At this point visiters to Stogie Review will undoubtedly recognize the Fratello, with its distinctive slanted red band and bold lettering. It’s been a staple of Jerry’s humidor and made it into his top 10 list for 2013, as well as quickly becoming a well established brand with cigar smokers on social media. And I thought it was time we gave it a full review.
Brand owner Omar De Frias grew up in the Dominican Republic, and says that making a cigar was a chance to get back to his roots. According to the Fratello website, though released in 2013, the concept is actually 20 years old, inspired by Omar’s experience smoking a stick right off the rolling table in a small Dominican cigar shop. While the blending itself didn’t take two decades to complete, the Fratello is the result of a considerable amount of careful planning. In our interview with Omar De Frias at IPCPR 2013, he told us it took him two and a half years to achieve his objectives- complexity, balance, layers of flavor and uniqueness. Not to mention a year and a half spent getting the distinctive angled band just right.
Fratello, which means brother in Italian, was a nickname Omar De Frias picked up in college, one that has followed him from the Dominican Republic to the United States. Fratello isn’t the only one of his nicknames to appear in association with this line. The 6 x 60 “Timacle” comes from a name his father-in-law gave him, means something to the effect of “go getter or grandiose”. Speaking of cigar sizes, the Fratello comes is available in boxes of 20 in four vitolas: Corona (5 1/2 x 46), Robusto (5 1/2 x 52, Toro (6 1/4 x 54) and Timacle (6 x 60). Today we try the Robusto on for size.
Size: 5 1/2 x 52
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Seed
Binder: Ecuadoran Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua, Peru
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Source: Purchased by reviewer
Price: MSRP $7.80
It’s hard to talk about the appearace of the Fratello without bringing up the band. It seems to fall in with the trend I’ve noticed of cigar manufacturers favoring bold brand name text in the place of more traditional designs. (The new Camacho design, the ROMEO and Barry Stein’s KILO are a few other examples of this that come to mind.) I generally favor traditional approaches when it comes to cigars, but I like the way it looks and don’t see it as a negative. Anyway, as they say, you don’t smoke the band. At least not if you’re paying attention.
The cigar itself is a good looking stick, deep brown and a little rustic with some dark marks, often near the foot. The veins were fine in every cigar I lit up for this review, and the wrapper frequently had an equally fine tooth. The cigars felt consistent in the hand, firm, but with just a little bit of give. Out of the cellophane, they had an pungent aroma that mixed the usual barnyard with earth and wood. The cold draw was just right and tasted like rich sweet tobacco and earth.
The Fratello Robusto drew well and produced impressive lengths of ash. The majority of the time the burn line was perfectly even, but it did stray occasionally. In short, the cigar did exactly what it should do when it encounters fire. If I were going to grumble about anything, it would be the occasional flakiness of the ash. But I won’t, because when you’re not letting the ash grow for Tower of Burn pictures, you barely notice it.
From the beginning, the Fratello was all about full-bodied flavors. Dense earth, cedar and pepper with a complimentary amount of sweetness greeted me right away. The pepper component wasn’t overly agressive, and the retrohale gave it some depth as well as revealing some enjoyable herbal qualities.
As the cigar burned into the second third, cinnamon appeared, the earth element turned creamy and the sweetness backed off considerably.
The creaminess faded as the cigar entered it’s final stage and took a turn toward more prominent cedar and pepper flavors. Earth was still present in the background as well. The sweetness increased slightly for a short period in this third, but almost completely disappeared just as quickly.
The Fratello is a quality cigar at a very reasonable price. I feel like a broken record singing the praises of quality cigars in the $8 range again, but it’s becoming less common every year. Smoke up these value sticks, because it won’t be much longer before good cigars under $10 is just a fond, sepia-toned memory.
All of Omar De Frias’ careful planning and blending paid off, the Fratello Robusto has both balance and complexity, without sacrificing the full-bodied flavor that so many of today’s boutique enthusiasts want. And it was accomplished without leaving the sweet spot in pricing. Like many great smokes I’ve lit up in the past, they grow on you quickly. I’d recommend it. I have a feeling there’s a box purchase in my future.
Liked It: Box-worthy
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes
Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.