CA Review Panel: Fratello Cigar Review (Video)
By the Cigar Advisor Editors
The Fratello Cigars Back Story
Fratello Cigars was founded by Omar de Frias, who was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in the United States, was a college basketball star who qualified for the NBA, earned a Master’s in engineering, and eventually became a rocket scientist. But it was his passion for cigars that urged him to quit his day job at NASA and take the plunge into the premium cigar business.
After learning “the trade,” which entailed countless trips to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, Omar spent two years developing the Fratello blend (he also designed the eye-catching angled cigar band). Produced at Fabrica de Joya De Nicaragua in Estelí, Fratello Cigars landed on cigar retail store shelves in 2013, and that same year was dubbed “Hottest New Cigar Brand.” Since then, several more Fratello cigars have been released including Fratello Bianco, Oro, Boxer, and Navetta, all of which have received impressive cigar reviews.
So, as the result of pounding the pavement, high tasting scores, in-store events, word-of-mouth, social media, and a little luck, Fratello has become one of the top boutique cigar brands in the market.
Fratello Cigars are also available in the following sizes:
Fratello Cigar Review – Toro
Country of Origin/Factory: Nicaragua / Fabrica de Joya De Nicaragua, Estelí
Size: 6¼” x 54
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Peru, Nicaragua
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Presentation: Boxes of 20 cigars and 5-packs.
John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: Chocolatey brown wrapper with some veins, slight tooth, mild sheen. Very firm and heavy in my hand.
Pre-light flavor: Coffee with cream, earth, barnyard, bread.
Toasting & Light: A little longer than average to light.
First Few Puffs: Cedar, and other woods – plus sweet, fruity tanginess once the initial puffs have passed.
Base flavors: Salt, citrus, mild herbs, slight spice like nutmeg or cinnamon.
Retrohale: Creamy, floral/woody with a nice streak of black pepper.
Aroma: Sweet and woody.
Burn & Ash Quality: White with a few specks of grey, mostly straight burn. Ash really holds on tight.
Balance of flavors: Medium strength but full body and flavor. Definitely favors flavor and complexity over strength.
Summary: Great looking smoke…slight features (veins, tooth and oils), but what caught me by surprise – right as I pulled the cigar out of the cello – was the eye-wateringly strong, pungent sensation of freshly fermented tobacco. Very intense. But my Fratello cigar experience was more like “a tale of two smokes” – that is, two very distinct halves:
First half: Heavy cedar at the start gives way to a super-tangy, mouthwatering sensation; this is the saltiness, stimulating the palate across the sides of the tongue. Think of the salty/tangy sensations when you do a tequila shot. A little herb-y here and there, too; an inch in, pepper comes to life and brings a cocoa sweetness with it. The tanginess at this point becomes more like a liqueur.
Second half: The Fratello richens up with more round and full flavors: think malt, earth, cereal and grains. LOTS of cedar, too. You can visualize the layers of complexity – the dominant flavor (here, cedar) occupies the top third of an imaginary kind of “headspace,” while the secondary flavors (earth, grains) are closer to the ground, each about an inch wide. That’s about the only way I can describe it.
Sloooow burn: It’s a 2-hour Toro for sure, and thick with these heavy tobaccos means you’ll likely need a touch up. Smoke remains thick and mostly creamy throughout, and is superbly flavorful. Made at Joya de Nicaragua, so no surprise that this one is very much in my sweet spot.
It’s nice to revisit these cigars – a solid Nicaraguan smoke, and one that still demands to be part of the conversation five years after its introduction. Consider these factors: a complex cigar that’s probably twice as flavorful as it is strong, a JdN pedigree and a true boutique at a favorable price point…if these are what move you to try something different, then I think Fratello cigars are certainly worthy of your attention.
Tommy Zman’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: On the slightly rough and toothy side, but brawny and attractive.
Draw: Very smooth with lots of smoke.
Pre-light flavor: Very earthy.
Toasting & Light: Very good.
First Few Puffs: Earthy, slightly peppery.
