McClelland Balkan Beauty

Aged in cakes, then cut and spun, mixed and aged some more as a ribbon, the process behind McClelland's Balkan Beauty helps ensure a good marriage between the components of this rich smoking mixture.


Brand McClelland
Blended By McClelland Tobacco Company
Manufactured By McClelland Tobacco Company
Blend Type Balkan
Contents Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Packaging 50 grams tin
Country United States
Production No longer in production


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

Average Rating

3.43 / 4





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Displaying 1 - 11 of 14 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 19, 2017 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
This is a well balanced Balkan with a great flavor. The flavor of the Virginia is more pronounced than the Latakia. So, if that is what you like then this is perfect. However, if you prefer a stronger Latakia flavor then this may not be the blend for you.
PurchasedFrom: Iwan Ries
Age When Smoked: 2 years
4 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 27, 2016 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
I belive I tried a sample of this a year ago and loved it then. Just a fantastic, spicy Oriential-forward blend with enough sweet VIrginia to provide a good balance. Lighter on Latakia than most "Balkan" blends, this is much more of an all-day smoke than those. If you like Frog Morton (especially OTT), Legends and some those kinds of McClelland blends, you'll love this. I even find it comparable to Mississippi River with just a little more Oriental flavor. I will be stocking up to cellar this one.
Pipe Used: Nording, Missouri Meerschaum
Age When Smoked: just released
14 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 29, 2017 Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant
The smoky, woody, earthy, fairly buttery sweet, lightly dry and sour, mildly spicy and floral Orientals take a little of the lead in this blend. The musty, earthy, smoky, woody sweet Cyprian latakia is a supporting player. The earthy, fermented, stewed and ripe dark fruity Virginias have an essence of “vinegar” that quickly weakens as secondary support. The taste level is just past the mild level. The nic-hit is just past mild. No chance of bite or harshness even when pushed, and has no rough edges. Burns cool, clean and slightly slow with a richly consistent sweet and lightly savory flavor all the way to the finish. Leaves little moisture in the bowl, and needs an average number of relights. Has a pleasantly lingering campfire after taste. An all day smoke that may make a good starter blend for those looking to delve into this genre. Three and a half stars.

11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 12, 2017 Mild None Detected Mild Very Pleasant
A chunky cut blonde-to-black (heavy on the black) with a tin nose of juicy orientals and a light latakia aroma. I intended to start packing this loosely but it decided that it wanted a more snug pack. A bit of drying time is needed in order to experience the full palette of flavors this offers. I dried it for an hour, give or take. Any less and it was a dull, steamy mess.

Once again, McClellands chose a dubious name for their blend, and they are only half accurate from where I stand - it's not really a Balkan but it is a Beauty! A typical Balkan, like old Sobranie or GLP Charing Cross, is heavier in latakia than this one and the orientals and lat share the lead. Here the orientals and Virginias alternate leads, with the latakia well to the rear. In other words, this is what I would consider a traditional Scottish blend rather than a Balkan. But that's ok, names aside, what I got from this one was McClellands stellar Virginias merging with some of the juiciest, most delectable orientals I've ever smoked. As I mentioned, the latakia was light but a key player, adding smoke to the sweet and sour mix. This is a soft blend in that I didn't get overwhelmed with latakia (I have a very high sensitivity to its presence) but it has a light spicy, buttery sweet flavor that is rich in character while not being heavy. Think McClellands Legends rather than the above two-mentioned Balkans. But I preferred this one and, in fact, this is probably my new favorite McClellands lat blend. I enjoy a few of theirs but this is the one I'll stock up on. Give it a try if you like your latakia on the lighter side but crave sweet Virginias and orientals. This is a potential classic!
11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 04, 2017 Very Mild None Detected Medium Pleasant
I have often thought that if I were an objective tobacco-assessing computer, then I would declare Smoker's Haven Exotique the best Balkan blend. Alas, I am not a computer. While Exotique strikes me as having all the qualities that the best Balkan blend would possess, including a fantastically perfect cut, it is not my favorite. To my tastes Exotique is too smooth, lacking the mild rough edge I like in a Balkan blend. It is as if some part of the Orientals' taste profiles were lopped off. Oh, but Exotique is so close to perfect in my eyes. Its minor shortcoming has left me searching for the Balkan blend that would really have it all.

