McClelland Wilderness

This remarkable blend formulated by Fred Hanna provides a multi-layered, rich, taste experience. The highest quality Syrian latakia combines with a small amount of Cyprian to form the base for an exquisite array of rare and precious Orientals - sweet Drama, exotic Yenidje, and more. Red Virginias complement the blend, adding sweetness, richness, strength, and creaminess. Smoke this mixture and listen for the echoes of savored memories.


Brand McClelland
Series Collector Series
Blended By Fred Hanna
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


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

Average Rating

3.61 / 4





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Displaying 1 - 10 of 61 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 01, 2011 Medium None Detected Mild Very Pleasant
I popped the tin of Wilderness in great anticipation. I had previously smoked a tin of Legends, which is the companion blend to Wilderness and created by the same tobacco chef (Dr. Fred Hanna), and I went bug-eyed bonkers over that one. I stuck my nose within a whisker of the leaf and took a long whiff... Oops, there went some drool.

I plucked a bowlful of leaf from the tin. I then spread it out on a sheet of paper and somehow managed restraint and let the broad ribbon cut tobacco greet the fresh Texas air for about 15-minutes. I then carefully loaded up my pipe. At the match (well, my Old Boy lighter), a thick cloud of creamy, rich smoke began to fill my office. I took a few long, slow pulls. I don't know how deep an ocean is, but this tobacco surely matches its depth with a starburst of flavors. The delightful Oriental presence made itself know immediately. The sweet Yenidje and bold Drama interplay was stellar as was the leathery background provided by the highest of quality Syrian and Cyprian Latakia. My tongue was also occasionally washed with the Virginia addition that always supported, but never interfered with the star players.

What would I compare Wilderness to? Nothing. It is that wonderfully unique. As long as I have an opened tin of Wilderness within easy reach I know this is going to be a wonderful New Year!
30 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 09, 2014 Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
A complex English where all the flavors work together without crowding each other out. The spice, floralness, wood, earth, and light sourness from the Orientals are noticeable from the first puffs, as are the smokey, woody, earthy sweet (wine-like) Syrian and (musty) Cyprian Latakias. The Yenidje provides slight soda, dry, woody, earthy, floral notes. The red Virginia is tangy dark fruit sweet with some wood and earth, with barely a hint of the famous McClelland "vinegar" essence. The Turkish lurks in the background, adding an ever present woody, smokey, earthy, floral, lightly dry depth. Being that this is not a Latakia-dominant mixture, it's milder than you might expect. The nic-hit is a couple slots past the mild mark. The strength is a couple of steps past the center of mild to medium, while the taste just reaches the medium level. Won't bite or get harsh. I rate the taste as "medium" more for the spice content than the strength of the Latakias. Burns at a slow to moderate pace, cool, clean, smoothly creamy sweet and a little savory with a fairly consistent flavor. Leaves a little moisture in the bowl, but no dottle. Requires a few relights. Has a pleasant, short lived after taste. Almost an all day smoke.

25 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 21, 2011 Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Tolerable
To me, Wilderness is Frog Morton camping. It is an exceedingly mild English blend with grand ambition, apparent in the use of rare Turkish leaf, Yenidje and Drama, which add a wonderful spice to the smoke. I admire McClelland for their ability to take risks, and I would say that having Fred Hanna concoct his own mixes with their best leaf easily demonstrates McClelland's commitment to extending the breadth of fine pipe tobaccos.

But as usual, I have problems with McClelland English blends. They are simply too light for my tastes and I find myself puffing at a ridiculous pace in an effort to absorb enough nicotine. I know that not everyone feels this way, those that seek flavor more so than strength, and I extend an enthusiastic recommendation to these people. For a mild English, Wilderness really is hard to beat, and I think fans of the Frog Morton line will find this a truly exotic, novel creation that may present a pathway to appreciating greater complexity.

So, my "two star" rating in no way suggests that Wilderness is an average blend--it's not. One should only read the relevant (and fascinating) Smoker's Forum posts to understand Fred's passion in its creation, and the deep respect his fans have shown in their embrace of the blend. Yet in my own drive, I find it a bit difficult to fill my pipe with Wilderness, often going for inferior, yet stronger mixes that populate my cabinet. It is these second choices that will compete with Wilderness when my favorites are on back order.

Smoking the blend now in a large bowled Peterson billiard, I am happy for having gone the other route, though I know I will run into the same, conflicting motivations when the time comes to fill my pipe with another English.

