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 1 - 10 of 51 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
Jan 03, 2014 Strong None Detected Full Tolerable
Tin note is dark, earthy loam, mushrooms and cocoa. Plenty of leather too. This is a burly tobacco, pardon the pun. Very flavorful, complex, solid dose of vitamin N if that's what your in to. Highly recommended.

Not for everybody. If you're a new pipe smoker or graduating from aromatics, ask someone for a flake or two to sample. Or you might want to start with Solani Aged Burley as a kinder, gentler introduction to this genre.
8 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 02, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium Strong
Virginia/Burley flake you say, well this is right up my alley, light 'em up. I smoked exactly two tins of this, so I think I can give an honest review. I have to admit that I came with the preconception that this, being a Mac Baren blend, would bite at some point. It didn't, no matter how hard I pushed this, at times puffing like a freight train, I could not get this to come close to biting. However, working through the two tins, the blend never developed a unique character or depth that I felt it was capable of. Don't get me wrong, I think this is a fine blend, and a great introduction to VA/BUR's in general, but I think this will really shine when aged for a time to build some character. I plan on purchasing a couple of tins and revisit this at a later date to see what father time has accomplished.

Smoked in a variety of pipes, but for this review I smoked ODK in a Radice Rind Bulldog. There is a subtle sweetness coupled with spicy/sour notes as you work your way through the smoke. The mouth feel is creamy at times and the dark fired never overwhelms the palate. Burns down to a fine ash with little dottle left in the bowl. The smoke is firmly in the middle of medium strength for me and was quite satisfying.

Pipe Used: Radice Rind Bulldog
PurchasedFrom: John Haynes Tobacconist
Age When Smoked: 6 months
7 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 13, 2013 Medium to Strong Strong Very Full Pleasant
This is a review for a tin with a manufacturing date of “Nov 2012”. First, I am a non-apologetic burleyphile and was curious to try a blend incorporating the dark-fired variety. The tobacco smells like vinegary raisins with a very faint wood smoke aroma (reminded me of Jack Daniel's) that disappears after the first 10 seconds of opening the tin. A cayenne pepper tingle takes over your mouth and nose at first light. Although this blend is not supposed to contain perique, it wouldn't be the first time a blender keeps some ingredients undisclosed…. This “perique-like-peppery-wanna-sneeze” sensation disappears after a while letting loose the strong Virginia flavor. The Virginias dominate throughout the first half of the bowl. So much so that I was starting to think that someone at MacBaren screwed up and put some Acadian Perique in the wrong tin… Then, towards the end of the bowl (just when the nicotine kicks in), appears an earthy clove flavor which I presume is the dark-fired. Unfortunately, just as this spicy aroma makes its appearance, so does an ammonia aftertaste on the exhales. To be fair, ODF is made with good quality tobaccos but “where´s the burley?”. The blend is called ODF so why aren´t the burley´s up front instead of being used as spice??? I guess I was hoping for a Bur/Va instead of a Va/Bur. I also love the cigarish room note (Insert comment using the word “wife” HERE).

As a side note, after seeing the YouTube video on the making of ODF and the fact that Mac Baren´s HH series is, in part, dependent on its limited stash of vintage dark-fired burleys (it may even have less than its Syrian Latakia!) one is left wondering that perhaps the dark-fired leaves are being “stretched” and the blends are slowly being diluted. It would be interesting to compare early tins with these latest ones. I will now buy and smoke some pure dark-fired burley and verify if it´s my palate or perhaps the Virginias are too overpowering for moi.

UPDATE: I just smoked another folded flake in a cob and WOW, burley city! So what gives with this stuff??? My only explanation for such a turnaround in flavor is that, perhaps, the pressed cakes were not as homogenized as one would wish and my first flakes were Virginia-rich. So mea culpa for being such a conspiracy theorist. Will definitely be getting more if the following flakes tastes like this one. Will overlook the ammonia hoping it's a natural byproduct of the leaves. 4 stars ****
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 08, 2017 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
Presentation: A very nice presentation: sharp-looking tin design, with the blend neatly packaged in an attractive glossy, golden wrapping paper. It has a very premium, luxurious feel to it.

Upon opening, my first breath of the tin was a very rich, earthly, ‘darkened sweet hay from a Danish barnyard’ (if that makes any sense, hey I’m doing my best here) type of aroma. I can also smell a slight fig, dried fruit aroma. As odd of a description that is, Old Dark is probably the best smelling blend so far, even my girlfriend liked it and she complains about almost everything.

