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

3.10 / 4





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Displaying 1 - 10 of 238 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 07, 2012 Medium Extremely Mild Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
This first paragraph contains my review of the VaPer Three Nuns, which was in continuous production until the end of 2003. I smoked around a 130-150 pounds of the several versions (WW2, the 1980s through 2003) of this particular mixture, and while the 1990s and later manufactures had a tad less perique, this review is meant to describe the experiences I was most familiar with: The fermented Virginias provided a lot of rather tart and very tangy citrus, some tangy ripe dark fruit, wood and earth, a little grass and bread with a few light sour, floral, acidic, sugar notes. They took a small lead in the proceedings. The tingly perique was very spicy, earthy, with an abundance of stewed raisins, plums, figs and dates as a strong supporting player. The perique was about 18% of the mix, and played a little above that percentage in terms of effect. The woody, earthy, sweet, floral, herbal, vegetative, slightly nutty, mildly spicy Brazilian lights were just above being condiments. The very mild prune, rum and anise toppings lightly sublimated the tobaccos. The strength and taste levels were a step past the medium level. The nic-hit was medium. Wouldn’t bite, but sported a few small rough edges. The coin cut was loose enough that you could easily rub it out or stack them without getting a tight draw. Had just a little loose cut in the tin, too. Well balanced and very complex, it burned cool, clean and slightly slow with a very consistent, deeply rich sweet and spicy, lightly savory flavor that translated to the pleasantly lingering after taste and stronger room note. Despite its strength, it could almost be an all day smoke for the very experienced smoker. Four stars for this version.

This second paragraph is my review of the Orlik Va/Kentucky version (2004-2013), of which I smoked a couple of pounds: The Virginias offered semi-sweet tart and tangy citrus with slight sour, floral, acidic, and bread notes, a little grass and tangy ripe dark fruit, some earth, wood and few grains of sugar as the lead components. The woody, earthy, floral, mildly spicy, slightly nutty, slightly sweet Kentucky was a supporting player. The amount of Kentucky in the coins varied at times, but it usually ended up being around 18% of the blend. The woody, earthy, sweet, floral, herbal, vegetative, slightly nutty, mildly spicy Brazilian lights were condiments. The very mild prune, rum and anise toppings didn’t sublimate the tobaccos much, and seemed to be a tad less obvious than in the VaPer version. The strength and taste levels were medium. The nic-hit was a couple of steps past the center of mild to medium. Wouldn’t bite, but had a hint of a rough edge. The coin cut was loose enough that you could easily rub it out or stack them without getting a tight draw. Had just a little loose cut in the tin, too. Well balanced and mildly complex, it burned cool, clean and slightly slow with a very consistent, moderately rich sweet and spicy, slightly savory and sour flavor that translated the pleasantly lingering after taste and lightly stronger room note. It could be an all day smoke for the experienced smoker. Three stars for this version.

Mac Baren licensed the rights to manufacture Three Nuns in 2013. They used the Orlik VaKy formulation instead of the VaPer due to legal reasons. This review is for the current Mac Baren version: The light and dark Virginias provide a burst of tart and tangy, acidic citrus and grass, some wood and earth, a little tangy dark fruit and honey with hints of bread and floralness, and light sugar. They are more team players than they are the lead components. Giving them stiff competition and occasionally taking the lead is the very spicy, earthy, woody, rather floral, herbal, lightly nutty sweet, vegetative, dry and mildly sour dark fired Kentucky. The woody, earthy, sweet, floral, herbal, vegetative, nutty, mildly spicy Brazilian lights are barely condiments. The strength is medium, while the taste is a step past the mark. The nic-hit is a step short of the medium mark. Won’t bite or get harsh, but it does sport a few rough edges. The coins are inconsistent in size and shape, and the amounts of the varietals varies a bit in each one. Between that and the loose cut tobacco, the aforementioned aspects leads to some inconsistency in the overall sweet and spicy, acidic, mildly sour, lightly savory flavor. Burns clean, moderately cool, and a tad slow. Leaves little dampness in the bowl and requires a few more than an average number of relights. The after taste reflects the overall taste as it and the lightly stronger room notes pleasantly linger. Not an all day smoke but it is repeatable. Three stars.

Comparisons: the VaPer versions was tangier and more fermented than all other productions, and much spicier than the Orlik VaKy, which sported a very small amount of it. The spice in Mac Baren’s TN is almost as potent as the VaPer TN, but it’s a different spice. The perique had much more fruit than the other non-perique, which made the VaPer much sweeter than Orlik’s TN and a step sweeter than what Mac Baren makes. There’s more acidity in both VaKy blends than there was the VaPer TN. The Brazilian Lights are less prominent in Mac Baren’s than the others, which essentially equal each other in that respect. This is primarily because the dark fired Kentucky Mac Baren uses over powers them. In fact, the DFK has a stronger presence than the perique does in the older TN as well, which wrecks the flavor balance in the Mac Baren TN, and in comparison to the other better balanced productions. The VaPer was deeper and richer in flavor than what has followed. Mac Baren’s TN has the same strength and taste level as the VaPer, and both had more of each than the Orlik TN. The VaPer and Orlik’s were a little less sour than Mac Baren’s, and the VaPer was a little less so than what Orlik made.

