Shooting for the Stars: Fratello Cigars

    While Fratello Cigars’ Omar de Frias might have big dreams, he pursues them using a calculated and measured approach.

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    “I knew that I would make a cigar in the Dominican Republic because I am Dominican and I’m a fan of tobacco,” de Frias comments. “Not only was the first cigar I smoked a La Aurora, but growing up in the Dominican Republic, the La Aurora brand was everywhere you could imagine. I remembered that brand and knew the company’s story and the story of the family. Having a Dominican cigar was an absolute no-brainer for me.”

    De Frias bumped into La Aurora’s president, Guillermo Leon, while the latter was sitting on a bench and enjoying a cigar outside of a restaurant in New Orleans during an International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association trade show. After a short talk, Leon invited de Frias to come to the Dominican Republic to make a cigar together.

    “He beat me to the punch because I was going to ask him to make a cigar for me,” de Frias recalls fondly. “That put everything in motion. The experience of working with Guillermo and Manuel Inoa [La Aurora’s master blender] gave Fratello Oro its identity, and it is one of my top-selling cigars.”

    Fratello Cigars | DMVIndeed, de Frias says that each of the core lines, recognizable by the bright coloring on their boxes and bands—red for Classico, white for Bianco and gold for Oro—are among Fratello Cigars’ top sellers. To augment the core Fratello line, de Frias added the Spazio line, which consists of two limited-edition cigars. Navetta is a tribute to the U.S. space program. “Navetta” is the Italian word for “shuttle,” and the Navetta cigar is made using an Ecuadorean oscuro wrapper, Dominican binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, and it is available in three sizes, each named for a space shuttle: Discovery, Endeavor and Enterprise. Navetta Inverso is made using a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper, Ecuadorean binder and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos—the same tobaccos that make up Navetta but in an inverted order. Rounding out the limited-edition Fratello offerings is the D.M.V., a cigar that celebrates Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Virginia and Delaware. This region is known as the D.M.V., and retailers in the area were the ones who gave de Frias the first shot to present his lines. The Boxer is a box-pressed edition of the Classico, Bianco, Oro and Navetta lines that has more ligero filler tobaccos in the blend to give the cigars a stronger smoking experience; and Fratello Camu is a line of bundled cigars that is available in three expressions: Fratello Blue, Fratello Rosso and Fratello Verde.

    “We launched Fratello Camu at the 2020 TPE [Tobacco Plus Expo] show in Las Vegas in January after hearing from retailers at the previous TPE show that we had a gap to fill,” de Frias explains. “We used the resources in our company to fill in that gap. We launched a new product. We got into the bundled business, which was something that we had never done before.”

    Setting the Course
    Seven years after its establishment, Fratello Cigars has grown to include a steady foundation of approximately 250 retailers who regularly order cigars from de Frias. Less than a decade into its existence, Fratello Cigars is a popular choice for consumers and is a name that consistently pops up on social media channels, which has led some to dub it as one of the hottest new cigar companies in the business. De Frias and his small team of three full-time employees continue to work hard to maintain the company’s momentum. It uses social media and email marketing through Constant Contact to tailor unique messages to retailers and consumers.

    “Seeing people enjoy a Fratello cigar and thinking that they spent their money on one of my cigars to give them an hour or two of pleasure is humbling,” de Frias concludes. “That makes the late nights during my NASA career, the hustle at 6 a.m., getting on the road, the cramped spaces on a plane, the layovers and the long nights all worthwhile. People see that effort and passion, and they see that translated into the cigar. They know that I’m willing to work my ass off to get Fratello Cigars to where I want it to be—the most recognizable premium cigar brand in the world—and that everything that has the Fratello name attached to it is of only the best quality and consistency available.”

    This story first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

    Story by Stephen A. Ross, editor-in-chief of Tobacco Business Magazine.