*** Update

Well, it's taken me nearly half a year to finish off this tin, and the last two bowls, smoked in quick succession, have warmed me up to Wilderness. I wouldn't call it a favorite, but I have to appreciate the Turkish component, which puts the blend in the same category as Russ's Magnum Opus, different and powerful. It gets in your face and reminds you that you're smoking something special. I still do have some problems with the blend--it starts off kind of so-so and the mildness is always evident. But about a third in when those Orientals kick in it's a sublime smoke. I have a hard time placing the Syrian leaf, but it's not a problem, anyhow. The smokey Latakia flavor is always in the background for me. One bowl left...I think my vacation is coming to an end.

*** Update

A day later and I'm just about finishing that last bowl. Wilderness went from a hated to loved blend in a very short time and I can't quite understand what I missed through the majority of the tin. Perhaps my ability to appreciate Oriental blends has matured, and my desire for overwhelming nicotine doses and Latakia bloat have declined. In any event, this is an excellent Oriental blend--and I say that because the leaf seems to me the most prominent in the mix. Now I'll have to go and reorder based on this brief window of experience. Tastes can change dramatically, I have found, and while I know that to be true, usually my opinions flop in the opposite direction, from Loved to Hated. I have learned to appreciate the Wilderness--sorry for the lousy joke.
17 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 22, 2014 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
This English is lead by the Virginias and Orientals with the Latakia providing a strong base. There is a nice amount of sweetness, but I wouldn't quite call it a sweet English. The wonderful Orientals counter-balance that sweetness to a certain degree. My tin was slightly dry and just the way I like it for immediate smoking. Lights well and burns great. Mild to medium in body. Medium in taste. Although I could easily detect the McBBQ in the tin note I couldn't taste it in the flavor. This isn't my favorite type of English, but I found myself enjoying every bowl. It's a great smoke.
Pipe Used: MM General, MM Country Gentleman
Age When Smoked: fresh
11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 18, 2010 Medium Extremely Mild Mild to Medium Tolerable
Well, this is certainly an interesting treat. This sublimely mellow, smooth concoction is full of wonderful, diverse flavors, burns well, and simply won't bite. And what the heck is it? Perhaps a fine medium Blakan with a creative twist, it would seem.

The first half of this smoke is intriguingly outdoorsy and flavorful, true to its namesake. It blatantly displays a brilliant interplay of Syrian and cyprian latakia, which truly does create an intense sensory experience of pine...pine cone pitch, pine sap, pine needles, slightly sweet and not bitter in any way. This is not the dull two-dimensional bludgeoning that excessive doses of cyprian alone can effect. The intoxicatingly interesting, slightly sweet pine sap notes are wonderfully tempered by a smooth smokiness as well, much like a small pinewood fire burning lightly in the open air of a pine forest. Wilderness indeed, or perhaps we could call it Campfire Companion. The orientals are pleasant, smooth, tasty, and very much in the background....until...about 2/3 of the way down the bowl, an oriental bomb goes off. After doing an extensive tour with all of McClelland's Grand Orientals, and having several of them in my regular rotation, I immediately recognized mild, sweet, tangy Yenidje and what seemed more like mild, savory Katerini than Drama leaf, in big doses which come solidly to the forefront together. Excellent! Peppered with hits of latakia bits all the way to the bottom of the bowl, which rounds out the orientals, the overall experience remains smooth, rich, mellow and flavorful, preserving some of the pine forest suggestions right to the end. The pleasant aftersmoke taste is undeniably that of the tasty orientals, which firmly but gently control the last third of the smoke without totally displacing the latakia. Quite unique and tasty, an easy three and a half stars. Pine wilds, indeed, and yet another delightful application of Syrian latakia. If you like the flavor of Syrian latakia and enjoy the oriental-forward smoke experience of a blakan over a traditional english, check this one out. I'm glad I did.

(update 9-27-10) My initial opinion of this excellent blend hasn't changed in the slightest. In fact, I've been enjoying it so much I've ordered more tins, some to cellar. I'm upgrading this to four stars, as I can't imagine how I'd improve on it. This isn't just power of suggestion, clever marketing, an appealing name, and handsome packaging. The refreshing pine needle essence of this smoke from the perfect dose of Syrian begs you to go out into a pine forest on a still, cool evening and savor it slowly. It mingles intoxicatingly and seamlessly with the dense, woodsy air. And it lights and burns so well I doubt even Smokey the Bear could kill this campfire. An outstanding smoking experience, masterfully crafted. It is firmly in my rotation and I sincerely look forward to savoring it in the cooler months ahead.

(update 10-25-10) All verbose blithering aside...Dang, this is tasty stuff! This and Three Oaks Syrian have become fixtures around these parts, along with welcome visits from Samovar and New Century.

