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.

On Blending Tobaccos

If you are curious about types of tobacco and what they mean for the pipe smoker, Cornell & Diehl, a company I grow fonder of with every passing day, has an excellent two-part primer on its YouTube channel. Jeremy Reeves, C&D’s head blender, gives a good, clear presentation from which I learned much.

Here is part 1.

And here is part 2.

PS: The YouTube Pipe Community (YTPC) is a great source of pipe-smoking tips and and reviews. In the future I will post about my favorite channels.

Bertie and I Return Home

PA canI am now back home, and my excursion with Prince Albert pipe tobacco is at an end. To recap, in the tobacco department, I took only the Prince with me on my weeklong motor trip to Austin, Texas. Only on two occasions did I smoke something else, both times when I was enjoying a local tobacconist’s hospitality. Otherwise, it was the Prince and the Prince alone.

So what are my findings from this personal experiment? Several:

First, Prince Albert sustained my smoking interest. I never grew bored with it or failed to look forward to a smoke. The Prince is a lot more complex than it’s given credit for. It’s considered a drug-store or OTC or codger blend, but it is a damn good one. It’s got body and strength, and it never bites or hits me with nicotine. It is reliably tasty. (I can say only that it tastes like tobacco.) That is why I thought it was a good choice for my experiment.

Second, I enjoyed not having to agonize several times a day over which tobacco to smoke, as I do at home every day. At least for a short while, I could indulge my lazy streak and smoke without having to think about what to smoke. (I still had to choose among the several pipes I took with me, but that was okay.)

Third, I took enough Prince Albert along to carry me easily through the week. Still, I liked knowing that if I needed some in a flash, I had only to get to a Walmart, where it is cheaply available. That was a good feeling.

Fourth, while I thought about the condiments — latakia and perique — of which I was depriving myself, I didn’t really miss them. Oh, I will enjoy them again now that I am home. But I did not experience longings for them. I did, however, experience a longing for the pleasant maple flavor in C&D Autumn Evening. It was the first thing I smoked when I arrived home.

All in all, my experiment demonstrated that Prince Albert is a solid tobacco and probably badly underrated by smokers who limit themselves to “premium” blends. I won’t be smoking it exclusively, but it will be in my rotation.

Aroma and Memory

Donald “Duck” Dunn

Aromas have a marvelous, almost magical power to evoke memories. Tobacco aromas are no exception. Perhaps they have an even stronger power than other aromas to summon pleasant recollections. How many people think of a beloved father or grandfather when they get a whiff?

I’ve noticed lately that whenever I smoke Dunhill Nightcap or My Mixture 965, I instantly recall my days as a late-high-school and early college student in the 1960s and ’70s. I spent those summers working for a title-insurance company, searching property titles in Philadelphia’s City Hall. During my lunch “hours” I  hung out at center-city Philly’s great old tobacco shops, sampling bulk blends. This is when I first tasted latakia, which I found exotic and enticing. I don’t know what those blends were: maybe they were custom made by the local tobacconists; maybe they were bulk versions of famous tinned tobaccos. All I know is that when I smoke those Dunhills today, they bring back fond memories of those days.

And they make me smile.

I Like My Condiments

Mencken mill and pipe
H. L. Mencken

I’ve long enjoyed straight Virginias and burleys, but lately those leave me unsatisfied, and I find myself craving tobaccos blended with latakia, perique, and Orientals. Now I’m finding it hard to go back. That’s often the way it is with pipe smoking.

If you have yet to explore the world of these tobacco-blend condiments, you might consider doing so. A world of amazing flavors and aromas awaits you.