McClelland Syrian Full Balkan

Syrian Latakia is prized for its unique, exotic fragrance. It adds a magnificent, rich aromatic character to this mild, cool smoking, elegant Balkan blend.
Notes: For those not familiar with Syrian latakia, Syrian Full Balkan may seem to be misnamed, but the more delicate flavor of the Syrian variety is definitely noticeable, here. This form of latakia (the original kind) is smoked with oak and herbs, utilizing a varietal called Shek-al-Bint. Wonderful Orientals add an exotic quality, while excellent Virginias lend some sweetness, but the spicy smokiness of the Syrian latakia is what makes this blend special.


Brand McClelland
Blended By McClelland Tobacco Company
Manufactured By McClelland Tobacco Company
Blend Type Balkan
Contents Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Packaging 50 grams tin
Country United States
Production No longer in production


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

Average Rating

2.73 / 4





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Displaying 1 - 10 of 40 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 29, 2014 Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant
Ribbon cut of mostly black with some mahogany thrown in. Delicate tin aroma of a bit of the typical McClellands aroma, some aromatic orientals and the herbaceous, kind of "incense-y" aroma of Syrian latakia, a condiment with which I'm really just now exploring. Easy to load but I did find that I had to relight fairly often, as I preferred the flavor of this one when it contained some decent moisture content.

It's unfortunate name aside - perhaps the reference to "full" in this case really means that it isn't a "partial" Balkan, whatever that may mean - this is a mild and mellow blend but with a rich depth of flavor. McClellands is masterful at creating such mixtures that are easy on the palate, yet have a burst of flavor that keeps the taste buds hopping. Royal Cajun Ebony is another case in point. The latakia here is not of the smoky, woodsy variety of its Cyprian cousin, but rather a lightly spicy flavor with a very mild peppery quality. It melds beautifully with the orientals. And this one shows that not all tobaccos should be sipped slowly, as various internet pundits dubiously insist. Plop this one in a thimble-sized Group 3 while pushing for a 2 hour smoke and you'll miss the point. I found this needs to cook at a somewhat higher temp in a large bowl for best effect.

Surprisingly excellent blend, and is in the running for Best Tobacco Discovery of 2014 for me. Obviously, more is headed to my cellar. I need to try more Syrian blends! Is this really a Balkan? Well, if you're the type to argue for days over whether a particular pipe shape is a Rhodesian or a Bulldog, feel free to concern yourself. I just think this is a great blend, misleading name or not.
Pipe Used: meerschaum and morta
Age When Smoked: 1 year
17 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 08, 2006 Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant
The Syrian here, compared to the original is all fizzle and no sizzle. I'm not sure if the comparison was fair though, because I was hoping for the flavor I remembered from many moons ago. Certainly a full Balkan style blend with all the right elements blended together well. It's just that nostalga is a hard thing to give up. So, this one gets three stars.
9 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 23, 2015 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
Fragrant smooth Latakia , very "McC like" in the way the Latakia is used, not harsh or overpowering. Notes of coffee and chocolate make for an interesting background to the smoke. The Syrian Latakia is well balanced with the Virginias and makes for a sweet and sour fruitiness rather than a charcoal campfire flavor that I find more in a style of a C&D Cyprian Latakia offerings ( ex. Pirate kake). As compared to a C&D Latakia , I wouldn't really call this as FULL, which is typical of McC's offerings. Depending on my mood, I like both of these styles of Latakia use, but I feel this is easier to take as an all day smoke.

The above notes indicate the use of other Orientals in this blend, but these hide in the background and do not produce a spice. I find this feature makes for a blend that is nice for mornings as well as late night when my tongue has had enough of other blends. I don't want to come across as if this blend is bland, it still produces plenty of flavor and interest , even during relights. It doesn't have that "one" dominant feature, but rather is a blend that after your done with the bowl you say , " gee , I think I'll have another before moving on" ( wish this came in bulk)

