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 1 - 10 of 229 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 09, 2002 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant
One of the best damn tobaccos you will ever smoke. Period. This has incredible high, middle and low-range notes. It has delicacy and complexity, while simultaneously being rich, flavorful and deeply satisfying. Every six months of additional age it receives makes it even better. This is perhaps the finest example of the naturally high-sugar, zesty American style of Virginia.

Can this one bite you? Absolutely, due to the sugar content. Should you avoid this because it bites? Absolutely not. My tips to maximum enjoyment of this blend are: grind it quite finely (I usually do 3-5 seconds in the coffee grinder); have some saliva on your tongue when you light up, and light it thorougly (for best tongue-bite protection); smoke it slowly, consciously and cool (essential to get the most out of DS); and finally, as with all McClelland Virginias, let some sidestream air enter your mouth when you draw smoke. This makes the Virginias sing!
37 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 26, 2015 Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
The sweet Virginias offer a range of flavors: citrus, tangy dark stewed fruits, sugar, wood, a little grass/hay, some earth, and a touch of spice to go along with a occasional tartness. The “vinegar” smell is in the taste, but it diminishes before long. Has a decent smoky quality to it. The strength and taste levels are medium. The nic-hit is a couple of steps past the center of mild to medium, though it may not seem that way because of sweetness. It certainly needs a bit of dry time, and I cube cut it to help the slow burn rate, and still have to relight quite often. Some say it bites, but I did not experience that, though I do recommend a moderate cadence to savor the various flavor notes, which are very consistent all the way through. Has no harsh or dull moments. Leaves some moisture in the bowl, and you may have to stir up the last quarter to burn it all up. Has a pleasantly lingering after taste. Not quite an all day smoke.

23 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 09, 2009 Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant
UPDATE 3/27/17

I wish I could remember who advised me to microwave this blend for 10 seconds prior to loading and smoking, as it's some of the best tobacco advice I've ever received. It dries the tobacco properly - something that simple air doesn't do for forever - and it allows the tobacco to hold a light. The flavor remains unchanged; pay no mind to those who claim that microwaving changes the structure of the tobacco in some horrible way. I get all the same flavors without all the steam and frustration. This is a 4 star blend if you enjoy the flavors that an excellent stoved flake produces. I've stocked up on this and never fail to microwave it. 10 seconds only - I've tried fewer and more, because that's how I roll - and 10 seconds turns it into absolute perfection.


This stuff pisses me off. It's a wonderful tasting smoke... when you can get it to hold a light for longer than 2 minutes, which is rare. I tried drying it to almost tinder, various methods of loading and everything else I could think of and it's just too much of a pain. A tobacco that won't stay lit (much like Rattray's Black Virginia) but that tastes great screams to become a blender. I'll have to experiment with the remainder of this. On its own, it's not worth the effort, simply because no amount of effort makes much of a difference. Four stars for flavor, zero stars for smoke-ability.
23 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 27, 2009 Medium Extremely Mild Full Pleasant to Tolerable
This is my first review, never having had the confidence to do so before, so it'll likely be a short one.

to start with I'm predominantly an English and Balkan smoker, so that's where I'm coming from. That said, I knew I needed to overcome my fear of being bitten by VA's, and to be honest the tin design sold this to me. I am a simple soul.

On opening the tin I was hit predominantly by the smell of uncooked Christmas cake, a rich plummy odour. The ketchup smell was also there but expected, and I know it has no bearing on the smoke whatsoever. The flakes themselves were dark, rich, and had a rubbery feel, moist as they were. Being fairly new at contemplating the tobacco itself, rather than the pipe I smoke it in, I was surprised not to see any trace of bright colours, something I found reassuring as a man with VA phobia.

I know that flakes can be a problem, and I prefer dryer baccy, so I gave it 30 minutes before rubbing out and packing a small Kaywoodie Zulu fairly solidly. I then sprinkled some of the "dust" on top as kindling.

I light using the "5,3,1" method, ensuring a deep overall burn, and settled down with some trepidation, praying my tongue would survive this pure Virginia experience.

It did.

Not only that, but I was rewarded with a long, cool smoke, free of any bite. I put this down to the triple ageing and stoving. As always the second half of the bowl produced the most satisfying flavours. The smoke is white and billowy, and unlike many other reviewers I had no trouble keeping it lit, mainly I think due to frequent and gentle tamping, and that good initial light.

This is a great introduction for a new VA smoker, which surprises me as it has the feel of a "high end" tobacco, which I would have initially imagined would be fairly temperamental, as most pedigrees are. I am pleased to say this has been an outstanding introduction for me to the world of VAs, and has given me the confidence to approach VAs as a regular part of my smoking experiences. Highly, highly recommended.
23 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 14, 2011 Mild None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant
Ok so if you have tried this you may be aware of the McClelland tin smell, I won't debate it here, other than I personally love it. You may also be aware that it is hard to keep lit, is a pain in the ass to rub out, is to wet to smoke out of the tin and can bite you hard if your not careful. But wait...? I thought you gave it four stars?