Taste: Perfect to smoke the second you open the tin, lacks any real moisture (which is odd because I hear it is very moist out of the tim). My biggest surprise was how mild the taste was, especially with a name like “Old Dark Fired”. With blends such as St. James Flake, Old Gowrie or Dunhill Navy Rolls, the taste was distinct and immediate. However, with Old Dark Fried, I wasn’t sure what I smoking until 15 minutes in, where I noticed a very slight nut-like taste, mild cigar taste, maybe a hint of chocolate added in. I also sensed a slight fig and dried fruit after-taste, with some smokey, wood type flavor. The taste actually gets a bit milder later on, which was a shame. The taste is not very complex at all, but at the end of the day, it is an enjoyable, relaxing smoke.
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 17, 2014 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
This is a very nice offering from a manufacturer whose tobaccos I usually don't much care for: substantial, earthy, slow-burning, tasty and satisfying, and completely without any kind of gimmicky topping. It's far superior to MacBaren's Virginia and Navy Flakes: tobaccos that always seem to me to lack 'body'. The neatly arranged flakes in a handy tin is a plus point also. I'm inclined to describe HH Old Dark Fired as a sort of younger brother of Peterson's Irish Flake: same "traditional" characteristics, but not quite so in-your-face. When I first tried it, I wasn't all that impressed; I guess I came to it expecting to be a bit underwhelmed. Then, rather to my surprise, its subtleties began to make themselves felt more and more, and I came to like it a lot. Incidentally, unlike so many MacBaren offerings, ODF will not bite you unless you positively ask it to. This is definitely one of those tobaccos that grows on you with experience. I don't expect to smoke it all the time, but it will find a regular place in my rotation.

Contrary to what some other reviewers have said, I would recommend rubbing it out rather than the fold-and-stuff method. It's smokable straight out of the tin, though - unlike so many dark flakes.

Edit - 5th December 2017: it seems that MacBaren have discontinued their tins, at least in the UK: HH Old Dark Fired now comes in a plastic pouch (with scary pictures on). This is a pity: it takes away a bit of 'class' from the tobacco, and it makes storage and ageing difficult. I don't notice any compensating reduction in price. On the contrary, in fact.
Pipe Used: Masta Zulu; Peterson billiard
PurchasedFrom: Durham Pipe and Tobacco Shop
Age When Smoked: New, straight from the tin
4 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 22, 2022 Strong None Detected Very Full Tolerable
Authentic, old timey, for the mature crowd. I imagine there were Mississippi riverboat captains that kept the pipe full of this. I love tobaccos that harken back to yesterday year. I love tobacco remind me of America. I love tobacco's with a full rich taste and lack complexity, they just get down to business.

Well, old dark fired fills the bill. This is a Virginia and Burley heavyweight. And the Burley tastes the way you want it to, not like haunted bookshop...blech! (Smoke enough crap and it starts to taste pretty good)

Sweet, smoky, fruity, spicy, with a constantly good tobacco flavor. Also, enough nicotine to keep a snuff user satisfied. I can't think of any occasion that this tobacco would be a bad choice for. This has been a go-to of mine for years. It delivers. Sometimes I know I want to smoke a pipe but I can't make up my mind what to put in it. Old dark fired is often my choice. Almost too good to smoke while working on a project. But I do it all the time, and feel like I really have it made.

Pipe Used: Cob
PurchasedFrom: Pipes and cigars
Age When Smoked: New, new and old
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 14, 2022 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Unnoticeable
Because I have plenty of Bold Kentucky, I never bothered to buy this one but was able to sample a nice size bowl at our pipe club meeting. I smoked it in a Cob no less and this batch was dated Jan 2016. 6 years of age on this baby. I can’t really remember exactly what Bold Kentucky tastes like but this seems to me to be a little milder and maybe somewhat weaker in the nicotine department. A good smoke but since I also have Rustica, I see no need in buying another somewhat clone.
PurchasedFrom: Sample from friend
Age When Smoked: 6 years
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 16, 2017 Medium to Strong Extremely Mild Medium to Full Tolerable
A stout and dark tobacco, delivering a very earthy and spicy smoke combined with some sweetness in the background, ODF is sure to please the Kentucky aficionado. Often compared to Peterson irish Flake it does have similarities but mostly has its own personality as it's more on the earthy side than sweet. The nicotine content rings my bell every time. Having been released about 5 years ago, ODF has already achieved a cult status and has numerous, faithful followers; which is well deserved! It might be a good idea to let it breathe out the first couple of days to let the vinegar evaporate some before starting to smoke it.
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 09, 2016 Medium to Strong None Detected Full Tolerable to Strong
This is a pretty darn good burley flake. I can't say anything bad about it, actually. It's stout, full-flavored, and has a good nic hit. It's not as strong as some of the other tobaccos that I smoke, but it's definitely not a lightweight. It never gave me the "nic hics." It's usually enjoyable and I never actually noticed any "burley throat" from it. All that being said, however, it's just not one of my favorites.

I usually fold-and-stuff most flakes, but this was one that seemed to behave a bit better when it was rubbed out a bit. I'm actually quite happy that Mac Baren has ventured into more full-flavored types of tobaccos. I actually hadn't had a lot of luck with Mac Baren in the past. Plumcake was just okay, Vintage Syrian was kind of boring, and I hated Virginia #1. Not the flavor of Virginia #1, just the fact that I could never smoke it without it frying my tongue.

I hated to give this three stars, but I just don't think that I'll ever buy it again. It was good and I enjoyed it, but I just don't think it'll make the re-order list. I would give this a solid 3 stars and maybe a bit more. Even if there was a 5-star rating scale on here (which I think would be more accurate for my purposes) I would still give it a 3-star review, I think. There are just others along the same vein that I prefer. It's definitely worth trying and may be your "holy grail."
3 people found this review helpful.
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