2018 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to Avo Cigars

2018 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to Avo Cigars

Cigar Advisor’s Essential Avo Cigars Tasting & Buying Guide

By the Cigar Advisor Editors

Updated July 6, 2018 with AVO Improvisation 30 Years Cigar Review

The Avo Cigars Back Story

Avo Cigars are named for the late Avo Uvezian (March 22, 1926–March 24, 2017), who was arguably better known for his fine cigars than his accomplishments as an internationally renowned pianist, composer, and arranger. He also had the uncanny ability to combine his passion for cigars with his music. During the 1980s Avo lived in Puerto Rico and owned a restaurant where he performed nightly at the piano and smoked his own custom blended cigars situated within reach on top of the piano. Those cigars, sold under the name, “Bolero” in San Juan, were made under contract by the one and only Hendrik Kelner, master blender for Davidoff Cigars. The two men partnered in 1987, changed the cigar’s name to “Avo” and debuted them in the Davidoff store in New York City.

The Avo brand went national in 1988, and in 1995, with the Cigar Boom in full swing, Davidoff bought the distribution rights for the label. From that point on, Avo became one of the most sought after premium cigars for their remarkable creaminess, perfect balance, and superior handcraftsmanship. Made in the Dominican Republic with mostly Dominican-grown tobaccos, the Avo core lines included the Avo Classic, Maduro, XO, Domaine, and Heritage.

In 2000 Davidoff began releasing limited edition Avo cigars annually in March in honor of Avo’s birthday. These are some of the finest and most complex Avos, including the Avo 22 LE05, which became an instant classic, and Avo’s personal favorite of the anniversary releases. For Avo’s 90th birthday the Classic Covers blend was created. Made with the rarest and longest aged tobaccos, Classic Covers were only released in 3,500 boxes.

Several years ago, in order to bring Avo to the attention of the next generation of cigar smokers, Davidoff updated the Avo branding by revising the logo and using a silhouette of Avo on the packaging. Moreover, with the advent of Nicaraguan tobacco being all the rage, they debuted the Avo Syncro Nicaragua, followed by the Avo Fogata, and South America Ritmo selections, which are also crafted with more exotic tobaccos.

With so many Avo cigars to choose from, the description of the brand stated on the Avo Cigars website sums it up best: “Every cigar we make is a careful arrangement that mirrors the unexpected finesse of Avo’s music. Complex. Layered. Effortlessly smooth and infinitely approachable. Each a virtuoso performance, that elevates the cigar maker’s craft into the realm of art. From his flair for improvisation, to his passion for travel and infinite enthusiasm for life, AVO cigars are truly a reflection of Avo… the man.”

As with all our Tasting Guides, this overview of Avo Cigars includes a sampling of the currently available lineup – this time, in mostly Toro sizes. See our review notes below, in addition to a few extra details that will give you some background on how each Avo smokes…and if any of these reviews sound appealing, we encourage you to give the cigars a try for yourself and compare.

And if you’ve enjoyed any of these Avo cigars before, please leave a comment and share your own experience(s) at the bottom.

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Avo Classic Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size:  No. 2 (6 x 50 Toro)
Strength:  Mellow
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade
Filler: Dominican
Binder: Dominican

AVO cigars guide avo classic cigar review

Construction and Overall Appearance: Beautiful construction, solid. The Ecuadorian Shade wrapper is much darker than usual.
Draw: Perfection.
Pre-light flavor: Foot: very strong barnyard and hay, slight must/musk. Cold draw, very sweet barnyard, hay, toast, slight earth and mineral.
Toasting & Light: Nice and light, very toasty, creamy and woody with barnyard staying on. Extremely smooth.
Base flavors: Toast, cream, wood and hickory.
Retrohale: Very slight white pepper and salt with some burnt toast and slight sweetness.
Burn / Ash Quality: A beautiful phosphorescent ash with a sharp and clear burn line.
Balance of flavors: Generally creamy, leans toward warm flavors of toast and wood.

General Observations

  • 1 inch in, nicely sweet (vague) fairly toasty and slightly woody but very creamy. Slight grassy note chimes in.
  • 3/3 Intensity kicks up a slight notch, more sweetness and charred woods (like hickory) piling on.
Avo cigars guide avo Classic cigar review no 2

Avo Classic, the blend that started it all. Dominican tobaccos hail from the Cibao Valley, with the blend including one 25-year-aged leaf. Exceptionally smooth; click to see more.

Summary: While I’ve long carried a torch for the Avo XO, the Classic has been an elusive smoke over the years as one I’ve either simply forgotten or forgone for the XO. The time had finally come for me to taste the forbidden fruit of the original Avo – Dominican tobacco at its finest. It should be of note that each Avo Classic comes with one 25-year-old leaf in the filler.

