Mac Baren HH Old Dark Fired

A bold flake of dark-fired burleys in a well balanced unity with flue cured Virginias. This flake is hot pressed, meaning that during the pressing, heat is added by steam to the tobaccos which causes the tobacco to intensify the marrying process giving us a bolder tobacco. The robust, earthly flavour of the dark-fired burleys shines through in the taste, and you will experience a deeply satisfying smoke indeed.
Notes: One of the most fascinating parts about this tobacco that will be sure to confuse a lot of American pipe smokers is that, despite the fact that HH Old Dark Fired contains zero latakia, Mac Baren still considers it an English because of the method used in its production, specifically the steam press.


Brand Mac Baren
Blended By Per Jensen
Manufactured By Mac Baren
Blend Type Virginia/Burley
Contents Burley, Kentucky, Virginia
Cut Flake
Packaging 50 grams tin, 100 grams tin, 1 pound box
Country Denmark
Production Currently available


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

Average Rating

3.55 / 4





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Displaying 11 - 20 of 250 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 01, 2014 Medium None Detected Full Tolerable
MacBaren HH Old Darkfired (Burley/Va Flake)

When I first shopped for this blend, I was gently forewarned it was for experienced smokers, and after enjoying most of a 100g tin, I’m inclined to partially agree, mostly on account of its burning qualities, which can require some initial trial and error for people unaccustomed to dense slightly moist flakes ... more on that at the end of the review. For now, I’ll cover the basics, for the benefit of newcomers to this unctuous offering.

First off, props to Mac Baren for their use of compact, high quality tins that are properly sized for the contents provided, and properly vintage dated.

To begin - HH ODF is a firm, slightly moist, and robustly kilned dark flake, comprised of Burley and Flue-cured Virginias. The burleys bring body and a rich nuttiness to the table, and the naturally sweet and slightly citrusy virginias (already flue-cured before being pressed and kilned into the dense dark cake these flakes are cut from) add some deeply caramelized and slightly tangy nuances to the mix. The resulting tin note is most simply described as a symphony that (for me) evokes hints of KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce, a touch of Belgian dark candi sugar (used by Trappists to color/flavor lush offerings like “Chimay Blue” nut brown ale), and a slightly smokey/spicy hint of Chipotle chili pepper. This is a rich, naturally pungent and toothsome flake, and clearly shows old fashioned quality craftsmanship.

The obligatory charring lights bring forth the dark, sweet, nutty and slightly saucy tin aromas, along with a subtle tang evoking faint hints of tamarind and caramelized orange peel. The flavor gets briefly confused as the majority of the bowl slowly kilns and gets ready to release its goodness, but as the first third winds down and the mid-bowl comes online, the flavors settle down, mellow a bit, and everything begins firing on all cylinders. In short order, a rich maltiness appears, accompanied by gentle hints of milk fudge and toffee, riding atop a soft milky/peppery sting that almost evokes perique, and with slow steady sipping those flavors carry all the way to the end of the dottle. My tin featured a faint hint of youthful edginess that will doubtless fade with some extended aging, but it's barely worth mentioning, and par for the course for bold vintage tobaccos like this one.

Bottom line: this is a rich, solid, dark flake that can be enjoyed straight, and also used to add oomph and complexity to lighter VaPrs beset by anemic cores of unflavored cavendish. This dual use makes HH ODF a great addition to any tobacco larder.

Recommended (3.5 of 4 stars, which gets rounded down to 3).

Suggested pairings: For beers, dry Irish or dryish imperial stout, trappist brown ale, dopplebock, or eisbock (ex: Samiclaus). For wine, Cream sherry. For bourbon, dark lush offerings like Baker’s 107 or Pappy VanWinkle 18. For scotch, Macallan 18. For brandy, a nice dark Armagnac. For rum, Gosling Dark Seal.

UPDATE (Apr 2014): Solani - 656: Aged Burley Flake has bumped HH ODF off my favorites list, and is my currently reigning favorite burley-based blend. I've since rounded ODF downward from 3.5 to 3 stars, instead of up to 4. Also, I've discovered that the tins for this product are no longer fully airtight once opened, so if you consume this slowly I recommend repackaging in glass.

