Avo Uvezian has led a cigar-charmed life. He started out as a jazz pianist and composer, playing and touring as a very young man in Lebanon and the Middle East after World War II. In 1947 he traveled to New York, where he studied at the Juilliard School of Music and eventually was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. (He played piano in the First Army Band.)
After following family members to Puerto Rico and working in the jewelry business for many years he started playing piano at a local resort. He discovered that the guests enjoyed the locally made cigars he kept on the top of his piano, and after giving away one too many of his personal stash, his young daughter Karin suggested that he might as well sell them.
This was the spark that eventually led Uvezian to contact Hendrik Kelner of Davidoff, who had just opened a cigar factory in the Dominican Republic. Avo’s first cigars were called Bolero, but the name was quickly changed to Avo when it was discovered that “Bolero” had already been registered by another manufacturer. The initial production run in 1987 was about five thousand boxes. Today about three million cigars are produced under the Avo brand name and its extensions.
The first Avo cigars – the now Classic line – were released in 1988, but Avo is really more of a song-and-dance man, a self described “PR man,” than a business and paperwork kind of guy, so in 1995 he sold his brand to Davidoff. But he remains, with his trademark Mimbre hat and ice cream suit, the face of Avo Cigars.
The Domaine Avo was blended to be a stronger version of the original Avo. It was released in 1998 in a robusto size only, but other sizes, including this 6 x 50/54 perfecto, were added in 2001. The filler and binder are a blend of San Vicente and piloto from the Avo farms in the Dominican Republic, and the wrapper is Connecticut shade grown in Ecuador. Production is overseen by the inimitable Henke Kelner in Santiago.
This is a beautiful cigar. For a few months I kept it in the top row of my humidor just so I could admire it during those few moments of indecision when I can’t decide what to smoke. The wrapper is a creamy colorado claro with small veins that are just about evenly spaced. The head and perfecto foot are flawlessly formed. There is an overall sense of proportionality and balance to this cigar that makes me hesitant to commit it to the flame.
The head clips cleanly and the prelight draw is much more generous than I expected, even with a nearly closed foot. After an easy light the draw opens up even more and becomes completely effortless. This cigar exhibits excellent construction all the way around — a great draw and a slow even burn.
The Domaine Avo introduces itself with a handful of sharp peppercorn — a surprise, considering the genteel appearance of the cigar. The finish from the start is quite long, and I found myself thinking “This is an Avo?” The texture of the smoke is smooth and creamy like I would expect from Connecticut wrapper, but the aroma carries all the characteristics of Ecuador, a nice easygoing cedary spice.
After the first inch the pepper fades a bit into a mild woody flavor, balsa-like with a salty element. The spice from the wrapper combines with this flavor very well to create a complex smoky brew. The middle third continues in this vein, with the wrapper stealing the spotlight and the base flavors taking a back seat. Into the last third the pepper kicks in again. I found that I had to smoke slowly to keep the smoke in balance at this point– this is where a slightly tighter draw might be appreciated. But of course the sensible thing is to just slow down a little.
The balanced appearance of this cigar seems to be reflected in the way that it smokes: it ends very much the way it starts, with a lot of spicy drama. In between is a pleasantly pastoral interlude. An extremely classy cigar that falls in the medium body range, maybe stretching to full at the end.
The Domaine Avo “50” is not a cheap date, but you’re not taking this one on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the State Fair. This is an operatic cigar, and in my opinion it’s worth the 8 or 10 dollars it sells for. There are a lot of fantastic cigars in that price range (and less, for that matter) but if price isn’t an object this stick is definitely worth a look.