Avo

Avo Heritage

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $7.50 - $9.50

Available in 4 Sizes:

Toro (6 X50)  [pictured]
Short Robusto (4 1/2 X 52)
Short Torpedo (4X56)
Special Toro (6X60)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

We talked about the changes that were made to the brand as part of this refresh. We talked about a new tagline, new swag for events, and about how you trimmed the fat from the brand, but we’ve seen that the boxes have changed significantly. What’s behind that change?

The brand has been around for almost 30 years and it was time to update it. We switched from 25-count boxes to 20-count boxes. We moved away from the old cabinet style box to the 10-on-top-of-10 hinged box. By doing this, we allow the cigar to be the hero and it doesn’t get lost inside of a cabinet box after you remove the first row. The wider box also allows us more space to give the consumer some tasting notes about the cigar and what level of intensity he or she can expect from this cigar.

Additionally, we price protected the brand. Price pro-tecting means that every retailer, whether brick and mortar or online and catalog, will work within the same price structure. You won’t see huge discrepancies or variances in price from one retailer to the next. But we also decreased the price in almost every format, making it so that consumers who were buying it discounted won’t see a big increase in price and consumers that were not will get a great decrease.

We have a pretty good idea of how consumers feel about price decreases, but what has been the reaction from the retailers?

Everyone has loved the change. It’s still too early to tell, but so far it has been extremely well-received. There is an incredible amount of people out there who are loyal AVO smokers and these folks are obviously ecstatic about the changes. We’re getting excellent feedback and the stores have been scheduling an enormous amount of events. We’re just getting underway and we’ve got about 120 events booked all over the country. That takes us through the trade show. The reception to the changes we’ve made and the event experiences that we’ve incorporated have been a dream come true for most AVO fans, consumers and retailers alike.

You know Avo has always been a very generous man. He’s always been about sharing and I think that these changes to the brand accentuate that. Like the photo booth we now bring to every event. It allows event participants to take a photo. Then it applies a black and white filter, puts the orange border around it to resemble our current ad campaign and then the person can share the pic on social media or through email. They can share the moment and that’s what it’s all about.

So this brings us to the AVO Heritage. Why did this brand that is known for producing mostly mild and creamy cigars launch this flavorful and strong cigar?

Well, just like the rest of the industry, Avo’s palate changed. He wanted to smoke something with a little more kick to it. He also wanted to pay tribute to the men and women who work in the tobacco industry in the Dominican Republic, where his cigars are manu-factured. So he assembled the young generation of blenders at the factory and had them work with the master blenders. Together they blended the AVO Heri-tage and it is by far the fullest bodied and most intense cigar in the AVO portfolio.

The cigar is covered with this rich and flavorful wrapper. You almost want to chew on it. Can you tell us about this wrapper and the other components of the blend?

Yeah, that wrapper is something else. It is a special sungrown wrapper from Ecuador that is dark, very rich and oily and slightly toothy. It’s specially grown for this blend and it gives the Heritage its unmistakable character. The binder and filler are Dominican, but we use higher priming tobaccos to get that intensity and strength. But, like everything Henke Kelner blends, it is extremely refined. It isn’t an overpowering cigar that knocks you down.

 

Avo Domaine

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $10.00 - $11.50

Available in 4 Sizes:

20 (4 5/8 X50)
10 (5X50)
50 (5 15/16 X 54) [pictured]
70
 (6X54)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

Avo is a man of incredible musical talent. He’s charming and cultured. He’s a great many things, but a farmer he is not. How then did he come to grow the special tobacco that is in the AVO Domaine?

After Avo had been traveling through the Dominican for a while, he found this small area that he wanted to use to plant tobacco. It was just Avo the artist looking at a piece of land thinking, “This would be nice.” But it wasn’t in a typical tobacco growing region or area, so all the farmers told him not to use that plot and tried to persuade him to buy in another area. He said, “No I think we’ll try this.” So he did, and he had the farmers plant tobacco there. So no, he’s not a farmer, he’s a musician. They planted it and after the first year the tobacco was just OK. The second year, it got better. By the third year the tobacco coming out of this area was spectacular. Because of the soil in the area and the way that the sun hit the tobacco early in the morning, the tobacco that came out of there was just rich and complex and had a lot of flavor. It gave off this kind of cocoa, almost nutty type of flavor. So Henke [Kelner] told Avo, “We must do something special with this tobacco.” And that’s how the Domaine 10 was born.

