In May, Fratello Cigars founder Omar de Frias announced there would be a fourth size added to the Fratello Bianco line, the aptly named Fratello Bianco IV, a 6 1/2 x 54 toro gordo priced at $9.75 per cigar and sold in 20-count boxes.
Launched in the summer of 2015, the Fratello Bianco was the follow-up to the company’s 2013 eponymously named debut, a cigar that used a Nicaraguan habano wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and fillers from Nicaragua and Peru. For his sophomore release, de Frias went with a Mexican San Andrés negro wrapper on top of tobaccos from Nicaragua, Pennsylvania and Peru.
While the original Fratello line had more distinctive names for each of the sizes, de Frias kept the names of the Fratello Bianco lines much simpler, simply referring to them numerically with Roman numerals: Bianco I (6 1/4 x 44), Bianco II (6 x 50), Bianco III (5 x 56) and Bianco IV (6 1/2 x 54). Additionally, the Fratello Bianco Boxer has been announced, a 6 1/4 x 52 box-pressed torpedo that shares its name with a cigar in the original line and brings the Fratello Bianco line to five regular production sizes. An event only size also exists, an unnamed 5 x 44 petit corona.
Just as with the original release of the Fratello Bianco, de Frias is giving 10 retailers who have been supporters of the company early access to the line ahead of its formal release at the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show in July.
Those retailers each got events with de Frias, with the final one taking place today:
- May 29 — Delaware Cigars (Newark, Del.)
- June 10 — Quartermasters Cigars (Frederick, Md.)
- June 14 — Old Virginia Tobacco Co. (Alexandria, Va.)
- June 16 — Michael’s Tobacco (Keller, Texas)
- June 18 — ZT Cigars (Oklahoma City)
- June 23 — Mr. J’s Havana (Warwick, R.I.)
- June 29 — The Party Source (Bellevue, Ky.)
- June 30 — Jungle Jim’s (Fairfield, Ohio)
- July 1 — Jungle Jim’s (Cincinnati, Ohio)
- July 2 — Almost Havana (Hurricane W.Va.)
- Cigar Reviewed: Fratello Bianco IV
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Negro
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Nicaragua, Pennsylvania & Peru
- Length: 6 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Toro Gordo
- MSRP: $9.75 (Boxes of 20, $190)
- Release Date: May 29, 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The phrase “log of a cigar” is an overused one in the world of cigar media, but it is certainly applicable to the Fratello Bianco IV; a long, thick, and dark specimen that looks like it could have been cut from an evergreen. The roll quality is solid, firm but with a bit of give, clean seam lines and no visual distractions, though the wrap underneath the cap looks a bit hurried at times, particularly when the shades don’t quite match up. The top leaf feels thick, and at points you can see just how thick it is on the seam lines; while laid flat there is still a visible step between layers. Also noticeable is the toothless of the wrapper, provided you are willing to look a bit deeper than a first glance. A few veins garner attention, but the abundance of tooth is the real point of intrigue for my eyes. The pre-light aroma from the foot is downright incredible, rich and sweet with a bit of raisin, tree bark and milk chocolate leading the way as coffee and black pepper show up occasionally in a supporting role. The cold draw doesn’t quite match up in terms of quality, leaning more towards some dry wood and toast and only one sample showed the richness and sweetness of the aroma.
I’m a bit perplexed by the start of the Fratello Bianco IV, as it doesn’t quite taste like what I was expecting given what I know about the blend and remember from experiences with other sizes in the line. There are touches of chalk, earth, slate and pepper—particularly on the retrohale and finish on the palate—that aren’t bad, they just don’t feel like they’re doing what they should be, at least yet. In one sample the pepper is much more dominant and commands every receptor in the nose, while another goes right after the eyes thanks to a breeze blowing my way. There’s a bit of a realignment after an inch or so, with a flavor between milk chocolate and cocoa powder moving to the forefront just before the ash drops off at just over an inch long, and once it is gone the pepper pushes its way forward. It’s an easy note to pick up, though at times come across just a bit thin and not wanting to fully envelope the palate while giving the nose plenty to enjoy, creating the bridge to the second third.
There’s a saying that if you’re not retrohaling regularly, you’re missing a good amount of what a cigar has to offer, and I find in particularly true with the Fratello Bianco IV and the pepper that it has achieved a fantastic balance with. The palate gets a quick shift in the flavor, getting disjointed in the same way that it started off, a slight derailment that lasts until the burn line crosses the midway point and things start to come back together. The first tastes of rich soil start to come out and I’m getting some of the notes I commonly associate with Mexican San Andrés tobacco, and when it’s on it is enjoyable but toes the line too much and occasionally generates a bit of harshness in the throat. At its best, it leaves a dry and lingering sensation on the tongue, a taste that might not appeal to everyone but will certainly resonate positively with some. The flavor remains plenty palatable and the draw and burn have been absolutely flawless through the first two thirds.
The flavors return to a state of good cohesiveness at the start of the final third, with the pepper stepping back just a little bit to allow the fullness and richness of the earth to be the dominant flavor of the Fratello Bianco IV. I’m a bit surprised to not find much if any sweetness through the first two thirds, particularly given the raisin note on the pre-light aroma that seemed destined to become a hallmark note of this offering. There is a bit a char that comes along at points, skewing the flavor a bit and coloring the earth and pepper in a way they didn’t need to be, but keeping the cigar cool helps avoid that problem. Smoke production reaches its highest levels in the final third, billowing off the cigar at certain points as a dry, tingling pepper hangs around on the tongue in the final puffs.
- The ash held on remarkably well on each sample, so much so that I found myself getting nervous about it dropping off but it never did until I shook it off into the ashtray.
- While bianco is a fitting name given the white band of the cigar (the word means white in Italian), the contrast between the dark brown wrapper on the cigar is stark.
- While the brand certainly has room to grow, I truly respect the work that Omar de Frias has put in to building his brand into national prominence.
- You can find my original review of the Fratello Boxer here, while Brooks Whittington reviewed the Fratello Bianco I here.
- Brooks Whittington photographed Omar de Frias as part of halfwheel’s Portraits Series.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 10 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Fratello.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Cigar.com, JR Cigar and STOGIES World Class Cigars are all Fratello retailers, though none have the Bianco IV in stock as of yet.
While the goal of the Fratello Bianco IV was to give fans of the line a longer experience with it, it seems to have come at the expense of some of the better and richer flavors that are found in the smaller ring gauges. The sweetness isn’t quite as strong, the pepper a bit too dominant at some points and the terroir of the Mexican San Andrés negro wrapper watered down a bit for my palate. I certainly wouldn’t turn down the Bianco IV, and think it could find favor with those for whom the sub-50 ring gauge vitolas are just a bit too much, but put the line in front of me and I’m still reaching for the Bianco I.