I’ve been writing about cigars long enough that I feel like I’ve heard most explanations that people could possibly come up with about why a cigar is named what it is. Then I get reminded that I haven’t.

Last month, I was talking with Tony Bellatto of Bellato Premium Cigars and Lost&Found and he told me the backstory of the name of one of Lost&Found’s newest releases: 22 Minutes to Midnight.

Bellatto and Robert Caldwell of Caldwell Cigar Co. were in different places but were smoking through the same set of test blends, hoping that the cigars might become something. While smoking a test blend, Bellatto was so impressed that he sent a late night text to Caldwell, telling him that the blends were good enough for a project. That text was sent at 11:38 p.m., 22 minutes to midnight.

The brand is part of the 2022 reinvention of Lost&Found, the project that Bellatto, Caldwell and Jaclyn Sears launched in 2015, originally known as Impromptu. The concept is pretty unique for a cigar company, though others have tried similar models since Impromptu. Caldwell would reach out to cigar factories to see if they had any old cigars lying around in storage that were basically orphaned. Maybe the cigars were leftover from a previous project that was released, maybe a cigar company forgot to pay the factory for the cigars and the project was canceled, maybe the cigars just got lost within the walls of a factory—whatever the case, the cigars were sitting in a factory for abnormally long times. Caldwell would buy the ones he wanted, Jaclyn Sears would come up with packaging—usually whimsical artwork that oftentimes relied heavily on America’s parody laws—and Bellatto would sell the cigars. Because the cigars weren’t made specifically for Lost&Found, the quantities tended to be quite limited, seemingly nearly always fewer than 5,000 cigars.

Earlier this year, Caldwell told me that Lost&Found was changing because he was no longer finding the right cigars for the project. Between Lost&Found’s own projects, the other companies who tried similar models, and the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated uptick in cigar sales—there were very few lost cigars to be found.

So Lost&Found was moving to a different model, one where it would commission its own cigars, given them a minimum of two years of aging—most cigars are aged for around 30-180 days—then release them in boxes when the time was right.

Some of these cigars are commissioned versions of previous Lost&Found cigars, while others are entirely new lines. One of those new lines is 22 Minutes to Midnight.

So far, four blends have been announced. Two are considered Caldwell lines and the other two are Bellatto lines. The Caldwell lines are 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante and Habano de Oro, while the Bellatto lines are 22 Minutes to Midnight 11:38 Habano and Maduro. One way to tell them apart is that the Caldwell lines say 23:38 on the bands, while the Bellatto cigars say 11:38.

Very little is being disclosed about the blends, but Caldwell told halfwheel that the Connecticut Radiante and Habano de Oro contain filler tobaccos with a combined age of more than 25 years. Furthermore, the cigars were rolled in 2020 at William Ventura’s El Maestro factory in the Dominican Republic.

  • 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante / Habano de Oro Corona Deluxe (5 1/2 x 46) — $18 (Box of 20, $360)
  • 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante / Habano de Oro Robusto (5 x 50) — $20 (Box of 20, $400)
  • 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante / Habano de Oro Toro (6 x 52) — $22 (Box of 20, $440)

The plan is for this to be an ongoing release with two shipments per year. For the first shipment, there were 200 boxes of each size released.

For those wondering, the Bellatto versions are also offered in three sizes, albeit not the same exact vitolas:

  • 22 Minutes to Midnight 11:38 Habano/Maduro Corona Extra (6 x 48) — $16 (Box of 20, $320)
  • 22 Minutes to Midnight 11:38 Habano/Maduro Robusto (5 x 50) — $17.25 (Box of 20, $345)
  • 22 Minutes to Midnight 11:38 Habano/Maduro Toro (6 x 52) — $18.50 (Box of 20, $370)

  • Cigar Reviewed: 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante Toro
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: El Maestro
  • Wrapper: Undisclosed
  • Binder: Undisclosed
  • Filler: Undisclosed
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $22 (Box of 20, $440)
  • Release Date: May 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There are three different pieces of artwork on the band of this cigar—the 23:38 text, Robert Caldwell’s signature and the Lost&Found logo. If I had to pick which one to display, I would have gone with the 23:38 text, but the front of the band gets the Lost&Found logo, which is oddly the least prominent of the bunch. As for the cigar’s appearance, the wrapper is a lightly-tanned color that looks like many cigars with Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrappers. There are a number of minor veins throughout the cigar, though the more notable disruptions are water spots, which are present on two of the three cigars. I’m impressed with how cylindrical these cigars seem, about as close to being perfect round as any cigar will be. The wrapper smells extremely acidic, almost like vinegar, and it’s the only thing I can really pick up with confidence. The foot is medium-plus with cedar, floral, creamy and grain cereal aromas. The cold draws have lots of oatmeal flavors along with some mild creaminess, right around medium. One of the three cigars has a slightly loose cold draw, though the other two are well within the area of normal draw resistance.