Agree with reviewer "DK" review,. I don't understand all the 1& 2 star reviews, I think the "FULL" in the name is misleading.
Pipe Used: cob
Age When Smoked: 3 weeks open
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 29, 2010 Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant
I think that if everyone would just try Full Balkan in a larger bowl, and pack a little tighter, a whole new tobacco would emerge for them! I first tried it in a little Savinelli billiard, and had much the same experience as most on here- unimpressed and in disbelief that McClelland would make such a flavorless blend. Then I got out my big (for me) Peterson 01, packed it snug, and voila! There was the richness and smokiness I was looking for. Keep in mind that the Syrian Latakia is more subtle than the Cyprian we're all used to, and I wish the Orientals were more abundant. This isn't Penzance. This is a little more contemplative, a little less knock-your-socks-off. I'd be interested in knowing if this works for anyone else! If it doesn't, I'll eat my own foot. And part of someone elses.
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 24, 2017 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
For the original Latakia, this is an increasingly rare treat and interestingly enough for the newest generation of pipe smokers this Latakia is not what most people would consider the "real" Latakia. For the record I make the reference to real in the literal sense, Syrian Latakia is the original Latakia. I realize that Cyprian is the current norm and understand the reasons that has become the norm, I only mention it in the nostalgic and historical sense. The tin note is very appealing and not what you would expect, especially after visual inspection, this is a ribbon cut with loads of black ribbons of Latakia. The sweet spicy Latakia is evident and the typical McClelland Virginia is NOT as pronounced, in fact it is barely noticeable (the ketchup smell). Sweet lemony Virginia's and woody Orientals are evident in the tin note. The smoke is quite amazing. This is a very subtle, mellow smoke. Not a Lat bomb in the current vernacular. This is sweet and spicy (spicy like loaded with spices, not hot and peppery). The Syrian Latakia is among the best I ever had. I love HH Vintage Syrian and the quality of this leaf seems superior. This is slightly smokey and sweet and the sweetness is like that of molasses and honey. The Virginia's provide additional sweetness and some breadth and lemony notes while the Orientals provide wood (Cedar and Hickory). Their is a slight sourness from the Orientals as well. The magic is in the blend, this is masterfully blended, the select leaf from each category work to support one another in a way that they seem to blend together completely to form singular and unique favor. There is a malt flavor that hits you from the charring light and stays with you throughout the smoke. There is also a seltzer/soda like flavor on the retrohale. As stupid as this may sound this is what I picture the original Balkan Sobranie Smoking Mixture was like. This is a world class pipe tobacco and it pains me to know that the the tins are likely all sold and gone and what I have is it for me. If you can find it, buy it.
Pipe Used: Briars, Meerschaum and cobs
PurchasedFrom: B&M
Age When Smoked: 3 years
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 02, 2015 Mild Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
Having enjoyed Wilderness, I decided to try several other blends using Syrian Latakia. When opening the tin of Full Balkan, I found it quite pleasant and mild. After lighting some, I found the taste and feel of it matched the tin aroma. I'll admit, it almost seemed too mild or subtle in flavor at first, but I trusted that with time and some mindfulness of what could be expected, that it would yield more. It did. Full Balkan needs for you to relax and submit to its gentle flavors and mouth feel. It strikes the palate like a mildly-briny single malt like Inchgower does. It truly has a smoky-wine taste, and the feel is very much like Dark Star or other mild tobaccos (Yenidje, or any good red Virginias). I've smoked about half of the tin in the past month, and I've finally arrived at a positive appreciation of this blend. It helps to be in the mood for a mild, subtle tobacco when you decide to smoke this, rather than for something richer like a Va-Per or something with Kentucky leaf. I've enjoyed the Full Balkan so much that I'll continue my enjoyment of Syrian Latakia blends with a tin of Three Oaks Syrian I've just received.
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 28, 2015 Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant
I agree with many reviewers...not really a FULL Balkan. Syrian Balkan or Syrian Mild Balkan would've been more descriptive. Nevertheless, not a bad tobacco.

Tin: Opening the tin you're greeted with a dark tobacco. I noted a spicy, curry (maybe masala) and turmeric aroma. Very little smokiness which one would've expected from the Latakia.

Taste: On first light, sweet notes were evident; kind off like toasted (dark) cocoa/chocolate. Together with the curry-like aroma, I could taste something like chilli-chocolate. As you progress through the bowl, the spiciness becomes more evident and even the smell of burning wood (like in camp fire). Definitely a mild tobacco.

The first bowl was indeed more disappointing than the following few bowls I had. But I got to like it more and more as I smoked more bowls of this.

EDIT: Every next bowl was indeed better than I thought. Get to start liking it more.