I think my search for that blend is over. In Balkan Beauty the Virginias and Cyprian Latakia provide a steady sweetness. The Latakia, of course, also provides smokiness, though I do not find this to be a heavy Latakia blend. The Orientals are first among equals here providing spice, their own kind of sweetness, and a wonderful retrohale.

As one might expect when discussing a "beauty," I am at a bit of a loss in pinning down exactly what makes this tobacco beautiful. I think McClelland's unique process for aging this blend is the main part of the story. Aging the tobacco in cakes has helped homogenize the flavors of the tobaccos, providing the leaf with harmony. The aging has also made the blend smooth, but the rough edge I need remains in just the right proportion.

Balkan Beauty packs and burns well, and I did not feel the need to dry the tobacco before loading a bowl. The strength in terms of nicotine content is very mild. In terms of taste this blend shades just above medium for a Balkan Blend. Unusually for me, I was present while a friend was smoking this tobacco, so I can say that the room note is more pleasant than is often the case for a Balkan blend.

According to McClelland's site, this tobacco has been labeled a "Holy Grail" blend. I humbly concur.
8 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 27, 2018 Medium None Detected Medium Unnoticeable
Unfortunately, nothing like a company going out of business to make their blends even more popular than they were. Alas, such seems to be the case of McClelland. This is the third one I was able to sample a few weeks ago at the pipe club I attend. It smoked very well, smooth and balanced. This one had a sweeter profile, taste to it. As stated previously from other reviews of McClelland, I only had a couple of bowls and really can’t do a proper review but since my memory ain’t what it used to be I wanted to annotate that I at least had the fortune of trying some of these blends that are no longer in production. Thanks to the guys from the pipe club for bringing these in for us to try. This tin was dated 2016.
Age When Smoked: 2 years
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 23, 2017 Mild Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
Structurally speaking, I would recommend smoking this blend as slowly as possibly. Because the components are derived from spun-out cakes, the residual density of the leaf suggests that the blend ought to be smoked at a pace more consistent with that for a rubbed-out cake or flake than for a conventional English, which can be smoked more aggressively. I consider this imperative because the more subtle characteristics of this blend are quickly lost if it is smoked at an unforgiving pace.

The blend is dry, and occasionally salty on the tongue. This dryness does not abate further down the bowl.

Just as McClelland are known for their unique Virginias, their other tobaccos have unique and distinguishing characteristics of their own. The Orientals featured, for example, are typical McClelland--rather than being light, papery and floral like most Orientals on the market, McClelland Orientals are richer and oilier, with flavors of bitter-olive. The Latakia, too, has an underlying rich sweetness, which is a McClelland trademark.

Upon opening the tin note was strongly of vinegar and smoke, quite suggestive of barbecue sauce. After several days of "breathing" the tin note becomes more subtle, the vinegar ceding to the soft smokiness and floral aromas of the leaf.

This blend is an interesting, and perhaps "more authentic" Balkan, in the sense that it does not exaggerate by the addition of Latakia. Rather, the Virginias, Orientals and Latakia are very well proportioned, with the Latakia furnishing a smokey undertone that begins to build significantly only around the three-quarters-bowl. The Virginias and Orientals are rich and flavorful, but not necessarily delicate, and so the blend gives the impression, again, of being a somewhat "more authentic" grass-roots blend. These tend toward harshness if the blend is smoked over-impetuously. There is also a pleasant astringency and bitterness that builds toward the end, perhaps from the Orientals.

This is an interesting blend and I wish I could compare it with a blend composed of the same, un-caked components.

I wouldn't call this an all-day blend, in the sense that it ought to be smoked gently and savored. Other Balkan blends, in ribbon format, render up their qualities more freely and less fastidiously, and thus are a more flexible all-day smoke.
Pipe Used: all shapes and sizes
PurchasedFrom: a gift from a friend
Age When Smoked: fresh
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 28, 2017 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
In my humble opinion, the house of McClelland is the finest blender working in the US today. Their latest blend, Balkan Beauty, is a wonderful testament to this claim.

Upon opening the tin, one is greeted with the classic nose of McClelland's English blends. Pleasantly pungent, it is at once sweet, woodsy, and slightly smoky. In a word, all that a delicious blend of this type should be.