(update 3-17-2013) This blend has become widely acknowledged and appreciated. I was lucky enough to be turned on to it when it was first released, and my impressions have remained consistent. It is a top-five favorite solidly in my rotation, more for what it isn't than what it is. This is not intended to be an overpowering english or a gagging, monotone cyprian lat bomb. My initial appreciation for the pine sap qualities may be from the use of pine gum essence in the blend (from boiled pine pitch), among many other subtle but unique techniques and ingredients in the blend. If you have Wilderness and are having a less than positive experience, try a different pipe, by all means!

A good review of this excellent blend can be found here:
11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 22, 2014 Medium None Detected Very Full Pleasant to Tolerable
I want to start off by saying this is not Balkan Sobranie ... thankfully. While I believe the hype surrounding Balkan Sobranie was more about it's absence than it's essence, I have enjoyed it more than once. Wilderness is its own blend, and has its own character. Are there components that are similar to BS? .. sure, one can distinguish throughout the smoke the hits of elements synonymous what what BS offers. But this blend is a much fuller and complex blend IMHO. The name "Wilderness" is apt indeed as the tobacco imparts flavors and essence to remind one of a deep green forest of pine with a few patches of hard oak. The blend is remarkable. The Syrian Lat offers a sublime smoky foundation that is sprinkled with a touch of juniper. The orientals rise quickly to the surface to infuse the palate with sandalwood and mid-Eastern incense. The relatively small amount of VA offers a delicate and subtle sweetness that can be missed the smoker is not paying attention, though it marries to the sweet pungency of the Drama to create a new creature that dances across the foundation of dark earth and pine needles like Autumn leaves on October's wind. All of these delightful components infuse the senses in waves of differentiation like a Tchaikovsky concerto. The richness of Wilderness' essence can often be strong, but not overpowering, as its music takes us from elegance to climax, and back again.

One previous review demonstrates the faceted construct of this blend by offering 3 reviews at three different time periods. He begins by experiencing only a glimpse of rich taste Wilderness imparts, then later realizes he has missed a great deal, and finally understands that he had only begun to explore the enigma of this blend. Prevalent in oriental and Syrian elements, if you enjoy a tobacco rich and full of flavor, you are sure to enjoy this blend.
Pipe Used: Cavicchi, Dunhill, Ferndown
Age When Smoked: 1 year
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 16, 2011 Mild Strong Medium to Full Tolerable
There's Propylene Glycol in this and far too much of it in my view. A lot of blenders use the stuff, and is generally considered a safe food additive. Of course aromatics are swimming in the stuff, which is one reason why I stay away from them.

Propylene Glycol is a mild flavour enhancer, in addition to moisture management for those who don't care about managing their blends after popping the seal.

One can tell by looking at the leaves, they are too shiny, colours are too rich, and a bit spongy. You can also tell by chewing some of it, a slightly sweet taste similar to balsamic vinegar.

I had some McClelland non-sealed tins which I forgot about in a drawer for fifteen years or so with only the snap-lid on them and they're still supple and moist.

Propylene Glycol obviously keeps things moist for a ridiculously long time. It also enhances the combustion with a cooling effect, all the leaves combust slowly and evenly, around the same temperatures. It also contributes to mouth feel with a slight creaminess, basically because your converting it into a steam vapour and it cools again in your mouth, thus coating it.

Of course there is a trade-off, it obscures the tin-nose a lot. This is quite obvious with Wilderness. And the colours no longer look natural. It also messes things up flavour-wise about mid-bowl when the wheels seem to fall off the bus and the flavour completely shuts down. I also found this blend hard to keep alight thanks again to the PG.

The first third of of this blend was pleasant, interesting Orientals layered and complex reminded me somewhat of Pease's Odyssey. The remaining thirds it totally fall apart water-logged in PG.

Regardless enjoy your mileage may vary, mine certainly did. If McClelland insist on adding this much PG to their blends I'll quite buying them.
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 12, 2011 Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant
Tan-to-brown-to-black in color, a beautiful looking ribbon cut with an astounding tin nose. Light but pungent, there is no doubt of the presence of Syrian latakia. A lighter tasting version of its Cyprian brother, Syrian adds a wine-like taste and bouquet.

Well, this didn't bring to mind any long-lost blends of yesteryear, but it stands pretty well on its own. I wasn't as impressed with the flavor and smokability of this one as I was its Fred Hanna stablemate, Legends, but this is certainly a worthy blend. It may be more complex than Legends. There was a pretty active tapestry of flavors weaving in and out, with the Syrian latakia adding its usual mild sourness and piquency. The orientals were of the spicy variety, which made the overall picture gel. I found this one a little difficult to smoke when I wasn't paying attention, as the blend forced me to deal with it. As I said, this is one active blend that didn't seem to want to rest. However, the flavor was far from assertive. I wouldn't have objected to a little more "oomph".

