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McClelland Tobacco:...
 
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Do you think McClelland is the white whale of the tobacco world? Poll is created on Dec 21, 2023

  
  
  
  
  

McClelland Tobacco: Overhyped or Lost Treasure?


Sir Otter
Posts: 118
Topic starter
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Joined: 1 year ago

I unfortunately started smoking pipe a couple years before McClelland shuttered their doors. I never got around to grabbing a tin because I was still exploring bulk tobaccos from my B&M and tins of Peterson. I want to know your opinions. Did I miss out on something special, or is it all nostalgia? 

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20 Replies
Posts: 63
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Joined: 8 years ago

No, I don't believe it's just nostalgia. McClelland use to be my go-to Virginias. As to whether it's overhyped, well things always seem to get bigger than life when they're no longer available. The thing that made McClelland's unique is that they were a family run operation. They really focused on the quality of the bulk tobacco they purchased wholesale. When they closed their doors, they stated the lack of the availability of quality tobacco and Government regulations as the two main reasons. They didn't want to sell their brand name, I'm assuming that included their curing/processing techniques, because they didn't think anybody else would've lived up to the McClelland standard.

With all that being said. McClelland's claim to fame was indeed their Virginias. You could easily recognize them by their unique "McKetchup" tin aroma. Yes, there are other Virginias out there with vinegar-esque aromas, but it's not the same as McClelland's McKetchup. There were smokers out there who didn't like that aroma and said it transferred into the flavor profile. I could smell it in the tin, but I didn't taste it while I was smoking it. The two things about McClelland that I enjoyed best were the consistency, which is objective, and the flavor, which is subjective. Particularly the flavor of their Red Virginias. They always had that fresh baked bread flavor with just a little bit of that yeasty kind of tang. I'm sure my memory is probably remembering the flavor a little better than it may have been, but that's the way it usually is with legends...

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Joined: 8 years ago

Estimable Member
Posts: 63

I should probably add a caveat to my above rant.

Yes, McClelland Virginias were absolutely the best of the best. But when all is said and done its still just tobacco. There is no way ANY tin of tobacco is worth hundreds of dollars! That's insane. Save your money and enjoy the tobacco that's still available. Since McClelland's demise, I've been smoking C&D's Opening Nights for a full spectrum Virginia, and Low Country's Edisto for a straight Red Virginia Flake... And enjoying them both thoroughly!

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Sir Otter
Joined: 1 year ago

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Posts: 118

Edisto is fantastic!

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gladi8tor96
Joined: 14 years ago

Eminent Member
Posts: 9

You nailed it with the VAs and the flavor profile.  They were not over-hyped...the tobaccos were amazing and will be missed.  I'm lucky to have several tins still in my cellar of a variety of their blends.  I crack them only on special occasions now.  Enjoying the VA #27 recently.

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nach0
Posts: 362
Noble Member
Joined: 2 years ago

Good pool.
I´d like to know the community opinion about them.
I only heard about, never had a chance to get a tin in my hands.

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Ted
Posts: 951
 Ted
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Joined: 7 months ago

There were some McClelland tobacco that was particularly good, mainly their Virginias and I still have more than a few cans put away. But, in my opinion and only my opinion for myself, many of their blends were good, but not better than the average good tobacco available. They had some real duds too. I will also point out that when they were available, they were always in stock and available, nobody was rushing to grab up all available until they closed. I also can’t help but notice how many old tins have been dumped on the tobacco resale market since they closed. If the tobaccos are truly as incredible as they get touted to be now, why are so many people willing to sell them? 

I’ve seen a lot of tobaccos come and go over the years and I’ve smoked a lot of different ones and I can’t think of any that are extremely better than what is available now. Some were far worse, some, like the old Murray’s products has an edge over current ones due to some higher quality tobacco being used than appears to be readily available today, but if there was ever a truly magical perfect tobacco that is no longer available, I don’t know what it is. 

I suppose that there is some basic human nature at work with missing discontinued tobacco, much like thinking fondly back to an old girlfriend or boyfriend after a breakup and they’ve moved on, or not fully appreciating things we take for granted until they’re gone. Plenty of nostalgia at work too, I’m sure. 

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Sir Otter
Joined: 1 year ago

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Posts: 118

Would you say any of these small batch releases with premium tobaccos stand up to the quality of McClelland's leaf? 

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Ted
 Ted
Joined: 7 months ago

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Posts: 951

That’s a tough one to answer. Off the top of my head so to speak, I can’t think of any Virginia even in the small batch type releases that is exactly on the same level. This may partially due to processing as well. I’m not sure I could accurately differentiate that point. Many are close though and I wouldn’t say the difference is extreme enough to say that the McClelland was a a true anomaly, but they definitely deserve credit for their Virginias. Their burleys were mostly average. The orientals they used seem on par with the ones used by Cornell & Diehl. Again, just my opinion, I’m sure others may disagree. 

