McClelland Dark Star

Years before tinning, this tobacco begins as bright yellow, sugary top grade Virginia and Carolina leaf. Through careful triple aging, pressing and stoving, it becomes rich, cool and dark. A seductively spicy aroma develops during the extended maturing process to complement the complex flavor of this concentrated, smooth broken flake, which is easily rubbed out to suit any occasion.
Notes: From McClelland: Occasionally we meet someone whose familiarity with a variety of tobaccos, sensitive palate, and desire for "that special tobacco" provide an inspiration for us. In seeking to satisfy a taste other than our own, we pleasantly surprise ourselves with beautiful results. This is what the Personal Reserve Series is all about. We developed this concept early on as a way to enhance our creative spirit. We are proud to offer these fine pipe tobacco blends, and hope you will enjoy them.


Brand McClelland
Series Personal Reserve
Blended By McClelland Tobacco Company
Manufactured By McClelland Tobacco Company
Blend Type Straight Virginia
Contents Virginia
Cut Broken Flake
Packaging 50 grams tin, 100 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

3.21 / 4





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Displaying 31 - 40 of 229 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 22, 2017 Strong None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable
This is a very fine tobacco, with the subtle undertones I expect from an extra-long aged blend. If you are not familiar with the broken-flake cut, be sure and rub it thoroughly before filling your pipe! You may also want to dry it slightly before smoking, although I found when well-rubbed it burned easily and smoothly after the first light.

The aging and cut makes it a dense tobacco, which contributes to its strength. My only criticism is that it is monotonal, without the really distinctive character of some of the other Personal Reserve blends such as St. James Wood (one of my favourites). Highly recommended for those looking for a strong, dark smoke.
Pipe Used: Peterson; Shamrock
Age When Smoked: Fresh
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 30, 2017 Medium to Strong None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable
First impressions - opening the tin, it had scarcely any of the typical McClelland ketchup aroma - just a really rich tobacco aroma. Taste slightly acid, definitely no Cavendish sneaked in. The dense broken flake cut makes the tin look only half-full, but I weighed it - really is 50g. Part of the strength of these Personal Reserve blends is their sheer density - I weighed a medium pipeful and it was 4g, as opposed to 2 g of a fine cut like Captain Black.

I actually enjoy rubbing the tobacco (essential), it's part of the ritual for me. Filled a medium size Carey pipe (my favourite type), some difficulty lighting it (as expected). Very, very rich and well aged, pleasant room aroma. Set it aside for a few hours - it now lights easily and burns smoothly. Might benefit from a LITTLE drying before smoking if your tin seems moist. Under no circumstances dry with heat - all the subtlety is lost.

Second pipe lit & burned smoothly after the first couple of lights. Taste is rich and strong, spicy, but without as many subtle overtones as the other Personal Reserves such as St. James Wood (my favourite) or the Bombay blends. This is not intended as a criticism; this is what I expect from a straight stoved Virginia. Surprisingly little tongue-bite. A quite pleasing room aroma, which is not always the case with dark stoved Virginia.

Overall a high-quality strong smoke, very satisfying, perhaps not for the beginner, but experienced smokers will admire its assertiveness.

P.S. This is also a good blending tobacco; goes well with Perique and/or an oriental or Balkan blend such as Mac Baren - HH Vintage Syrian
Pipe Used: Carey Magic Inch
PurchasedFrom: Goodfellas
Age When Smoked: Fresh from tin
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 04, 2017 Mild Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
The beauty of this tobacco is its accessibility. I read many reviews discussing how difficult it is to prepare/light/smoke this tobacco, and i just could not disagree more. Yes, its a densely pressed aged flake. Very moist in tin. Yes, rubbing out gives one a pile of crumbs, not ready rubbed ribbons. But if you spread this out on a paper towel and let it sit out overnight, then rub it and jar it, and if you then load ot into your pipe ala gravity, and char it up, it burns cleanly and fairly easily. At least the last 4 tins ive smoked of it have done so. To someone with familiarity with a flake like this, its pretty standard. Handle this one how you would most flakes by SG and you should be just fine.