As with Legends, a pretty good smoke but nothing I'll smoke again too often. The oriental/latakia market is booming (although Syrian seems to be the provenance of one U.S blender) and there just isn't enough boldness here, even amidst the activity. But if you want a good tasting smoke that is very complex and you like a mild blend, this one could be for you.
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 20, 2010 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
Fred Hanna has created an absolute masterpiece in his new Wilderness blend. When I finish a bowl, I just can't wait until the next one! This is one of the most flavorful blends I've had in a while and in my opinion destined to become a legend (wait...that's the name of his other blend...hmmm...)

One might think the star of the show is the Syrian latakia, which is close to the truth, but the orientals Fred chose ("sweet Drama, rare Yenidje, and more") put it over the top. There is a buttery toastiness that starts at first match and doesn't stop. There is a hint of lingering Virginia sweetness but that is not what will appeal to people with this blend. By no means a LAT bomb, yet woodsy, rich, and deep, one of the most complex blends I've had in a while.

The Virginias stick with their supporting role and never really make much noise. The interplay of the two types of Latakia with the Oriental weed is absolutely delicious and entertaining. I find myself concentrating just to try to identify the myriad flavors that present themselves as the bowl progresses. It certainly gains some strength during the last third, and a bit more finesse and attention to technique are required to keep the flavors flowing. But Wilderness is good to the last drop.

A true desert island - or wilderness - blend for me!
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 30, 2015 Mild to Medium Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
In a newly opened tin, Wilderness looks and smells at first like a spot-on, “deluxe” light/medium English (not a Balkan), with nice, plump, variegated ribbons and an excellent balance of perfume-y Latakia and mild Orientals just over a well-chosen assortment of smooth VAs. However, keeping after the scent, I began to suspect that much of what smells so “good” at first is “enhancements” rather than tobacco, per se (not that I care, if I like the results). As usual, I started out by smoking a bowlful of this blend pulled straight out of a new tin and stuffed into a good briar, and then I went on to try everything I could think of to make it better. Wilderness is typical of the McC blends I’ve tried in that it takes both patience and perseverance to light it and keep it burning through an entire bowlful. That accomplished, the best of this blend for me is at first match, when it smells and tastes like the initial tin note, sans accumulated, combusted additives. After the char, re-light follows re-light, and/or there is lots of stoking and fussing with it. There is ample, fragrant smoke when W is fully lit, and the tastes remain well balanced, of a piece, with the Lat slightly on top, then the Orientals, followed by the VAs, and it stays rather mild for most of a bowl. Basically, there is more (and less) going on here than tobacco. Though I continue to enjoy the tobacco-ish tastes, an “oily”, “chemical” taste increases and ultimately coats my mouth, taking more and more away from the best of W until about the 7/8 mark, when – oddly – the oiliness abates, or it is finally overtaken by something other than propylene glycol. By this time the tobacco tastes have morphed somewhat, and the lot is a little more “bracing” and very slightly bitter, though not in a bad way. The Lat, Orientals and VAs are all still “there” in good proportions; that never really changes, and I like that part of W. Strength is mild to medium; tastes are the same. Room note is pleasant. Aftertaste is a mixed bag, best and worst of the smoke that fades away fairly quickly.

Propylene glycol is not just a common humectant, it is the MSG of pipe tobacco, and McC is known to use more of the stuff than a cheap Chinese restaurant. So, is this my biggest problem with Wilderness? I dunno. Let me just say, “it’s not the Wilderness; it’s me”, since I can’t think of a pipe tobacco I’ve enjoyed more and less at the same time, apart from maybe Irish Flake, and in that case the cognitive dissonance I experienced had similar causes, but I was more impressed with the positives, overall. Anyway, I sort of hate to do it, but if I stick to my usual TR rating system (explained in my profile), then I have to say, I can see where others might enjoy this, but I’m done with it; ie., a tepid 2 stars from me. I’ll probably bring what’s left of my tin back to my tobacconist for use as a sampler, to serve as a free/fair warning to others. From now on, the only way I’m trying another McClelland tobacco is if it’s free. Since I paid for this one, and I smoked it in good faith, I’m speaking my piece.
Pipe Used: various briars
PurchasedFrom: Liberty Tobacco
Age When Smoked: from a newly opened tin
5 people found this review helpful.
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