Orlando’s Cigar Legend
At 85, Avo Uvezian still blends business with pleasure.
Avo Uvezian is a regular at Corona Cigar Co.’s Sand Lake store.
Photo By Norma Lopez Molina
Decked out in a spiffy three-piece suit and a plantation-style mimbre hat with a cigar in hand, Avo Uvezian looks like he stepped right out of a photo that hangs in the Orlando cigar bar he’s visiting. Back from a trip to Europe and, before that, a trade show in Las Vegas, Uvezian has some time to spend with his friend and Metro-West neighbor, Jeff Borysiewicz, the owner of Corona Cigar Co., before heading down to “visit his cigars” at the factory in Villa Gonzalez, Dominican Republic.
“I don’t know how he does it,” Borysiewicz marvels about Uvezian’s travel schedule as the front man for AVO Cigars. His busy itinerary over spring was made more fatiguing by the addition of a line-up of events honoring his 85th birthday, taking him to about 25 cities across Europe and the United States. Uvezian often drops in at Borysiewicz’s Sand Lake store for a smoke and to chat with friends, and he makes an occasional appearance at Corona’s Heathrow site where he plays piano in a lounge named for him. Uvezian enjoyed a well-traveled life as a jazz pianist and composer before he realized a talent for cigar-making.
Although he could have retired years ago after the Davidoff company bought his brand for a reported $10 million, Uvezian remains passionately involved in cigar-making. “It’s all about the blend,” he says of creating a quality cigar, “and blending tobacco is much more complex than blending wine.”
“When I’m in the Dominican Republic, I will tell the roller, ‘Put one more ligero leaf [coming from the top of the tobacco plant] in,’ and it changes the entire taste of the cigar,” he explains. “The wrapper, whether it’s a Connecticut wrapper or one from the Dominican Republic, can change the whole taste, too.”
That taste, Uvezian says, should remain constant from start to finish; lesser cigars can get stronger and more acrid as they
Blenders carefully track the tobacco—which year, which field, the rain and temperature that year, the position on the plant—so they know what to reach for as they’re blending. Like wine, cigars are living products that continue to change as they age. As you smoke, take note of the maker, the country of origin of the tobacco, the year of production and the type of wrapper of the cigars you like. Soon enough, you’ll seldom buy a cigar that doesn’t please you.
If you like Uvezian’s taste in cigars, stand by because his next venture is a line of premium spirits—a malbec wine from Argentina, a Guatemalan rum, a tequila and a bourbon. How does he find the energy to launch a new business at 85? “I quit playing golf,” he quips. “I just didn’t have the time.”