McClelland Black Shag

Sherlock Holmes kept it in the toe of a Persian slipper nailed to the mantelpiece. It was dry and strong. Kept at what we today have deduced to be proper smoking moisture and smoked gently, this excellent stoved shag will provide hours of smoking pleasure. Examine the ash carefully. A shag cut black Virginia tobacco, making it very easy to pack a pipe and burn evenly.
Notes: The first in the 221b Series is Black Shag, introduced at the 1997 Sherlock Holmes meeting of the Richmond Conclave of Pipe Smokers.


Brand McClelland
Series 221b Series
Blended By McClelland Tobacco Company
Manufactured By McClelland Tobacco Company
Blend Type Straight Virginia
Contents Virginia
Cut Shag
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

2.55 / 4





Please login to post a review.
Displaying 1 - 11 of 93 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 08, 2012 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild Pleasant to Tolerable
Just received my first tin in the mail and out of the box it is a very dark tobacco in real short cut shag, the tin aroma is very sweet and smelled(to me) a little ketchupy but with a stronger aroma of dried raisins and apricots, very pleasant indeed!. Passed the charring light and puffing on it now it can tend to burn a little hot being it is a pure Virginia(or just me lol) and the flavor is nothing surprising or complex, but it has a very nice Virginia flavor with pleasant tones of dried fruits and dark chocolate or coffee on the finish. Over all it's a nice smoke nothing suprising, but a good change pace for a die hard Latakia fan or anyone looking for a light summer or all day smoke. This is my take on it and I'll be keeping a tin in my seller regularly.
0 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 07, 2012 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable to Strong
Ok, first of all, this particular blend has more in it than advertised. Even tobaccocellar classifies this as a straight VA blend. However, tin aroma, and pipe flavor/aroma do suggest some Latakia, it's unmistakable.

I packed my mini meer with the strangely cut leaves (I've never seen bits so small) and lit her up.

I bought this because I love Sherlock Holmes, probably like everyone else, but also because of all the lackluster reviews on it.

As I sat there, slowly sipping on my pipe, the flavors of the tobacco proved something to me.

Sherlock Holmes probably would have smoked something like this. All the naysayers can kiss it. Sherlock Holmes seemed to be very practical, in that buying a pound of Black Shag and keeping in it a persian slipper tell ME one thing. This tobacco was cheap and meant for smoking, plain and simple. It wasn't a choice because of flavor or aroma. Elementarily, it's tobacco and it smokes exceedingly well.

However, I did have little bit of a struggle keeping it burning, that could just be me trying to avoid the tongue bite so closely associated with this blend. Nevertheless, I got it to burn all the way down, with minimal bite, and absolutely no leftover dottle, or moisture.

This blend, as I said, is for smoking, not necessarily enjoying (though it is enjoyable) and to pass the many hours of contemplation life throws our way whilst leaving our pockets slightly fuller.

Love it or hate it, there is no grey area. I love it.
15 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 05, 2011 Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant
Update 5/22/20

I've been smoking a lot of this one of late, and just finished a tin from 2009. The 11 years of aging does wonders for this blend - it ages beautifully, just as I knew it would. Originally subtly complex and deep in flavor, the age graces this one with additional depth, complexity and more spice rack flavors. This needs to be dried but not too dry. Most of all, if you don't snork and you tend to relate your feelings about a blend after 1 or 2 bowls, you'll entirely miss the point of this one. The experienced virginia smoker will enjoy this one - beginners perhaps not, until they learn to snork.

Original Review 12/5/11

Reviewing a tobacco based on what it is not is an easy trap to fall into if one does not like the blend. I've done so myself. As I see a lot of that here, I'm going to consciously avoid that pitfall and review it based on what it is.

I would not classify this as a shag cut - not like G&H's Kendal Kentucky. This is a small, tightly cut ribbon but not a shag. Mostly dark in color but not quite black, with streaks of brown. The tin note was very nice and not overblown. Not a sweet tobacco, this is more of a mildly tangy blend... but tangy does not really describe it well, either. The flavor does not overpower; the smoker has to be patient and puff slowly. Snorking helps this blend immensely, as it is a subtle flavor. Dark and toasty, and nuanced with a light coffee with cream flavor. Nicotine addicts should look elsewhere. I found this to be a good "wind down" tobacco and I preferred it smoked as the last bowl before bedtime (never understood how people can smoke a particular heavy lat blend loaded with nicotine before sleep, even if it is so named!) and as a "thinking" tobacco. Perhaps that's why it's named after Sherlock Holmes' blend! Great for pondering life's problems.