I couldn’t light up without noticing that the Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper was vastly darker than any shade grown leaf I’ve seen before and aligns closer to a Colorado shade. The cold draw held a Davidoff-like barnyard sweetness with hay, toast, a slight earthiness and a mineral component. The barnyard note carried over to the toasting notes as well as the toast flavor. By the time things had settled at the 1-inch mark, the flavors were subtly sweet and toasty, slightly woody, and very creamy- a slight grassy note chimed in for a moment as well. While exceedingly creamy, the first and second thirds were near carbon copies of each other. Though the intensity of flavors increased in the last stretch, the overall body was very mellow and smooth. A retrohale brought a heap of woodiness, similar to hickory or smoked wood, and burnt toast. Where complexity was minimal, the perfect burn and sheer effortless smoking made the Avo Classic a pleasure to smoke.

Final Thought: A fantastic beginner cigar, a surefire fine Scotch cigar or partner to a cup of espresso.

– Fred Lunt

 

Avo Maduro Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: No. 2 (6 x 50 Toro)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf (double-fermented, 3-year-aged)
Filler & Binder: Dominican

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Construction/Appearance: Excellent. Wrapper is very dark, toothy and seamlessly rolled.
Draw: Excellent.
Pre-light: Earthy, leathery.
First few puffs: Earth, cedar, leather.
Burn: Excellent.
Aroma: Semi-sweet.
Base Flavors: Cedar, leather, dark chocolate.
Balance: Perfect.

Summary: After a long hiatus until this tasting guide came along, I now remember why the Avo Maduro No.2 used to be one of my regular favorites. Like all Avo cigars, the smoke is smooth, creamy and spot-on medium in body. It’s not one of the complex Avos, but it’s always consistent and well-balanced issuing notes of earth up front, then moving to a more cedary character. As the smoke progresses, notes of dark chocolate (or cocoa, depending on your taste), roll into the mix, so you have this nice combination of cedar and semi-sweet chocolate doing a little fandango during the course of the smoke.

Surprisingly, even with such a perfectly fermented and aged Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, the Avo Maduro No.2 is not a sweet smoke. Many years ago, I asked Avo about this, to which he replied, “I don’t like my maduro too sweet.” If you can relate, then you’ll probably like this cigar a lot. These days, I tend to drift toward sweeter blends, but the Avo Maduro No.2 still offers a nice little tease of sweetness, followed by a wave of cedar that chases it off like sandpipers evading the water’s edge, only to return a minute later.

It may be a little too mellow for cigar smokers who want more body and spice. Yet, as I noted with the Avo XO, the Avo Maduro line is another great selection for those who want a good introduction to the Avo Cigars stable. As for regular Avo fans who haven’t had the pleasure of an Avo Maduro, these will be returning to market soon (but for a limited time), so it’s time to get on it.

– Gary Korb

 

Avo XO Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Maestoso (7 x 48 Churchill)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade
Filler & Binder: Dominican

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Construction/Appearance: Excellent. Wrapper was a little off-color in spots and a bit more veiny, but it had a nice silky feel and a well-applied cap.
Draw: Excellent.
Pre-light: Cedar, nutmeg, sweet spice.
First few puffs: Creamy, woody, and nutty.
Burn: Excellent.
Aroma: Sweet and redolent.
Base Flavors: Cedar, nutmeg, sweet spice, roasted coffee beans, toasted almonds.
Balance: Perfect.

Summary: If I had to choose one Avo cigar among all of the marvelous blends this brand has produced over the years, it would be a tough call, since many of the Avos I’ve enjoyed most have been the annual limited edition cigars. So, narrowing it down to the mainline Avo cigars, I’d have to go with the Avo XO. Like the Churchill-sized Maestoso I smoked for this Guide, the smoke is ultra-smooth, super creamy, and issues very distinctive flavors of cedar and nutmeg with just the right amount of sweet spice.

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One of the spicier Avo cigars, the XO still retains a medium-bodied profile. If you’re into that sort of thing, it could be a great pairing with a lighter red wine, like a Pinot Noir. Click to see more.

This is also a great, “kickback and enjoy” cigar where all you have to do is pair it with your favorite drink and let that trio of cedar, nutmeg and sweet spice lull you into tranquility. In the latter stages, hints of roasted coffee bean and toasted almonds weave their way into the mix as nice departure. The smoke is cool, crisp, refined, and stays locked in the medium-bodied sector from end-to-end.

