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McClelland's 40th Anniversary offering is dedicated to Virginias, and of course those with a love for Virginia leaf as well. The tobacco itself is a red Virginia flake, promising a rich, mellow, sweet smoking experience, and something that will age superbly.

Notes: Superb North Carolina red Virginia worthy of a very special occasion.

BrandMcClelland
Blended ByMcClelland Tobacco Company
Manufactured ByMcClelland Tobacco Company
Blend TypeStraight Virginia
ContentsVirginia
FlavoringNone
CutFlake
Packaging100 grams tin
CountryUS
ProductionNo longer in production
Product Image
Strength
Mild to Medium
Flavoring
None Detected
Taste
Medium
Room Note
Pleasant

Favorite Of 12 Users

3.7
30 reviews
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JimInks Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
JimInks (2495)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Very Pleasant

The tangy, ripe dark fruity, earthy, woody red Virginia takes a lead over the lighter, orange Virginia, and also sports a little sugar. The orange Virginia provides a bit of citrus, light grassiness, and a couple pinches of spice and a bare hint of floralness. The proportions of the Virginias vary from flake to flake, so there is a small inconsistency in how you will perceive the inherent flavors of the tobaccos. Having written that, it should be noted that they meld fairly well, and you’ll observe every nuance in every puff to one degree or another. There is a very slight hint of “vinegar” from the tobaccos that barely make their way into the experience, and very quickly disappears. Although this manufacture isn’t as deep in flavor as some other McClelland Virginia offerings, there’s a couple subtleties present that some of them lack. The nic-hit is just past the mild mark. The strength level is a couple steps shy of the center of mild to medium, while the taste almost reaches that threshold. No chance of bite or harshness exists here. The product is a little moist, but it needs no dry time. Burns cool, clean and a little slow as flakes tend to do, but they are easily broken apart to suit your packing preference. Leaves little dampness in the bowl, and requires some relights. Has a pleasant, lightly lingering after taste. Can easily be an all day smoke. Has great age potential. Three and a half stars out of four.

-JimInks

34 people found this review helpful.

Big Train Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Big Train (105)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant

I simply cannot believe that Mike and Mary made a blend this good . Even by their very high standards this is exceptional . This is a complex Virginia that delivers simply the smoothest smoke that I have ever had .As the smoke progresses it goes from Virginia highlights to a deep and mellow flow with earthy overtones . Although it was freshly tinned this tobacco smoked like a xmas cheer that had a chance to ferment for a few years . I will wait a few months for the tobacco in my unopened cans to ferment a while and it will be even better . I cannot imagine where they got this Virginia but it might not have been on Earth . The tobacco is cut in little squares and rectangles and real easy to prepare for the pipe . The moisture level is perfect . A bunch of us opened this tin in Chicago this year . We had been smoking Four Square Red in a cutter top can . It was great . The Mc Clelland stood up to it very nicely . In my 55 years of smoking I guess that I have smoked it all . Nothing beat this .

29 people found this review helpful.

Dmitri Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Dmitri (3)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

Mild to medium body Virginia Flake. Ready to be smoked from the tin, though air drying for a few minutes wouldn't hurt. Lights up easily and burns slowly and evenly to fine ligh gray ash. Tin aroma of dry fruit with a touch of citrus. Very mild and pleasant smock with not even a hint of tongue bite. Very pleasant natural sweetnes of Virginia, slightly tangy with touch of citrus and grassy overtones. Just enough spice to add complexity to the smoke. I am huge fan of Christmas Cheer and tried all of them for at least last 20 years, but this is even better. Probably the best Virginia Flake ever made!

12 people found this review helpful.

toddsmith7378 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
toddsmith7378 (41)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant

This is my favorite blend I've smoked so far. I'd had my share of vapers before this, but never a straight Virginia and though I like my Vapers, this is just something special. There is jus something savory about it. It's not peppery like a vaper, but it has this tang of spiciness that is amazing. From the first puff to the last. It's a really flavorful fully tasteful Virginia. After enjoying it so much I picked up some 5100 red cake, hoping it would be a close enough flavor that I could not have to worry about the "limited edition" tag this has, and be able to enjoy that taste in bulk forever, but it just wasn't happening. I enjoy 5100 red cake, but the label on this isn't lying. It's a whole lot richer than the red cake. 1/2 a bowl in on the red cake, I taste a hint of similarity, but while red cake is kind of airy, this is rich flavor all the way. I really hope they find a way to keep this stuff around a while longer than "limited edition" would indicate. No tongue bite, just great taste.

Pipe Used: cobs and briars.

Age When Smoked: New

Purchased From: Tobacco Junction

11 people found this review helpful.

Philo Beddoe Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Philo Beddoe (216)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

Wonderful and it should only get better with age. 40th Ann. reminds me of the level of leaf that McClellands uses for Christmas Cheer, but this has more heft and less tang. If you enjoy Virginias at all, you will love this.

Age When Smoked: Fresh

Purchased From: Smokingpipes.com

9 people found this review helpful.

PeterD Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
PeterD (91)
★★★★
Mild to Medium Very Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant

...a very nice offering from McClelland...after several bowls, it has quickly become a favorite...More to follow after a few more bowls...I don't get any of the ketchup or vinegar smell or taste and this could be an all day smoke for many...

More to come...

Pipe Used: group 3-5size

Age When Smoked: fresh

Purchased From: smokinpipes.com

Similar Blends: higher quality than many straight Virginias....

8 people found this review helpful.

Jacinto Cupboard Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Jacinto Cupboard (191)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

Exactly what it says on the label. These broken flakes burn slowly with beautiful, and mellow yet rich Va flavour. Aside from the signature acetic McC note, this really is in the tradition of British flakes of years gone by.

It's not complex, but nor is it linear. There is plenty of flavour, and it is all ripe Virginia.

The flakes are thick and rubbery and they will not rub out completely by hand. Go with the flow and stuff and go. As others have noted, absolutely bite free and mellow till the last ash. Lasts an age in the bowl. Good for anytime, but well worth making this a 'down time' smoke.

As a final note, I found it did far better in briar than cob or clay, which is always a surprise to me when a tobacco does that.

Pipe Used: BC Old Root Bulldog

7 people found this review helpful.

DK Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
DK (894)
★★★☆
Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant

Typical McClelland broken flakes with much less of the signature fermented Virginia aroma than most of their VA's. Purported to be a straight red, this also has streaks of light color I associate with lemon Virginia. Indeed, there was a definite citrus aroma among the normal red's deeper scent.

I've been working on this tin for a month and it finally dried on its own to the proper level. I've never smoked a Virginia tobacco that was this characterless right out of the tin. This needs drying time to get at those flavors the extra water hides. Dried out, this produced a nice mix of red's usual tang and punch with lemon's citrus and light sweetness. Not nearly as deep as a Christmas Cheer offering, this one does share with the CC's - and indeed, with all McClellands blends - a seamless top to bottom consistency of flavor. There were more differences within a single bowl than that of one bowl to the next. The flavor reminded me of various Christmas Cheers but this didn't have the depth nor the complexity, not to mention a lack of CC's vigor and boisterousness. This one was pretty subdued in comparison, and needs aging as much as it needs drying, as it tasted like a youngish strain of Virginia. Not that it was bad... in fact, it was very good. I'd say 3.5 stars but not a great 4 star blend - yet. However, I have a feeling it will become one in 5-10 years, so I'm keeping the rest of my stash to age.

7 people found this review helpful.

Briar Baron Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Briar Baron (12)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

Yes, this really is a great tobacco. It has the same DNA as the Christmas Cheers offerings which are my favorites. Less ketchup smell than the CCs but as with them that note soon disappears and does not come through in the smoke. A little less tangy than the Christmas Cheers also. Seems to be pressed fairly hard so took a little more rubbing out than normal for this cut of tobacco. Perfect moisture straight out of the tin. Cellar some for sure, this will be a classic.

Pipe Used: Ferndown

Age When Smoked: Fresh

Purchased From: Smoking Pipes

Similar Blends: Christmas Cheer.

7 people found this review helpful.

IndyPiper Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
IndyPiper (2)
★★★★
Mild None Detected Medium Pleasant

Tin Note: The famous McClelland Ketchup smell is here. It is not appalling. Underneath I can get some hits of the sweetness of the Virginia. Moisture Content: Perfect out of the tin. Visual Note: Beautiful flake with a dark red color and bright spots throughout. Smoke: Wonderful flavor of sweet hay and grass. Dried fruit notes through out. Very pleasant and mild smoke. No bite. Got a tad more bitter as the bowl got low.

Pipe Used: Morgan Bones 1/4 bent apple

Age When Smoked: fresh

Purchased From: smokingpipes.com

6 people found this review helpful.

Mr. Big Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Mr. Big (321)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

A moot point now,but this is a wonderful Virginia blend (as were all the McClelland blends ). Reminds me of one of the darker Christmas blends. Burns slow And cool with great flavour , no bite and good on cold relights.sorry I didn't order more when I had the chance

Pipe Used: Cob

Age When Smoked: 2018/open one month

Similar Blends: McC Christmas blends.

5 people found this review helpful.

billinrio Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
billinrio (3)
★★★☆
Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Very Pleasant

I simply had to try this after reading the enthusiastic reviews. I purchased two cans, opened one and will leave the other to age. I agree with my "golden nose and palate" friends regarding the aroma and taste. This is a truly excellent red Virginia. I don't agree with those who claim that this tobacco is "easy to rub out", especially not right out of the tin. It's a "broken flake", and the flakes that do happen to remain entire in the tin are about one and half inches long and quite thick. No way to fold and stuff these babies, and it takes some vigorous rubbing to break them down so the pipe can be filled. If they were thinner and more flexible I would give this tobacco the full monty. Expect some relights. As it is, I like it a lot, but it loses one star.

Pipe Used: Ashton XXX Sovereign Canadian

Age When Smoked: On the bottom of the can: 2017

Purchased From: Pipes & Cigars

5 people found this review helpful.

Stan Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Stan (172)
★★★★
Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant

A true short flake, but easy to rub. I don't rub much.

Smells great in tin, a true deep, spicy "red" note.

similar in flavor as Red Cake, but more robust and more body here. Just not quite as sweet. Still tasty.

A little less richness than some Christmas Cheers (which are not all red Va.). Not quite as rich or sweet as McC's Red Flake (which also is a single, periodic red crop, just not the same one here). This one may age to be sweeter, but it is just fine now. This may well be a limited addition.

Burns at a nice pace for a flake. Not hot or wet. Just slurp away. Can be smoked more than once a day. Great for a flake. A true fine for a flake. Often a pick of the little, or at least my default selection when nothing else will do. Other members of N.O. Pipe Club enjoy it too.

Pipe Used: Peterson Large Jap (POY 2017); Ashton ELX

Age When Smoked: new tin to two months

Purchased From: smokingpipes

Similar Blends: McC's Red Cake, McCranie's Red Flake, some McC Christmas Cheers.

5 people found this review helpful.

crazy owl Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
crazy owl (75)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

Just the better Va. flake ever smoked.It´s like a forgotten tin of Christmas Cheer in a dark corner of the cellar.Ripe to perfection,ready for smoking right now,aging neither needed nor desirable.A master piece from the great tobacco masters of Mc Clelland.Simply wow!.

Pipe Used: meers

Age When Smoked: fresh from the tin

Purchased From: smokingpipes

Similar Blends: an old tin of Christmas Cheers.

5 people found this review helpful.

butman Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
butman (49)
★★★★
Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Medium Very Pleasant

I just got one bowl of this at the GKCPC meeting the other night. Boy, howdy. This a great tobacco. It will bear aging I should think, but even at this young age it was quite rewarding. Mike and Mary are just masters of Virginia tobacco.

Pipe Used: Ashton

Age When Smoked: 3 weeks

Similar Blends: Somewhere between Union Square and Telegraph Hill..

5 people found this review helpful.

Pryhosm Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Pryhosm (189)
★★★☆
Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant

Review if from a fresh tin. I do see some real promise in aging as with all McClelland Virginia's.

The tin note is heaven, I am a fan of the signature McC process and aroma, and the flakes are beautiful broken flakes that look like beef jerky.

This is one of the more "interesting" VA's from McC for me. It is much more subtle in flavor than most of their VA blends. That subdued flavor and easy going nature is one of the thing that I really enjoy (I have smoked about 10 bowls of this in cobs, clay, briar and a meer). I prefer VA's in a meer, cob and newly discovered clay. Those pipes seem closer to neutral and allow you to really enjoy the straight VA's. This tobacco has sweetness, spice, dark fruit and bready flavors. All are subtle and at times one of those flavors takes over and then is taken over by another. The aftertaste is one of the best I have encountered. I would call the "base flavor" that of baked bread, lightly toasted. Spiciness is best experienced on retrohale. Not a perique like tingle but a peppery spice nonetheless. The sweetness from all McClelland blends, and this is no different, is all from the tobacco and not from a flavoring, which for me is a major difference from just about all other VA's (I am convinced almost all others are cased or treated with sugar or some sweet base that enhance sweetness). The sweetness is not like candy, it is subtle and delicious. I have a few tins so I can experience this as it ages. I can see this just getting better and better. This is a 3.5 for me right now but I can see this being a 5 star blend in a few years.

Pipe Used: Briar's, meerschaum and cobs

4 people found this review helpful.

Goose55 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Goose55 (33)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

This tobacco, the McNeil's parting gift to the pipe world will transport you to pipe smoking 7th Heaven. And you may not wish to come back down again. As of late May 2018 there are still tins on eBay. 4X original retail but when compared to the cost of good cigars, it's still a great deal. I love this blend so much I managed to acquire 18 tins. This Red Virginia flake is other-worldly.

Pipe Used: Artisan Commisioned XL Bent Brandy

Age When Smoked: 2 years

Purchased From: Various

Similar Blends: Nothing else on Earth.

4 people found this review helpful.

tschenyinkoh Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
tschenyinkoh (51)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Full Very Pleasant

It defines a Virginia flake should be. Sweet, sour, woody, tangy, earthy, spice etc. It has everything but still keeps the extremely complex, balance and full body.

McClelland always makes the best Virginia in the whole world.

My top two five stars tobacco until now.

Age When Smoked: six monthes

Purchased From: 100g tins from smokingpipes

4 people found this review helpful.

fr_tom Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
fr_tom (373)
★★★☆
Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant

The tobacco came as a somewhat broken flake. The flakes would appear to be mostly red Virginia with some yellow Virginia added for character. The moisture level was a little high. I rubbed mine out and smoked it as delivered.

The flavor is consistent and good. There is some ripe fruit and some hay. The yellow Virginia provides a few citrus notes. It is slightly sweet. Strength is maybe on the mild side of "mild to medium." It seemed a little stronger in the last half of the bowl. I was not just bowled over by the experience, but I don't regret it. It was a pleasant smoke.

Recommended

4 people found this review helpful.

michaelc Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
michaelc (40)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

I love this tobacco. It is a little moist but not so much that it needs drying. It has a hint of vinegar from the tin, but it tastes of pure Virginia after lighting. It is a very sweet smoke with a taste of prunes or figs and a hint of brown sugar. The smoke is creamy and cool. It has no tongue bite. I find this flake ranks as a favorite of mine.

Pipe Used: A Jobey bent pot and a bent apple briar

Age When Smoked: packaged in 2017

Purchased From: Smokingpipes.com

Similar Blends: C&D Small Batch Carolina Red Flake.

4 people found this review helpful.

BunsOfAluminum Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
BunsOfAluminum (4)
★★☆☆
Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant

I was given a bowl of this by a friend. I have not had the same experience as other people when smoking this. I found it to be not bad, but not really good, either. Everything was pretty mild and unremarkable.

4 people found this review helpful.

nkulk8r Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
nkulk8r (78)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

Yet another elegy for yet another tobacco from Christmas Past . . .

McClelland's 40th Anniversary (Limited Edition) Straight Virginia (Red Virginia Flake) is but another fine example of a uniquely classic McClelland blend, now lost forever.

I didn’t pick up the pipe until 2013. Initially, I didn't want anything to do with straight Virginias. I was naturally drawn to English blends, Balkans, Orientals – and even though those blends contained Virginias – I wanted something deeper, darker, fruitier, more leather and campfire and fig. To me – as a complete neophyte – the idea of smoking a straight Virginia, at that time -- well -- the first thing that came to my mind was a Marlboro cigarette. (Hay? Grass? Citrusy? Are you kidding me? If I wanted a chardonnay, I’d have asked for one – I wanted big, fat, chunky, chewy cabernets and Barolos).

So, by the time I first encountered this Straight Virginia blend back in the Spring of 2017, I was just learning how to really appreciate Virginia tobaccos, and I was naturally drawn to this particular Virginia blend. I don’t know if it was simply the name McClelland (the name that sort of gave it a “Ford Motors” of pipe tobaccos cachet) or whether it was simply that marvelous, marvelous ketchup smell when you popped the tin – I just thought to myself then that “this McClelland is the benchmark Virginia by which I will measure and evaluate any and all other Virginias by.”

Had I known then what I know now, I would have hoarded every little blue-and-white tin of this heavenly substance I could have laid my greedy little hands on. (Mike and Mary McNeil announced in a letter dated February 28th, 2018, that they were going to be shutting down, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo until it was way, way too late).

I only have 400 grams of this stuff remaining, with perhaps another 75 grams in a jar. I’m going to let those four tins sit for a good long time before opening them (I’m thinking 2030 or so; I’m saving at least one for the launch of the first manned mission to Mars, currently planned for somewhere around 2034).

-----------------------------------

UPDATE: June 4, 2019

I just discovered clay pipes, and what a difference they make -- all the difference in the world when it comes to straight Virginias. Smoking this McClelland VA out of a clay is like tasting the tobacco for the very first time. Indeed, the same can be said for EVERY Virginia I have smoked. The difference between a clay and a briar is simply ineffable. THIS is how Virginia's are to be enjoyed, in a clay pipe. All you get is the true taste of the tobacco, and nothing more. Cool, very dry smoke (no moisture at all). Started smoking pipes back in 2013, and have just now discovered I've been doing it all wrong when it comes to straight VAs. If you have never smoked Virginias out of a clay, spend the $14-$20 and check it out -- the results will be utterly priceless.

3 people found this review helpful.

HabaneroHardy Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
HabaneroHardy (204)
★★★☆
Medium None Detected Medium Very Pleasant

I was gifted about 3 small bowlfuls of McClelland - 40th Anniversary (Limited Edition) at my weekly pipe club meeting. It is a nice medium dark flake with a pleasant spicy fragrant to it. Red Virginia according to the Cornell & Diehl website is the leaf that originates higher up the stalk of the tobacco plant to the tips. It smokes smooth, a little spicy and sweet. A really great blend. It was nice that I got to taste it and able to record it here.

Pipe Used: Dagner Corn Cob

3 people found this review helpful.

Rustedrailsmokes Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Rustedrailsmokes (150)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

When I think of McC closing this is my biggest regret of not getting more in my cellar. Forget Frog Morton Series or whatever, I wish I had about 50 of these to keep me the rest of my smoking career

Great broken flakes, the famous McKetchup smell. Easy to rub out or just stuff in a big bowl. Not too much Nic hit, so you can smoke this one all day. It's not fancy, but man is it good....

Sigh.

Pipe Used: various

Age When Smoked: fresh from tin to 1 year

Purchased From: smokingpipes.com

2 people found this review helpful.

Wes-NY Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Wes-NY (7)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant

Upon opening the tin, you are greeted with a wonderfully woody, earthy, fruity smell with a touch of the signature vinegar/ketchup smell that McClelland is famous for. Although this is purported to be straight red Virginia leaf there appears to be a lighter leaf present as well. The sugar content of Virginia tobacco, as with prior McClelland Virginia’s should allow this special blend to age and ferment extremely well. I was lucky enough to get my 1st can of this just prior to Mike and Mary closing up shop. As soon as I tasted my first bowl, I ordered several more which I am cellaring for as long as I can. It's sad to see such a great company with such wonderful blends close. I have prepared this in numerous ways, folding and stuffing, partly rubbed out and fully rubbed out. The flavor experience is slightly different for folded and stuffed which also tends to burn a bit cooler and slower (making it sweeter) but requires more relights. The tobacco itself has a slight moisture content but does not need any drying time. Smoking this straight Virginia is such a pleasure! Subtly sweet, medium body with fuller flavor compared to most other straight Virginias. Folding and stuffing also let you taste the nuances between the different color Virginias better than fully rubbing out. You get some citrus and grassy notes along with a little bit of spice added to the fruit, wood, and earth.

Pipe Used: Peak, Savinelli, Missouri Meerschaum

Age When Smoked: Fresh

2 people found this review helpful.

Jacket72 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Jacket72 (2)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

This blend is my kind of red Virginia. The red Virginia tang is there but it doesn’t bulldoze the rest flavors present. I opened a fresh tin right when it was released and smoked an ounce, then set the rest aside in a jar for 6 months. It was very good fresh but after 6 months the blend opened up a bit and gained some more complexity. I’m willing to bet that after a couple of years this tobacco will be sublime.

Age When Smoked: Fresh and 6 months

2 people found this review helpful.

bklynpipe Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
bklynpipe (11)
★★☆☆
Mild to Medium None Detected Very Mild Pleasant to Tolerable

I bought 2 tins of this last August, and was enjoying the "clinking" sound it made when I gently shook the can. It promised a high-sugar smoke. That aside, I broke open a tin last Sunday. The aroma was unlike other MC blends with only very little of the "ketchup" and fairly sweet. It's cut into 1/2 x 2 inch slices that rub out pretty easily. As for the smoke, I have to say here that it was bland, and I didn't get any other taste all the way down the bowl. Surprising. I will say it takes first prize in mildness - no bite or harshness at all. I'll have to work on this blend a while and see what, if anything, develops. Otherwise, this didn't do much for me.

Pipe Used: Dunhill 5204

Age When Smoked: Fresh

2 people found this review helpful.

Mork Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Mork (71)
★★★☆
Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Unnoticeable

40th Anniversary, McClelland

Tin Notes: McClelland's 40th Anniversary offering is dedicated to Virginias, and of course those with a love for Virginia leaf as well. The tobacco itself is a red Virginia flake, promising a rich, mellow, sweet smoking experience, and something that will age superbly.

Notes: Superb North Carolina red Virginia worthy of a very special occasion.

Storage/Age: This 2017 sample came to me via a friend.

Flavor Profile:

Bright red VA profile at its core, but it goes well beyond that. Waves of sweet spice eminante from this flake. Hints of citrus mixed with nutmeg and cloves. Very mildly earthy. The vinegar is present but serves mostly to make sure you know, really know, that you’re smoking McC. No edge, no bite, nothing even mildly unpleasant to be found. Which is an accomplishment CC can’t claim.

This has depth and nuance to be found. It develops over the course of the bowl. It deepens and gets sweeter. It is very much everything one could reasonably ask for in a red VA flake.

Tremendously slow and cool burning with rich tobacco flavor.

Subjective Musings:

This is the first McC red I have been able to say, “OK. I think I might get it now. This is why people freak out about McC.” I still don’t think I’m as much of a red VA fan as many folks, but this is very good. This embodies what a red can, and should, be.

Oddly enough, I still don’t think for me personally I am actually that much of a McC fan, at least as far as the red offerings I’ve been able to try. Objectively this is a good tobacco. It’s a great tobacco. It’s far better than CC to me. But as I said in the previous paragraph, I am starting to get why people go nuts for this stuff now. If you’re looking for this profile in a blend, it does it tremendously well.

But, since this is the “subjective musings” category, I’ll discuss it subjectively. I prefer the deep cream notes of darker VAs. That’s where my heart lies. If you put a 2017 FVF in front of me and this, I would reach for the FVF, hands down 100% of the time.

Which is a good thing for me I guess since this is OOP and the secondary market is steadily climbing upwards. I’m glad this isn’t my be all and end all. But I’m also exceptionally glad to have tried it and to have had the experience. It’s invaluable as a pipe smoker to be given a taste of unicorn tobacco.

Broader McC Musings Beyond this Blend:

Maybe that OOP secondary market is part of my reaction to McC post closure, on a subconscious level (which I’m now bringing to the conscious). I know this isn’t available without paying a serious premium. And ever the tin math connoisseur, I could never justify paying secondary pricing for this blend. I think if it were still in production (though yes, this was a LE), I would absolutely have it in my cellar. The quality of the blend(s) would demand it.

I think that viewed from the perspective of when these blends were in production, McC was really rather incredible. They were a comparatively tiny company which turned out a unique and high quality product in the American market. You would be nuts not to buy and smoke McC in 2017 or before. When they were $10-15 a tin and sitting on B&M shelves or available online. I know I did when I was first smoking a pipe back in 2009-2011. I didn’t appreciate them for what they were then, but that was my own fault for never really learning to smoke a pipe properly at that time.

When you view it from the 2019, almost 2020 perspective and the secondary market pricing, that’s where my conflict lies I think. I know what a tin of 40th Anniversary costs today. Or CC, or insert name here. They’re expensive. Like 8+ ounces of RDF expensive. For a 3.5oz tin of two year old tobacco. So I’m smoking the blends, whether as kindly provided samples or as my own purchases, and everything is getting filtered through that lens. Is this really a, say, $3.50 smoke? When FVF is a $0.64 smoke? Is it 6 times better than that? Or to take RDF, and its $1.60 a bowl price point; is 40th twice as good as RDF? Is CC? No. It’s not. I don’t think McC lives up to the price point it currently holds post closure. Of course, if you have deep pockets or come from the cigar world, these prices are all ludicrously small. But my inherent calculus remains, even if you take the specific prices out. Is it 6 times better than FVF or twice as good as RDF? Still no. In fact, RDF is quite a bit better, both subjectively and objectively. Though obviously it’s not a red VA- we’re still just talking general smoking experience quality here.

Maybe that’s too controversial, to state that McC was an exceptional in production blendhouse that, with its closure, has been given a higher standing than it warrants. The one thing that relieves me, to some extent, of this internal conflict is having tried one of the truly lauded tobaccos in the pantheon of ultra unicorns- Bond Street Sobranie. That lived up to its status. That, whatever the pricing is, is worth it.

So some things do measure up to their OOP laurels in my book. But they’re exceptionally rare instances. When Dunhill closed (wink wink) recently, I wasn’t that upset about it. And I was stunned that those tins jumped as quickly as they did, even if for a brief moment in the post closure panic. Of course, anyone with sense knew that Dunhill blends were more than likely not ever going to disappear. And they haven’t. But the Murray’s blends have. They’ve been gone for quite a while. Do they live up to their laurels? I have no idea. With McC, its essentially a guarantee that they’re really gone. I think that adds a lot to the mythos, for better or worse.

I mean, you can still get new production Sobranie even. Yes it’s a unicorn, but Germain does a pretty good job of the affair. So McC rests in a relatively small camp of being truly gone, no rebranded production, no recipes being sold to other companies. That’s it, no more McC. So maybe it really is worth it, maybe my internal musings are impacting my perceptions too harshly. I’d like to think not, but I can’t rule it out.

Turning away from my lengthy musings on a topic only tangentially related to this blend itself, let’s close this out.

Cellar Notes/Final Thoughts:

As with any OOP lauded blend, getting this, if you didn’t already have it in your cellar, will be a pricey and difficult endeavor. However, I can only imagine this will improve as the years roll by. If you’re a McC fan, this is a no brainer of a blend to acquire and cherish. The inherent quality of the tobacco is as high as one could hope and the blend presents a clear and beautiful picture of a rapidly disappearing fixture in the American landscape- the Red Virginia. My subjective musings aside, this is a very good offering and a delight to smoke.

Rating: 7.5/10. As with all my reviews my score is as fair as I can make it, but I know I cannot be fully objective. Placing aside my ramble about the mythos of McC and viewing this as if it were a currently produced blend, I would give this the 7.5. I’d keep a few tins of this very good blend around in the cellar for when I wanted a fix of high quality red VA to add some sweet spice to my day.

Rating Scale:

10 - Gods Gift to Pipe Smokers, Buy It All No Matter the Cost

9 - Nearly Perfect, Deep Cellar Worthy

8 - Exceptional, More Than a Few Tins

7 - Very Good, A Few Tins

6 - Good, One Tin is Fine Thanks

5 - Average, but Pleasant Enough, I’ll Finish the Tin/Sample

4 - Smokable, but Wouldn’t Smoke it Again

3 - I’ll Finish the Bowl, I guess

2 - I Wish I Hadn’t Done This

1 - Why Would This Get Produced

0 - Dump the Bowl

Brief Overview of Reviewer’s General Tastes: I am primarily a VA (and it’s variant combination forms) smoker who has great affinity for SG and comparable EU manufactured blends, along with a few of the US micro blender shops. I do enjoy English/Balkan blends on occasion and a few very specific tobacco forward aromatics. I am exceptionally picky about blends and tend to cellar deep and narrow on things, reserving the bulk of my cellar planning and space for items I find to be of significant worth as far as taste and experience. Anything of quality, but not of obsessive value to me, is cellared and purchased as condimental flavor breaks between my regular rotation.

1 person found this review helpful.

S8ntsfan Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
S8ntsfan (21)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Very Pleasant

Since this isn't available anymore, I'll simply say 2 1/2 years ago when this was introduced, I purchased a tin, smoked a couple of bowls and promptly ordered 10 more tins. Classic McClelland blend that has only improved with time. Citrus, natural sweetness, hints of cinnamon, a little tanginess, and a creaminess, great aroma, finishes exceptionally well on the palate and virtually no aftertaste. Has the "McClelland Ketchup" pre-light smell, but once ignited there's no trace of it. Even "sipping" this blend, it produces tons of smoke. I shared some with a relatively new pipe smoker and his description was priceless. Needless to say when I mentioned it was no longer available, he offered to be my new best friend. I'm enjoying it sparingly.

Pipe Used: Dunhill Cavalier, Neerup Churchwarden, MM Cobs

Age When Smoked: Brand new and 2 1/2 years later

Purchased From: Smokingpipes.com

Nobody has rated this review yet.

JuanOrez Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
JuanOrez (22)
★★★★
Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant

In my mind this is one of the best McClelland VA's. Depending on the day, I think this one edges out all the Christmas Cheer offerings I've tried (baring the very heavily aged offerings). Somewhat complicated smoke and one that gets better and better throughout the bowl. The reds definitely play a dominant role but not so much to be one dimensional. If I didn't have so little of this left, I could see this being an all day smoke. This tobacco will get much better the longer it ages. So sad to see these great blends discontinued. Enthusiastic 4/4 stars.

Age When Smoked: 1.5 years

Nobody has rated this review yet.