Early in 2022, Davidoff released the AVO Improvisation LE22 edition. The AVO Improvisation LE22 would be unique in that it would be a two-blend set released in one package. The LE22 would mark 22 consecutive years that the AVO brand has had an annual limited edition cigar. For the first 14 years (2001-2014), the cigar was positioned as a birthday cigar for the late Avo Uvezian. In 2015, the company changed the direction of the annual limited edition cigar, putting the annual releases under the AVO Improvisation Series. These were not just limited cigar brands, but drew inspiration from other things ranging from other AVO blends to specific tobaccos to cigar molds. With the release of the AVO Improvisation LE22, Davidoff also announced this would be the final installment of the Improvisation Series. As a result, Davidoff has dubbed this “The Final Improvisation.” Today we take a closer look at one of the blends that make up the LE22 release, the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black.
While it hasn’t been explicitly stated, the AVO Improvisation LE22 was inspired by brand founder, Avo Uveian’s love of the piano. As mentioned, there are two blends that make up the LE22 set – the AVO Improvisation LE22 White and the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black. The White and Black are two distinct blends. The AVO Improvisation White features a lighter claro wrapper while the AVO Improvisation Black features a more oscuro (darker) wrapper. The two blends are arranged in an alternating fashion 22-count box to represent the keys of a piano.
For reference purposes, we include the history of the AVO Limited Edition Series. The following are the first 15 installments of the annual AVO Limited Edition series:
- AVO 75th Anniversary (AVO Limited Edition 2001)
- AVO Limited Edition 2002 – AVO 22 (American and European versions)
- AVO Limited Edition 2003 – AVO 77
- AVO Limited Edition 2004 -AVO Legacy
- AVO Limited Edition 2005 – LE05
- AVO Limited Edition 2006 – AVO 80th
- AVO Limited Edition 2007 – AVO LE07
- AVO Limited Edition 2008 – Tesoro
- AVO Limited Edition 2009 – Compañero
- AVO Limited Edition 2010 – AVO LE10
- AVO Limited Edition 2011 – AVO 85th
- AVO Limited Edition 2012 – La Trompeta
- Avo 25th Anniversary Edition (*)
- AVO Limited Edition 2013 -The Dominant 13th
- AVO Limited Edition 2014 -AVO 88
The following are the 11 installments of the AVO Improvisation Series and what each drew inspiration from:
- 2015: AVO Classic Covers Volume 1 (Inspired by the AVO Classic)
- 2015: AVO Classic Covers Volume 2 (Inspired by the AVO Heritage) (*)
- 2016: AVO 90th Classic Covers Volume 3 (Inspired by the AVO XO)
- 2016: AVO 90th Classic Covers Volume 4 (Based on the AVO Domaine) (*)
- 2017: AVO Improvisation LE17 (Inspired by AVO LE05, AVO Syncro Nicaragua Fogata, and AVO Syncro Nicaragua Special Toro)
- 2018: AVO 30 Years Improvisation (LE18): (Inspired by AVO Classic)
- 2019: AVO Improvisation LE19 (Inspired by cigar molds)
- 2020: AVO Improvisation LE20 (Inspired by Unknown)
- 2021: AVO Improvisation LE21 (Inspired by Double Corona of AVO 75th)
- 2022: AVO Improvisation LE22 (Two Blends – Black and White; Inspired by Piano Black and White Blends)
(*) Not released as an AVO birthday cigar in March
One final note, from this author’s perspective, while there were 1,500 boxes allocated to the U.S. market, the AVO Improvisation LE22 was one of the more difficult AVO LE releases to obtain. This is because many retailers chose to keep the LE22 sets together as opposed to breaking them up into individual sets and had success in selling the boxes as a whole.
For now, we turn our attention to the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black.
Blend and Origin
As mentioned above, the AVO Improvisation LE 22 Black and AVO Improvisation LE22 White blends are fairly different. We list both of them here for completeness.
