Among the most famed collections of ongoing, limited-edition cigars is the Limited Edition Series from AVO Cigars. The concept debuted in 2001, introducing a special blend in commemoration of founder, the late Avo Uvezian’s, birthday. Each year since, a new limited-edition cigar (or more, in the case of the Classic Covers offshoot series), has been launched, with this year’s release marking the 20th consecutive year for the series.
While the series (unofficially dubbed the Birthday Series) long represented Uvezian’s birthday of March 22, the decision was made in 2015 to change focus to the brand’s musical influence. This saw the introduction of the Improvisation Series, with the first four releases in the series being a sub-series known as Classic Covers. The Improvisation Series continues to this day, though the majority of releases have maintained the annual, spring release strategy established two decades ago (which we term AVO Limited Edition Series, encompassing the various series’ over the years).
AVO Improvisation Series LE20 Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
- Binder: Dominican Republic (Semilla 151 Seco)
- Filler: Dominican Republic (San Vicente Ligero | Piloto Ligero | Piloto Visus | San Vicente Seco)
- Factory: Oettinger Kelner Cigars (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Limited Edition (4,400 boxes of 14 cigars)
- Vitola: 6½″ × 50 (Toro)
- Price: $16.00 (MSRP)
As is customary with the series, AVO Improvisation Series LE20 is rolled in a singular format, this time showcasing a 6½″ × 50 toro size. The cigars make use of tobaccos from two countries, including a diverse representation of the Dominican Republic. These leaves are selected primarily from the higher tobacco primings (ligero and viso), alluding to a heartier core than is commonly seen with AVO blends. Finally, the binder is a hybrid seed engineered by the Kelner family’s TabaDom agricultural operation, and the wrapper is an Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf. AVO Improvisation LE20 was limited to 4,400 boxes of 14 cigars, with 2,500 making their way to the U.S.
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Consistently, AVO’s Improvisation Series is one of the most attractive releases each year. This is no different with the 2020 edition. While former releases have veered toward extravagant concepts, such as the record player emulations seen on the Classic Covers cigars, recent releases have introduced more elegant designs. AVO LE20 is encased in a smoke gray acrylic glass shell, housing two cedar trays of seven cigars. The box’s clean layout allows it to store easily in the humidor, and the included cedar trays are actually humidor-grade themselves.
The cigar’s wrapper is pale, yet noticeably more hearty than the conventional Connecticut. It’s an attractive appearance, playing off of the copper and slate tones of the cigar’s bands. This leaf is perhaps not as flawless as thinner Connecticut wrappers, having medium-thick veins and a wrinkle here or there. But the construction is otherwise great, having well-paced seams and a nice springiness to the underlying bunch. It’s a nice size in the hand, coming across like a cross between a toro and a Churchill.
On the nose, there are plenty of citrus-like aromas coming from the wrapper: tang, cedar, light musk, and a touch of toffee candy. The foot shows added notes of clean florals, tea leaves, and cedar. A pre-light draw reveals a perfect resistance and clean flavors of wild botanicals, barnyard hay, cedar, and a vague tanginess.
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The cigar starts off with a dry texture, having a floral, bitter sensation along the lines of Campari liqueur. This is joined, not many puffs later, by white pepper spice through the retrohale. It’s a gentle spice that adds heat to the profile, while still being fully retrohalable. Sweetness first pokes its head with caramel, soon expanding to a milky coffee sensation that lingers long on each finish. This component is the highlight in the cigar’s early stages, having an extremely creamy texture and flavors to match. Mild in strength, the cigar focuses strongly on flavor and complexity, having an overall mild-to-medium body.
The sharp, bitter flavors of the first few puffs are seemingly only there to grab your attention, quickly expanding into the aforementioned profile. This is somewhat common for AVO cigars of this style, although the LE20 veers further away from floral, bitter, botanic characteristics that its siblings often exhibit. In terms of construction, the cigar boasts a slightly wavy burn line and a flakey yet sturdy ash, lasting two inches or more. Sweet nougat is balanced nicely by espresso, with the pair acting as the core of the experience. The cigar is medium in body and strength, still focusing intensely on nuanced flavor as the driving force.
If you’ve ever riffled through an old chest, perhaps found in an old basement of an old house, you may recognize a distinct pinch through the nostrils—something created from the amalgamation of aging wood, dust, and musky cologne. With a buttery-smooth texture, the cigar touts complexity above all else. Buttered popcorn (lightly salted) is up front, followed by buttermilk and Banana Laffy Taffy sweetness through the finish.
One aspect that I typically enjoy, usually adding to the overall complexity, is an aggressive taste from the cut tobacco against the tongue. This is found with the AVO LE20, having a metallic, almost 9V battery-like zinging sensation to keep the taste buds on edge. The dustiness from before is now clear and upfront, followed by a mélange of white pepper, citrus, and black tea, and finishing with buttermilk, candy sweetness, espresso, and sweet cream. It’s a warm profile in the final goings, tipping the cap at familiar AVO LE experiences with floral characteristics of saffron and anise. Sweet nougat (think 3 Musketeers candy bar) is joined by caramel in the final moments, with highly enjoyable complexities lasting well beyond the point where I lay most cigars to rest.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I’ve always found AVO’s Limited Edition Series to have two basic styles: dark and leathery, or bright and botanical. When the cigar is wrapped in a dark wrapper, you’ll get the former, when it’s wrapped in a light leaf, you’ll get the latter. Obviously, this is oversimplifying the incredibly complex specimens that are AVO’s annual achievements, but I find the majority to roughly fit these overarching profiles. Of the two, I personally much prefer the latter, which this year’s release happens to be. I certainly haven’t tried all of AVO’s yearly releases (not even close), but I have had a chance to experience the 30th Anniversary recreations of the the series’ two most acclaimed blends: LE05 and LE22. These cigars hold up to the high praise, in my opinion, and the LE20 is now battling right along with them. I’d rank it as a tossup between the LE05 and LE20 (depending on the mood), with the LE22 coming in a close third. I almost forgot… yes, I’d smoke this again.
- Flavor: Medium-Full
- Strength: Mild / Medium
- Body: Medium
- Sweet cream
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Latte | Baileys Irish Cream | Wheated bourbon | Hot toddy cocktail
- Purchase Recommendation: As many as you can afford
- A rarely seen level of complexity
- Great progression of flavor
- Not a sign of negative, hot, or otherwise unwanted flavor well into nub territory
- Dry and bitter start may be off-putting to some
- While longer-burning than other AVO LEs, still seems to burn a tad fast