I enjoyed what this tobacco brings to the table. If you want heavy in flavor, a stoved VA is probably not going to work for you. But if you enjoy nuances occasionally and a subtly complex tobacco, this is worth a try. More tins headed to my cellar!
15 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 26, 2013 Mild to Medium Very Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
It's more mild than medium with a very light sugary dark fruit sweetness and toasty taste. Also has minor spice and tangy notes to go along with a little grass and earth. There's not a whole lot of complexity to this blend, and I have found that aging it doesn't seem to change it in any way. I'll blame the topping for that. It needs to dried a little because fresh out of the tin makes it harder to keep lit. Has little nicotine. Won't bite. Burns clean and fairly cool at a moderate pace with a consistent, lightly creamy, smooth flavor. Leaves a little moisture in the bowl, and requires an average number of relights. Has short lived, pleasant after taste. This is more for a beginner than an experienced smoker if you're looking to explore the world of stoved Virginias as it does lack just a little depth. Three stars for the beginner, and two for the more seasoned smokers.

14 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 24, 2008 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable to Strong
I feel that this may possibly be one of the more under rated blends on this site. This may be due to the fact that it doesn't really fit into any particular category of tobaccos; it's an oddball. Neither an oriental, nor a typical va. mixture, it is all together its own beast. But, I have spent many enjoyable hours contemplating how to pigeonhole this blend while smoking it.

As its name implies, it is a dark shag cut tobacco. The black to light brown strands are nearly cut like cigarette tobacco, meaning that some measure of care needs be exercised when loading the pipe. I find that it smokes best in a medium sized dublin bowl, but will do fairly well in a group 4 size bull cap/ rhodesian. If you have cellared your tin so that it is 3-5 years old, then you have done all that is necessary to turn what ordinarily can be a fairly mundane blend into a spectacular tobacco. Time does wonders for this.

Getting past the charring light has always been a little problematic for me with this blend, perhaps due to my extra caution in trying to light a shag cut va. (a bowl of Cardiff, anyone?). But once lit, this blend burns pretty well. I notice ocassionally that it will require an additional relight halfway down if I'm smoking it in a deep bowl. But, it always burns down to a fine gray ash.

The flavors in Black Shag are petty simple, but then again, not always so. Sometimes, with the right measure of puffing, in the right weather, this blend develops a wonderfully complex body. The flavors range from a cinamon-like spiciness to a rich smoky caramel sweetness. Intermingled with this is a distinct background note of orientals, but done with a fairly light touch so as to provide only a slight lingering mustiness. I suspect there is some dark fired leaf in here somewhere. The flavor is similar to Bombay Court, but deeper, and with a less refined edge to it.

I like it; it's gentlemanly without being too genteel. This is for the guys who refuse to adorn themselves with colognes and hair gels; for the aqua velva crowd only. My wife comments on how 'strong' and 'overpowering' this tobacco smells, but I think she secretly likes it. She says it smells like man.
13 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 26, 2015 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant
I'm gonna do a lot of guessing here so I might be wrong on multiple points. I think I'm right though and I'm sure that this is straight Virginia. I see where some others think there may be more to it than that.

A visual inspection shows me three components. 1. Fire cured Virginia (looks like small, black pieces of broken pine needles). 2. Stoved Virginia (very small, thin pieces of black broken flake) 3. Red Virginia (short brown shag)

The flavor is awesome. Tart, tangy, sweet, fruity, toasty, and very mildly smoky. Surprisingly complex. I find that it doesn't necessarily need to be smoked slowly, but it does need to be smoked gently. This is grade A tobacco and a top-notch smoke.