Why did he name it Domaine 10? And for that matter, why are all the vitolas in the Domaine line named numerically?

The Domaine launched on the AVO brand’s 10th an-niversary. So it was named the AVO Domaine 10 and it came in only one size. Then, a year later, we came out with the Domaine 20 and 30 and then followed the 40 and 50, then the 60. Since then we’ve discontinued the 30, 40, and the 60 and we just introduced the 70, which is a 6 x 54 Toro. Unfortunately, although it drives me nuts, I can’t just restart the numbering and put them back in sequence! (chuckling)

My favorite of the AVO Domaine sizes is definitely the Domaine 50, but it’s not a common perfecto shape. What’s the story behind that shape?

Avo loves the perfecto shape. This specialty size is manufactured to the specifications found in an antique Dutch cigar mold from 1823 - a find at an antique show in Paris.  Normally, when you’re going to roll a specialty size like that, you take one of your best rollers from another size and train them on how to roll this format. But Avo  — again with his artistic mind — said, “Why would we take someone away from something they’re fantastic at? Let’s take somebody from zero and make this dif-ficult shape become second nature to him. Something that feels right to him without being swayed by anything else.” So the next roller up that they felt was talented enough and could be trained for this size went right on to roll the Domaine 50. It took a little while (it is one of the most difficult sizes to roll), but he nailed it. When you look at the cap on this type of perfecto, it’s a little shorter and flatter and also the perfecto tip on the end isn’t as long. It’s a little more concentrated and gets a little thicker. It’s kind of between a perfecto and a di-adema. So that was his way of doing it and ever since then, every new roller we bring in to roll the 50 gets trained on this format. 

So the newest size is the Domaine 70, a 6 x 54 toro. It’s interesting that the brand has only now gotten to the point where you’ve launched a toro. How do you think it’ll do?

The best seller in the Domaine line is the 50 and, although it’s still too early to tell, it is looking like the 70 and the 50 will be neck and neck as our best sellers (followed by the robusto). The 70 having that format and the filler tobacco that is used in this line, you get a lot of flavor and a lot of complexity from it. And since the Domaine never had a 54 (ring gauge) it just stands out.

From an intensity standpoint, where does the Do-maine sit inside of the AVO portfolio?

You’ve got Classic on one end, which is the mildest, creamiest blend and the Heritage on the other end as the most full-bodied. Domaine is a perfect medium to full intensity but very balanced on the palate.

 

Avo XO

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $9.00 - $11.00

Available in 5 Sizes:

Preludio (6X40)
Notturno (5X42)
Maestoso (7X48)
Intermezzo (5X50) [pictured]
Legato
(6X54)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

The AVO brand recently underwent a refresh. We noticed the packaging has been updated and the labels have undergone a few tweaks. But what about the blends?

No. We wouldn’t dare touch the blends. These core blends allow this brand to continue to grow in an over-crowded industry. They are as consistent as blends could possibly be. We did trim some lines and sizes, but the four remaining blends are intact. Of course, our popular limited releases will continue, but with some exciting innovations.

The refresh wasn’t only in the packaging. We’ve also noticed that you’ve started to use the “Savor Every Note” tagline. 

For years, the brand’s tagline was “Cigars in Perfect Harmony.” With the recent refresh of the brand, it was just natural to transition to “Savor Every Note.” Every word relates to AVO Cigars. Savor means to embrace and enjoy completely. Every ... It’s more than the cigar; it’s the whole experience. Note ... Music notes, tasting notes, story notes. It is perfect. There are, of course, components you need to savor every note. When you have a very special moment, something that you re-member and cherish, you can usually recall whom you were with, what music was playing, where you were, and naturally what you were smoking. And savoring that moment is what AVO is all about. It’s about being in the moment and taking your time to let it all sink in.

When you launched the refresh, we got an AVO record player at Cigar Snob HQ, and we’ve seen it in several cigar stores since. Will consumers be able to get their hands on one of those?|

As a brand, we are trying to bring people together and make these personal connections. One of the ways we are doing this is by creating these custom record players that you can play vinyl on. It also has a jack for an iPod or smartphone. The idea is to give these away at AVO events as a raffle prize. But the beautiful thing is the unit sits at stores a few weeks before the event and the owner of the store usually hooks it up. What we’re seeing is that customers are starting to bring in their old vinyls and playing them on it. That’s exactly what we had hoped would happen. They’re discussing what old albums they have and remember-ing moments from those days and they’re connecting with the brand and what it stands for. And then on the night of the event, someone gets to take it home.

