McClelland: I’m Trying to Let Go, But It Ain’t Easy

McClelland is gone, I know, but not forgotten. I thought I was one of the pipe smokers who was able to let go, to keep the period of mourning brief, and move on. After all, we live in a cornucopia of great tobacco in all genres. And yet…

I have a stash of McClelland 2015, or Virginia Perique Flake, the bulk version of St. James Woods. It is simply my favorite vaper, bar none — so rich and spicy. My local tobacconist still has an ample supply of 2015, so if I want more, I can get it. Yet I have resisted buying more on the grounds that doing so would merely delay the inevitable and push the date at which I will face a world without 2015 just a little bit further into the future. Why bother? I have several other good vapers on hand, and many others I have never tried await for me. Whenever I have flirted with the idea of buying more, but I have suppressed the urge.

So my resolution to buy no more McClelland felt firm.

Then, yesterday, at the local pipe shop I spotted something on the shelf that I had to check out. I wondered if was a tin of McClelland Rose of Latakia, a blend that includes the virtually if not actually extinct Syrian latakia. (It is heavenly.) What bothered me is that I thought I had bought the shop’s last tin of Rose of Latakia some time ago, so I wondered how I could have overlooked this one. Bounding behind the counter, I grabbed the tin and read: Blakeney’s Best Latakia Flake. It dated 2005.

Whoa! What’s this? It looked like an old McClelland label, and I was dimly aware that McClelland had a series under the name Blakeney’s Best. But I could not find McClelland’s name on the tin. It said only, “Made in the U.S.A.” It took my tobacconist, Greg McGee, to point out that the paper disc between the plastic and the metal lids said this is a McClelland product.

The tin description states:

The Best Full English – Toasted, Mellow

A distinctive full English Mixture in the grand tradition, rich with smoky Cyprian latakia, fragrant with exotic Xanthi Yaka. Toasted for smoothness, then pressed in cakes to age and marry the flavors. Exceptionally smooth, cool-smoking, full-flavored little levantine flakes ready to rub out — the Best Oriental Mixture.

It was priced at $19.25. (The tobacco tax in my state is obscenely steep.)

Wow! I quickly assessed the situation: either this is the last tin available on earth or it’s the last tin available on earth priced at $19.25. (You can find in on eBay for about $50 for 50 grams. I’m not that hooked.)

In either case, I had to have it. I plunked down my money and went home one happy pipe smoker.

I can report, after my first bowl this morning, that is is a damn fine English blend. I will savor it.

So my McClelland stash contains Blakeney’s Best Latakia Flake, Rose of Latakia, Balkan Blue, Frog Morton on the Bayou, Red and Black, Pressed Burley, and 925 (a close match for Dunhill My Mixture 965).

Not too shabby! Will this be the last McClelland I buy? Stay tuned.

Dessert Blends

Dizzy Gillespie

We’re all familiar with dessert wines and liqueurs. But what about dessert pipe tobacco blends? I often like a sweet blend after a savory meal. This can be an aromatic, but not necessarily. Peter Heinrichs Dark Strong and various Virginias serve very well in that capacity. But for me, certain aromatics work well too. I’m thinking of Cornell & Diehl Autumn Evening, Mac Baren Vanilla Flake, and Cult Blood Red Moon. All of these nicely offset any savory dish.

Of course, a good English can hit the spot too. But don’t overlook something sweet.

Who’s Afraid of Ghosts? Or, Confessions of a Passionate, Yet Undedicated Pipe Smoker

oulette

I don’t dedicate my pipes to particular blend or even genres. I smoke the tobacco I want at the moment in the pipe I want at the moment. I refuse to be hamstrung by self-imposed rules and limitations.

I realize that many pipe smokers disagree, which is fine. Your own enjoyment is what counts here. But I want to put my approach on the record.

I am just not haunted by ghosts of tobaccos past. Maybe I that’s because I have an unrefined palate, which is as much a gift as a curse. Maybe it’s because I don’t mind the faint taste of latakia or perique or maple or even Lakeland in everything I smoke. I’m not sure. What I know is that I don’t mind. At any rate, they don’t call it “ghosting” for nothing. Ghosts are faint and barely visible (or tasteable). So I’m not going to worry about them.

Whatever you do, enjoy the puff!

Tobacco to Work by; Tobacco to Relax by

Dutch painting

It’s dawning on me that I have yet another way to divide tobacco blends: tobaccos to work by and tobacco to relax by. What do I mean?

I find that when I am working — I spend much of the day at my laptop writing or editing — I want to enjoy my pipe without being distracted by it. If I’m smoking a complex and highly flavorful blend — the kind that makes my mouth water — I have a harder time concentrating on my work. The same goes of course for a high-nicotine blend. No mystery there

But if I am smoking something that is simply tasty, perhaps even one-dimensional, it remains in the background. I can enjoy the pipe without its taking center stage. For me, that’s just right when I have to get work out. This applies to when I am doing serious reading also.

On the other hand, if I am simply relaxing or if the smoke is my main object of attention, then I want all the flavor I can get. In that case contemplation of what’s going on with my palate is a distraction from absolutely nothing. So bring it on!

I’m sure I haven’t said anything startling, but there it is.

The Open Door

img_20180528_124658On a visit to Fayetteville, Arkansas, my wife and I dropped in at Open Door Cigars and Pipes, where we were warmly welcomed to this fabulous tobacco establishment, bar, and lounge. It reminds me of those great wood-paneled clubs of old. I picked up some G. L. Pease Haddo’s Delight and Cornell & Diehl Star of the East, both of which I enjoyed on first smoke. I also acquired an HIS black straight apple sandblast, which is now breaking in quite nicely. I’ll definitely be back.

img_20180528_123217

img_20180528_131702