Q & A With Omar de Frias | Fratello Cigars
Q: The cigar business seems to be a close knit group. Businesses seem to be handed down from generation to generation. How did you get
into the business?
A: As a passion first and business later. I have been a consumer for a long time and an entrepreneur as well. I wanted to put my passion into one thing and do it well and 4 years later here we are.
Q: Small boutique cigar manufacturers seem to be the hottest ticket in town. What makes them unique? Is it similar to a craft beer maker? Are they a mixed bag of quality vs junk?
A: I honestly believe boutique cigars exist because consumers have created that niche just like they have created the niche for micro breweries, and for micro wineries. Peoples palate’s change constantly and as a wine drinker and beer drinker myself I have my go to’s but I’m also constantly looking to try something different. There is as much good, as there is bad but the difference maker is always the reputation that you as a brand owner or manufacturer develop for yourself.
Q: If you are a new company how did you start? What inspired the new brand and what are you doing differently?
- How do you pick your tobacco
- How about your wrapper
- What is different about the manufacturing process. Do you oversee manufacturing?
A: Inspiration was always doing something I loved (smoking cigars) and see if it makes sense from the business standpoint. We have worked side by side our manufacturer to make sure we not only have great tobacco, but that is also available. Trusting the hands of people who have worked tobacco their whole life and a manufacturer who has for many years developed a great reputation of selecting the best tobacco for their blends is the key and that is exactly what we have done. Blending and playing with different wrappers fillers and binders to come up with the Fratello Blend was probably the more fun I’ve had since coming into this industry.
Q: What characteristics or flavors do you want people to taste in your cigars?
A: I love to tell our customers to keep it simple when it comes to our cigars. Do you get some spiciness, do you get some sweetness, is it earthy, can you pick up some barn flavors? These are all profiles we have heard from our customers and more which are great because it makes for a very complex cigar.
Q: Like wine how do the different climates and soil produce different characteristics in your tobacco?
A: Soil and temperature are probably the biggest determinants of what could be a wonderful crop or just another year in growing tobacco, but the aspect of the entire process that I believe is key is the manufacturers fermentation process. Flopping this process could really put what was wonderful tobacco to begin with into the ruins.
Q: Besides your own what cigars do you smoke and what do you like about them?
A: I’m a big fan of the Cien Anos by La Aurora and the original release of the 1495. Big fan of the Cojonu, the Eperney by Ilusione and the Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970.
Q: Obviously every novice cigar smoker in the US wants Cuban cigars. Is it the mystique or do they really make superior cigars. I’ve always found them to be rather harsh. I’ve heard that there is really no difference anymore. How would you respond to that question?
A: I believe people’s palates should dictate what regions best suits them. I have smoked great Cuban cigars, like I’ve smoked horrible ones.Happy Holidays from Fratello
Same goes to cigars made in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Honduras. You should become a smoker first, then try different regions and pick out what you enjoy out of each region. I enjoy a great Pinot from Burgundy but may not be a fan of that same varietal in California. Peoples palate dictate taste. What may be a great cigar for you may be a really bad one for me.
Q: Does anyone make a good flavored cigar or are they all just junk with flavoring.
A: Hard pressed to answer this question because I don’t smoke flavored cigars.
Q: What is your favorite tobacco leaf and where is it grown.
A: Big fan of the Habano Criollo 98 seed grown in Jalapa.
Q: Are there any domestically grown tobacco that is as good as foreign tobacco? If not, why not?
A: There are, Connecticut Broad Leaf Wrapper is the one I enjoy most.
Q: What is your favorite thing to drink while smoking your favorite cigar. I’m aiming at some kind of whiskey, scotch, tequila, craft beer etc.
A: I love drinking Coffee with my cigars. I love it so much I developed our own blend (Fratello Coffee Blend) to pair with our cigars.
Q: What do you love most about the cigar business?
A: The camaraderie is the number one thing. You could be having an amazing conversation with a lawyer who just represented a high profile client while sharing stories about cigars with the person who delivers your mail. There are very few industries you can actually do this.
Q: With so much negative press surrounding cigars and legislation to curb their use what have you done and what can our readers do to make sure their voices are heard?
A: If you are a consumer, be part of Cigar Rights of America and if you are a retailer take part of the IPCPR and get involved before the FDA completely strips off of our rights to enjoy a great cigar.