Mild to medium in body and flavor. Burns well.
Pipe Used: MM Country Gentleman, Diplomat Apple, Mark Twain
Age When Smoked: fresh
12 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 27, 2013 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
Opened a tin of this tonight. I had the tin aging in my cellar for a good 3 years. Interesting cut this shag, it could easily be put in a rolling paper and smoked like a cigarette if one was so inclined. Gold and dark tone tobacco with a sweet Virginia aroma. I decided to be nostalgic and packed a bowl in my calabash. Smooth smoke but not as satisfying as I would have hoped. I would have fancied it a bit stronger smoke based on the description on the tin. It had a nice sweet taste and a bit of a bite from what seemed to be orientals. The room note was pleasant and unobtrusive. Certainly a sipper even in the bash probably due to the fine cut of this offering. Going to try a smaller bowl next time. The jury is out on this one, I will have to smoke a few more times before I decide if its worthy of the cellar shelf.
Pipe Used: Calabash
PurchasedFrom: JR's Tobacco
Age When Smoked: 3years old
5 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 18, 2012 Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
Bought this last night at JR Tobaccos. A very subdued McClelland tin note - meaning not as much by way of vinegar, but present none the less. Decent moisture content and cut which made for easy loading/lighting. Burned very nicely throughout. I didn't get much of the typical Va from this, the flavor was Latakia-like - but subtle throughout. I may have picked up some Oriental notes as well. Smoked it in a Dunhill Cumberland bent billiard and enjoyed the experience. I'm not a Latakia fan and for that reason, Black Shag is not a 4 star smoke for me. However, I can see myself smoking it not on a regular basis, but definitely more than from "time to time." I believe it would please most smokers who enjoy Va or Latakia, but perhaps not for the aromatic smoker. It reminds me of Revor Plug, but not as strong and minus the "perfume" of RP. As with RP, I do not believe BS has Latakia, but the stoving of the Virginias apparently brings out that flavor note along with a smidgeon of non-Latakia oriental to augment the sweetness. A bit nippy on the tongue if pushed, but no real bite and no palate irritation for me. Can provide a sweetness that IrF, 3P's, Highland Slice, and HH Dark Fired don't - so if that's what I require, I smoke a bowl of Black Shag. Very dependable. And like Holmes himself, not what it appears at first glance/puff.
4 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 19, 2006 Mild to Medium None Detected Very Mild Very Pleasant
Enough has been said, said by Sherlockians far less knowledgeable than myself, but said all the same, as to how, in spite of the name, 221B Black Shag is nothing like what Holmes actually smoked, so I won't belabor that point.

I have occasionally found it sad that there are so few blends found today that employ black Virginia. It really is a wonderful tobacco providing such an interesting take on Virginia by right of such a simple process. It then donned on me that there is no real need for very many examples, as black Virginia is a tobacco best left by itself. It simply does not blend well. Its good, dry, toasted flavor is fine by itself, but will cause any other tobaccos it is blended with to taste bland, bitter, or already burnt. This is what has happened with Black Shag. Even something so endearing as McClelland's red Virginia is rendered very weak and flabby tasting in the combination affected. I even smoked this stuff on the streets of London and it didn't help. Rattray's Black Virginia, composed of 100% black Virginia, by contrast to Black Shag, realizes to unsociable nature of this type of Virginia, and that wonderful tobacco, for me, proves my point.


A. Morley Jaques
4 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 22, 2002 Medium Mild Mild Pleasant
If you want a nice, cool smoke with a mostly virginia flavor interspersed with a smidgen of oriental leaf, then here you go.

Black Shag is a very fine shag cut dark tobacco with just a hint of English flavor. If you are after a big taste, look elsewhere. This whets the whistle without drowning the taste buds.

I smoke this on occasion and find it to be a delightful change of pace.
4 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 13, 2017 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
McClelland - Black Shag (221b Series).

The blend's a mixture of black, and very dark brown pieces, is an exceptionally finely cut shag, and has a moistness from a fresh tin which is perfect. The delicate cut makes for easy filling.

The smoke: more of a sipping tobacco, not because of bite, because of speed: if puffed with slight vigour it's over way to quickly! The flavour's lovely: some depth, smoke, and toastiness from the fire-cured, and dark fruit from the non-cured Virginia. The smoke has a build that's quite thick, and it doesn't bite.

Nicotine: above medium. Room-note: a little heavy.

Black Shag? A wonderful smoke. Highly recommended:

Four stars.
Pipe Used: Altinok Lee Van Cleef: Friday pipe
Age When Smoked: New
3 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.