So first off let my start by letting you in on my ritual with this fine 'baccy. I pop open a 100g tin and then rub the whole thing out as fine as I can make it, takes about a half hour. After transforming the black and dark brown rubbery, leathery, jerky like flakes into something resembling crumbled up rubber I then let it sit out on a piece of wax paper for forty eight hours. I then pour back into the tin and let it sit a week to "rest". (all that work for a pipe? are you crazy?) Now that this stuff is at a smokable consistency, I gravity load a bowl and pack as one would normally, making a few slight adjustments for humidity, time of day, wind speed, ect...

give it about four chars ( maybe more ) then its time to go to flavor country, and yes it's a big country. This is one of the sweetest, tastiest flakes ever produced. It coats the palate with a slight tingle and a delicious sweetness right off the first few puffs. Don't over do it or it will burn you. You have been warned! Then a myriad of delicate and subtle flavors come knocking at the door. Stewed stone fruits, plums, zesty citrus notes, some exotic spices, smoked wood, and a dense syrupy note. Then there is more, a thick creamy back drop develops as you puff your way down. things get a little more dense ( don't get carried away she's good to you now but she's gonna bite if you rush her). some warmth starts to really develop, not heat mind you, but warmth, a soothing chocolaty delicacy like a bowl of tiramisu with lemon zest, honey and some clove and nutmeg. this tobacco starts getting rich and dense on the palate. all the while remaining sweet and savory. As you go down things get ever richer to the point where a little bit of bitter hits you at the dottle then it's time to stop, and your left thinking "done so soon?" The reality is this is a long lasting smoke that you can get so absorbed in that you didn't even notice the hours going by.

Not what I would call an all day smoke, though I have made it that at times, and too damn tasty to keep only for "special occasions. this is a great achievement in blending, fermenting, aging and stoving.

I like the classy feel of the tin art work, gives me something nice to look at while contemplating, thought I don't like much to take away from my focus on the 'baccy at hand. weather you have been smoking a long time or are new to the hobby learning the ropes of this one is a true reward. for me this is what VA is all about.

Fully rubbed out you can smoke it in any pipe shape so suite your self on that one. I personally favor a peterson 05 shape.
22 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 06, 2009 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
Yes, Dark Star is as unique as everyone says it is. Think Stonehaven with ketchup. And maybe a little Irish Flake thrown in for good measure. My tin is date stamped 2006.

It's a coal black flake not unlike Stonehaven in appearance. First time I tried it, I tried rubbing it, but it doesn't really want to cooperate with such treatment - the flakes just broke up into small chunks. So I started cube cutting(a very fine cut with the small scissors on my Leatherman) and gravity feeding (my method for almost any flake anymore) and it burns perfectly from the very first light. A lot of people complain about lighting this stuff and keeping it lit, but the cube cut-gravity feed method works great for me with virtually any difficult flake.

I made the mistake today of working in the yard with a pipeful of this in my jaw. Not a good idea, since I can't concentrate on the pipe when I'm hanging Christmas lights. I unconsciously puff too hard and it gets bitter like Irish Flake seems to be all the time for me. This tobacco needs to be treated like a fine Virginia - slow and easy, sipping and savoring. When I pay attention to it, it comes alive.

On sipping, the VA sweetness is very forward in the flavor, while the Carolina (I think just another name for Burley - please correct me if I'm wrong) and dark stoving provide a smokiness that borders on cigar- or cigarette-like ashiness, but if the temperature is carefully controlled this can be eliminated. Then you're left with just a rich, primal, slightly complex, smoky flavor that simply satisfies.

Dark Star fills a void somewhere between FVF and Irish Flake. It's got enough quality Virginia (which we expect from McClelland) to provide a solid foundation of flavor, and enough whatever else they throw in there to create a diversion from your everyday smoke. I'm going to give it four stars because I like unique, especially when done with such high quality constituents. I certainly hope to buy more for long-term aging.
19 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 28, 2015 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
I took the advice of a couple of reviewers here (Inquisitor, SmokeDawg) and ran these flakes through my food chopper. Came out looking like it had been cube cut with each cube about the size of a BB. Took about 8 pulses of 1-2 seconds duration. I recommend examining after each pulse, you don't want to take it too far. I then jarred it. I noted several reviewers mentioning how hard it was to stay lit so when I want some I dry enough for a bowl thoroughly, takes about 4 hours. Gravity fed is the only way to load. It's so firm that pressing it down is impossible. Takes a few lights to get it going, but once lit you are on your way.

The flavor is ridiculously good. Sweet dark fruity flavors. What fruit? I have no idea. It's like a fruit salad with flavors coming from all directions. Even a little spice thrown in. I first smoked it in a General, which has a deep bowl, and it lasted so long I had to smoke it in two parts with a long break in between. I prefer a smaller bowl such as the Mark Twain or even the nose-warming Morgan.

