Reading Time: < 1 minute Crowned Heads Cigars plans to release the first regular production addition to their bestselling Mil Días range next month. Named Topes, the new vitola will also be the largest ring gauge to-date in the brand. Read all about it here.
CA Report: Top 10 Barber Pole Cigars You Need to Try
Making the Cut: The Top 10 Barber Pole Cigars You Need to Smoke
Updated February 2021
What are Barber Pole Cigars?
Barber Pole cigars are classified as “MWL.” Sounds like a rap group, but it simply stands for Multiple Wrapper Leaf cigars. And you know a barber pole cigar when you see it because it has two or three intertwined wrappers of contrasting colors, just like a real barber pole. These interesting cigars can’t help but stand out among the sea of brown in your local cigar store.
What makes them even more interesting is how they taste, which is the whole idea behind barber pole cigars. You have this dark, maduro-like wrapper entwined with a much lighter, natural-colored wrapper. Once lit, your palate experiences both wrapper flavors simultaneously. This unique combination adds an entirely new flavor profile to the cigar, making your smoking session a lot more interesting.
Who Made the First Barber Pole Cigar?
Although you might think Barber Pole cigars have been around almost as long as cigars have been made, they didn’t appear until the Cigar Boom 90s. Not surprisingly, Arturo Fuente was the first premium cigar maker to introduce the barber pole cigar. A good example of their work can be found in the Hemingway Between The Lines. It’s a striking example of Arturo Fuente handcraftsmanship, and usually very hard to find.
Perhaps the most popular of the first barber poles was the Hugo Cassar Diamond Dominican Mystique, introduced to the American cigar market by Kretek International in 1996. Photos of it are hard to find, but the Mystique featured a Connecticut Shade wrapper and a dark Dominican-grown Maduro.
How Barber Pole Cigars are Made
When it comes to the actual rolling of barber pole cigars, they are difficult to make. Only the most skilled torcedors are tasked with rolling the two or three wrappers it takes to give each barber pole a sharp and seamless appearance.
The usual suspects are U.S./Ecuador Connecticut Shade or Candela braided with Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro, or in some cases, a combination of all three. But by working with more complex tobaccos like Nicaraguan Habano, Mexican San Andrés, and Brazilian Mata Fina wrappers, many new blenders have come up with some very ambitious combinations. A lot of barber poles are rolled to big ring gauges, too.
Consuelo Gomez, owner of Amos de Santiago Cigars, whose Triple Wrap Toro is featured here, attended the Arturo Fuente school for rollers. She also served as a top performing torcedor for nine years before branching out on her own.
“The difficulty lie in working with two or more strips of wrapper leaf and aligning them perfectly so they do not look uneven or cover each other,” says Consuelo. “Depending on the skill level of the roller, it could take a few months to master.” Making barber pole cigars requires double or triple the work of rolling regular cigars. As a result, barber pole cigars are generally more expensive. Then again, many consider them works of art in their own rite.
Other MWLs may not have the swagger of their spiral brethren, but in their own double wrapper way still qualify for a place in this list. These are the Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta and the Kentucky Fired Cured Swamp Thing from Drew Estate. More on those below.
How do Barber Pole cigars taste?
When a cigar has two wrappers, you can bet it’s going to have a very distinctive taste, not to mention what’s underneath all that brush. The idea is simple: To taste the combination of a light-colored wrapper and a dark wrapper with a complementary core blend. OK, we get it. Also, with the wrapper playing such an important role in the blend, I wonder why there aren’t more barber pole cigars in Lanceros and other thinner ring gauges.
If you’ve smoked enough cigars and recognize the wrappers you like, you can sort of imagine what any given combination would taste like. It’s also not a bad way to get an idea of what Candela tastes like without it covering the whole cigar. Actually, the mild Candela wrapper needs that richer-tasting Maduro to give the cigar balance.
If the blend is flavorful to you, it’s probably well-balanced, too. Since no one can predict how any cigar smoker is going to respond to any given blend, allow me to introduce you to the list below, and I’ll leave you with one more question: Are barber pole cigars more about aesthetics or flavor?
For Consuelo, it’s both: “Flavor tends to be more complex when working with multiple wrappers because of their combined characteristics. . .but having a striking appearance is a plus.”
2012 by Oscar Toro Barber Pole
The 2012 by Oscar line was launched by Oscar Valladares & Company in 2017 as a line to commemorate company founder Oscar Valladares’ five years in the cigar industry. It also was the company’s first all box–pressed cigar line, and that’s what makes this particular barber pole more unique. Using a Mexican San Andres Mexican Maduro and Candela wrapper combo over an Honduran and Nicaraguan core blend, this twisted, rectangular Toro offers a unique medium-bodied flavor profile with notes of coffee, cedar, light grassiness, and peppery spice. If you like Oscar’s more traditional fare, then the 2012 by Oscar Toro Barber Pole is a must-try.
Alec Bradley Black Market Filthy Hooligan
Alec Bradley Cigars has been releasing their Black Market Filthy Hooligan barber pole annually, just prior to St. Patrick’s Day, since 2014. Calling it “a perennial hit, highly anticipated by cigar enthusiasts every spring,” Filthy Hooligan, and its colorful sidekick, Filthy Hooligan Shamrock, are probably the most popular barber pole cigars in the business. Filthy Hooligan features a bright green Candela wrapper, contrasted by a rich, dark Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper. Filthy Hooligan Shamrock is a triple-wrapped barber pole with the same Candela wrapper as the Filthy Hooligan, accentuated by Nicaraguan Habano Maduro and Habano Natural wrapper leaves:
Both 6”x 50 cigars offer a well-balanced, medium-plus smoke that’s complex in flavor and a little lighter than the mainline Black Market cigars. Made in limited production, these two beauties always sell–out quickly, too.
Amos de Santiago Triple Wrap
Made by the lovely and talented Consuelo Gomez quoted above, Amos de Santiago is a boutique cigar company based in Tamboril, Dominican Republic. The Triple Wrap is Consuelo’s magnum opus and a real work of art, touting equal parts Corojo, Connecticut broadleaf, and Candela wrappers over a Dominican core. This triple-wrapped line is medium in body and loaded with complex flavors including notes of sweet wood, earth, and rich Dominican spice. If you’re looking for your first barber pole experience, this Amos de Santiago Triple cap selection makes a good starting point.
Asylum 13 The Ogre
The Asylum 13 Ogre line is also one of the most popular regular production barber pole cigars out there. Christian Eiroa & Tom Lazuka paired Nicaraguan Habano and Candela wrappers over a flavorful all-Nicaraguan core. Medium in body, this is a cigar you can smoke any time of day; that is, provided you have enough time in the day. While the Robusto is more traditional in size, the 70 and 80 ring gauges are tree trunk size smokes you can savor for hours at a clip. And don’t let their immensity discourage you. Ogre is brimming with smooth-savory flavors of cream, pepper, chocolate and a light, grassy sweetness. If there’s one barber pole every smoker should experience, it’s the Asylum 13 Ogre.
As American as eagle pie, CAO’s America is a gimme for this list. Known for their use of tobaccos from around the world like the CAO Brazilia and Italia, America boasts dark and light wrappers decked-out in a pin-striped suit. A Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro contrasted by Connecticut Shade. The core blend is a full-bodied melting pot of Brazilian binder that frames a ligero-forward recipe of Nicaraguan, Italian, U.S, and Dominican tobaccos. The result is a perfectly balanced cigar that’s robust, creamy, complex, and exceptionally smooth. With its distinctive flavor profile, when it comes to the top barber pole cigars, CAO America is way up there.
Another hidden gem, 7-20-4 Hustler is a 90+ customer rated smoke that hails from one of the oldest boutique cigar makers in America. New Hampshire–based K.A. Kendall has intertwined sweet Brazilian Mata Fina with fine Ecuadorian wrapper leaves and smacked them over a creamy blend of Nicaraguan filler in a Costa Rican binder. You’ll experience a smooth, creamy mellow-to-medium bodied smoke that works its way up to an impressively complex adventure along with some eye-opening red pepper and bittersweet chocolate. Definitely one of the yummiest barber poles you’ll ever grasp between your thumb and index finger.
Joya de Nicaragua Joya Cabinetta
Its wrappers aren’t spiraled like a barber pole, but this double wrapper selection from Joya de Nicaragua is every bit as intriguing. Employing a dark Nicaraguan Criollo beneath an Ecuadorian Shade wrapper this medium-bodied smoke burns evenly and really puts out. (Just ask Cigar Advisor managing editor, John Pullo). Add the Nicaraguan core blend and you’ve got a decadent, medium-bodied smoke that’s deliciously velvety on the palate. Notes of cocoa, nuts, earth, and herbs prevail with the occasional splash of peppery spice. If you’ve never had a double wrapper cigar, the Joya Cabinetta series is a gem of an experience.
KFC Swamp Thang
Because powerful fire-cured tobacco may not be everyone’s ‘thang’, this dual wrapper sensation was introduced by Drew Estate as a milder follow up to the original Kentucky Fire Cured selection. By pairing a naturally sweet candela wrapper with smoky Kentucky Fire Cured tobaccos, Swamp Thang reveals a unique, medium-bodied experience. The smokiness of the fire-cured tobacco melded with the sweetness of Candela wrapper creates a balanced, complex smoke with a mesquite-like flavor plus notes of hickory, maple, and oak. If you like the Kentucky Fire Cured line and the complementary sweetness of Candela tobaccos, Swamp Thang is a beautiful monster.
Lunatic Hysteria Barber Pole
Following the success of their Lunatic Hysteria selection, Aganorsa Leaf decided to go one wrapper better with the Lunatic Hysteria Barber Pole selection. Made exclusively for Famous Smoke Shop, Aganorsa combined a naturally sweet Mexican San Andres Maduro wrapper with a milder Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade leaf over Aganorsa’s uber-flavorful Nicaraguan Corojo and Criollo fillers. Medium-plus in body, there’s a lot happening in this well-balanced blend including ground coffee, nuts, cedar, and cream with a rich, spicy finish. For fans of the brand, the Lunatic Hysteria Barber Pole is a no brainer. As for everyone else, here’s your shot to discover Aganorsa Leaf tobaccos up close and personal.
Southern Draw IGNITE 2019 Rothschild Barber Pole
Southern Draw’s IGNITE cigars program has been a creative way for the company to provide hope, morale, and charity to those in need. Every year they put out their IGNITE jars which benefit veterans around the world. And sales of this Barber Pole go to benefit the Navy Seal Foundation. Rolled in Ecuador Habano and Nicaraguan Maduro wrappers that spiral around a Nicaraguan binder & filler core, the smoke is medium-bodied and impressively complex. Notes of earth, wood, sweet spice, dried fruit, and more, plus a redolent aroma make this creamy smoke a relaxing treat. Plus, the only place you’ll find this barber pole cigar is at Famous Smoke Shop. Enjoy it knowing you’re also doing some good for some well-deserving veterans.