Every year since April 2015, the AVO brand has added a limited edition under the names Classic Covers and Improvisation. The cigars took over for the AVO LE series, another group of limited editions that would appear on store shelves annually every March in celebration of the late Avo Uvezian’s birthday, which fell on March 22.

After a few years of the Improvisation Series adding releases throughout the year, the series returned to the plan of March releases in 2017. This year, the series comes to a close with the release of The Closing Improvisation, which includes two cigars with completely different blends.

The two blends, White and Black, are named for the color of the keys on a piano, the instrument that Uvezian not only played but was the foundation of his career as a jazz pianist and songwriter.

This cigar, the AVO Improvisation LE22 White, uses an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over a Dominican binder and filler. Its counterpart, the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black, uses an Ecuadorian wrapper over a Mexican binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

While the blends are different, both cigars are robusto gordos measuring 5 1/2 x 55, and they sit side-by-side in boxes of 22 cigars—11 of each—priced at $352, which works out to $16 per cigar. There are just 1,500 boxes produced for the U.S. market.

The number 22 was selected not just for the year of the cigars’ release, but also as a nod to Uvezian’s birthday of March 22. It’s also a number that has been featured in other AVO limited editions.

The AVO Improvisation LE22 becomes the 10th and 11th releases in the AVO Classic Covers/Improvisation series:

The AVO Improvisation LE22 is priced at $16 per cigar and $352 per box of 22 cigars, with each box containing 11 each of the  Improvisation LE22 Blacks and Improvisation LE22 Whites. While the total number of cigars has not been disclosed, there are 1,500 boxes designated for the U.S. market.

  • Cigar Reviewed: AVO Improvisation LE22 White
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: O.K. Cigars
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Connecticut)
  • Binder: Dominican Republic
  • Filler: Dominican Republic
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 55
  • Vitola: Robusto Gordo
  • MSRP: $16 (Box of 22, $352)
  • Release Date: March 10, 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,500 Boxes of 22 Cigars (33,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

My attention first focuses on the gold of the bands, which works well with the golden-hued wrapper that the AVO Improvisation LE22 White wears. Meanwhile, the black contrasts in a way that reminds me that black works with pretty much anything, in that it’s not a perfect match but it looks good. The secondary band catches my eye, as the 20 in 2022 is in gold while the 22 is in black, and the result is that I focus on the 22, and the band seems off-center as a result. In some ways, it feels like a design selected if creating a cigar honoring the Gilded Age. This thick robusto is rolled firmly, offering a dense cylinder of tobacco while looking quite good to the eye. Seams are nearly invisible, veins are small, and the heads are all constructed well and finished off with a tight twist of tobacco, a unique style which means the wraps of tobacco stretch a bit farther down the body of the cigar. The aroma from the foot is light, with a bit of banana or banana bread leading a warmed and buttered English muffin. The more I smell it, the more I gravitate to the banana, which seems to want to take me towards a fruit cup aroma but never quite gets there. Pepper is present but quite delayed in registering on my olfactory nerves. The cold draw on the first cigar is quite firm, feeling like the tobacco has been packed too densely. Thankfully it’s an isolated incident, as the two other samples are much better. The banana flavor returns but now tastes creamier, though not reaching a point of tasting like ice cream, yogurt, condensed milk or any other familiar descriptors. There’s a bit of dry wood in the background that finds the front of my tongue, with black pepper behind that.

