Cigar makers and brand owners must feel a constant pressure to continuously work on the next big thing. From what I can tell, retailers and consumers alike are always asking about what’s new. And it must be quite challenging to keep a steady stream of traffic flowing at your annual convention booth if you don’t have something fresh and exciting to show off.
That’s why, as my colleague put it recently, “the seemingly irresistible urge to introduce new blends, new line extensions, new brands, new tobaccos, new curing methods, and on and on reaches its annual pinnacle at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show.”
Yet there’s something to be said about the slow and steady approach: not wearing yourself too thin, and only coming out with something new when you’ve got a product worth introducing. So far, that’s the strategy Omar de Frias has employed for Fratello Cigars, the venture he began in 2013. The original Fratello line was a project over two years in the making. It would be another two years until a second Fratello cigar would come to market.
Called Bianco, the four-vitola line features a San Andrés Negro wrapper, Dominican binder, and filler tobaccos from Pennsylvania, Nicaragua, and Peru. “We wanted a richer, darker, and a fuller body smoke that would be smooth, complex, and characteristic of our full flavor cigars,” said de Frias in a May press release. Bianco cigars sell in the $8-9 range and are packaged in 20-count boxes.
I smoked three in the “Event Exclusive” size, which measures 5 inches long with a ring gauge of 44. As is sometimes the case with San Andrés, the cigar looks a little rough around the edges with noticeable seams, a slightly sloppy cap, and a toothy texture. The pre-light notes, however, are an inviting, potent combination of cocoa and espresso, the cold draw is smooth, and the surface has ample oils.
Once lit, I find a medium-bodied profile of black coffee, pepper, dark chocolate, and oak. The texture is leathery. As the cigar progresses, the complexity deepens with the additions of creamy nut, damp earth, and a dried fruit sweetness. The smoke production is commendable and the resting smoke has a fragrant, sweet bouquet. The final third is slightly more intense with espresso taking center stage.
The physical properties perform beautifully from light to nub, including a straight burn line, solid white ash, and good draw that has just the right amount of resistance.
Like the original Fratello, it’s hard to not like Bianco. I’ll take that a step further and say Bianco has its predecessor slightly beat in terms of complexity, flavor, and texture. (I doubt this will be a popular opinion; it’s fashionable to put down San Andrés-wrapped smokes, but I think San Andrés really makes this blend shine.) Try Bianco yourself and you’re bound to be impressed. I rate the Event Exclusive size four and a half stogies out of five.
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photo credit: Stogie Guys