EDIT: 10/2015 - Tin aroma today while opening a new, I was greeted with a new sense of zesty, all spice aroma; kind-off like the fruit cake / mince pie aromas.
Pipe Used: Savinelli & Pietenpauw
Age When Smoked: 4 years
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 17, 2005 Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Very Pleasant
Feb. 2005 update: This has really "just medium" taste, as it just reaches the medium flavor threshold. There is plenty of flavor, just not a symphony or wild-Balkan rhapsody

The Orientals and Virginia leaf are really more prominent here, but the Latakia is certainly no shirker. I think the name leads Latakia lunatics to expect Latakia apparitions to float from the bowls of their pipes.

It is simply not full and rich like Caravan, Odyssey, Balkan Sasieni, or even as deep tasting as McClelland's own bulk Balkan (which can be a little oily or sooty, though nice for the price).

It is not Pirate Kake or Old Ironsides in terms of Latakia. It is an all-day Balkan with lively Virginia and Oriental leaf. Where this will land in the elusive Balkan Hall of Fame competition, time will tell. It is worth your attention.


SFB burns to pure white ash and can be smoked throughout the day without penalty. SFB delivers clouds of smoke and demands exhaling through the nose. It is so satisfying that one bowl is enough, even hours after it has been consumed. Smokes very cool and dry.

The first third of a bowl is a lively interplay between the Virginia, Oriental and Latakia. There is lots of flavor from the beginning.

The mid-way point has the Latakia and Oriental taking turns charming you. The Virginia leaf moves to the rear seat. The Syrian leaf is herbaceous, smoky, and nutty. The Oriental contribution is manageably tangy and for moments a plastic-type odor comes and goes.

The last third to the end is more spicy, tangy and rich than at any point in the smoke. Never mercilessly sharp or sooty, this nonetheless gets close to edgy. I like it.

While lacking the familiar "ketchup" smell associated with McClelland Virginias, it has an unmistakable McClelland tang when whiffing the contents of the tin. McClelland flue-cured leaf is just amazingly special and delicious.

The lack of a heavy, Latakia smokiness in the tin aroma betrays the smoking properties SFB exhibits. There is more Latakia here than is found in most medium English blends.

This is easy to load, keep lit and enjoy outdoors as well as indoors. SFB is in the upper echelon of pipe tobacco blends in terms of quality, enjoyment and blending expertise.

Go for Penzance, Da Vinci, Mississippi Mud or Bow-Legged Bear if you desire Latakia dominance. Get King Charles, Margate, Red Rapparee, Durbar, Aperitif, and Crown Achievement if you want Orientals up front and controlling. My Mixture 965, Early Morning Pipe, Squadron Leader, Renaissance (though it is pretty nicely balanced), and Dorisco keep the Virginia varietals in charge.

Hello, McClelland: How about 8 oz. tins?
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 16, 2016 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Strong
Upon popping the tin, I was greeted with the familiar McVinegar of McClelland Virginias and the overt mustiness of McClelland Orientals and Syrian Latakia. To be honest, when I cracked it I actually found the odor displeasing, but the strength of the smell subsided after a few days and I actually looked forward to the "twangy" smells in this blend.

After smoking this blend almost exclusively over the past week and a half to two weeks, it has definitely grown on me. I have smoked other blends with Syrian Latakia in them (e.g. Gordon Pym, HH Vintage Syrian, and Orient 996), and I have liked them, Syrian Full Balkan was quite a bit different from those. This is a very dark Latakia mixture with very faint sweetness to it. Sour and dark are the two words that come to my mind every time I smoke it. I think I may actually prefer Orient 996 to this, but I need to spend more time with the Orient be certain.

As I stated earlier, this blend did grow on me, but it took a good deal of smoking it before I actually "got it." It is full of interesting flavors and is a very contemplative smoke. However, I must say that I prefer the tobaccos that I can light and enjoy without having to think too much while doing so. I think that's why I smoke; silently puffing and thinking of other things. Anyway, the wife thinks it smells dreadful, so I'll be cautious...

Pipe Used: Comoy's "Guildhall" Billiard
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 08, 2015 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
I have to wonder if McClelland's Syrian Full Balkan really has Syrian in it since it is so smooth. This is my first Syrian blend although I have been smoking pipes for around 40 years. Very smooth and tasty with a wine like taste and an incense like aroma. My tin was dated 2005 so it had ten years of age on it. I would not hesitate to recommend this blend to anyone that enjoys Balkans.

"May my last breath be drawn through a pipe, and exhaled in a jest." - Charles Lamb

Age When Smoked: 10 Years
3 people found this review helpful.
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