Due to all of the fine attributes described above, the XO is also the ideal “starter” cigar for those who want to discover the pleasure of Avo Cigars, or more experienced cigar smokers who have a preference for a medium-bodied cigar that consistently delivers the goods.

– Gary Korb

 

Avo Domaine Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: No. 70 (6 x 54 Toro)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Filler: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic

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Construction and Overall Appearance: Consistent toffee brown color (lighter than the pic, fyi), rolled seamlessly. Pretty fat for a Toro – well-packed, too.
Draw: Clear.
Pre-light flavor: Mellow hints of earth and nut; not a lot here.
Toasting & Light: Tangy start, with cedar and a tiny bit of spice.
Base flavors: Earth, citrus, nut, wood, butter.
Retrohale: Creamy, with a hint of spice.
Aroma: Floral (think geraniums, believe it or not) and wood.
Burn / Ash Quality: Even, mottled black and white ash, moderate flake.
Balance of flavors: Leans more on the layers of creamy and sweeter flavors.

Summary: When I order at the Thai restaurant near me, the waitress likes to tease me that I only want “baby spice” for the level of zing on my noodles. This Avo Domaine is the same: the smoke is flavorful, with just a hint of spice (though it is more pronounced on the retrohale). Instead, the Domaine loads up on a savory batch of flavors that are full-tilt umami: savory, sweet and buttery, layered alongside a base of leather, nuts and cedar. Complexity-wise, the only difference is which set of flavors is winning the tug-of-war at the time.

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It used to be called “full-bodied” – but it’s really more like full-flavored. The sun grown wrapper makes this a sweet n’ creamy delight. Click to see more.

That’s the tobaccos at play: on top of outstanding Dominican leaves, Avo Domaine uses a double fermented sun grown wrapper from Ecuador, an exotic Connecticut/Cuban seed hybrid that’s way tastier than your regular Connecticut.

The Domaine used to be considered a full-bodied cigar, and was often recommended as a step up in strength from the Classic line of Avo cigars. I’ll agree it’s full flavor, but strength peaks at a five, maybe six out of ten. The finish is stellar, leaving a sweet tingle on both the lips and the back of the tongue. Slightly creamy, a “baby spice” bite, and a sweetness that’s a combo of cocoa and citrusy-sweet. The intensity of the flavors is what shifts throughout the smoking experience.

The cigar connoisseurs with better tasting skills than mine will obviously detect more slices from the cigar flavor wheel to talk about, but no matter what your skill level – you’ll find this Avo performs well, and with excellent flavor.

– John Pullo

 

 

AVO Heritage Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Toro (6 x 50)
Strength: Full (smokes Medium in strength)
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano (Sun Grown)
Filler: Dominican Republic/Peru
Binder: Dominican Republic

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Construction and Overall Appearance: Nice wrapper sheen; shows plenty of veins, bumps and super-fine tooth.
Draw: Impeccable.
Pre-light flavor: Bread, earth and tea with slight black pepper.
Toasting & Light: Wood, tea and spice.
Base flavors: Toast, wood, bread, creaminess, pepper, earth, spice, grass.
Retrohale: The smoke hits the senses with some definite tingle here…
Aroma: Sweet.
Burn / Ash Quality: Even burn, ash is tight and a very light grey.
Balance of flavors: Very equal distribution of flavors.

Summary: If you’re the type of person who only goes by the published guidelines of a cigar’s strength and body to determine whether or not you’re going to smoke it – you’re going to be missing out on one of the smoothest Avo cigars in the lineup. The Heritage will reward you just as well at 10am as it will at 10pm; matter of fact, I smoked this one at 11 in the morning, and it treated me very well. Avo cigars have always had a rep for brimming with creamy-smooth character, and this one delivers as promised.

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Don’t dismiss a cigar that’s listed as “Full” – in the case of the Avo Heritage, it’s one of the smoothest-smoking cigars in the Avo lineup, without overpowering at all. Click to see more.

Pre-light offers sultry flavors of tea, wood, toast and spice; light it, and this Heritage is sultry out of the gate…others have noted this as being pretty in-yer-face for an Avo cigar, but this didn’t open that way: full of wood, leather, and a subtle sweetness. The spiciness is very mellow, maybe a 2 or 3 out of 5 – you can taste it, but it doesn’t blow the doors off. A coffee note presents itself as the spice trails off, then there’s some grassiness lingering on the finish; it’s now I realize that the flavors are subbing in and out, round robin style. Put itself out with just under 2” to go.

Avo Heritage is one of the creamier cigars I’ve smoked in a while, too: the smoke always feels full, hitting sweet and bready on the taste buds with a little snap of spice. Tons of smoke, too, pouring out non-stop to the finish.