Base flavors: Earth, cedar, pepper, sweet dark fruit.
Retrohale: Freakin’ intense.
Aroma: Strong, sweet woody aroma.
Burn & Ash Quality: Excellent burn and solid long ash.
Balance of flavors: Lots of stuff going on but well balanced.
Summary: I would refer to this as a very beefy and meaty cigar. The Toro we smoked is hefty and packed with thick tobacco, and you could actually use it to get some good curling reps in during the day. The first thing that really stands out, is that before lighting, the aroma on the foot is amazing when you hold it up to your proboscis. (Google it if you are so inclined.) The scent reminds me of the intense smell of tobacco hanging to dry in a Central American curing barn, and the pre-light draw is very earthy and tasty.
There’s a whole lot going on in the flavor department with this complex and balanced smoke. Right off the bat there’s some peppery spice, but the earthiness kicks in immediately and is constant throughout. What’s interesting is that with its solid earthy core, there’s a wonderful underlying sweetness giving this Fratello cigar some really nice balance. It’s kind of like dark plums or the lingering taste of raisins on the palate with maybe just a hint of black licorice in there as well. You’ll also get some strong notes of cedar wood in both the taste and the aroma.
I think this cigar is exceptional in all areas: its appearance (with its dark and shiny Habano wrapper), construction, burn, draw, and flavor. Okay, in the video I said that it’s not for beginners, but I take it back because a beginning or casual smoker could enjoy the flavor, but an experienced cigar lover will, without question, have a deep appreciation for all that’s going on in this fine stick made by the good peeps at Joya de Nicaragua. Pair this with a hearty red wine or a good belt of your favorite brown liquor and life will be just peachy. I’m definitely revisiting this cigar a whole lot more.
Fred Lunt’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: The wrapper is gorgeous, a handsome-looking deep-leather brown with a few fine veins, a slight oily sheen, and a subtle toothiness. Solidly built with an easy feeling on the hands for its larger ring gauge.
Pre-light flavor: Foot: Very fragrant notes of sweet cedar, earth, and plum. Cold draw: fresh melons, plum, cedar, hay, and a fruity sweetness.
Toasting & Light: It took a few touch ups but I got it set easily enough.
Initial notes: Very woody upfront, some slight sweetness, and peppery spice. A slight fruity-sweetness comes in and the mouthfeel is very different; slightly thick and seems to leave a sweet coating in my mouth.
Base flavors: Fruity sweetness, earth, cedar, white pepper spice, cream.
Retrohale: Slightly fruity sweetness, cedar, white pepper, and earth.
Aroma: Very spicy, creamy, and woody.
Burn / Ash Quality: The ash is fantastic; neat, white stacks that hold tight. Burn line is nice and thin but slightly wavy and very slow burning.
Balance of flavors: The body was medium-full, but the flavors were cranked to 11.
Summary: Fratello has been tearing up the boutique cigar scene for years, however, I’ll frankly admit that this was my very first Fratello cigar; hey, there’s a first time for everything right? Down to brass tacks, the baseline smoke started with an insanely flavorful pre-light filled with fresh melons, plum, earth, cedar, and hay. The heavy Nicaraguan and Peruvian fillers are only apparent in the body and lighting; in other words, this cigar is full and slow burning. About an inch in, torrents of sweet, fruity notes are gushing in, some subtle notes of pepper, cedar, and hay are in the background with a slight scratchy feeling of pepper in the throat.
As things warmed up, a distinct berry-like sweetness developed. The mouthfeel is light, fruity, mouthwatering, and leaves a sweet coating in my mouth. Over time, a caramel sweetness develops with a citrus tang and some white pepper spice and earth. Getting into nub country, a slightly chalky note comes through in creamy clouds of smoke. The forefront is nicely sweet and tangy, but cedar and white pepper spice own the aftertaste.
Final Thoughts: For the connoisseur, take your time and enjoy all the smooth flavors this Fratello cigar has to offer. Pair with a pale ale or Belgian white for something different.