“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

—Colin Powell

Lately, when I light up a cigar, I take a moment to reflect. Just a simple pause. I think it’s important. It seems like, more and more, we (cigar consumers) are expecting the cigar to line up with our pre-conceived notions. And as such, this becomes a double-edged sword for manufacturers. Do they stick to their signature and get ridiculed for lack of innovation? Or do they take a gamble, thereby getting bashed for “not staying in their lane.” It’s a no-win situation in a lot of cases.

“What’s Bear doing here? Is he setting us up on this review?”

Not really, it’s just become the reality of the industry these days, and today’s review kind of encapsulates the crux in the road that I just described.

Enter the celebration of the vision that a man named Avo Uvezian started back in 2001, years before his passing, to celebrate his birthday. Each year, parent company, Oettinger Davidoff AG, continues the legacy that Uvezian left behind by honoring his memory with this annual release.

AVO Improvisation LE21 cigar box closed

AVO Improvisation LE21 Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun-Grown
  • Binder: Ecuador
  • Filler: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Oettinger Kelner Cigars (Dominican Republic)
  • Production: Limited Edition (50,000 cigars (U.S.) | 91,000 cigars (Global))
  • Vitola: 7½″ × 50 (Double Corona)
  • Price: $16.00 (MSRP)

AVO Improvisation LE21 is rolled in a singular double corona format, using a dark Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder, and four varieties of Dominican filler leaves.

Click images below for full resolution

 

Appearance

Upon opening the box of this annual release, I’m at first taken aback at the dark complexion. While this isn’t the first time this limited release has featured a darker selection on the wrapper, it still seems out of place. The wrapper is listed as Ecuadorian and one would assume it’s characterized as an oscuro, but it is hence undisclosed. AVO does, however, describe the wrapper as “[undergoing] a special aging and fermentation process to amplify the cream and sweetness of the tobacco.”

The wrapper catches one off guard, not only because of the dark hue, but also the very noticeable tooth on the leaf. The veins are protruded from the surface of the wrapper, with a paleness that covers the cigar. My first thought is to compare it to a topographical map of Ecuador itself. The label is a gorgeous contrast of charcoal and shining copper, with the trademark “AVO” logo. The secondary band dons the same colors, with “20″ and “21” stacked on top of each other.

Click images below for full resolution

Smoking Experience

With a guillotine cut, the cold draw gives off sweet and acidic flavors of coffee, cream, and passion fruit. Again, flavors not expected from a cigar with this dark outward appearance. The aromas coming off the unlit foot and wrapper are of dank earth and leather. Firing up the cigar with a jet lighter, the aroma coming from the toasted foot has some pleasant baking spice and pepper nuances.

The first few puffs of the cigar have my preferred amount of resistance, giving ample smoke output, but not so much to overwhelm the palate. I get dominant flavors of graham cracker, cinnamon, and a tart sweetness that reminds me of unripe mango. The retrohale has a contrasting pepper spice that isn’t sharp and does not linger, offering tremendous balance.

AVO Improvisation LE21 cigar smoking

As the cigar progresses into the second third, the delightful and surprising flavors and balance begin to muddle. The graham cracker notes are still present, but begin to lose their sweetness, and a sharp acidity begins to enter and hit the palate. The mango notes also begin to wane, surfacing more tartness than at the initial onset of the cigar experience.

The construction of the cigar displays a razor-sharp burn and, as noted previously, I would qualify the draw as virtually perfect. The ash held extremely well in my first sample, but inconsistencies in additional samples showed a brittle ash, holding only for an inch before falling off in a dust.

As the cigar concludes, it has remained as bewildering as it seemed from the outset, but may fall into the camp of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The cigar finishes in stark contrast to its beginnings. Almost all sweet components of graham cracker and fruit have been given over to sharp acidity and the leather notes that existed on the initial pre-light aromas.

AVO Improvisation LE21 cigar ash

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

Being the cigar-aging nerd that I am, I’m always anxious to see how AVOs age, as they typically do quite well. So, the answer is yes, as a matter of aging experiment. I would pick up a few to see how they perform over the next couple of years.


Profile
  • Flavor: Medium
  • Strength: Medium
  • Body: Medium
Core Flavors
  • Graham cracker
  • Unripe mango
  • Leather
  • Cinnamon
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 2 hours
  • Pairing Recommendation: Doppelbock ale | Añejo tequila | Latte | Unsalted almonds | Cheesecake
  • Purchase Recommendation: Buy a couple

AVO Improvisation LE21 cigar nub finished

AVO Improvisation LE21
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, two covers. One one hand, AVO has this cover of always being regal and elegant, without aesthetic flaw. On the other hand (the second cover), this cigar begins with a somewhat rustic appearance, surprisingly unfolding to show a mellow elegance. It may not be what one would expect from the brand, but there's something refreshing about breaking the norm with the AVO Improvisation LE21.
Appearance88%
Burn/Construction91%
Draw92%
Flavor84%
Complexity84%
Price/Value84%
Pros
  • Delightful beginning
  • Superb burn
  • Perfect draw
Cons
  • Sharp acidity
  • Drop off in flavors
  • Inconsistence in balance
87%Awfully good
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