Fratello Navetta Inverso | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Ecuadorian Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican
Size: 5.875 x 46 Corona Gorda
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $9.50 (a buck less online)

Today we take a look at the Fratello Navetta Inverso.
These sticks have been marinating, in their naked splendor, for several months in my humidor.

The name Navetta Inverso translates from Italian as Shuttle Inverse.
From Cigar Dojo:
“Fratello Cigars has announced that the company’s fifth core-line cigar—Navetta Inverso—is set to begin shipping to retailers on Monday, October 29th. The cigars were first debuted at this summer’s IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas, being cleverly branded as the reverse of Fratello’s 2017 release: Fratello Navetta.

“The name is Italian, translating to mean “Inverse Shuttle,” which incorporates company founder Omar de Frias’ Italian heritage and background with NASA. Both the 2017 Navetta and 2018 Navetta Inverso are being grouped into a collection known as the Spazio series, translating from Italian to mean “Space;” whereas the original three Fratello cigars now comprise the Fratello series.

“Navetta Inverso showcases space-themed packaging (being the reverse color scheme as the Navetta), as well as an inverted blend makeup, where similar tobaccos have been shuffled into a new format. The cigars feature a Nicaraguan wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and fillers of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.”

Corona Gorda: 5.875 x 46 $9.50
Robusto: 5.5 x 54 $11.25
Toro Grande: 6.25 x 54 $12.50

A very rustic appearance. Without the cigar band, it could lay on the ground and be mistaken for a twig. Lots of discoloration and tons of veinage. It’s lumpy and bumpy. Seams are tight. The wrapper’s color is a mish mosh of dark and light brown. And very little oil. I can feel a large plug right behind the cigar band. The stick is mostly hard with a couple of soft spots.

Big floral notes soothe my savage breast. Notes of caramel, chocolate, malt, cedar, musk, black pepper, lots of cream, creamed corn, barnyard, and baking spices.
The cold draw presents flavors of butterscotch, black pepper, cream, chocolate, malt, cedar, and clove.

I grab my PerfecDraw cigar poker and tool and ream the plug into dust where the cigar band inhabits the stick. Good to go.
The draw is spot on spewing plumes of Krakatoa smoke.

First up to bat are flavors of black pepper, floral, cream, espresso, malt, and little sweet notes made up of caramel, molasses, and cotton candy.
I’ve found over the years that Fratello blends need as much humidor time as you can give them. They just don’t mature to the level a sophisticated smoker requires in a month. I tried my first one around that time and decided it was clearly not ready. Now a couple months or so later, fingers crossed.

The cigar is densely packed making for a slow roll. I’m getting hints of some complexity and balance…good sign.
Strength is already at the start of medium/full intensity.

I find myself in my old age loving the corona gorda size. I like the intensity. I like the reasonable amount of time it takes to smoke. Too many manufacturers ignore this size in lieu of producing gigantor sticks that are as long as your dick. (Your dick, not mine).

The burn and draw are playing together nicely.

Flavor enhancement is self-induced by each puff taken. Balance is pretty damn fine. Transitions begin to flow. There is a tasty sweet and savory finish.

So here we have another example of a $10 boutique brand. So far, it’s a very decent cigar. Is it special? Not yet. It tastes like any number of blends with similar guts. In fact, there is a Man O’ War testimony at the pulpit preaching to the choir. Very AJ.

And then it kick starts big time…flavors are morphing. Big and bold compared to the first inch. (Something wrong about that previous statement…I know I’ve heard it somewhere).
The flavor profile begins to waver away from the typical AJ format and begins to find its own mark.

Charlotte’s colonoscopy went well. I had to laugh during that day before as the prep crap did its evil deed and turned the woman into an ass faucet. A friend told me that they are now doing “virtual colonoscopies.” You still must do the prep but instead of knocking you out, they do it via an MRI while you are awake. I like that idea. At my age, I’ve had my share of those ass drillings. And every time I wake up, I have a new tattoo. I’m going virtual next time…so much for being buried in a Jewish cemetery.

The Fratello Navetta Inverso is a solid blend. It won’t rock your world but it is interesting with very nice touches of the things you want to taste on your palate.
The spiciness is minimal. Black pepper hovers in the background. Watch…by the last third, I will become black pepper blinded.

The strength calms down. I believe the balance and focus of the blend are delaminating the power of the cigar. Not in a bad way; quite to the contrary. It is allowing the complexity to excel and serious morphing of flavors to dig deep.
I look at my photos and this is just one ugly fucker.

