Friday March 24th was a very sad day for the entire cigar industry as Avo Uvezian, the beloved man behind the Avo Cigars’ brand passed away at age 91. As word came out about Avo’s death came tributes from the cigar industry, cigar enthusiasts sharing their own personal recollections of Avo, and many breaking out their Avo cigars to enjoy. As these tributes and recollections surfaced throughout the weekend, one thing became very clear – Avo was so much more than an ambassador for his brand or Davidoff. He was a man that for all practical purposes was the de-acto ambassador for the cigar industry as a whole.
Many of us remember that first encounter we had with Avo. I was very fortunate to meet him in somewhat of a group setting. Back in 2011, I was visiting my friend Jeff Borysiewicz at his at Corona Cigar Company headquarters in Orlando, Florida. Jeff had invited me up to his office upstairs. For those who haven’t seen Jeff’s office, it is a spacious and welcoming place. At the time, Tony Gomez from La Flor Dominicana and Erik Nording of Nording Pipes were also there. As we talked, Jeff turned to me and said something along the lines “I have a friend I would like to invite over to have a smoke with us”. I had no idea who that person was, but in walked Avo himself. Jeff is very close with Avo, and I know he considered Avo family. Yet, I still had no idea it would be Avo.
At the time of that meeting, Avo had turned 85 years young a few months earlier, but still had plenty of energy and passion. The conversation was very relaxed. I do remember Avo being very passionate about cigar rights. Somehow during the conversation, it came up I had given him my 2010 Cigar of the Year for the Avo LE10 – still one of my favorite cigars of all time. Avo saw the piece I wrote, he read it intently. He then turned to me and said something along the lines “it’s a great cigar, but have you tried the LE11? It’s even better!”
In 2014, I had a second encounter with Avo at Corona Cigar Company. This was a year after Avo’s serious car accident. Avo showed up at a Drew Estate event. He was wearing a green suit and his signature panama hat. Avo had slowed down a bit, but four months after the accident, he was happy and engaging. I even saw him smoke a Kentucky Fire Cured Flying Pig.
On a 2015 episode of the Stogie Geeks Show, we had the chance to interview Scott Kolesaire, the brand manager for Avo Cigars. Scott has done an amazing job with the Avo brand. He had just worked on revamping the Avo portfolio and there was an energy and enthusiasm around the portfolio once again. In that interview, Scott also told us how he talked to Avo daily. From talking with Scott that night, one thing was clear – this wasn’t just a business relationship, but one that was very close. I realized this was like family to Scott.
Avo had missed the 2014 IPCPR Trade Show. He gave a video address at the 2014 Davidoff Golden Band Awards Dinner held during the Trade Show inspired the attendees. He returned to standing ovations in 2015 and 2016 – including receiving a special award from his country of Armenia.
Since 2001, we as consumers have had an opportunity to celebrate Avo’s birthday. Each year around March 22nd, a special limited edition cigar was released to coincide with the occasion. This represented some of the best Avo branded cigars released. These cigars became another way to connect with this cigar industry legend. This past year, the Avo LE17 made its way to stores just in time for Avo’s 91st birthday,
While Avo’s event schedule had diminished, Avo was still very much the face of this brand. It’s a huge loss for Davidoff and they will face an enormous challenge. I do feel the company – and especially Kolesaire and Dylan Austin will do all the right things to keep Avo’s spirit and legacy alive. Avo was more than a brand ambassador, he was the cigar industry’s ambassador. Avo touched people whether they knew him personally, met him at an event, or when one even smoked one of his cigars. He was one of the most beloved and respected figured. As long as there is a cigar industry, his legacy wil live on.