At the tail end of 2021, Lost & Found began shipping a series of eight different blends, collectively known as the Antique Line. The cigars were rolled out of the Dominican Republic between 2006 and 2016, being billed as the most elite, upscale cigars ever to be found by the company since their 2015 debut.
This crescendo helped to signify a turning point for the company, with Lost & Found announcing a pivot towards a more traditional core-line portfolio earlier this year. Whether losing interest in the previous model (repackaging/repurposing small batches of cigars found at various factories throughout the world) or perhaps finding themselves overcrowded with copycat upstarts, Lost & Found showcased a streamlined portfolio at the 2022 PCA trade show in Las Vegas. This included familiar favorites such as the One Night Stand and Pepper Cream Soda (now commissioned rather than found), as well as new lines, kicking off with the ultra-premium 22 Minutes to Midnight.
As detailed by Halfwheel, 22 Minutes to Midnight was named for the timestamp of a text sent from Tony Bellatto to Robert Caldwell (co-owners of the company), where Bellatto insisted that test blends he’d been smoking were “good enough for a project.” The series will reportedly include four different blends: two portraying Caldwell and two from Bellatto. The former two are the Connecticut Radiante and Habano de Oro, each being represented by the 24-hour “23:38” insignia. Meanwhile, the Bellatto cigars will bear the 12-hour “11:38” version, including the 11:38 Habano and 11:38 Maduro.
22 Minutes to Midnight Habano de Oro Toro Breakdown
Factory: El Maestro (Dominican Republic)
Production: Small Batch (200 boxes per size per year)
Vitola: 6? × 52 (Toro)
Price: $22.00 (MSRP)
Corona Deluxe: 5½” x 46 | $18 (box of 20 | $360)
Robusto: 5? x 50 | $20 (box of 20 | $400)
Toro: 6? x 52 | $22 (box of 20 | $440)
While the company will still release limited-edition projects, the new focus is largely on regular production. For 22 Minutes to Midnight, the project falls somewhere in between, with small batches of the cigars arriving semi-annually. The first batch was rolled out of the Ventura family’s smaller El Maestro facility in the Dominican Republic in 2020, being limited to 200 boxes of 20 cigars per size (12,000 cigars total per blend).
The cigars’ blends are not disclosed (aside from revealing the wrapper within the title), though the tobaccos are said to have a combined age of more than 25 years.
Caldwell is known for his eye for art/design, and this shows through with 22 Minutes to Midnight. Both cigars feature the same overall look, with the Connecticut arriving in a white box and gold lettering, while the Habano brings the reverse. The cigar makes it clear that Lost & Found is “all grown up,” showing off a clean look, complete with thin bands and an understated “23:38” branding.
Interestingly, the Habano de Oro’s golden-hued wrapper is quite light in shade, looking barely distinguishable from the Connecticut version without a close inspection. The toro begins with a Cuban-style flat head and a triple cap, leading to a nice construction and plenty of thin veins across the wrapper. It seems to be a medium bunch, offering a solid feel without bumps or imperfections.
The wrapper brings hay on the aroma, joined by grass, cedar, and subtle musk. The foot is barnyard and cabinet spices, and a medium resistance on the pre-light draw shows added notes of hay, mineral, and toasted bread.
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Taking nicely to the flame, the 22 Minutes to Midnight Habano de Oro Toro lights up rather quickly, bringing in a good amount of smoke through a clean, virtually perfect draw. My first impressions are of toasted bread and white pepper, as well as the general feeling of a pleasant room aroma. While the retrohale is largely clean, there is a gentle sage-like pinch, followed by an underlying sweetness on the palate.
Larger draws bring out a stinging white pepper, while smaller puffs have almost no spice whatsoever (being more floral and highlighting the sweetness on the tongue). If timed right, you can bring out a long retrohale with something of a custom-tuned level of spice and flavor. The toro moves into creamier territory around the one-to-two-inch zone, having flavors of light caramel and buttered nuts, as well as cream on the finish. The flavors are brought out through a silky texture, being fairly even across the palate (perhaps hitting the front and sides of the tongue foremost). The profile sits at medium flavor, mild/medium strength, and medium in body.
With an appreciatively cool smoke temperature, flavors evolve to include peanuts (borderline peanut shell), cinnamon, and a sharp nutmeg that can prove somewhat intense. There is a subtle tanginess that weaves its way about, occasionally coming across like buttermilk. The cigar continues to develop, moving away from clean, creamy, and delicate descriptors. The former white pepper note moves closer to red pepper, which can become overly hot if not careful. Still, peanuts remain in the mix, and the profile can bring out notes of ginger snap, peanut brittle and Hot Tamales candy as the cigar passes the halfway mark.
The Habano de Oro operates in the range of medium strength, medium-full flavor, and medium-plus body as it enters the finale portion. It’s spicy and tongue-tingling after repeated draws, with a texture that’s veering towards dryness. That being said, it’s not without sweetness, as an airy fruit candy (Smarties?) can be picked up on, along with a syrupy/spiced concoction reminiscent of an old fashioned cocktail mixer. The cigar is smokable further into nub territory than I’ll typically go, bringing darker/drier characteristics that are not off-putting. It reminds me of a Christmas basket—where you’ll find pine cones and oranges studded with star anise and cloves.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely, I would. Known for his gravitation towards the nuance of classic Habano and Connecticut profiles, I’ve found my palate lining up well with Caldwell’s quite a bit over the years. Then again, this didn’t always seem to be the case on the Lost & Found side of things. Perhaps this was because of the frequent and ultra-limited nature of the cigars’ releases (meaning I didn’t sample enough L&F cigars), or maybe because they were, in fact, found (i.e. blended for someone else’s palate). Either way you slice it, Lost & Found is on a hot streak, closing one chapter with a banger (the Antique Line 2015 Colorado is something special) and opening up with yet another. I like this direction for the company.
I’ve smoked the toro size of both the Habano and Connecticut and thoroughly enjoyed each blend. The Connecticut seemed the better of the two on first impression, but the Habano is growing on me with repeat sessions, and could possibly be the dark horse in the end.
The Habano de Oro blend is currently scored at 92% on Dojoverse, ranked 2,218/4.2k cigars.
The 22 Minutes to Midnight Connecticut Radiante has less check-ins but a higher score (100%), ranked 2,740/4.2k cigars.
With L&F’s new structure, all cigars are intended to have at least two years’ age at the time of release (such as this), and some may be aged as much as four years.
Prior to this release, the company (nor Caldwell or Bellatto) hadn’t spoken much of the El Maestro factory, rolling the bulk of their cigars out of the Venturas’ primary Tabacalera William Ventura facility. This will likely change with future releases, as the Ventura factory was sadly destroyed in a fire this September.
Sage / White pepper
Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Pairing Recommendation: Sazerac cocktail | Medium-roast pour-over coffee | Caramel corn
Purchase Recommendation: Box (if you can swing it)
Mature profileNear-perfect drawGreat development from start to finish
Occasional touchupsWould be nice if it burned a bit longer, considering the price
Originally posted on November 2, 2022 @ 6:18 am