The first third appears to have been the cigar’s gearing up period. It provided notes of potential but only hints of its voracity. Now in the second third, it is all coalescing. Nice.

The Band is playing “The Weight.” Hard to believe that only Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson are left alive. Scary.

If you have HBO, a documentary called “Mavis” is playing. Lots of great music from the Staple family as well as Mavis playing live in 2015. My old high school buddy and musical band member, Stephen Hodges, is playing drums. He found a way to make a living from music. Good for him.
This is Steve setting up his kit for Hal Blaine in my Long Beach recording studio around 1983.

The Fratello Navetta Inverso is a good cigar. It has sashayed away from the catalog blending style it seemed to possess in the first third and moved on to something more interesting.

Flavors: Creamy, nutty, notes of caramel and molasses, baking spices, cedar, malt, milk chocolate, marshmallow, turmeric, and graham cracker becomes gingerbread. I also detect a subtle nuance of sweet brandy. And just a skosh of charred oak.

The blend has decided to hover at the medium/full level. Nicotine begins its entry point.
Mustiness appears.
Despite the cigar looking like something that a huge Maine Coon cat squirts out of its ass, the construction is on point. No burn issues. Can’t judge a book…

The forward momentum seems to have dissipated. There has been steady progress so far; but that linear progression has gotten lazy. Inconsistency is the Darth Vader of cigar blends. Even the strength mellows out a bit.

Complexity has receded. Transitions are fractured. The finish ain’t what it was earlier.
What happened?
The mustiness intensifies. Damn.
At this point, the Fratello Navetta Inverso should be shining like a bright new penny. Instead, it’s taken a few steps backwards. Did not see this coming.

Warm bread shows up for the first time. We still have the spiciness, cedar, nuts, turmeric, charred oak, and a touch of espresso.
The sweet notes are gone. That’s a misstep. The entire character of the cigar has changed. The complexity is minimal now. No transitions. The finish is nothing but black pepper.
I’m bummed, dudes.

Here we had a blend on a path to impress me and then it just craps out. The strength is reduced to medium. Even the nicotine has decreased. I’m now smoking a zombie.

Back in the day, we musicians called the band AC/DC: AC/DG. Ask a musician friend to explain that.

The Fratello Navetta Inverso went from exciting possibilities to dud. The mustiness is ever present.
I’m sitting in front of my laptop with a hangdog expression. The air has been let out of me…and the cat senses it and runs.

McCartney is coming to Milwaukee again. But a decent seat is $600! Better seats run into quadruple digits. The man is worth a billion dollars. He is 76. When will he have enough money to be comfortable? Pisses me off.

I’m hanging out for the last vestiges of this cigar to surprise me and explode with excitement. But instead, the cigar sinks into mediocre oblivion.


UPDATE 4-29-2019:
Smoked the companion cigar nearly 5 months after this review and the cigar is even a bigger turd.

And now for something completely different:
The Hal Blaine Chronicles…

Hal was part of the legendary L.A. Wrecking Crew. The most elite group of session musicians in the world. I idolized them. Check out what Wikipedia says about Hal Blaine.

As a teen, I would always read the liner notes on my albums. They always told a wonderful story. Something kids today don’t get to do as you need an electron microscope to read liner notes on a CD.

I would lie on my bed upstairs, smoke a doob, and kick back. If I did it in the evening, and I would come downstairs to grab some chips for the munchies, my mother would always ask what that strange smell was? The den was directly below my bedroom which my dad built as an add-on to the house. It was huge and it was all mine.

The albums would always list the musicians that played on the record. That’s how I learned of Hal Blaine (drums), Joe Osborne (bass), and Larry Knechtel (keys).
They played on almost every Top 10 hit of the 1960’s and 70’s. Hal literally played with everyone and had dozens and dozens of number #1 hits.

And boy, did he know how to tell a story. He was the Uncle Remus of the music world. He couldn’t talk about his life without dropping 10 famous names in a single paragraph.
And he loved that I found him fascinating; so, he would tell me stories for hours on his yacht in Marina Del Rey, Ca. He was going through his umpteenth divorce and was relegated to his boat as his temp residence; while the wife took the mansion in Bel Air.

I was regularly invited to lunch on his boat in which a few of his friends would always be there as well. I would drive from Long Beach to Marina Del Rey in my 1981 Datsun station wagon. And parked it as far away from the Bentleys and Ferraris as possible.