Medium in body and flavor. Burns well when processed and dried. This is a fantastic tobacco.
Pipe Used: MM General, MM Mark Twain, MM Morgan
Age When Smoked: fresh
18 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 25, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
This tobacco is a patient man's pleasure. It's not exactly easy to prepare. Compared to most flakes it requires quite a bit of dry time as well a good amount of in-smoke attention in the form of relights, careful tamping and eventually aeration. The broken flakes are dense and almost impossibly moist out of the tin. Dark Star is best left for when I have nothing to do but wait for moist tobacco to dry with ample time left over to sit around and smoke it. A perfect lazy Sunday afternoon affair.

Dark Star produces a copious amount of creamy, zesty smoke. The flavor is not as toasty as its distant cousin Blackwoods Flake. Comparatively, it is more brooding, earthy and a bit more muted but there is a familial resemblance. At a smolder it gives a touch of sweetness on the tongue with a long lingering tang on the finish. As the bowl warms, hints of the sour & deeply fermented tin aroma resonate, and a pleasant tart flavor builds. Mid to end bowl flavors are a more complex amalgamation of dark fruit, earth and wood, with a broad warm tone and a spicy mouthfeel. There are some wonderful flavors to be had here, a perfect balance of rustic & refined.

Preparation time aside, along with a few frustrations that can be mostly avoided by cube cutting the flakes and not overfilling the pipe or packing too tightly, an easy four star tobacco blend.
Pipe Used: Jesse Jones Billiard
Age When Smoked: 6
14 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 22, 2009 Medium Extremely Mild Medium to Full Pleasant
I bought this on a whim when I saw it on the shelf (before I discovered!). I didn't even know it was a virginia flake when I handed over my cash because I didn't read the tin: I wanted to be surprised. I guess the name intrigued me that day, and I trust McLelland to deliver quality tobacco. I'm so very glad I took the chance! This instantly became my go-to Virginia flake.

My first bowl was a revelation of just how sublime some tobaccos can be. Every bowl that followed has confirmed my initial impression (but you never forget your first...). It's a finicky blend that requires just the right pipe to tease out its delicate mysteries. (For me it's a rusticated 1/4 bent apple now dedicated to Dark Star.)

Part of my obsession with this particular tobacco is that it's elusive: just when I think I've figured it out it shimmers to reveal some new facet -- it's veritably a cubist flavor. I didn't know tobacco could be like this: biteless, subtle, darkly sweet (like sulphur molasses), complex, full, spicy, lush, mysterious and even romantic, like a Berg string quartet. This blend for me enters the realm of high art.

Others cavil about how difficult the flake is to work with, but I haven't had any trouble -- I rub it out very thoroughly and have no trouble keeping it lit.

I can't get enough of this one. Honestly, I didn't expect that I could fall in love with a tobacco like I have with this one.
13 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 13, 2010 Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant
I can't seem to find a McClelland's blend I DON'T like, and this is by no means an exception. This is a truly unique smoke - rich, tangy, sweet, smooth and alluring virginias, and then some. It's almost like someone threw a light dose of the finest black cavendish and a pinch of Royal Cajun Ebony into some aged Aurora. Certainly not an aromatic, but a delicious treat all the same. I find myself ramping up the cadence regularly to accelerate and intensify the wonderful flavor experience, especially mid-bowl, and have to stop myself from smoking it like a runaway chimney out of sheer amusement and indulgence. No tongue bite, either, despite placing unreasonable and selfish demands on the bowl. The trademark tangy, smokey-sweet BBQ undertones and a slight, not-unpleasant, earthy tar-like quality enhance this particular blend, rather than imbalancing or dominating it.

Unlike some other reviewers, I tend to break this down by peeling the flakes longwise into fine strands with some length to them, rather than rubbing and crumbling it down into little hard bits. Once it is fine enough to tangle, I pack it more tightly than normal, usually into a low, wide bowl. I then have no issues whatsoever getting it lit and keeping it going, right to the bottom of the bowl. Puts out rich, luxurious clouds of dense, fragrant smoke. This has become one of my frequent evening companions, sitting out over the lake bidding adieu to the fleeting sunset and ushering in the blackness of night, as the balmy breezes rustle the maples. As the darkness descends, Dark Star provides euphoric accompaniment to Lustmord's The Place Where the Black Stars Hang and a quality tawny port. A worthy and memorable experience, now go find out for yourself what McClelland's can do with virginias and carolinas in this savory blend...

UPDATE: It was so tempting I decided to, in fact, throw a pinch of Lane's BCA in with a bowl of Dark Star. The results were even more intoxicating smoke, with slight hints of sweetness which counter and balance the tanginess and slight tar-like qualities, to further mellow the smoke and smooth out the taste very slightly. Even more fragrant room note, just as cool smoking, and simply low-maintenance to light and keep lit, right down to the bottom of the bowl, with an occasional gentle tamping. If you like Dark Star, and are also an aromatic fan, try a small pinch of Lane's BCA or some other high quality black cavendish such as Bennington's Raven or McClelland's VBC. You won't be disappointed.
12 people found this review helpful.
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