Packing tips:

It took a little trial and error to find the best method to enjoy this tobacco. Mac Baren put out a YouTube video advocating the two-flake “half-fold and stuff” method, but for me it seems to give a slightly uneven pack and some excess 'channeling'. A closely related method method is the “Z-fold plug”, whereby you stack two flakes, fold lengthwise (across grain) in thirds in a z-pattern, then roll it gently crosswise (with the grain) to form a shorter cylindrical plug. That method worked slightly better for me, but still resulted in some channeling and some extra re-tampling/re-lighting. Everyone has their favorite method for flakes, but for this tobacco, the following seems to work best for me: leave two flakes out to dry for 15-30 mins, then use a chef knife to cross-cut them into quarters, then rub them out into short ribbons (some of which will naturally crumble into smaller fragments). Sprinkle into your bowl, compact lightly (this tobacco expands during smoking, so pack with restraint), then top off and repeat until the pipe is just over ¾ full. Two charring lights (with several small puffs apiece), a gentle tamp, followed by true lighting, and you’re good to go.
Pipe Used: Dr Grabow Freehand Briar (Group 4)
Age When Smoked: Aug 2013 (100g tin)
20 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 13, 2014 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
Short version: a towering, noble, austere triumph,

Presentation: perfect, finely brindled and squared-off flakes. If a Saville Row bespoke suit could be converted into a flake tobacco, that flake tobacco would be Old Dark Fired.

Pack and Light: I may be a control-freak about my burn, but I prefer to rub this flake out myself so that I can ensure a perfectly even pack. The flake requires very little drying time right out of the (admittedly recently produced) tin. Two charring lights and we're airborne for the rest of the bowl.

The first third reveals the astringent depth of the Very Old Virginias that star in this blend, a sort of balsamic like complexity without the sweetness, or maybe something like the tang of salt-pickled lemons. In short order, however, the dark fired burleys join ranks with the Virginias, and the smoke begins its long smooth march from bright to dark, building both in complexity and strength without ever losing composure.

In the second part of the bowl, a deep, mocha creaminess combines with something raisiny, and the combination is almost heartbreaking in its classical, unflashy symmetry of high and low, sweet and bitter, rich and bright.

The finale arrives when the smoke shifts to a woodier, more cedary dryness, and the burley presides over the striking of the set.

A serious and uncompromising tobacco, demanding and rewarding undivided attention. One of the best.
Pipe Used: Medium, U-shaped bowls, esp. billiards.
Age When Smoked: 1 year
19 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 03, 2014 Medium to Strong Mild to Medium Medium to Full Very Pleasant
This is the kind of tabacco I love - slow burning and smooth with an aftertaste of dark chocolate. I don't rub out the flakes but rather fold them into the pipe, which I think gives a fuller flavour than rubbing the tobacco out. There are several blends that I always keep on hand and this will become one of them. The nicotine hit is considerable which is something I love - not for me those weak tobaccos, but give me a full bodied smoke and I'm in my element. And Old Dark Fired is one such tobacco. This is likely my all time favourite and as been for sometime. Of course I'm always trying new blends, looking for that perfect pipe tobacco but Old Dark Fired comes pretty close to what I consider perfect. I've just ordered two more 100g tins so that should tell you something.

Sitting outside on a nice evening with a glass of Merlot and a pipe full of old dark fired is a pleasure comparable to sharing a bed with Colin Firth. Full bodied and satisfying with a smouldering darkness that seduces the tongue. There is a distinct chocolately aftertaste but that's only half the story because I've never found chocolate that tastes this good.

Pipe Used: Falcon limited edition white tip
PurchasedFrom: Black Swann
Age When Smoked: fresh
16 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 19, 2015 Medium to Strong Extremely Mild Medium to Full Pleasant
HH Old Dark Fired is the finest burley flake I know, and that is saying a lot for there are some outstanding competitors, Solani Aged Burley Flake and Peterson University Flake in particular.

This is fired burley that has been steam pressed to a dark brown with just a few light brown flecks. There is enough Virginia to round out and sweeten the taste.

MacBaren manufactures an exquisite flake. I find this to smoke best with the flakes jammed in the pipe with a little rubbed out as tinder to start the light. (This is also available in a rubbed out form, and I find that version wimpier.)

MacBaren buys and stockpiles tobaccos of very high quality, and even their cheaper blends are highly processed, some might argue over processed. I certainly would not maintain that this offering is overly processed. For my money, MacBaren has done this just right.

The taste is full, but not overwhelming. There is complexity here. Every puff does not seem the same as you work through the pipe-full. Bite is not likely if a proper puffing cadence is utilized. (With some MacBaren mixtures you have to be exceedingly careful; not so with this one.) The taste is nutty with chocolate overtones. It all burns down to a dry light grey ash.

The room note has a pleasant natural tobacco aroma, but is much more neutral than the taste the smoker enjoys. The nicotine level is fairly high.