My tin - a fresh 2017 vintage - had a near perfect moisture content. While I normally let each bowl dry 15-30 minutes before loading, my usual pinching test suggests that this would not be necessary. The cut is fairly large so careful packing, especially to avoid overfilling the bowl, is necessary. I do normally end up rubbing out a couple of pieces just to be sure. However, once the tobacco packs down, it is fairly well behaved.

The burn rate is consistent with what one expects in this type of blend. A couple of relights are always necessary but the bloom develops nicely and leaves fine dry ash. A white billowing smoke is a big benefit in my book and the Balkan Beauty produces it in great quantities.

Of course, the real quality of a mixture resides in taste and this is where this beauty really shines. There is the leathery sweetness of McClellands Latakia, complimented by the pleasant sourness of the Basma leaf. The taste remains complex through the bowl with different flavours coming to the fore, then retreating for a time.

As with almost all blends, the claim of this being unlike anything one has smoked are exaggerated. But for my part, I am only glad to find the flavours that I so love in McClellands English and Balkan blends getting a fresh interpretation.

The Balkan Beauty tastes like another legend in the making, bearing unmistakable affinity to classics like the Frog Mortons, Wilderness and, Three Oaks. With the latter two now sadly out of production, the Balkan Beauty feels like a rightful heir to their well deserved fame.

Gorgeous indeed!
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 18, 2018 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
Another wonderful tobacco lost to the cruel evolution of the industry Balkan Beauty is one I have often passed due to the crowding of the category and and an abundance of the genre in my cellar. Thankfully I picked up 2 tins before it disappeared shortly before the announcement that McClelland Tobacco was no more.

The tin note has a faint McClelland signature ketchup smell, not as strong as many others but it is there. Smokey Latakia and woody Orientals jump out in a classic Balkan aroma.

The flavors in this are fantastic! To me the hallmark of a Balkan is the malty character the tobaccos provide as they marry together in the smoke and this presents itself early in the experience. The first flavors that I get are sweet, smokey Latakia mixed with sweet Virgini'as with a hint of musty hay and lemon. This develops into a dark fruit flavor with the smokey sweetness still up front. The woody and slightly sour orientals come through and I swear there is some Yenidje in here as that club soda flavor is occasionally present. The malted flavors come to there pinnacle around mid bowl with all tobaccos melding harmoniously to create a uniquely Balkan flavor. This sticks with me throughout bowl. I really wish I bought more of this. It is similar to Blue Mountain but with some subtle differences (more stoved red Virginia I think). I am glad I have several tins of Blue Mountain but lament not having stocked up before it was too late.
Pipe Used: meerschuam, cob and briar
Age When Smoked: 2 years
4 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 15, 2017 Mild None Detected Medium Tolerable
Looking for an Oriental/Latakia forward blend that's easy on the N? This might be for you. Lat-lovers will likely think this tipping towards the earthy-olive Orientals; those that rarely smoke Latakia blends will think it's Lat-forward but not overwhelmingly so. I would say it the Latakia is just foremost, reinforced by the Orientals, with the VAs giving some structure and sweetness.
Pipe Used: briars, cobs, and meers
PurchasedFrom: pipes and cigars
Age When Smoked: 20 months
4 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Sep 27, 2016 Medium Extremely Mild Medium to Full Tolerable to Strong
As the tin description highlights, this definitely has the virtues of a very well aged blend. The blend elements are melded together very harmoniously into a more unified smoking experience, not a blend of varying complexity. The cut is among McClelland's finer cuts for it's blends. A medium to full english style with a refined edge and somewhat less in nicotine than a medium blend so, still satisfying in that regard. In picking apart the blend and burning these individual elements I was surprised that the Latikia has more rounded, sweet character than is typical with this leaf. The Virginias are mid-brown ready rubbed with smooth sweetness almost verging on a brown sugar character that slightly dominates the taste of the blend followed by the fuller Latikia character. The Orientals seem rather subdued and lean towards a more underlying harmony with the Virginias. This is perhaps a little disappointing for me being a fan of orientals and wonder that a stronger variety would have been better choice well, to my liking anyways. But, this blend is not flat in the way I perceive strict blends of Virginia and Latakia only. Along the way smoking this it did eventually remind me of Murray's production of Dunhill's 965 without the more prominent brown sugar flavor of the brown cavendish base. It's very much a blend in that style that echoes that classic tobacco.
4 people found this review helpful.
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