I say accesible, because once in the pipe and smoldering, it gives off great white clouds of pure, sweet, delightful yellow virginia goodness without any bite. Its rare indeed to get this purity of sweetness without cultivating an uber measured approach to puffing. Dark star gives one the unadulterated honey and carmel that can be teased out of Mac Baren Va no 1 only with deliberation and patience. It is, to my palate, sweeter even than no.1, but without the tendency to bite. Now, to be fair, a blend with such a high sugar content can bite, but this can be greatly minimized by sufficient drying time, packing gently, and smoking slowly. I find shallow, short puffs and drawing some outside air into my mouth really carries the smoke around and allows the sweetness to shine. I feel this is the flavor most new pipers expect from the smell of pipes, and are disappointed not to achieve from their aros. This is a (nearly) dummy proof intro to yellow va. I love it. I actually don't find it to be super nuanced, just absolutely sweet and delicious and light with touches of spice and tartness. There is a depth here, with wonderful stoved richness coming in as the bowl progresses and growing to a crescendo in the last third. So easy to recommend. The flavor straight from the tin is soft and round and certainly not young, but im eager to see what this blend will taste like after breathing and resting for a year.
Pipe Used: Cobs, meerschaums, briar
Age When Smoked: New
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 04, 2015 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
Notes on preparation: I opened my tin and left the cover on for about a week before it got remotely close to smokable. Then, I'd do one of two things. If I was smart and planned ahead, I'd dry out a bit on a plate overnight. If I was dumb and hadn't planned ahead, I'd stick the same amount in the toaster oven. I used this rather than the microwave others have suggested because I don't own a microwave. Then, I'd rub it out fully and pack lightly.

After two charring lights, this tended to burn quite well. The flavors were pretty muted and came out best with true slow smoking. I could get an average-sized bowl of this two hours with little trouble, though it did take a few relights. The flavors were muted but broad in scope, without any particular frequency band really taking over. There was some zest on top, some deep fruity notes underneath, and plenty going on in the middle.

While this isn't one I'm going to be stocking way up on, I certainly had a good time with my 100g of it late last summer, and might repeat the experience again this year.
Pipe Used: Lots of them, but especially a Comoy 126
Age When Smoked: One year
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 28, 2014 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
I actually came to this tobacco from Mississippi River, which is a blend I totally love. I despise aromatics but love latakia, so it was also an idea for me to try and find something to mix up my habit of smoking latakia heavy blends.

I found it.

As my initial thought about this blend was totally right - the notes you find in Mississippi River from the stoved virginias are just the same as in Dark Star - I knew I had found what I was looking for.

I don't usually smoke a lot of pure virginias, finding them a bit bland and especially since I tend to favor more sturdy flavors. But this is something different. There is a more concentrated sweetness from these stoved leaves which I find very alluring and tempting. The aroma (especially from the kindling in the pipe bowl) share the same kind of sweetness which sort of reminds me of honey, raisins, fruits and sometimes the occasional flowery breeze. Very savory! Sort of like a dessert after a nice meal.

As mentioned way too much before - The McClelland "Ketchup" smell. Sure, it's there but who cares? Doesn't fine cheeses smell like you've been wearing the same pair of shoes for a year? Once you get McClelland's fine blends fired up, the last thing on your mind is ketchup, so why bother focusing on a tin smell?

One other thing mentioned regarding this blend is the moisture. Once you open the tin, the broken flakes are very damp and sure, you have to let them dry out a bit before firing up. However. You can smoke them right of the tin with a bit more ease if you use a reverse calabash pipe. I smoked it fresh out of the tin with my reversed Alex Brishuta in smoldering summer heat with high air humidity - worked fine. You get no bite and absolutely no gurgle thanks to the extra space in the pipe. Thanks to Michail Revyagin for that invention!

So! Never mind the ketchup and moisture and give this wonderful dark leaf a go. If you, like me, favor tobaccos with depth, a lot of flavor and something to break off your other tobacco routines with, try this.

I like to think of this as a virginia trying to be a latakia.
Age When Smoked: Fresh out of the tin
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 06, 2014 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant
This blend is tricky, because the treatment of this blend by McClelland makes for more pre-smoke prep work. The broken flakes are very dark dense and moist, and not easily manageable right out of the tin or even with some drying time. I finally put some in my magic bullet and gave it a spin reducing the flakes to the perfect ready to smoke texture. (Highly Recommend!)