I was nervous on my drive from Long Beach to Marina Del Rey. My history with Hal was a broad stroke of meeting some of the most famous people in the music business. Who would I meet this time? And how would I contain the fascination and drool?

I met Hal through my musical partner, Rick Tunstall. We were recording original music at Sunset Gower Studios. Rick had worked for a cartage company and, on a regular basis, would move Hal’s drums and then set them up. Hal never touched a drum case. We spent two weeks with Hal and I was star struck. Later, when I opened my recording studio, I had the cajones to hire him, for almost nothing, to play on my projects…and those of other customers to the studio.

So, who would I meet that day on the boat?
I got there a little before 1:30. Two guests had already arrived. I was thrilled to see my old bass teacher, Carol Kaye. Carol is the most famous female bassist in the world and part of the L.A. Wrecking Crew. The other guest was a stranger.

I started to introduce myself to Carol, thinking she wouldn’t remember me, and before I could finish, she gave me a big bear hug. I was Fred Selden’s cousin. Fred is one of the most successful session reed players in L.A. He was a savant and doing sessions at age 13 and touring Europe fronting his own jazz band. He, too, played with everyone and besides doing sessions, also composes music for the movies. And it was Fred who made the connection for me to take lessons from Carol back in 1968.

The guy I didn’t recognize was Larry Knechtel…the third player in the Wrecking Crew. He was a keys player and was also a member of the charting rock group, “Bread.” I hated that group. Stupid music.

A few minutes later, the last two guests arrive. They were Neil Diamond and Phil Spector. Hal had recorded dozens of songs under the production tutelage of Spector. But Spector was known to be a hermit and an odd ball. How Hal got him to remove himself from his Beverly Hills mansion was never explained. And for the most part of the luncheon, he said nary a word.

Hal told me he was once invited to Spector’s home. He was ushered to the huge living room and all the black curtains were closed with one dim light on. Hal sat there for 45 minutes and Spector never said a word. Then out of nowhere, Spector asked, “So what is Sinatra like?” Hal, the great storyteller told him of his impression. Then more silence. Hal had enough and excused himself. Spector never said goodbye.

I had met Diamond once before while visiting Hal. Diamond was a very down to earth fella. And now we had a gaggle of Jews: Hal, Neil, Spector, and me. So, it didn’t surprise me when the catering truck rolled up from Canter’s deli in West L.A. The very famous deli that had been around forever. If you wanted great matzoh ball soup in L.A., you went to Canters.

A huge spread of deli was laid before us. It was Jew heaven.

I did little talking. Although, The Police were very big at that time and I had played in a band with the drummer, Stewart Copeland back in England. So, they found my road stories interesting. But that was all I had to offer. Besides, I was more content to listen to these icons discuss their stories then me telling them how great Sonja was at giving head.

We sat there until dusk, drinking and eating til we all had to unbutton our jeans. Except for Carol. She wore a dress.
Hal told us how he was in Frank Sinatra’s house when Nancy Sinatra and Tommy Sands first met and locked eyeballs. He saw them fall in love with each other right there in front of him.
Neil told a story about himself and Elvis. How Elvis had visited Neil’s home and they stayed up all night singing.
Spector continued to seem distant and uninterested.

And on and on it went. I was writing a column for a Long Beach underground newspaper (Uncle Jam) and while I couldn’t take notes, on my return home, I wrote down as much as I could remember. And then turned it into a story for the paper.

Except for Hal, I never saw those people again. I was about to begin my Eddie Munster project and my duties at my recording studio had me working 15-hour days; 7 days a week, or longer…8 days a week. I did manage to get Hal to do lots of sessions for me. I paid him a paltry $300 in cash each time. What a mensch. He would actually blow off big time sessions to come work for me.

My studio was downtown and his Bentley parked at the curb got a lot of stares.

My biggest regret is that I never took photos of the incredible people I met through Hal. There is a rule in show biz. If you act like a fan, you will be treated as such. If you act like a peer, you are treated as one. And the latter is what I chose. Pulling out a camera would have doomed me. And embarrassed Hal. He was my hero.

Hal later retired and moved up to Washington State and I lost contact with him. But I have oodles of cassette tapes of him and I playing together. What a joy!

A drum chart that Hal wrote for a client recording an album. I played bass on it.

At Sunset Gower Studio. L-R: Rick Tunstall, radio DJ Marshall Thomas, Hal Blaine, and Me.


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1 reply

  1. Bummer – a big let down after a promising start. On the bright side, keeps me from deflating my wallet again.

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