together into a tight plait.
Production of the Vitola gradually spread to other countries, but they have never become really popular. Hand-plaited Culebras continue to be something of a curiosity even today, produced in small runs or limited editions and often subsequently removed from the range.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Spring Edition 2014. Read more