I have smoked this in all kinds of pipes, from meerschaums, cobs, and briar cheapies to my Dunhills. All of the pipes that I have tried with this smoked wonderfully well.

There are some smokers who eschew burley, and they will not care for this. Those sensitive to high nicotine levels will also find this a tough go. For everyone else I give an unreserved thumbs up.

15 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 11, 2014 Medium to Strong Extremely Mild Medium to Full Pleasant
Come on, who are they trying to fool, this tobacco is too high class, too tasty, too wonderful to be Mac Baren's ! When you open the tin you see perfectly sliced flakes of dark brown tobacco and a scent of apricots and raisins, good enough to eat. I took one flake out , gave it a quick rub and decided it was too damp to smoke , all I could stand waiting was 5 minutes before I had to pop it in the micro wave for 7 seconds, it was then at perfect humidity. The light and burn was perfect.

Ah, how to describe the taste? Did I mention that I'm NOT a Burley fan, but coincidently about 3 weeks ago ,on a lark, I ordered an oz. of Sutliff's Edgeworth Ready Rub Match, just to bring back some memories from 40 years ago. It was OK, but this blend takes ERR to a whole new level. The distinct ERR molasses taste is there, but only lightly in the background, a well cured dark Virginia took the center stage. Layered on top of this is a distinct touch of Perique ( I realize that Perique is not listed) . This gives a raisin taste, a bit of spice, and a wonderful incense scent when allowed to drift up the nose. . I don't get the cigar notes that some of our reviewers have described as I get with Solani's 656 Aged Burley Flake, but rather more chocolate raisin flavors. Powerful "N", you bet, it should come with a warning "don't operate power tools while smoking this". Oh , no bite !

If I was to try to blend this, I would start with 80% SG"s St. James Flake and add 20% Edgeworths Ready Rub. Best Kentucky/Burley experience in a long time, but this is more of a " creamy Vaper" to me.

SIX WEEKS LATER- I've had this in the cellar only covered ( sometimes I seal tins with a hot glue gun). The tobacco is now perfect for smoking, the flakes are still pliable but on the dry side. Using a Missouri Maple, I lightly folded and stuffed a few flakes and this tobacco was magnificent. It still retained a sweet dark molasses flavor but the Perique spice and raisin FLAVOR has faded, but not the incense SCENT. Allow the smoke drift up the nose ( reminds me of a new Book). Also, allow time to savor this one, at a slow sip, and don't miss out on the scent (becomes lost using the DGT). Still a 4 star and I have to revaluate my dislike for Burley.
Pipe Used: cob/ Maple
Age When Smoked: 1 month/ 3 months
15 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 21, 2015 Medium None Detected Mild Tolerable
This is my first foray into finding a replacement for my beloved Bracken Flake (RIP), because some misanthropic villain at Samuel Gawith decided to lessen the quality of my life by removing my favorite nectar from their inventory. Well, now the grieving is over. I accept the reality with reluctance and have entered the stage of acceptance. It's now time to move on. And so begins my hopeless journey to try to discover something that pretends to fill the void.

When I came across this flake the description sounded very promising, especially when I discovered that many of my favorite reviewers here think very highly of this one. So I plopped down $85 for a tin at my local Brick & Mortar. My first bowl was very promising. But as I worked my way through the tin I liked it less and less.

Clearly this is a nice, quality flake, beautifully constructed. And I discovered that a larger bowl helps bring out the flavor more. But though I stuck with it and tried to like it (at $85 a tin in Canada you can bet I'm going to try to like it!), it took me almost the entire 100 grams to realize that this is not a flake for me. I found it a difficult flake to work with, for one thing. (Darby, though, had good advice for how to fold the flake that worked for me.) And I could never get the moisture level right either.

But then I realized it's not a question of the moisture level. Dry or moist, it's the flavor of this that underwhelms me. Too much burley.

I think I've discovered something through this flake. Though many of my favorite flakes have ample amounts of Kentucky, I am not a fan of unadorned Burley. Each bowl, especially after the charring light, began with an enticing sweet, spicy & woody nuance. But that nuance never fulfilled its promise: the flavor quickly became monochrome and rather tasteless as I progressed through the bowl. Each bowl ended up tasting rather bland, like mildly sweet particle board with a hint of earthy darkness. The Burley in this blend is too prominent, overwhelming the virginias, which leaves me with a smoke that's too "open" and not very interesting. I see why Pipesmoking101 considers this a flat smoke.