It takes just a tad bit longer to get these cigars fully ignited than I would have thought, but once lit, the first puff delivers a dry terroir flavor over some crisp bread flavors, an underlying sweetness and some of that mild creaminess I tasted on the cold draw. Nuttiness quickly takes over as the main flavor, edging out a Lay’s potato chip-like flavor and some creaminess. The terroir flavor comes and goes depending on the puff, while there are secondary flavors of sweetness and black pepper. I find that the finish reminds me of a very watered-down bourbon—woody, spicy, smokey and a touch of sweetness—along with lots of nuttiness and a mild amount of creaminess. Intensity-wise, the finish is noticeably weaker than the main flavor and sits around medium. Retrohales have a Ritz cracker-like flavor over some floral sensations, the mineral-laden terroir earthiness and some black pepper. It finishes with walnuts on top of the Ritz cracker flavor, black pepper and just a bit of sweetness. Flavor is full, body is medium-plus and strength is medium. Construction is excellent on all three cigars, including the one that had the slightly loose cold draw.

The 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante Toro gets noticeably spicier right before the halfway mark. It’s not overly spicy, but the black pepper comes out of the shadows and begins to play a much more prominent role during most puffs. A more pedestrian bread flavor edges out nuttiness and terroir sensations as the strongest flavor. Black pepper eventually recedes a bit and remains a noticeable secondary flavor, but it seems to only be impacting a certain part of my palate. The finish has lots of the salty bread flavors akin to Ritz crackers, along with some crisp vegetal flavors that of something like celery, there are also both white and black pepper flavors. I find it very difficult to tell the difference in flavors between when the smoke is in my mouth and when I retrohale. Some of that has to do with the retrohale being much more fragrant than it was in the first third, but it also seems like the flavors are very similar: nuttiness, earthiness, a bit of vegetal flavor and some added lemon. The finish is pretty similar, though the bread flavor stands out a bit more and I find some raisin-like sweetness. Flavor is full—slightly reduced from the first third—body is medium-full and strength is medium. Construction remains fantastic with no issues on any of the cigars.

For the most part, the second third’s profile continues for most of the final third. At around the one-inch mark, I realize that the cigar now has toastiness rivaling the nuttiness along with a much more vibrant—though not that much more intense—black pepper flavor. The finish has a familiar terroir flavor alongside meatiness and a black pepper sensation that reminds me of smelling a bag of peppercorns. Retrohales have a peanut butter flavor over some mineral sensations and a wheat bread-like flavor. On puffs where I take consecutive retrohales, it’s more aggressive with a spicier version of the nuttiness. Retrohales finish with terroir flavors before black pepper takes over and a small amount of saltiness gets added to the fray. Flavor finishes full, body ends medium-plus and strength is medium. As was the case in the earlier parts of the cigar, the construction is fantastic.

Final Notes

  • The number of new cigars from Robert Caldwell and his various companies has been very high over the last few months. I have to imagine that a number of Caldwell retailers are overwhelmed by how many new cigars are shipping from the companies. I can count at least 22 new cigars that have arrived on shelves since the beginning March. That’s not counting another 18 new Lost&Found releases that are supposed to ship in August.
  • Making this more difficult are the prices. The average MSRP of what Caldwell showed off at last month’s 2022 PCA Convention & Trade Show was $19.50, and that’s with me counting the Antoinette Culebra Lanceros as $30 for three cigars. I don’t find this to be excessive, I just wonder if there’s a better way. If you are an enthusiastic Caldwell supporter, it’s an expensive time to try to keep up with all of his new cigars. I will say, these price points are neither excessively high nor really new for Caldwell, it just seems like it’s a lot of new items—none of it is particularly cheap—in a very short period of time.
  • A lot of these new items are limited, which helps retailers in the sense that the amount of shelf space needed, over time, for all these new launches isn’t as much as it might otherwise be. However, for both retailers and consumers, it does mean you run the risk of missing out if you don’t purchase the new items when they are announced.
  • Construction on all three cigars was excellent.
  • If I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed these cigars came from a Davidoff factory. The profile is very reminiscent of some classic Davidoff and AVO blends, albeit without the musty flavor that many people find in Davidoff cigars.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsor JR Cigar carries the 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante Toro.
91 Overall Score

Some cigars can provide incredible peaks of complexity, unique flavors or a melding of different flavors to create a tour de force of sorts. The 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante Toro is not that, but it does some things incredibly well. First, the profile never strays below “above average,” and spends most of the cigar in a category of solidly good, at least up until the final third where the vibrancy picks up to propel the cigar to the very good level. Second, the construction was more or less flawless from start to finish, I never had to think about using my lighter and never got concerned about any of the other technical parts other than the one sample’s slightly open cold draw. Finally, the consistency between the cigars I smoked was remarkable. A lot of times, I’m drawn to cigars for how great they can be at their best moments, this is a cigar that excels more for how good it is at its worst moments.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.