I've been away from this for more than a week, now. Truth be told, I've had a lot on my plate, especially at work, and it's burned me out pretty bad. My heart just hasn't been in much of anything, even, for once, cigars. But, the late actor Raúl Juliá (best known as Gomez Addams) once said, "Why pay $100 for a therapy session when you can spend $25 on a cigar? Whatever it is will come back; so what? Smoke another one." So here it is, my “cigar therapy.”
Today, the cigar world also learned of the passing of famed cigar entrepreneur and jazz musician Avo Uvezian at 91 years old. Those who know me, know I'm not terribly big on the idea of mourning the loss of those who pass on to whatever comes next; I much prefer to honor and remember their life and their legacy, and celebrate their spiritual transition to what lies beyond this life.
With that in mind, I've already got Uvezian's jazz album “Legacy” playing on Spotify, and I'm getting ready to light up an Avo Syncro Nicaragua Robusto. Those who are familiar with the Uvezian brand will have noticed a musical theme in the naming of cigars and/or vitolas; before coming to the US in 1947, Uvezian had already made a name for himself in Europe and the Middle East as a jazz pianist. In fact, Uvezian, born in Lebanon, eventually earned himself an invitation to play for Shah Reza Pahlevi, who was then the Iranian head of state. The Shah was so impressed with Uvezian, that he personally paid for Uvezian to travel to the United States from Iran, where he would study at Juilliard. It was not until the 1970s that Uvezian even began to think about getting into the cigar business. Music was his first love; and he noticed that many people who came to see him play also enjoyed smoking cigars, so he started buying a few before performances, leaving them atop his piano for anyone to help themselves and enjoy.
He later partnered with a cigarmaker with Davidoff, and launched his own cigars in 1987. Within a decade, Davidoff had bought distribution rights to the Avo cigars. In less than a decade's time, Uvezian's brand was turning out 640 times as many sticks as when he had started.
Avo Cigars have repeatedly scored quite well in tastings by the editors of cigar magazines such as Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Snob. I, myself, have not yet smoked an Avo that disappointed me. And I'm looking forward to smoking this Syncro today, not only to give it a proper review, but to honor the Uvezian story.
The indigenous peoples of the Americas believed that the smoke of the tobacco could be used to commune with spirits; with that in mind, I offer my gratitude to Avo Uvezian with this smoke, for his cigars, for his music, and the inspiring legacy of his life.
Cigar: Avo Syncro Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto (5” x 50)
Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Filler: Nicaraguan Ometepe (this is the highlight of the filler, and is what gives the Syncro Nicaragua its name); Peruvian Olanco; Dominican Piloto, San Vicenta Mejorado, and Olor/Piloto)
Rating (out of 10): 9.8
This is a beautiful stick, neatly box pressed, with no tears or cracks. The wrapper is a slightly reddish brown, a bit darker than I'm used to seeing from a Connecticut wrapper. There's a slight veininess to the otherwise smooth wrapper, and a nice sheen of oil, as well.
The stick feels pretty well-packed, mostly firm, but consistently so. No spongy spots, but the cap appears to be a bit loose.
Along the barrel, the aroma is quite sweet, like cocoa. The foot is a bit earthier, and lends some soft, musky notes to the scent.
Starting off to Uvezian's “Cigar Store Boogie,” which emphasizes Uvezian on piano, with jazz sax and some rockabilly-style jazz guitar in there, too.
The cold draw is nice and open with a slight bit of resistance. The flavor here is sweet, with a hint of spice; like cocoa and a dash of cinnamon.
Some nice sweet leather and cedar on the draw after lighting, rounded out by cocoa on the finish. There's an absolutely magnificent cedar aroma here, as well. This thing pairs perfectly with “Cigar Store Boogie.”
The burn isn't razor-sharp, but it's even. And the ash column is nice and solid; white, with grey marbling.
Next up: “Thinking Of You,” featuring some dazzling vocals by Karyn Uvezian (Avo's daughter).
There's another kind of sweetness hiding behind the cocoa. I can't quite identify it yet, but it's in there. And it's very tasty.
Now playing: “Kreuzlingen,” which has a distinct waltzy feel to it.
The Syncro is coming through at a solid medium body, with a sweet, creamy nature to the smoke.
Next song: “Karyn,” followed by “Avo Bossa.” Normally, I listen to classic rock or symphonic metal; these songs are so much shorter than what I'm used to! I may wind up getting through this entire album before I'm halfway through this cigar! But it's fantastic stuff, and quite calming and relaxing. I need that right now. Some of that “cigar therapy” Raúl Juliá was talking about.
Starting into the second third with “Seagull (Moevenpick).” Lovely piano and drums, with the ambient sounds of gulls and waves. Flutes in there, too.
That sweetness is coming through a bit more here. I want to go ahead and call it something like cocoa and caramel. There's a bit of black coffee bitterness coming through, as well. It's actually quite a fitting blend for a jazz artist.
Now we're on the album's namesake, “Legacy (I Can't Forget).” It certainly feels... nostalgic in nature. For what, I'm not certain. I'm sure everyone who listens would feel it for something different. But it's definitely a sense of nostalgia. Part of me can almost imagine this one being played at Uvezian's services. Shit, it's even making my eyes “perspire” just a bit.
Next song is definitely more upbeat: “Caribe.”
At this point, the burn is a bit less even than before, but not out of control. It's nothing I have to worry about touching up. The coffee and cocoa is quite noticeable, but the primary profile is still one of sweet cedar; the leather has long since faded.
Now, “Tout Moi,” which is a bit more in the direction of a soft tango. Honestly, I'm listening to all of this for the first time today, and it truly is incredible stuff. A bit outside my own musical preference, but I'm very much enjoying it. And it gives me a whole new level of reverence for the many gifts Avo Uvezian brought into this world.
Next, “Why Can't We Dance.” There is music, and accented narration. This one's quite charming, I'll just recommend giving it a listen for yourself.
Moving into the last third now, as another one starts: “Canto Por La Vida.” This one's another one with a bit of a tango feel to it. Appropriately, it's also when a bit more of that cinnamon spice picks up in the profile. There's also something new on the finish and aftertaste... something sweet, like... marshmallow? Yes... the coffee notes are fading, and the marshmallow and coffee have this last third feeling like more of a hot cocoa.
Now playing, “Armenia.” This is another one that carries a deep feeling of nostalgia, and I imagine it pays homage to Uvezian's heritage. Though born in Lebanon (almost certainly to a family of refugees), Avo Uvezian was ethnically Armenian. There's something almost sorrowful about this song, I imagine that was due to the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War, which is why I'm certain Uvezian was born to refugees living in Lebanon. Perhaps one day, the American government will finally recognize the event for what it was: genocide.
“Armenia” was the last song to play (I've had it on shuffle, so if you do yourself the favor of checking out the album, that's why you'll see the songs in another order), and nothing follows it. So... you've got the entire album noted here in this review. I found it to be quite enjoyable, and it actually kept me focused almost completely on this review, no multitasking. I'm not quite to the end of the cigar, but I'm getting close. I think I'll start the album up again, and close out where I started, on “Cigar Store Boogie.”
I don't really know what more I can say about this cigar, or this album. Both are absolute artistic masterpieces in their own right. Each one is worthy of being called “Legacy.” And the entire experience has been exactly what a cigar smoking experience ought to be: slow, contemplative, and relaxing. I cannot recommend either one too strongly. Do yourself a favor: give them both a try. If you happen to be reading this but you're not a smoker, at least give “Legacy” a listen. Give yourself a break from the bullshit life throws your way, and just... enjoy life.