We did that with the unit that we received. We were jamming to old Springsteen and Clapton al-bums for days. Everyone who visits the office has something to say about our AVO record player.

That’s what I’m talking about! We feel that, in today’s technological world, where you have thousands upon thousands of tracks on your phone, you rush and skip through most of these great albums. But when you play a record, it’s just like selecting your cigar. For example, you get home from work, walk up to your humidor and you have all different types of cigars. The relaxation starts when you get to the humidor and you look through and think about what you’re going to smoke. You select it, get your cutter, clip it, spark a match, rotate the cigar in the flame – this is allowing you to relax before you even get to embark on the journey of the cigar. Playing a record on vinyl is just like that. It’s about building the anticipation. You go through a process of selecting, then the turntable starts spinning, you pick up the needle and carefully place it on the first track. And just let it play.

And so how does the XO fit into the portfolio?

Well, when AVO XO was released, it was meant to be the highest mark of quality. Avo used the XO designation from the Cognac world meaning “extra old,” which of course relates to great quality. Nowadays it sits just above the Classic in flavor intensity and strength, but it’s superbly balanced and beyond smooth.

 

Avo Classic

 

Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $ 8.00 - $ 10.00

Available in 8 sizes:

Robusto (5X50)
No.2 (6X50) [pictured]
No.3 (7.5 X 50)
No.5 (6 7/8 X46)  
No.6 (6X60)
660 (6X60)
No.9 (4.75 X 48)
Piramides (7X54)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

Whenever you hear that someone is a composer, you can’t help but ask, “Did he write something that I might have heard?” In the case of Avo and his musical career, everyone knows the song he wrote. Tell us a little about it.

As the story goes, Avo composed a melody for his song called Broken Guitar. This melody was eventually taken and developed into the music used for Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night and the rest is history. 

What role did cigars play in Avo’s career before he started his own brand?

Cigars have always been a part of Avo, even at his shows. He would often walk around the crowd mid-session and offer the guests a cigar. He felt that a good cigar went beautifully with his jazz and put the audience in the right state of mind to enjoy the show. It sort of slowed down time. So he would basically buy them and just give them out. And then he’d always enjoy a cigar after his shows.

So how did he go from occasionally giving away cigars and smoking them after his shows to contracting a factory in the Dominican Republic to make a brand for him?

Well, at that point it was the mid 80s and Avo was living in Puerto Rico and performing at his piano bar nightly. He was giving out cigars to his audience and his daughter Karin suggested that he sell them instead of giving them away. Avo liked this idea very much. 
So he flew to the Dominican Republic and met with Henke Kelner. Now, keep in mind that Henke’s opera-tion was very small at this point, so it was not very impressive, but the two hit it off and Henke gave Avo some samples of what he could make for him. When Avo lit that first cigar, he thought it was incredible and knew he must do something with it. So he took more samples back to Puerto Rico and passed them out. His friends, his audience, everybody loved them. This was still a big step because although it is much more common today, back then it wasn’t common for a person outside of the cigar business to start a brand, but he knew he had something good so he went for it. And that’s a brief history of how Avo gets into the cigar business.

So is the first blend that Avo launched basically what we are smoking when we fire up an AVO Classic today?

Yes, except it wasn’t called AVO Classic back then. It was just called AVO, but yes it is the same blend as what we smoke today. It’s a mild and creamy smoke, but it’s well balanced on the palate. 

Was there a particular event that was the cata-lyst for the name change from the AVO to the AVO Classic? 

Well once we released the AVO XO everyone referred to the original as the AVO Classic and eventually we made it official. But really it refers to the fact that it’s the first line. It’s a very classic style of cigar, but it also refers to music so it works well.

Most people immediately think of Henke Kelner as the master blender for Davidoff, and rightly so. But it is fascinating to me that it was Avo who “discovered” Henke and then turned Davidoff on to him. How did that come about?

Yes! Avo was the first to officially work with Henke. They had a special bond and started growing together. It wasn’t until a few years later that Zino Davidoff moved his cigar production from Cuba to the Dominican Republic, under Henke Kelner.