The flavors really don't start to kick in until the middle of the bowl when this dense moist tobacco gets heated up. You get a great va sweet flavor but there is a twist due to their process, there is a slightly more sweet/fruity/sugary taste that pops up every now and then, that this blend calls it's own. Also, the taste is a bit warmer and richer than McClellands straight Va's like Christmas blend. My wife complained about the smell when I came in from outside. That doesn't happen unless the blend was on the musky strong side.

This is a good quality tobacco but I didn't detect anything super special that would really distinguish itself from the pack of Straight VA McClelland Special Reserve offerings, other than it takes more work. Keep that in mind if you plan on spending an average of $16.00 on a 3.5oz. I like and recommend Dark Star, but it has me wishing I had tried something else like Bombay or British woods. Med Nic Kick.

Additonal review/update: July 28th 2014: I put this tin away for 4 months. I finally had a day where I could invest in the prep time. I put Dark Star in my processor chopping it into smaller pieces. (This helps with the lighting as well as the burn. ) I then let it sit for an hour while I made coffee and breakfast. I then loaded my best pipe and took to the porch taking my time with the pre-lights. WOW. This is really awesome and worth the investment of prep time if you have the time. I'm a VA smoker and this is hard to beat.
Pipe Used: Comoy straight grain.
PurchasedFrom: JR Cigars
Age When Smoked: From fresh tin. Ground in blender.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 15, 2012 Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant
A naturally sweet mature Virginia . If you like McClelland Vinegar Virginia (MCCVV), as I do, this will be a winner. You will have some prep work as you need to rub this out real well and let it dry some prior to smoking and even with this ,this tobacco is hard to light and keep lit. Unfortunately , keeping this lit requires a faster puffing cadence than recommended as slow sipping brings out the best in this tobacco and also keeps bite to a minimum. Have the time to sit and savor this, as it is a long smoke. Not an on the go type of blend.

This is the second tin of DS I've tried. The first tin I made the mistake of letting the whole tin dry before I rubbed out the "beef jerky" flakes, an impossible task. When I was done, I had every size from dust to 1/8"x 1" pieces and it seemed like my 100grs. was left with 10grams of tobacco by volume. My recommendation is to keep the flakes moist in the tin and rub out only what you need for a bowl, hit it 5 second in a microwave (or you get a damp dottle) and fill.

The flavor of this tobacco reminds me of Rattrays "Dark Fragrant" , sweet with a bitter aftertaste. All in all, DS is a nice tasting blend that requires too much attention to smoke. I probably won't buy again for that reason.

Got to love and agree with reviewer "DK 06/09/2009"

Update 4/21/12 - I've been working on this same tin for about a month and it has really become something special. Smooth , flavorful, sweet and more complex that Rattrays " DF" and takes a match . The key is to rub the entire tin out while it's damp taking care to give an extra rub to those bigger pieces then let it breath and dry a little. Moved this to 4 stars.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 20, 2011 Medium Mild to Medium Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
McClelland Dark Star presents itself in thick black flakes, almost uniform in their coloration, and bearing a strong aroma of acetic acid. The moisture content of this tobacco is high. I usually store my tobaccos in Le Parfait glass jars with a rubber gasket and bail closure, and the moist Dark Star flakes have adhered themselves to the bottom and sides of their jar.

Because of this high moisture content, it is very hard to light Dark Star, but I prefer to smoke it immediately without drying. I feel that drying this tobacco would make it lose some of the interesting characteristics it exhibits. I tend to fold the tobacco firmly and either push or screw it into the bowl of a pipe with just enough firmness to hold it in place. Two or three flakes will fill the bowl of a pipe of medium size while still allowing enough space between the folded flakes to allow for expansion while burning, allowing for a good draw. Adding a sprinkling of fine particles from the broken flakes in the bottom of a Dark Star tin to the top of a pipe bowl just before packing will reduce the time and effort it takes to light this tobacco.

This tobacco seems to be well suited to a briar pipe of a Liverpool, Cumberland, Lovat, or Zulu shape. A pipe with a tall and narrow chamber would be ideal. However, something like a dry system Oom Paul from Savinelli or Peterson might also be a perfect pipe for this tobacco, since Dark Star can smoke very wet if you don't approach it slowly and with care.