This is a straight up, good smoke: never gets sour, never strays off the flavor path. Call it Avo’s “budget” cigar – because for the price point, the Avo Heritage waaaay overdelivers.

– John Pullo

 

 

AVO Syncro Nicaragua Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuador
Filler: Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador

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Draw: Excellent / Perfect
Strength: Medium-bodied
Pre-Light: A bit earthy
First Few Puffs: Very woody, slight pepper
Aroma: Slightly sweet
Burn-Ash Quality: Solid, perfect, light gray
Balance: Excellent balance of various notes of flavor
Base Flavors: Earth, leather, pepper, cedar, cedar dried fruit

avo cigars guide avo syncro nicaragua cigar review pic

This just might be Zman’s new favorite dessert cigar: not too heavy, and very complex. Click to see more.

Summary: This is simply a gorgeous cigar to look at with its box pressed shape and silky Ecuadorian wrapper. You see this in the box and you want to take a handful out and just start smoking. While this offering is medium-bodied, it is absolutely packed with a lot of complex flavors as it changes throughout the smoke. It starts out a little earthy and peppery and then a nice little sweetness comes into play like dried dark fruit and cedar. The construction of this fine specimen is excellent as the burn and the ash are as well. What a wonderful after-dinner treat this is, or as a nice Sunday afternoon smoke like I had it with some 20 year old Port wine and a coffee. I’m telling you to splurge a little on this one, because it is certainly worth it.

– Tommy Zman

 

AVO Syncro Nicaragua Fogata Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano 2000
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Mexico (San Andres)

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Draw: Excellent
Strength: Full-bodied
Pre-Light: A bit earthy
First Few Puffs: Very woody
Aroma: Sweet wood
Burn-Ash Quality: Solid, light gray
Balance: Very nice balance of flavors
Base Flavors: Cedar, cinnamon, cocoa

avo cigars guide avo syncro nicaragua fogata cigar review pic

Always be willing to give a cigar a second chance. If you didn’t like it the first time, try it again in 6 months – because the flavors of tobacco can change while it rests. Click to see more.

Summary: Let me be honest here, because the Fogata has thrown me for a loop. When I first tried this cigar close to a year ago, I just didn’t think it was anything special to write home about. But, that was then, and this is now, and the two I just smoked were simply fabulous. Maybe I was suffering from taste bud deprivation or something weird like that, but I’m telling you, I’ve been raving about this stick to my fellow CA editors. The first thing you’ll notice is a pronounced delicious woodiness as if these were locked in a cedar shed for a number of months. There’s also a pleasant natural sweetness of cinnamon that I read in other reviews of this cigar as well. Now, it’s full-bodied, but not strong with a simple kind of complexity where the flavor notes sort of jump out at you. I really enjoyed this smoke and removed the label going right down to the nub. Just a really nice cigar and I’m glad I gave it a much deserved second look.

– Tommy Zman

 

Avo Syncro South America Ritmo Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Toro (6 x 54)
Strength:  Full
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut-seed Havana
Filler: Nicaraguan, Peru, Brazil, Honduras, Dominican Republic
Binder: Mexico (San Andres)

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Construction and Overall Appearance: Flawless wrapper, beautiful mocha-brown. The box-press is a tad irregular and there’s a slight soft spot towards the cap but these afflictions had no effect on the burn.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre-light flavor: Foot: Barnyard, earth, aged wood and pepper.  Cold draw has cool earth and wood, a slight exotic spice that I can’t yet ID, a
slight berry-like sweetness is also present.
Toasting & Light: Very sweet and woody, slightly toasty and notes of charred wood, a slight spice (like nutmeg or cinnamon), and earth.
Base flavors: Dark chocolate, cocoa, earth, nutmeg, oak/aged wood, berries.
Retrohale: At 2/3, very rich in spices, the cocoa-like sweetness is quite strong but now not overwhelming; there’s a black pepper note and a heavy wood taste. At 3/3: Strong black pepper and nutmeg spice combo followed by a savory woody flavor and a fantastic yet subtle fruity flavor.
Burn / Ash Quality: A dark grey, very solid ash with a razor-sharp burn line.
Balance of flavors: Full-bodied but supported all the complexities well, overall it was well balanced.

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Of all the Avo cigars, the Ritmo has the longest list of savory ingredients from Central & South America: a 7-country blend. Click to see more.

General Observations

  • At 1 inch: Flavors begin to mingle, and my palate picks up aged wood, earth, cocoa sweetness, and a slight-nutmeg spice.
  • 2/3: Cocoa sweetness dominates, supported by wood notes; the rest take a backseat
  • The berry-like sweetness from the cold-draw comes back as a bit of a tease-flavor. Intensity is also starting to build up here as well.
  • 3/3: Cocoa and a berry-like sweetness dominate, the nutmeg spice is underlying with woody notes and black pepper.
  • The spice picks up quite a bit toward the end.