I think I have an idea of what everybody else appreciates about it. But for me, it wasn't satisfying, and what flavor I got from it didn't exactly float my boat. Clearly a flake for those who love burley more than I do, I suppose. I think what ODF proves is that my favorite Kentucky-laden flakes need to take a trip through Kendal for me to enjoy them.
13 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 22, 2012 Medium to Strong None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable
My comments on Old Dark Fired are based on far less than I would usually smoke before forming an opinion. But I was gifted it a nice size sample and it is one of those rare tobaccos that was full of enjoyment right from the very first puff. I almost always receive an ample amount of tongue bite from Mac Baren blends, but not with ODF. I allowed the flakes to fully dry to the point that they crumbled, but were still just moist enough to prevent them from turning to dust. The nicotine hit for most of the bowl is a bit less heavy on the throttle than similar offerings in this genre from Gawtih Hoggarth and Sam Gawith. But it isn't weak either and the flavor is full and delicious. As others have pointed out, it is earthy and to my taste, slightly sweet. While I do taste the similarity to GH and SG blends, I don't quite find the similar flavor in Old Dark Fired to Peterson's Irish Flake, but it could just be my taste buds. I have only smoked about a half dozen bowls of this, but find it to my liking in a medium size bowl, such as a group four. The burn is clean and dry. ODF will find a spot in my cellar. Highly Recommended!
13 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 20, 2017 Mild to Medium Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
Fresh out of the tin I enjoyed this more. After a few weeks in a jar it lost something. The pungent tin note from the day I opened it is almost totally gone. I was expecting a bolder, spicier flavor from this blend. The flakes look great. They rub out amazing, but oddly they don't burn well. They smoke slow with thin smoke output. I found myself over puffing and over lighting this blend trying to locate more taste. I finally realized it's not there to be had.
Pipe Used: Briar and cobs
Age When Smoked: 3 weeks
11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 06, 2016 Medium Extremely Mild Full Tolerable to Strong
It's hard to write this review without any bias because this is one of my favorite tobaccos...from one of my least favorite blenders.

I think most agree that MB's flake presentation is second to none; this being no exception. Perfectly cut thin strips of dark leaf with very few flecks of light colored tobacco. The tin smells of something sweet, spicy, smokey all rolled into one. The moisture level out of the tin may be a bit high for some, but not too much drying time is needed. I actually prefer this tobacco a little on the moist side for optimal flavor. No DGT for this one.

Tastes good rubbed out but I prefer to fold and stuff. Another reason I like this more than the ready rubbed. When smoking a flake of this, the flavors tend to seem to come out more and have a broader range. I always find the Kentucky kicks the first 1/4 of the bowl but slowly loses its potency making way for the other profiles. The VAs are sweet and work very well with the smoke and spice. Steaming these leaves has truly made it easy on the tongue (unlike other blends from this company). There is a subtle sweetness that I detect and I know they use minimal casings; just enough to bind the leaves. But in no way does it inhibit the flavors in the smoke.

In my experience, Kentucky can sometimes have a tendency to dry out the smoke. I find the Kentucky in Three Nuns to be over bearing and drown out the sweetness of the VAS. ODF on the other hand has a juicy quenching flavor. Think of a BBQ pork shoulder in a slow cooker. Being that it's sweet enough on its own, I tend to not enjoy this in a cob. I enjoy this in my briars the most.

Vitamin N for this doesn't seem to bother me but I have heard many say it was too much for them. Room note is nothing to rave about but that hasn't stopped me in the past. If you liked Savineli Doblone d'Oro, you should try this. And vice versa. I've enjoyed this so much I've already bought a couple of the pound boxes and have several tins in the cellar. I hope this never goes out of production.
Pipe Used: Mortas, cobs, briars and meers
Age When Smoked: From fresh to 3 years of age
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 02, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
5 Stars! Damn this stuff is good! I love burley and ODF is an excellent flake to put alongside Irish Flake and Gawith Louisiana Flake. I am amazed that a simple steam process can produce such a unique and flavorful smoke. I received a rusty one year old tin from pipesandcigars THANK YOU! I've been taking these wonderfully aged flakes right out of the tin, folding up and stuffing without drying. After a slightly persnickety relight you get a wonderful sweet nutty flavor and it's a good long smoke for a burley blend. $13 bucks is a bargain for this 3.5 ounce tin. You'll get about two dozen small bowls of high quality smoking. ODF is easy on the palate, so you could smoke it hard, but it heats up, so you have to go easy, especially on the last half of the bowl. Flavor is good to the bottom of the bowl. Leaves the pipe clean and dry. Goes great with amber beer.
PurchasedFrom: pipesandcigars
Age When Smoked: 1 Year
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