Cigar Review: Midnight Express by Caldwell Cigar Company

  • ME_straightVitola: Corona
  • 5.375” x 46 ring gauge 
  • ~$10.00
  • Purchased at Burns Tobacconist

Background

At the 2016 IPCPR trade show, Caldwell Cigars officially launched several new offerings, including the Savages line which I previously reviewed. Interestingly, Savages was a spin-off of the Long Live the King line, while the cigar I’m looking at today is a spin-off of the Eastern Standard line. More specifically, Midnight Express is a Maduro version of the Eastern Standard.

This is not your ordinary Maduro version of a cigar, either. Most of the time, when a Maduro version of a cigar is put out, the wrapper leaf is completely different. That usually necessitates at least some tweaking of the filler/binder of the cigar, but there are good examples out there of cigars where the Maduro version has almost nothing in common with the “natural” version of the same cigar…basically having the entire filler/binder replaced because the originals don’t work with the different wrapper…then, of course, the wrapper is different…but they keep the same name for marketing reasons. This is essentially the same cigar top to bottom.

Talking with Jeremy McDonald, Caldwell’s National Sales Director, last October, he told me just how close it is. Basically, the exact percentages of filler leaves have been tweaked, but the binder is the exact same, and the wrapper is a Maduro version of the same leaf used on the Eastern Standard. The line uses Dominican Corojo and Criollo, as well as Nicaraguan Habano in the fillers, a Dominican Habano binder, and an Ecuadorian-grown wrapper that is a hybrid of Connecticut Shade and Brazilian Arapiraca. That hybridization accounts for the fact that it can be a “Dark Connecticut” on the Eastern Standard, but will survive the Maduro process for this cigar.

I had my first Midnight Express back in October when I was in California, but didn’t have another until this review sample that I got from Burns Tobacconist, which just started carrying them in the store. You can buy them online from our sponsor, Small Batch Cigars.

ME_footPrelight

The overall appearance of the Midnight Express differs in some key ways from the original Eastern Standard. First the ES had cabinet boxes that were taller, no matter how many were in the box. The ME has more standard type wide 20-count boxes that are arranged 10 wide by 2 deep. The boxes themselves are black with a gold reverse-out image of the Eastern Standard “Magnum P.I.” guy. They look better than the original boxes do…but they end up taking up so much space that we ended up having to remove the box lids so we could get all the facings into the space we had. The band has the same black-background/gold printing look…basically a reversed-out version of the Eastern Standard band, even including the “Eastern Standard” and “Live East Die Young” type. The addition of the footband declares this to be a “Midnight Express.”

The wrapper leaf was a darkish milk chocolate brown color with a lot more oil than I’ve ever seen on a standard Eastern Standard. The aroma from it was almost excessively ripe and earthy…notes of manure highly overpowering a little cedar smell. The foot had more earth, though not as pungent, along with a bit of cocoa powder, bread and coffee.

The cold draw was very good and featured flavor notes of chocolate and bread, with just a touch of earth.

Flavor

I lit up the Midnight Express and it sprang to life quickly and evenly, with a dark earth and char flavor right up front, along with a lingering black pepper. After a few puffs, I picked up on some mild sweetness and espresso bean in the mix, as well. After the Eastern Standard being an almost perfect mild-to-medium-bodied stick, it’s a little disconcerting for this “almost exact same blend” with a Maduro version of the wrapper to be so full-bodied and strong right off the bat. While the ES is creamy and smooth, the smoke from the ME borders on being harsh…but just borders on it, without ever crossing over to that level. As I got further into the first third, the bready Dominican notes came out as almost a slightly burnt toast note, while notes of anise joined the espresso bean and earth chorus.

During the second third, I got notes of charred meat and scorched toast, mixed with dark coffee, anise and earth. There was a little orange sweetness mostly hiding in the mix and the black pepper still hung around at the back of the palate and all over the nose.

The last third featured a little more sweetness in the mix, mostly in the form of a nice chocolate note. There was still plenty of anise and coffee hanging around as well.

ME_angleConstruction

The burn line was typically “Maduro Wavy,” but was mostly even without needing touch-ups. The draw was very good and the ash was quite solid.

Value

Despite being a newer release and a “Maduro” version, the Midnight Express seems to be just a touch less in price than the original Eastern Standard and other Caldwell Collection lines. Even if it’s not actually less, there is no effect of two years of inflation and the price is the same, which is effectively less…either way, it sounds like good value to me.

Conclusions

I thoroughly enjoyed the Caldwell Midnight Express/Eastern Standard Maduro. It was a surprisingly full-bodied cigar, something that hasn’t been featured before in the upper lines from Caldwell. It was rich and full-flavored with plenty of complexity and a definite pick-me-up on a day when you’re feeling run down. Yes, this cigar is almost as good as drinking a strong cup of coffee in terms of bringing you to full attention for a while. Maduro fans, get your hands on these!

By-The-Numbers

Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 4.5/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 9.5/10

David Jones

David has been smoking premium cigars since 2001. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leaf Enthusiast. He is a full-time retail tobacconist, working for Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, where he has also organized the Chattanooga Tweet-Up for the last four years. He is also an independent graphic designer and typesetter. Twitter: @dmjones1009

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