Summary: A regular smorgasbord of South American tobaccos, the South America Ritmo is a full-bodied tango of Nicaraguan, Dominican, Honduran, Peruvian, Brazilian, Mexican, and Ecuadorian tobaccos (try saying that three times fast). While there were some slight construction issues, the burn was fantastic, a complex blend led to complex flavors and the handsomeness of the Havana wrapper proved to more than make up for these flaws.

A cold draw brought a wealth of complexity with notes of cool earth, wood, a berry-like sweetness and an exotic spice I couldn’t quite figure out. Upon toasting there’s a very of sweet and woody notes, a slightly toasted bread flavor, charred wood, earth and a slight nutmeg spice. By the 1 inch mark all these swirling flavors really mingle – leaving me with a whole mess of notes like aged wood, earth, cocoa sweetness, and nutmeg. Through the first third the cocoa sweetness dominates while the other notes stay in the peripheral view of my palate. The second third saw even more of sweetness, with the nutmeg spice, black pepper, and wood all becoming an afterthought at this point – though the cocoa made a slow and subtle transition to dark chocolate.

A retrohale beckoned an onslaught of rich spices, cocoa and dark chocolate, black pepper and a defining woody flavor. The final third saw a noticeable uptick of cream and richness; it’s so smooth, this Avo could pick up your girlfriend and her friend at $2 Maragarita night…and you wouldn’t even notice until it already happened. Finishing up, the smoke is boasting rich dark chocolate, earth, oak, toast and heavy nutmeg spice. The fruity berry-like flavor returns, and all is right with the world.

Final thought: The newest of Avo cigars, it’s a seriously full-flavored and complex cigar. Enjoy this at the beach with a sturdy rum & Coke or Cuba Libre.

– Fred Lunt

 

Avo Improvisation 30 Years Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Double Corona (7½ x 50)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Fillers & Binder: Dominican Republic

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Construction/Appearance: Gorgeous. Seamlessly rolled. Wrapper is silky and the veins give it an attractive  pattern. The dual white bands give it an air of nobility.
Draw: Very good
Pre-light: Leather, sweet tobacco
First few puffs: Sweet and cedary.
Burn: Very good. Ash is solid grey and a bit delicate.
Aroma: Sweet
Base Flavors: Cedar, leather, spice, nuts
Retrohale: Starts creamy, ends with a peppery snap
Balance: Perfect.

Summary: The Avo Improvisation 30 Years cigar is a king-size stunner to say the least. But cigar smokers familiar with the Avo Classic #3 won’t flinch at its 7½” x 50 frame, since it’s also the cigar upon which this Avo anniversary release was modeled. Either way, this is a make the time to kick back and relax cigar.

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Take your time with this Avo Improvisation 30 Years – at 7 1/2 x 50, you’ll need plenty of it. But it’s that rare $16 special occasion cigar that’s actually worth it.

The Improvisation 30 starts-off creamy and well-rounded in the Avo tradition and cruises along with a mostly sweet-cedary-leathery profile and a trace of cashews. Some light peppery notes occasionally surface on the palate for an attention-getting change-up. Even at the midsection, every puff is very consistent with a mix of sweet spices – mostly nutmeg and cinnamon – that harmonize with the woody-leathery flavors. I also found this cigar to be richer in flavor. Whether this was due to the cigar’s length or the tobaccos used for this blend, it was more like. . . if an Avo Classic and an Avo XO had a baby.

As noted, the Improvisation 30 Years is a long cigar. By the last quarter, a lot of tobacco juices have come through the tunnel. So, I suggest giving it more time to rest in this section to keep it from turning bitter. If you get down to the last few inches and it goes south, consider letting it go. I was lucky enough to nub it down to the last inch-and-half. Even more impressive was the flavors held on.

One other caveat: Good luck trying to remove the band. Whatever glue they use on them is tough stuff; plus, the paper is thicker than your average cigar band. So try twisting them back as delicately as possible in the direction of the wrap and take them off at the head. If they give you a problem, let ’em be. You don’t want to tear the wrapper on a $16 cigar.

Even if the Avo Improvisation 30 Years didn’t fall into the Avo Limited Edition Series, it could certainly be viewed as a special occasion or collector’s item cigar given its upmarket price point. Yet, all things considered – the outstanding construction, the well-balanced flavors, their consistency throughout, the length of time it takes to smoke – all that pretty much justifies it.

– Gary Korb

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