Fratello Cigars may be a relative newcomer to an industry of cigar dynasties but you’d be hard-pressed to find any cigar lover who hasn’t heard of Fratello and met the impossibly nice, impossibly tall (6 feet, 9 inches) owner, Omar de Frias.
Fratello, meaning “brother” in Italian, is aptly named, as de Frias treats everyone he meets like a long-lost brother. It also doesn’t hurt that de Frias got his undergraduate degree in hotel management and marketing. Great customer service is in his blood, but that’s only one slice of what makes this company so memorable.
Initially launched in 2013, Fratello began as a side job for de Frias, whose day job was as a NASA project analyst. He would dedicate nights and weekends to Fratello events but recently decided to leave his job at NASA to focus full time on his passion of cigars.
De Frias dove in headfirst, reading all he could about tobacco. He visited Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras to meet and talk with everyone he could about the cigar industry. While in the Dominican Republic, he met Jose Blanco, who introduced him to the cigar makers at Joya de Nicaragua, the manufacturer who makes his cigars to this day.
In the brief six years since its inception, Fratello has already cemented itself firmly as a go-to for many cigar connoisseurs, from the Clasico, to the Bianco, to the Navetta, to the DMV.
However, de Frias didn’t just stop at cigars—he also has an imperial stout called Terminal Descent, as well as a YouTube channel called Imperfect Pairings, where he travels all over the world in search of what he calls “imperfect pairings” for his cigars.
Even with all these different projects, de Frias decided that for the Navetta Inverso, one of his newer blends, he wanted to do something different: literally turn his original Navetta cigar inside out.
“I utilized the tobacco that was so unique from the original Navetta, and I blended it into the Navetta Inverso,” de Frias says. “I utilized the wrapper from the original Navetta, which is a Habano Ecuador Oscuro, and I put it on the binder of the Navetta Inverso.”
De Frias also used the Dominican binder from the Navetta, and used it as the filler for the Navetta Inverso. And he increased the blend from a viso to a ligero.
“So all I really did was inverse a lot of the tobaccos in the Navetta, made it a little higher priming, made it a little stronger and the Navetta Inverso was born,” de Frias said.
The name Navetta Inverso means “inverse shuttle” in Italian, with de Frias noting in a press release for the cigar that the blending was special for him as he wanted to translate into a cigar the elation and celebration the men and women of the space program felt after a successful mission.
“Colleagues of mine would get together and smoke a very special cigar to commemorate the occasion,” de Frias said in the press release. “This very special blend carries the ultimate feeling of innovation, duty, honor and success.”
Another unique aspect of de Frias’ cigars is that he turns his new releases (Fratello, Oro, Bianco and now the Navetta Inverso) into a box-pressed torpedo and making them stronger than their counterparts by using a higher priming of tobacco; he then calls it “the boxer.”
Additionally, the tobaccos that de Frias uses in the Navetta Inverso are aged for four years, which makes the cigar incredibly smooth on the palate, boasting a notably long finish. Not every blend will go to every shop, with roughly 100 shops getting each particular blend. The reason behind this, de Frias says, is that it’s great for production and especially helpful for keeping the quality consistent.
“I know the making of it all sounds a little complicated,” de Frias admits, “but from conception to finished product, it only took about three months. It’s actually the easiest thing I’ve ever done. All I did was inverse everything—and then voila!”
“Plus, we’re using 70 percent ligero on this,” de Frias says. “It’s insane!”
Fratello Navetta Inverso Boxer Atlantis
|Size||6.25 x 54 (box-pressed torpedo)|
|Binder||Habano Ecuador Oscuro|
|Manufactured||in Nicaragua at Joya de Nicaragua|
|Filler||Dominican Republic and Nicaragua|
|Purchasing Info||$260 MSRP for a 20-count box; $13 retail for single|
|Smoking time||1 hour, 10 minutes|
Who can resist the gorgeous shape of a box-pressed torpedo? Certainly not I, which is why I decided to review the Boxer vitola of the Navetta Inverso, released July 2019, instead of the original, which was released at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show.
- This slightly veiny, milk chocolate colored cigar is very attractive, and the pre-light cold draw is excellent. The initial notes feature bread and wood; a welcome indicator of what’s to come.
- I use a wooden match and it’s one and done.
- Cinnamon and cedar immediately explode to the forefront in the first few puffs. Thick bluish smoke rises from the foot. Just as de Frias promised, this stick is heavy and smooth.
- About 15 minutes in, I begin to taste a bit of creamy chocolate making its way in. The draw continues to be wonderful and there is a scrumptious amount of cedar in the retrohale. The cigar is full-bodied; the 70 percent ligero is definitely making itself known.
- Going into the middle third I had to fix up the burn line a little. The ash holds for a little over an inch.
- Along with the cedar, there is some more creamy chocolate and even a bit of earth. The aroma is my favorite part of this cigar. I’m such a sucker for cedar-heavy cigars; I feel like I’m immersed in a forest. It’s one of the smoothest and most cedar-forward cigars I’ve had in recent memory.
- Going into the final third, the cigar starts tunneling and then goes out but is fixed quickly. On my second reviewed cigar it too started tunneling in the final third, but I was able to catch it before it got too bad. The burn line was wavy throughout for both cigars.
- Despite that, the final third features the smoothest mouthfeel of the whole cigar. The cedar is still dominant and boy, can I feel this one. It’s very strong—an excellent after-dinner cigar. I haven’t had the Boxer versions of any of Fratello’s other cigars, but after the Navetta Inverso Boxer, I’m extremely intrigued and would love to try them all.
- I paired this cigar with the Temptress Imperial Milk Stout from Lakewood Brewing Co., which nicely complemented the cedar and spice. I highly recommend a stout for this cigar, or a nice cup of coffee.