Making the Cut: The Top 10 Barber Pole Cigars You Need to Smoke
By Fred Lunt
So what exactly are barber pole cigars? They’re hard to miss, really – two wrappers harmoniously winding down the body of a cigar, they look like an old-timey barber pole. They look beautiful alone, but they really pop out when compared to the typical 50 shades of brown you see everywhere else. So where do these beautiful cigars come from? How are they made? Why are they made? I’m going to answer all your questions and more.
The Origin of Barber Pole Cigars
The first barber pole cigar came out of the cigar boom in the 90’s from Hugo Cassar. Named the Hugo Cassar Diamond Dominican Mystique, it was the very first multiple wrapper leafed (MWL) cigar – and was introduced into the market in 1996. Today, Hugo Cassar is better known as Ventura cigars.
Who makes Barber Pole Cigars?
Only the very best rollers make barber poles and MWL’s, which is why I reached out to Consuelo Gomez of Amos de Santiago. Consuelo attended the Fuente school for rollers, serving as a top performing torcedor for 9 years before branching out on her own. Consuelo says, “The difficulty lies in working with two or more strips of wrapper leaf and aligning them perfectly so they do not look uneven or cover each other.” Making barber pole cigars is double or triple the work of rolling regular cigars: “Depending on the skill level of the roller, it could take a few months to master,” she says.
Aesthetics Over Flavor
Cigar smokers go back and forth over the impact the wrapper imparts on a cigar. When it comes to two wrappers- does it really make an impact or is it all gimmick? For Consuelo, a barber pole means 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.”
To go further, I sought out Alan Rubin, founder of Alec Bradley cigars. Alan unveiled a barber pole edition of the Black Market Filthy Hooligan to ‘shake things up’ but found there was more to it than looks. “While the [original] Candela brought a lot of sweetness and grassiness, it was too extreme… the barber pole brought balance.” When comparing the original, full-bodied Black Market to the Filthy Hooligan, Rubin said smokers will “find it a completely different smoke, a much lighter flavor profile is present owing to both wrappers.” Also joining me was Alan’s son, Bradley Rubin, who said the Filthy Hooligan was a favorite morning smoke of his.
Mo’ Wrappers, Mo’ Money
Does more wrapper equal a higher price? Yes, it does – but not the way you would think. At Amos de Santiago, only “Two people in the factory know precisely how to cut wrapper leaves, there is no excess and no waste.” However, the cost is “mostly affected by the labor involved, production is slower, and the specialized rollers are paid more,” says Consuelo. And if you compare prices, a 22-count box of Black Market Toros retails for $163 at Famous, while a box of Filthy Hooligans, in the same count and size, sell for $168*.
So now that you know a bit more about barber pole cigars and MWL’s, let’s dig in to the Top 10 of the very best barber poles you can find on God’s green Earth.
*Prices are based on current market pricing and are subject to change
Amos de Santiago Triple Wrap
Made by the very knowledgeable Consuelo Gomez, Amos de Santiago is a boutique company based in Tamboril, Dominican Republic. The Triple Wrap is a work of art, touting equal parts Corojo, Connecticut, and Candela wrappers over a Dominican core. This triple-wrapped beast is loaded with complex flavors of sweet woods, earth, and spice.
As American as Eagle Pie, CAO’s America is almost a gimme for this list. While the Brazilia and Italia quickly became the favorites of CAO’s World line, the America was my hidden gem. CAO used a pin-striped wrapper, instead of a full barber pole, using US grown Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro contrasted by Connecticut Shade. The rest of the blend is a full-bodied concoction of ligero tobaccos from Nicaragua, Italy, USA, and the Dominican Republic. This cigar is sure to get a salute from me every time.
Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta Series
It’s not a barber pole, but is a MWL cigar. Joya de Nicaragua employed both a Nicaraguan Criollo and Ecuadorian Shade wrappers on this cigar for a mellow, medium-bodied smoke. While the core of this cigar is all Nicaraguan, you’ll find it a decadent, creamy smoke that’s brimming with notes of cocoa, nuts, earth, and herbs. Simply a pleasure to smoke; if you’ve never had a Joya before, the Cabinetta series is a good place to start.
Another hidden gem, 7-20-4 Hustler is a 90+ customer rated smoke that hails from one of the oldest boutiques in America. New Hampshire based K.A. Kendall 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. Expect a mild-medium bodied smoke with rich and complex flavors including red pepper and cocoa powder.
Quesada Reserva Privada Barber Pole
For the connoisseurs who love complexity, this bad-ass barber pole has it all. It’s the best of both worlds, combining the Connecticut with its counterpart, a broadleaf Oscuro wrapped cigar. This ultra-premium cigar comes from a ‘perfect crop’, a harvest of which all the plants were the same height and displayed near perfect physical traits. If you’re looking for some complexity, you need not look any further.
Alec Bradley Filthy Hooligan
Come on, you didn’t think I would interview Alan and NOT include the Filthy Hooligan did you? A St. Paddy’s day classic, Rubin uses a festive combination of Honduran Candela with a dark natural Nicaraguan wrapper. The wrappers are layered over an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Panamanian and Honduran filler. While the candela imparts a sweet, grassy flavor, the smoke is mild-medium bodied and well balanced with notes like black pepper, cedar, and earth.
Asylum 13 Ogre
For an Ogre, this cigar is friggin beautiful. Christian Eiroa & Tom Lazuka paired Nicaraguan Habano and Candela wrappers over a flavorful all-Nicaraguan core. This is a bread and butter type of cigar, meaning you can smoke it any time of day- provided you have enough time in the day. While the Robusto is ready enough to smoke, the 70 and 80 ring gauges are big enough to drive railroad spikes in the ground. Don’t let the size psych you out though, Ogre is brimming with smooth-savory flavors of cream, pepper, chocolate and a grass sweetness. If there’s one barber pole every smoker should experience, it’s the Ogre.
90 Millas Unidos by Flor de Gonzalez
Flor de Gonzalez is one brand that often flies under the radar; however, the 90 Millas Unidos is a true must-try. FDG is a Cuban-origin boutique cigar company that strives to make cigars in the traditional Cuban style. Unidos is a prime example of a beautiful barber pole: it holds a visually stunning combination of Connecticut Shade and Ecuadorian Habano wrappers over both Dominican and Nicaraguan binders and a diverse blend of Nicaraguan filler. Both aesthetically pleasing and flavorful, this one makes the list for sure.
KFC Swamp Thang
Because powerful fire-cured tobacco may not be not everyone’s ‘thang’, this MWL cigar was introduced by Drew Estate as a milder follow up to the original KFC. The original was a dark and heavy smoke, but Swamp Thang and Swamp Rat make for a sweet & savory combo. The new blend uses barrel-fermented Kentucky fire-cured tobacco and Candela wrappers. The rest of the blend, like the original, uses Virginian and Kentucky fire-cured tobaccos for that mesquite-like flavor along with notes of hickory, maple, and oak. Whether you enjoyed the original or not, this is a very unique smoke.
Rocky Patel The Edge A-10
The Edge has a reputation if you will of being Rocky’s strongest cigar and I wouldn’t put it past those who say this that it’s a very heavy cigar. However, this is one cigar that’s extremely well balanced and when Rocky added the A-10 barber pole edition, it brought even more flavor and balance to this highly rated cigar. Rocky used a mouth-watering fusion of Honduran Corojo and Honduran Maduro wrappers over the muscled-up blend of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Panamanian tobaccos.
There you have it – everything you need to know about barber pole cigars and my top 10 recommendations to you. What barber poles are you smoking? Post and share in the comments below!