If I had to guess what the AVO Improvisation LE22 White would taste like simply by the color of the wrapper and the fact it is in an AVO release, what the cigar offers is pretty much in line with that notion. It’s mild and toasty right out of the gate but adds a bit of black pepper in the first half-inch. There are some puffs that remind me of a peppery graham cracker thanks to the grain and just a touch of honey. The pepper continues to develop, as does some earth, but it’s the black pepper that steps forward the most just past the one-inch mark. Retrohales do the better job of showing the pepper, but it hits both senses fairly vibrantly. Even with that progression, it manages to bring in some creaminess to the profile, which gives it a lushness and counterbalance, at times reminding me of a creme brûlée without the overt sweetness. As the first third comes to a close, I hear what I think is the cracking and splitting of tobacco leaves; one cigar doesn’t show me any damage, while another has a split running right up its front side and appears to be stopped only by the secondary band. Flavor is medium, body is medium, and strength is mild in the first third. Construction is generally good but not free from issues; the aforementioned firm draw in one sample and the splitting wrapper in another are both concerning. The burn line has been even, however, combustion has been very good and smoke production more than satisfactory.

After an enjoyable buildup of flavor and body in the first third, the AVO Improvisation LE22 White seems to plateau not long into its second third. The profile has shifted to pick up a bit more earth and pepper, while the toast and wood are more supporting flavors. What I find interesting is that there is little if any sweetness, particularly the banana note that more or less defined the cigar before being lit, and a flavor I was hoping to find more of in the profile. The creme brûlée has also departed, leaving a profile that still offers complexity but is now a bit more singular. Flavor and body increase to medium-plus, while strength is just shy of medium. Construction is very good and has largely avoided any additional issues that may have been found in the first third.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as grilled banana, but that’s what I’m getting from the AVO Improvisation LE22 White not long into its final third. The more I think about it, and as the flavor evolves, the more it becomes a smoky banana flavor, as it hits the tongue quickly with banana before the increasingly robust earth and black pepper come along, while the overall flavor is now smokier on the whole. There are a few spots where it picks up a bit of black coffee, though I think it’s the now quite lingering finish giving me the same sensation as I get from a sip of that beverage. This kicks off a progression of the flavor that sees it pick up a lot more smokiness in its final inches, and while it’s not an inherently bad or harsh flavor, it does become a bit dominant for my liking, overshadowing the other flavors in the process. The earthiness also takes a bigger step forward and it now drives the texture of the smoke as much as it does the flavor when it comes to hitting my taste buds. The finish is a bit sharper and grittier than I would like it, but I have no problem smoking the cigar down to a nub. Flavor finished medium-plus, body is medium if not a tick above that, and strength has finally reached the medium mark. Construction remains very good, as while there were issues earlier, none of them have prevented me from having an easy smoking experience.

Final Notes

  • I have made mention of this before, but I wish I would have had the opportunity to spend more time with Avo Uvezian before his passing. His life story is an incredible one, and one worth reading.
  • Brooks Whittington reviewed the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black.
  • I smoked the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black for comparison, and as expected it is heavier, richer and fuller profile. What I found most interesting is that the flavor progression is very similar, with the profile turning a more robust and earthy in the final third. Something that is really interesting and impressive given that the blends are completely different. I’d say that my enjoyment of each was fairly even, with the deciding factor being how rich and hearty of a profile I was wanting.
  • I am interested to see what—if anything—happens to the AVO brand and its limited editions going forward. While I wouldn’t say I’m saddened to see the Improvisation Series go away, I did look forward to the annual release.
  • It also brought to mind something that I’ve been hearing a lot lately, which is the idea that if you say someone’s name, they live on, despite how long ago they may have died.
  • I didn’t get any appreciable strength from the AVO Improvisation LE22 White, or from the AVO Improvisation LE22 Black, for that matter.
  • Davidoff of Geneva USA advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was two hours and 15 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop and JR Cigar carry the AVO Improvisation LE22 White.
88 Overall Score

As noted in the first third, the AVO Improvisation LE22 White offered almost exactly what I would have expected from the cigar, given the brand’s general profile and the appearance of the wrapper. The first two thirds are a clean, palate engaging profile that  evolves more in intensity than by adding and removing flavors. Where the cigar departs from that plan is the final third, as it gets a bit more intense and gruff than I would have expected, though it remains enjoyable on the whole. This is a well refined profile that is easy to enjoy, and a cigar I’d have no issues with lighting up again.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.