The Fratello Vice Versa is a limited-edition cigar with a unique concept. It’s a cigar that is capped on both ends with the idea that it can be smoked from either end. Each side of the cigar offers a different smoking experience for the consumer. One end of the cigar provides a mild and creamy smoking experience; the other end offers a fuller and spicer experience. The idea for a cigar like this was proposed by Kevin Shahan, the owner and founder of Cigar Prop. Shahan took the idea to Fratello Cigars’ owner Omar De Frias. DeFrias ran with the concept to create the Fratello Vice Versa cigar. Today, we take a closer look at the Fratello Vice Versa – smoked from at least one side.
According to De Frias, the Fratello Vice Versa was planned to be a true limited edition cigar. This was quite a challenging project that took a lot of work due to the complexity of rolling this cigar. On Episode 265 of the Prime Time Show, De Frias told Cigar Coop he didn’t see this project making a return.
The Vice Versa debuted at the 2022 Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Trade Show and was, when the company offered it, an exclusive to those attending the PCA Trade Show. The cigar was released the following year – close to the tenth anniversary of Fratello Cigars. Fratello Cigars says it donates a portion of its sales to the Premium Cigar Association.
One thing that is a little different about this cigar review compared to others is that because each side of the cigar offers a different experience, the cigar will require two assessments. Today we will look at the Fratello Vice Versa from the milder side, and a follow-up Agile Cigar Review will look at the the fuller, spicier side. While we will give an overall assessment of the banding and packaging later, a couple of things make this easier. The milder side has a shade cap and is noted by the term “MILD” on the band. The bolder side has a dark oscuro cap says “FULL” on the band. For this assessment, we are assessing things from the mild side.
Fratello Vice Versa – Cigar Review
Blend and Origin
The Fratello Vice Versa consists of a Habano Ecuador HVA wrapper, Indonesian binder, and fillers from Pennsylvania, as well as the Estelí and Condega regions from Nicaragua. The production for Vice Versa comes from the La Aurora factory in the Dominican Republic.
Wrapper: Habano Ecuador HVA
Fillers: U.S. (Pennsylvania), Nicaraguan (Estelí, Condega)
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: La Aurora S.A.
The Vice Versa is offered in one size – a 7 x 52 Double Corona. A total of 2,000 12-count boxes have been produced for this release.
The Vice Versa has a medium-roast coffee bean-colored wrapper. There wasn’t much in the way of oil on the surface of the wrapper. The surface of the wrapper had some visible veins and some visible wrapper seams. As mentioned, the cigar has caps on each end: a light brown shade cap on the mild side of the cigar and a dark coffee bean-colored oscuro wrapper on the “full side.”
Since the Fratello Vice Versa is smoked from the mild side for this assessment, a straight cut was used to remove the cap of the cigar. Three cigars were smoked for this assessment. For two of the cigars, I opted to remove the footer cap. For the third cigar, I left the cap on. It is worth noting that I didn’t see any noticeable difference when leaving the cap on.
After removing the shade cap, it was time to commence with the pre-light draw ritual. The cold draw yielded a mix of wood and a slightly sweetened cream note. This was a predictable but satisfying pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to toast the oscuro end of the Vice Versa and see what this cigar experience brings.
The Fratello Vice Versa opened up with notes of classic wood, coffee, cream, and cedar. Early on, the coffee notes became primary. The cream, wood, and cedar notes settled in the background and were joined by natural tobacco notes. The cream notes dissipated later in the first third, and the natural tobacco joined the coffee in the forefront. Meanwhile, there was an additional layer of cedar on the retro-hale.
As the Fratello Vice Versa moved through the second third, the natural tobacco took control as the sole primary note, with the coffee notes settling into the background. The cedar notes started to increase in intensity, and by the midway point, these notes joined the natural tobacco at the forefront. Meanwhile, there were still coffee, wood, and pepper notes in the background.
The final third saw the cedar notes take over as the primary note. While there still were notes of natural tobacco, coffee, wood, and pepper, the cedar notes were the dominant note – throwing the balance of this cigar off a bit. As the cigar closed, the resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
It performed quite well when it came to the burn of the Fratello Vice Versa from the mild side. This cigar didn’t require many touch-ups to maintain a straight burn path and straight burn line. The resulting ash was firm with a nice salt and pepper color scheme. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both performed at ideal levels.
Considering the draw to the Vice Versa from the mild side, there were points during each sample where the draw became very snug. While I like a bit of resistance on a draw, when the Vice Versa hit these points, it was not great. I was able to keep the cigar from needing re-lights, but it was a constant battle.
Strength and Body
The Fratello Vice Versa certainly delivers a milder experience from the mild side of the cigar. This is a cigar that started out with mild strength, and mild to medium-bodied flavors. There was a gradual increase, and by the final third, the Vice Versa was delivering mild to medium strength and medium-bodied flavors by the end of the cigar experience.
In terms of strength versus body, the body maintained the edge from start to finish.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
Fratello Cigars has done some of the best bands in the cigar industry. This is no exception when it comes to the band of the Vice Versa. The band rests at the center of the cigar and indicates which side is milder and which size is fuller.
The 12-count cardboard box also incorporates elements from the band. The problem with the cardboard box is that it is not retail-friendly and doesn’t allow the individual cigars to be displaced.
Give Kevin Shahan credit for suggesting the Vice Versa concept to Omar de Frias, and give Omar de Frias credit for working with the La Aurora factory to bring this to life. This was a creative project. As mentioned, this cigar covered a smoking experience from the milder side of the cigar – and the Vice Versa certainly delivered that. Regarding the flavors, I really liked the first third. I was neutral on the second third and disappointed when the cigar became more cedar-laden in the final third. In my opinion, the Vice Versa really needs to be enjoyed with a two-cigar purchase to experience smoking from both ends. However, I wasn’t blown away from the milder side. I recommend you see if you can try a sample first.
Key Flavors: Coffee, Natural Tobacco, Cedar, Classic Wood, Cream, Pepper
Strength: Mild (1st 2/3), Mild to Medium (Remainder)
Body: Mild to Medium (1st 2/3), Medium (Remainder)
Value: Try a Sample
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop