Mac Baren Three Nuns

Notes: The Three Nuns coin tobacco was originally a creation of J & F Bell, dating back to the 19th century. A favorite of British authors (and friends) C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien. In the formula from Imperial Tobacco, Three Nuns was a VaPer mixture. Pipe Tobacco Hall of Fame Inductee. Later this tobacco was made at the Orlik factory for BAT and Kentucky was substituted for Perique. The latest version, blended and manufactured by Mac Baren, follows the latter formula.


Brand Mac Baren
Blended By Mac Baren
Manufactured By Mac Baren
Blend Type Virginia/Burley
Contents Brazilian Leaf, Perique, Virginia
Flavoring Rum
Cut Curly Cut
Packaging 50 grams tin
Country Denmark
Production Re-release


Extremely Mild -> Overwhelming
None Detected
None Detected -> Extra Strong
Room Note
Pleasant to Tolerable
Unnoticeable -> Overwhelming
Medium to Full
Extremely Mild (Flat) -> Overwhelming

Average Rating

3.09 / 4





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Displaying 1 - 10 of 99 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 11, 2003 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant
For twenty years this (or ESCUDO) was my tobacco of preference before 6 pm. Lighting up a Charatan full of Three Nuns, right after luncheon, with its ineffable, strong, piquant sweetness, was one of those ritual pleasures that simply have no parallel in today's Cromwellian times. The sadness of time lost has only improved and idealised the memory.

Then Imperial Tobacco, the cigarette-churning octopus that had taken it over from its original manufacturer, Bell, decided that it was much too expensive to produce in Britain in exactly the same way that had made it world-famous for decades. It farmed the production out to a Danish--or was it German??--outfit. That version--still available in Germany from Dan Tobacco--was excellent, though not exactly the same as the original. (I admit that the evolving characteristics of a mixture long in production is a controversial subject.)

Eventually, the billion-dollar producer, after quitting the American market because of a fear of lawsuits, stopped manufacturing Three Nuns Original altogether--some dandruffy accountant who understands only Goldman-Sacks economics must have felt the old Curly Classic didn't bring in enough billions to justify its princely existence.

So the situation is similar to that which obtains with Gallaher's Balkan Sobranie: the people who own the rights will NOT make it available, but will NOT allow anyone else to do so. SICK.

Martin McGahey, "The Tobacconist", of Exeter, England, however, sells, in bulk, something that he gets "from Germany someplace", which he calls, tantalisingly, BUCKLAND CURLIES, and which he coyly insists is JUST like Three Nuns: "If you mourn...Three Nuns,...let us bring your pipe alive"!

My hunch is that he gets it from the person[s] who supply DAN Tobacco, and sells it in Britain as a pseudonymous, "propietary" bulk blend. It isn't as if "Navy rolls" were a feature of every corner blender...

Now, why aren't American tobacconists as resourceful? Why SHOULDN'T somebody get Three Nuns from its European supplier and sell it here under some dumbass name?Whiskey Rebellion Pennies, or whatever?

Or is WESSEX' Sovereign Curly Cut the answer to my prayers?

The "Three Nuns MIXTURE" (ready-rubbed) which might still be available in Europe and Canada in a POUCH is a disgusting abomination in which the Périque flavour is sprayed on as a liquid, chemical, AROMATIC EXTRACT??a casing!!!! Batman, my guns!

We need a pipe knight with some gumption to give us boys some Nuns!


Note 8/21/2013

Blue Nuns was never just a Virginia-Périque blend. It always had some dark-fired burley, i.e., Kentucky. The new Orlik version has the depth and general body of the old blend but, lacking Périque, is simply NOT the old blend. It's OK, it's just not Three Nuns.
45 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 23, 2013 Medium to Strong Extremely Mild Medium to Full Pleasant
This is for the newly (re?)introduced Three Nuns from MacBarren. I am aware of the issue over the difference between the original versus the new versions of Three Nuns. Perique, no perique, etc. I have never had the opportunity to smoke the original version of this so I really can't comment on the differences. I received a tin of the new version recently. Upon opening it the first thing I noticed was a very strong and pleasant aroma of freshly mown hay. The appearance of the tobacco was a bit disappointing. The tin I received must have been jostled around quite a bit. I've seen photos of the beautiful coins as they are supposed to look. Mine was pretty well mashed together and it took some effort to separate them into (more or less) individual coins. This also resulted in a fair amount of loose tobacco which I suppose I could consider as pre-rubbed. I loaded a Savinelli Roma by placing some of the loose tobacco into the bottom of the bowl then stacking some intact coins on top of that. It did take a bit of work to get it lit but once it was it burned beautifully requiring no relights. I haven't been smoking a pipe for terribly long and I don't always detect some of the nuances I hear others talking about. In the case of Three Nuns I think I can honestly say I finally understand what people mean when they talk about the natural sweetness of Virginia. It came through beautifully throughout the entire smoke. There was a subtle smokiness (I assume from the Kentucky?), almost like what you find in Whiskey that gave it a nice depth of flavor that complimented the very subtle sweet. I liked this quite a lot and will enjoy playing around with packing it differently and maybe drying it just a tad.
32 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 10, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
I had a suitemate in college who smoked the original Three Nuns. It was a little expensive for me, but from time to time I had some of his, and liked it a lot. This was a long time ago and I don't trust my memory to be able to recall much of the original except that I do remember the coins were smaller and more firmly pressed.

This is just a great smoke. There is a tasty sweetness from the Virginia and a spicy, slightly smoky flavor from the Kentucky. It all works together very well. I don't think I found either the strength or the flavor as strong as some of the other reviewers. I am not tasting any topping - just Virginia and Kentucky goodness in a well-balanced blend.

This is really a 3.5 for me. There are blends I like more. This one really is in a must try category though. I highly recommend it. I am smoking it in a GBD pot as I type this, and that brings out the flavors better than some of the smaller bowls I have tried it with.
27 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 23, 2014 Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
The MacBaren version of Bell’s Three Nuns is another case of new wine in old skins, ie., same name, different tobacco blend than the name was made with. Still, IMO, they have managed to put together something good, despite the obvious differences from earlier, stronger iterations.

This new 3N shows a pile of small, “Navy Roll”-type coins packed in its round tin. Tin note is mild dates, figs and silage over well-melded, aged VAs and mild KY tobacco, along with the barest hint of citrus and something like the smell of a new pair of handmade leather shoes. I can easily pluck a couple of coins straight from the tin and spindle, stuff and light them in seconds. Once it’s lit, there is plenty of smoke, and it burns to a fine ash with regular tamping. It smells and tastes like a ramped-up version of the tin note, which is pretty nice. Forget the Perique, since there is none of that now (that I can detect). The smoke is “rich”, rather dry, and "creamy", like a mild cigar. There may be the smell of sweet bread baking, or it might be brats grilling, depending on who knows what(?), along with the base smell of the refined, aged VA/KY tobacco. There is a little white pepper, less cardamom, and still less anise added to the taste. It burns slowly, considering it is, defacto, a fine ribbon cut, and it seems to encourage me to take my time with it. Another reason to take it easy is that it can get rather hot as a bowl progresses. I like these VAs. They are well-balanced, rich/lite, and civilized; no barking dogs here. However, it is the Burly aspect of this mild KY that emerges for me, and the taste gets more tannic as it becomes nuttier; think, walnuts. The smoky and resin-y qualities of the KY are just present, and the usual KY pungency is restrained and condimental rather than primary, throughout the smoke. Flavors are varied, but the lot hardly varies, from beginning to end, with only a slight gain in “intensity” as the smoke progresses. It’s very well balanced, and it is rich if not deep or strong. It soothes and satisfies me, in a dreamy sort of way. Strength is more mild than medium, and tastes develop slowly from mild to medium, depending on how it’s smoked. If there is a “problem”, it’s that the whole thing is so balanced and pleasant that it might be over before one gets a bead on it. There is plenty enough going on for me, however, given even scant attention. Room note is pleasant. The aftertaste starts out as the best of the smoke and then gradually gets even better as the VA sugar builds; it is never strong, but it manages to hang on for some time, much to my delight.

No, this is not Grandfather’s Three Nuns. But I’m guessing Bell/MacBaren got much of what they were after, and the results speak for themselves. For one thing, this does come across like a “bygone” premium blend (albeit not Bell’s Three Nuns…). It might be a nice “All Day Smoke” for those who smoke all day, and I always want more when the best of the aftertaste kicks in. I recommend it first to Burly lovers, and then to VA/Bur smokers, as long as they are OK with significant tannin. Best for last: This is a VERY RELAXING smoke, if that’s something you’re after. Setting aside the price, rounded up to four stars.
Pipe Used: various briars; best kept cool...
PurchasedFrom: Liberty Tobacco
Age When Smoked: Fresh from the tin to 2 months in a jar
17 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 02, 2016 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
Bell's - Three Nuns.

Until today, I'd only smoked the pouched version, so I had the pouch's ready rubbed appearance in my mind. I've now noticed it says Curly Cut on most sites, but what can I say, I'm too lazy to read before buying LOL! Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised upon opening my tin: it wasn't a plain ready rubbed mixture, but a blend that's prominently made up of coins, there's a few ribbons, but I'd say they account for less than 20% of the contents. The moisture from this brand new tin is brilliant, so unless The Danish Pipe Shop have had it cellared for some time I'd say a fresh tin's good to go right away!

This is an exceptionally good smoke: the first good point is igniting it, that's an easy task and straight away the burn's even, level, and consistent. The temperature can't be faulted either, and nor can the speed (a regular issue with my way of piping). The nicotine's at a medium level, it only seems to be slightly more if I deliberately inhale some smoke, but not a by a great deal.

The flavour? Heavenly! Personally I find the Kentucky/Burley carries more weight than the Virginia: I get very little grass/citrus from the Virginia, but a lot from the Burley. The flavour lacks that fiery edge that often emanates from Kentucky, yet has more of the usual Burley me. I love it! I don't notice anything that I'd construe as a topping/casing/flavouring, it's a very pure smoke.

I absolutely adore Three Nuns, it's what I'd call a perfect smoke:

Highly recommended.
Pipe Used: Big Ben Bora
PurchasedFrom: The Danish Pipe Shop
Age When Smoked: New
13 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 05, 2014 Mild to Medium None Detected Full Very Pleasant
This review is of the MacBaren version of Three Nuns. It is an immensely flavorful, deeply sweet blend. Upon opening the tin I found the tobacco visually disappointing (only in the sense that the coins were almost all rubbed out: I found only three quasi-intact in the top layer). I doubt that the coins were rattled loose during packing or shipping, as it is very densely packed in the tin. The disappointment was quickly replaced by fascination at the deep, rich, dark fruit aromas wafting off the opened tin. The overall reddish caramel color was also very appealing. Flavor-wise, Three Nuns was surprising in that it was as delicious as it was pleasant. What I mean is that unlike many Virginia based blends I have tried, the soft sweetness of Three Nuns is perfectly accentuated by its immense depth and richness. It is sweet but also very creamy, in fact almost buttery or caramel-like. There is the subtlest background spice tinge, almost a delicate green peppercorn tang. It hides behind the huge Virginia flavor and just sort of peaks out at you every so often. All this makes for an absolutely delicious, approachable smoke with round body and big character. Tons of flavor, and all good. For me this lasted throughout the even-burning bowl of mostly-broken, partly crumbled, stacked coins. And it was a big bowl.
Pipe Used: Chacom Jura Oom Paul
Age When Smoked: New
13 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 17, 2009 Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
I recently finished a 15 year old tin of Three Nuns, the tin looking like the picture attached to this thread.

Smooth, elegant and refined are three words that come to mind when smoking this wonderful creation. I don't know what the newer version tastes like as I can't find any in the U.S, and I don't recall how this stuff smoked back in the early 1990's, but this aged version exhibits no imperfections or aberrations of any kind. The perique marries perfectly with the virginias and the very slight topping melds harmoniously with the leaf. I found it somewhat less sweet than the current crop of Escudo - more along the lines of Dunhill Elizabethan, as another reviewer noted. A darker flavor but with wonderful high notes, just not a sweet virginia. On the basis of one tin, I have to say that I prefer this to Escudo.

Smooth, elegant and refined! If you can find an old tin, sit back and enjoy! If you have a batch of newer tins, age a few of them. Hopefully they age now as well as they did 15 years ago.
10 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 11, 2017 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
Unfortunatelly haven't tried any of the earlier versions.this blend is a must!when you crack the tin you get rich virginia flavours combined with nice flavours from kentucky.the coins are very easy to handle and at proper moisture.lights easy and might need some relights.while smoking the flavours are rich and deep combining dark fruits,citruses,nuts and some sweet notes.burns cool and slow.never bit me.the nicotine level is medium.the room note is my opinion this is an all day blend.totally recommended !!
Age When Smoked: When opened
7 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 11, 2014 Medium Mild Medium to Full Tolerable
This is the same brand my Father and Grandfather used to smoke in the 70s, I have not tasted the old formula of this. But the new one is a very, very tasty option. Sweet and peppery at the same time. Round tin and not the square one I remember from back then.

I have bought a lot of different tobaccos this summer, but after three bowls of this, I went out and added another 5 tins of it to the storage and would probably have gotten this in more copious amounts if I had smoked it earlier.

The content of the tin was on opening a bit of broken and whole discs, which let me to experiment a bit with packing, as it is my first go at discs tobaccos, full discs in the bottom, with loose on top, full discs through the bowl, loose tobacco in the bottom... You get the drift, anyhow, my palate is not fine enough to detect any difference in taste regarding packing methode, nor did I experience any other hiccups with it, it is in my regards a cool and easy burning tobacco that burns all the way through the bowl with little moisture let-off. I could happily smokeThree Nuns and only Three Nuns for the rest of my days...
PurchasedFrom: Fredrik Tranter Tobacconists, Oxford
7 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 27, 2009 Medium Extremely Mild Medium to Full Very Pleasant
I'm amazed I haven't done this one on TR. 4 stars for the Three Nuns you buy today in the shops and smoke today in your for the the Three Nuns of yesteryear....tell it to my Grandfather who lies in a grave in Glendalough Co.Wicklow...he might be interested!
7 people found this review helpful.
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