As new cigar companies come into the market, there is often chatter about where they are pricing their lines. Is it too high, too low, or simply too much for a new company to charge?
When Fratello debuted in 2013, the company’s debut line was priced in the $7-8 range, a certainly agreeable number. Since that time, the company has generally aimed for that same range or a bit above it. But in 2020, the company decided to focus on the lower-priced segment of the market, specifically bundled cigars.
At the 2020 Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE), the company released a trio of value-priced cigars that all came wearing camouflage-inspired bands: the Fratello Blu, Fratello Verde, and Fratello Rosso. Keeping with Omar de Frias’s use of Italian words for his cigars—and his company—the cigars get their names from the Italian words for the colors of the bands. Verde is green, Rosso is red, and Blu is blue.
Little is being disclosed about the blends, other than that the Blu is a maduro, the Verde is a Connecticut, and the Rosso is a habano, but the wrappers’ countries of origins remain undisclosed. What’s under those wrappers is also undisclosed.
All three blends are available in both a robusto (5 x 50) and toro (6 x 50), both are priced at $3.25. They are also available in 15-count bundles, which have an MSRP of $48.75. Production is being handled by the La Aurora Cigar Factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
“This is an exciting time for us as we’re diving into a new segment of the market, one that we hope will grow our family and our footprint in the industry,” said de Frias in a press release.
While they were slated to begin shipping on March 15, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed that until mid-June.
- Cigar Reviewed: Fratello Rosso Toro
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: La Aurora Cigar Factory
- Wrapper: Not Disclosed
- Binder: Not Disclosed
- Filler: Not Disclosed
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $3.25 (Bundles of 15, $48.75)
- Release Date: June 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The wrapper on the Fratello Camo Rosso Habano Toro isn’t going to win any beauty awards, as it is mottled, matte, with some wrinkles and bunching around the seams. Veins are thin and stand out a bit, reminding me a bit of the veins on Cuban tobacco. It also appears to be just a bit thinner than what I think of when it comes to typical habano leaves, which while not the thickest varietal, seem to have more heft than this. The cigar is rolled well and consistently firm, though at least one cap looks like it might not have been given a second look. The aroma of the foot of the cigar is fairly neutral with a bit of sweet wheat bread and maybe a hint at something between barnyard and just old barn. At its best, there’s some dehydrated red apple sweetness, which is a pretty impressive aroma. The cold draw is nearly equal in terms of flavor intensity, though the sweetness is reduced but not completely gone, leaving the bread flavor and showing hardly any pepper or overt vibrance. It’s pretty tame—but again—at its best, is perfectly enjoyable.
The Fratello Rosso Toro starts off decently enough with the flavors leaning towards the dry, lumber-like woodiness that habano can offer. Were I not reviewing the cigar and enjoying it amidst conversation or other distraction, I probably wouldn’t give it a second thought, though with my attention nearly singularly focused, it’s subject to a bit more scrutiny standard, and as such, the flavor tastes a bit thin and underdeveloped. There are spots where that sweet bread flavor comes through in one sample there’s another sweetness that reminds me of dehydrated apples. By the point there’s enough ash to take note of, the breeze and a nearby fan begin stripping the outermost layers off, creating a bit of a mess and chipping away at the overall look. It’s at that point that I find the first signs that this tobacco isn’t as premium as what’s used in other lines, as the flavor gets a bit funky, though stops shy of completely taking it over, leaving some of the habano woodiness from early. Still, it’s the first sign of what could be a battle between the good and not-so-good flavors the Fratello Rosso has to offer. The end of the first third picks up a dry, vanilla sweetness, reminding me a bit of a protein shake, but at least it’s something new and somewhat interesting to explore. Construction has been fantastic through the first third, with no draw, burn line or smoke production issues. Flavor intensity and body are medium, while strength is medium-minus.
The second third of the Fratello Rosso Toro continues the tug of war between the habano flavors—largely wood but a bit of earth and black pepper—fighting with a palate-coating funkiness that is hard to place, other than it’s a bit sour, but far different from what might be associated with U.S.-grown Connecticut tobacco, for instance. For lack of a better term, things are just off with the flavors of the cigar, more so in two of the samples than the third, at least. On the positive side, there’s still some vanilla and a decently peppery finish that lingers on the front half of the tongue, while the wheat bread and woodiness play supporting roles through the midway point. Retrohales are a bit softer with some creaminess and a bit more body. The second third doesn’t see much in the way of flavor changes, but rather a continuation of the tug-of-war between the funkiness and whatever else the cigar might offer. Retrohales try and boost the experience with a bit of creaminess, though the farther in the cigar is smoked, the more the flavor coats the palate and cuts through whatever else is being offered. The very tail end of the second third reveals another tell that this isn’t a typical premium cigar, as the profile picks up a bit of bite and hints of sourness, neither of which sit well on my palate. The combustion, draw, burn line and smoke production are all very good if not excellent, while the flavor and body are both now medium, with strength medium-minus.
The final third of the Fratello Rosso Toro brings about some woodiness, though it’s not as well-developed as I would like and struggles to get past the remaining funkiness of the second third. Thankfully, it shines through quite well in the final sample, the one that shows the least amount of funkiness in the flavor. There’s a bit of heat in the final inch or so, both being added to the flavor and being transmitted to the fingers with each puff. Each cigar takes an irreversible step at some point in the final inch and a half or so; the tug-of-war over and the sour, funkiness claiming victory. Fortunately, the technical performance remains fantastic, with no issues arising over the three samples.
- I’m going to have to come up with a better term for this, but there are some tells when smoking a cigar that it might not be using top-notch tobacco. Everything tastes and smells thinner, there’s a bit of bite, and there is seemingly always a funkiness that coats the flavor.
- While 2020 has been a less than ideal year for the cigar industry, Fratello has made some notable announcements. Two of the cigars from its Space Pack got full releases; the Arlequín is coming to the U.S. in September 2020, while the Sorella is heading to international markets.
- The company also added distribution in Spain, Switzerland and Brazil.
- It’s amazing to think that Fratello has been on the market for seven years now. In some ways, I feel like I’ve always known Omar de Frias, and yet I still remember the IPCPR Trade Show where it made its splashy debut like it was two years ago, tops.
- While the flavor might have been a struggle, the construction was anything but, easily as well-constructed of a cigar as I’ve smoked in recent memory.
- There isn’t much strength from the Fratello Rosso Toro, but you will most likely be treated to a lingering tingle on your tongue.
- I have yet to smoke the Blu or Verde blends to see if they have a similar issue with the flavor.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 30 minutes on average.
- Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar Co. carries the Fratello Rosso Toro.
We don't do blind reviews, though I'm not sure that would have made much of a difference in the case of the Fratello Rosso Toro. There are some visual suggestions that the cigar might be on the lower end of the premium scale, but in each sale's first third, there was generally more than a suggestion made. Two of the samples really struggled to get over that flavor obstacle, while one did an admirable job keeping it at bay and delivering a profile that exceeded the expectations of a typical bundle cigar. Yet they all run into the same problem, a struggle between what decent flavors the tobacco might hold and the palate-coating funkiness that it definitely holds, with two of the samples clearly outmatched. Thankfully construction was fantastic, making this a relatively enjoyable smoking experience, but one that I'd have a hard time recommending outside of a hard limit on one's budget. I don't smoke a lot of bundle cigars, so it's tough for me to say where these would rank in that universe of options, but I'd be inclined to say it's worth at least trying to see if it's agreeable enough on your palate. But if you're looking for the experience of Fratello's higher priced options for just over $3, the Fratello Rosso simply isn't capable of delivering.