I would recommend a Zippo lighter with a pipe insert to be used for lighting this tobacco. Getting Dark Star to burn well can be a chore, and the aforementioned type of lighter will ignite the tobacco without risking rim charring of your briar. The initial vinegar tang of Dark Star will mask any taste from the liquid fuel of the Zippo that a sensitive palate might detect. (Personally, I have never had a problem with using a liquid fueled lighter, but some people claim they can detect an altered taste to their tobacco when using such a device.)

At the start of a smoke, Dark Star asserts itself strongly, with a tingling sensation on the palate and a taste of vinegar. These sensations are bracing and surprising, but not unpleasant. I could detect a hint of what seemed to be fresh mint in the background at first, which was most unexpected.

After a few minutes, the taste of Dark Star becomes softer and much more complex. Something of molasses and currant can be felt, and a meatier tobacco taste begins to appear in the background.

For the final act, Dark Star begins to taste more like a traditional English blend, such as Dunhill's Early Morning Pipe, or perhaps it could be perceived as a milder version of Gawith, Hoggarth's & Co's Black Irish X.

All in all, Dark Star is a pleasant tobacco that presents the smoker with a taste that evolves almost like what could be expected from a layering of different blends in a Chimney. I found this tobacco to be a surprising experience.

Dark Star is a chore to get burning, but it rewards patience and persistence well. A good, bracing tobacco that smokes like a three-act play.

Pipes used for testing: Brigham Chinook (65), Falcon A16-19, Peterson Darwin, Peterson Tankard, Freehand Baglan Meerschaum, Peterson Aran 268, Dunhill Shell 0314 Bulldog (1976)
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 04, 2006 Medium to Strong None Detected Full Pleasant
I love this in a small, tall and narrow bowl. From the first light there is a depth of flavor that is extraordinary, which builds and mellows to the bottom of the bowl. Studies of the olfactory system indicate that humans possess at least 500 different odorant receptors, each of which reacts with one or more compounds. Remarkably, specific neurons in the brain region called the olfactory cortex respond to only a combination of two different odorant molecules, not either one by itself (Science 10 March 2006 311: 1477-1481). This means that the brain responds in a way that integrates signals from different molecules: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is definitely true with fine tobacco. Puffing on Dark Star, I get very pleasing combinations of neurons activated, which, given the numbers of receptors and combinations of possible responses (500^8?), it is not surprising that we have difficulty describing such flavors and use analogies: malty notes mixed with old cabernet sauvignon, dried fruit, and ripe woods. This is one of my favorites. It is also very good when blended with other tobaccos if you like to attempt on your own to excite a symphony of olfactory sensations through mixing.

There is a learning curve to get it to burn well. I have had good luck with the slow in- out airflow cycle and employ frequent re-lights. The rewards are great!
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 27, 2005 Medium to Strong Mild Full Tolerable
There is a tin note of all of the McClelland blends that many pipe smokers either love or hate- it smells of Catsup to me. I cannot say that I go either way; I could certainly do without it, but will keep smoking their blends because I enjoy them.

And Darkstar has a sister- 2035, and in fact I think that they are twins.

This dark stoved VA Flake has the appearance of railroad ties, or small pieces of a car tire. In the literal sense of the description it is in no small part I'm sure due to the method of the stoving and stoving and stoving process. But they got it right; this blend is a lovely example of what happens to VA tobacco when it is put to the oven.

I bought several 5 year old tins from the local tobacconist a while back and have been smoking it off and on ever since in many different sized bowls.

For my tastes I rub it out as much as possible, as I was soon to find that otherwise it would take a blowtorch to light. The first half of the bowl has the sweet deep richness of a stoved flake, and as the bowl burns deeper so does the stoved flavor and body. To me it?s not comparable to other flakes, indeed this flake is in a world of its own, without the fermented aroma of Stonehaven and not the fig and raisin tin notes of Marlin Flake.

This Flake is the best that I have enjoyed by McClelland?s as far as this pipe smoker is concerned, and I will continue to do so- Darkstar is a part of my vast regular rotation.
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