The coin cut and amount of loose cut in the VaPer and Orlik VaKy were the same, except the VaPer tended to be more consistent in the distribution of tobaccos in each coin. The Mac Baren coins are bigger and more loosely held together with more loose cut tobacco in the tin. The Kentucky is generally more spread out in the coin rather than centered as in previous manufactures. Also, the toppings are much less obvious in the Mac Baren TN, and it has more honey than the others ever did. Essentially, Three Nuns has gone from the original Bell's blend to being a full fledged Mac Baren product that uses the VaKy Orlik recipe with their own tobaccos. The rating at this forum reflects the Mac Baren TN, and not the earlier incarnations.

131 people found this review helpful.
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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.
47 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.
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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.
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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
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 07, 2011 Medium to Strong Very Mild Medium Tolerable
Three Nuns without Périque... Three Nuns with Kentucky instead. Well why not substitute the latakia in Nightcap with black cavendish - afterall it does have the same color to a degree.

Why on earth have Orlik done this? As far as I know, they do have Périque in stock - cf. Nightcap, Deluxe Navy Roll and so on and so forth.

Okay, so let me rename this blend to Nee Thruns and get on with my review here.

This comes a bit too wet out of the tin, so I let it dry for six hours. This did the trick.

I do tend to stick too smooth VAs; you know, flakes with that natural sweet cookie-like aroma. This is dry, stout and peppery, but also musty and heavy further down the bowl. Nee Thruns is not sweet at all, and the pungent dried fruit aroma, from Three Nuns by Bell's, is no more.

It has this leathery cigar-like touch to it and I really don't like it. Actually, there's nothing "niceness" (to use hip lingo) to this blend, except for the high nicotine level. It does handle, pack and burn like a dream though.

If you like Three Nuns, don't try Nee Thruns.

Jakob Kiilerich, Denmark
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 02, 2002 Medium Mild Medium Pleasant
This blend was sampled at a recent pipe club meeting I attended, and the reviews were generally very good. It seemed that the blend was enjoyed most by those who do not smoke aromatics of any kind, and maybe that's why they enjoyed the straight forward smoke of the Nuns.

If you enjoy this stuff, you will be one of the minions who do. It's certainly one of the all-time classics (but, not if I was voting!)
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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
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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
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 05, 2015 Medium to Strong Medium Medium to Full Pleasant

Well today is my first of many pipe tobacco reviews, hope you enjoy the experience as much as I did in reviewing for you. My first review is on McBarens/Bell's Three Nuns: Blend: Virginia/Dark fired Kentucky blend Cut: Small loose cut coins Tin Note: Leathery/Smoke scent Tin size: 1.75 oz. Rating: 4 Strength: Medium/medium full Flavoring: Leathery/woodsy campfire notes Taste: Smooth, slight sweetness from the Virginia leaf, slight bite to it. Room note: Pleasant/smooth/inoffensive Notes: Out of the tin seems a little moist. Dried it for 30 minutes and much better smoke. Smoked it whole coins with fold and stuff method as well as rubbed it out. Both ways were very pleasant to smoke with some various results. Both ways ended up with a very smooth smoke. With whole coins I noticed a more of a hit of smokiness/leathery of the Kentucky leaf then at times you get the sweetness from the Virginia coming thru at different times. Very nice that way, also when I rubbed it out I noticed more of a constant complex robust taste from both leaves. Either way the pipe only needed a few lights thru out the smoke, didn't get too hot. I recommend this blend for a all day smoke I don't think you will be disappointed at all. Will be on my rotation of tobacco to have. Hope you all enjoy your day and as always keep on puffin !!!!

As a added review from a non pipe smoker I have my wife add her review as to the Room notes as I think most reviewers never actually add a opinion from a non pipe smoker. I personally think this is important:

As the wife of a pipe smoker I find certain tobacco's are more pleasing than others. The smells for the non-pipe smoker are important too. 3 Nuns for me is a pleasing smell. When my husband lit this blend I sat up and said, "honey, that is old man tobacco in all the right ways!" It had a rich subtle odor that made me visualize of an old library or office, rich with the smell of books and leather and intermingled with the fine elderly gentleman smoking a pipe as he read his paper or book. There was nothing musty or frumpy about it. It was a clean, crisp, rich smell that filled the room with comfort and warmth. I am definitely not going to complain when my husband lights this tobacco again. I will however, reserve the right to buy him a Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe to go with it!

~ The Pipe-smokers Wife

Pipe Used: Eric Berks hand made freestyle briar pipe
PurchasedFrom: Sutliff
Age When Smoked: new
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