AVO Improvisation 2022 Black
Filler: Dominican, Dominican Republic
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: O.K. Cigars
AVO Improvisation 2022 White
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: O.K. Cigars
Both the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black and AVO Improvisation LE22 White come in one size – a 5 1/2 x 55 Robusto Grand. This specific size had not been used on an AVO Limited Edition since the AVO LE10 in 2010. Each 22-count box features 11 Black and 11 White LE22 cigars.
The Ecuadorian wrapper of the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black had a roasted coffee bean color to it. There was some oil on the surface of the wrapper. The wrapper had a slight amount of mottling and there also was a subtle toothless to the wrapper. This was a wrapper that was on the smooth side. There were some thin visible veins and any wrapper seams present were not too noticeable. The cigar itself was finished with a swirled pig-tail cap.
As opposed to pulling the pig-tail off of the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black, a straight cut was used to remove both the cap and pig-tail simultaneously. From that point, it was on to the pre-light draw experience. The cold draw delivered a mix of earth, grass, cedar, and a touch of red pepper flakes. Overall this wasn’t the most exciting pre-light draw. Since the pre-light draw is not factored into the numeric merit score or value rating, there was no loss of points here. At this point, it was time to toast up the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black and see what the smoking experience would have in store.
The AVO Improvisation LE22 Black opened up with notes of grass, earth, red pepper, and chocolate malt. Early on the grass notes moved into the forefront. The earth notes shortly followed the grassy notes into the forefront. The red pepper and chocolate malt settled in the background. There was also an underlying creamy note present. Meanwhile, there was a cedar note present on the retro-hale.
During the second third of the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black, the earth and grass notes remained the primary notes. Around the midway point, there was an increase in the red pepper notes and a decrease in the overall creaminess. The chocolate malt notes were still present. Meanwhile, the retro-hale had transitioned from cedar to red pepper.
By the final third, the grass and the earth notes were still primary. The red pepper was the most prominent background note. Some black coffee notes were also present in the background. The malt notes had diminished significantly and the creaminess dissipated completely. This is the way the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature
Overall the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black did require touch-ups to maintain a straight burn path and a straight burn line. While the touch-ups did the trick, there were more touch-ups required than preferred. The resulting ash was light gray. This was an ash that wasn’t overly firm, but wasn’t loose or flakey either. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both maintained ideal levels.
The draw to the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black performed extremely well. This was a draw that had a touch of resistance – which is something that I like. At the same time, this was pretty much a low-maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
In terms of strength and body, the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black was a solid medium for both attributes from start to finish. There wasn’t much in the way of variance of the intensity levels for the strength and body. In terms of strength versus body, both attributes balanced each other nicely with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
I really like the gold bands that are present on both the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black and White releases. I think it’s a really good look for the AVO brand.
While I also like the effect of packaging the LE Black and LE White together to create the “Piano” effect, I still don’t like it when companies package two different blends in the same box. Then again, Davidoff seemed to do a good job selling these cigars to retailers and retailers have been able to move the box, so what do I know?
As mentioned Davidoff has said it is bringing the Improvisation Series to a close. While I don’t think this is the end for AVO limited releases, perhaps it is time to consider bringing the annual series to a close. AVO has released limited edition cigars on an annual basis for 22 years – and that’s a long time. This series has delivered some iconic cigars, but as some say, “all good things much come to an end.”
I like the fact that AVO delivered a darker wrapper offering. While I did find the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black had a combination of foundational AVO flavors (grass) with some different flavors (Malt and Coffee), I still found this cigar had the same problem a lot of LE cigars have in the market – little in the way of wow factor. In the end, there still was enough going on with this cigar to recommend it to a novice or experienced cigar enthusiast. It’s a cigar I would buy and smoke again from time to time, but when I look at some of the past AVO limited releases it still falls short.
Key Flavors: Earth, Grass, Chocolate Malt, Coffee, Cedar, Pepper
Burn: Very Good
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy One
News: AVO Cigars to Close Out Improvisation Series with AVO Improvisation 2022
Brand Reference: AVO
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted