Published: 20 May 2013
Category: Tobacco Jar
In the previous article I covered my favorite Virginias. I remain hugely loyal to Samuel Gawith and Fribourg & Treyer. I've been loading up on F&T Cut Virginia Plug lately after it became available again for the first time in a quite a while. That tobacco just knocks my socks off. Yes, it's a bergamot cased Va just like Hamborger Veermaster and Dunhill Flake, but the underlying tobacco of the F&T is just spectacular. It's become my single favorite German flake, and that's saying a lot.
I have passed the 100 pound mark in my cellar. At my smoking rate that's about what I need to see me through, with luck both ways anyway. Luck that I make it that long, and luck that I don't outlive my cellar.
At the end of the line, cellaring wise, you start looking at your inventory and really second guessing yourself. Hey I have too much of this. Man I really should buy another pound or two of this. You'll drive yourself nuts, and frankly you'll never achieve perfection because you just can't account for shifts in taste. You do the best you can.
So here I am at the end of the line, cellaring wise, and I have been checking tobaccoreviews.com more than I have for a long time. Just making sure I'm not missing anything. I became curious about McClelland again. There must be something to their Va's, so many people love them. Me, as a Lat blend smoker I wasn't very enthused about their Lat blends, and tins of Dark Star and Blackwoods Flake didn't do anything for me so I just kind of moved on. A kind forum member sent me some McClelland samples not too long ago. Can of worms opened.
So here, at the end of all things as Frodo would say, I've scrambled to put a few McClelland Va's away in enough quantity to add variety for the next 20 or so years.
McClelland Matured Virginia No. 24
This is a fantastic broken flake that seems to me a blend of red and brown Va's with just a dash of Drama. The Oriental leaf is a spectacular addition, adding spice and depth but never drawing the attention away from the Va. That's my beef with most Va/Pers. One, I do not like peppery tobacco, and two, some Va/Pers actually aggravate my palate, which is something I can't say about any other tobacco. Aside from Old Joe Krantz, which has quite a lot of Perique in it, and a couple of Lat blends, I avoid the stuff. Oriental on the other hand adds a savory counterpoint without being sharp. I love this tobacco. I've smoked fresh and 20 year old, and it only gets better with age. Sweet, rich and complex.
McClelland Rich Virginia Ribbon
Another winner. If I'd known McClelland could make a Va this good I'd have started this a long time ago. This one starts sweet and delicate, then moves into a savory, beefy complexity a third of the way in. Gets bitter if pushed.
McClelland Royal Cajun Ebony
Ambrosia! Let me see if I can get this straight. This tobacco is called Cajun Black, and it amounts to Virginia seed grown in Kentucky, smoked like Kentucky Burley, then processed via fermentation ala Perique. In the case of Ebony a little, probably very little, Kentucky is added for spice. This is what I've wanted every black Va I've ever smoked to be. Unlike most, which fall apart after a few puffs, this one maintains its sweetness and body throughout the bowl. Unlike Dark Star this stuff actually burns. You don't have to chase what this one has to offer, it's a lot more forgiving than any black Va or McClelland Va I've smoked. Consistently sweet, smoky, rich. Not complex, but the excellent flavor it offers remains to the heel.
Butera Golden Cake
This is an all golden Va flake McClelland makes for the Butera line. This is a unique tobacco that has no McClelland tinned version. This one is a golden Va broken flake with a honey sweetness. It lacks the delicacy you'd expect from a McClelland golden Va, delivering some bass notes with its honey sweetness and eschewing the sunlit hayloft quality of a lot of golden Va flakes. It sits firmly in the same category as Orlik Golden Sliced, John Aylesbury Luxury Flake, Samuel Gawith Medium Virginia Flake and F&T Cut Virginia Plug (minus the bergamot). While it's not my number one golden Va flake, it is surprisingly good and I think it stands up to the best of them, offering sweetness and Va satisfaction to the end of the bowl. This and No. 24 are my favorite McClelland products.
I've smoked most of the McClellands now. Some were inconsistent, some were good, all were kind of hit and miss. The four above really won me over with their excellent flavor and consistent delivery. One thing's for certain, no Va lover should finish their cellar without making a run through McClelland's Va lineup. There is some excellent tobacco here you wouldn't want to miss.