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Joined: 8 years ago

Estimable Member
Posts: 63

I agree McClellands best product was their Virginias. Their other products/blends were probably as average as anybody else. I know their Froggy Morton series was popular, but I never tried any of those so I couldn't say one way or the other on that one.

I'm pretty sure McClellands Virginias were mostly from the southeastern United States, as opposed to some other parts of the world such as Africa, South America, or India. I know C&D talks a lot about their Virginias being from North and South Carolina. So, I guess I'm assuming C&D probably has the best chance for their Virginias to be the most similar to McClellands. I settled on Opening Night and Edisto and am quite satisfied with those.

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Ted
 Ted
Joined: 7 months ago

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Posts: 951

I agree and especially with Opening Night. It’s a touch different than some of the McClelland offerings, which may be processing differences more than leaf differences. I don’t feel it’s less than or a compromise. I’ve never tried Edisto, but based on your comments I’m going to grab a can the next time I order tobacco. 

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Joined: 8 years ago

Estimable Member
Posts: 63

Edisto is very similar to Opening Night in the same way McClelland red Virginias were very similar to McClelland full spectrum Virginias. The difference is more about nuances than any leaps and bounds. There are quite a bit of red Virginias within a full spectrum Virginia. If you like Opening Night then you'll like Edisto. That's about the size of it.

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Joined: 8 years ago

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Posts: 63

I never tried C&D's small batch releases. I prefer purchasing stuff that's always available and reasonably priced. Kind of reminds me of McDonalds and their McRib. Hurry up and get it while it's still available! It'll soon be gone!

Anyway, if C&D's small batches are the best of the best that C&D has to offer, then I'd have to assume they're probably as good as and maybe even better than McClelland. As a long time McClelland Virginia smoker, I now smoke Opening Night and Edisto pretty regularly and am quite satisfied with those C&D products. Are those two better than McClelland? I'd have to say becoming accustomed to a tobacco, becoming familiar with its flavor and nuances, have a lot to do with the pleasure of smoking. So, from that perspective, in a sense, for me anyway, I'd have to say Edisto and Opening Night are on par with McClelland.

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
Posts: 389
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Joined: 8 years ago

I read the Grand Orientals series were outstanding. A friend of mine whose opinion is very credible for me  claims that Wilderness and Legends are among the very best Latakia blends he has ever smoked.

As an Oriental tobacco lover I would like to try them.

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Posts: 63
Estimable Member
Joined: 8 years ago

I tried Wilderness and I wasn't impressed so I didn't bother to buy Legends. I'm pretty sure those were interpretations of Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture and Balkan Sobranie 759. There're quite a few interpretations/matches for the Balkan Sobranie tobaccos.

I know there was a throw down contest at the 2011 Chicago Pipe Show for Balkan Sobranie 759. Supposedly there were some people judging which of the Balkan Sobranie 759 matches tasted most like the original 1960's version of Balkan Sobranie 759. Hearth & Homes Blackhouse won the competition and McClellands Blue Mountain came in second place. I wouldn't be surprised if Wilderness and Legends were also in that competition.

So, if you're curious about Wilderness and/or Legends, my advice is to try Hearth & Homes White Knight and/or Blackhouse. If you don't like either one of those then you probably wouldn't have liked Wilderness or Legends. And like I said there's plenty of other matches, other than White Knight and Blackhouse, still available for the Balkan Sobranie tobaccos.

As for Mcclellands Grand Oriental Series, I'm pretty sure that was just a show case series promoted so that pipe smokers could sample different types of Orientals and compare flavor differences. I don't think anybody took them seriously as daily smokes. Russ Ouelette did the same thing with Acadian Perique. He had a show case series so smokers could taste the difference between the Acadian Perique varietals. 

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
Posts: 389
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Black House and White Knight are in my wish list since long time ago and I have excellent references about them.

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Sir Otter
Joined: 1 year ago

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Posts: 118

I can also recommend them! I have a jar of each open right now. 

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
Joined: 8 years ago

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Posts: 389

You're lucky. Fortunately for you Hungarian Customs are not like Spanish

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Joseph
Posts: 119
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Joined: 3 months ago

I know I’m late to the party. This poll is 2 months old. And, most of what can be said has already been said up above - but, if you’re interested…

…there’s a clear reason why McClelland Virginia was deservedly legendary

…and a permanent reason why it is a thing of the past.

The generational methods and traditional ways of the Old Belt American family tobacco farmer ARE NO MORE. To be specific, leaf from the bottom, middle, and top of the plant USED TO BE harvested by hand at separate times, and separated - once again by hand by generationally trained family experts - into 3 grades, a leaf at a time.

These were bundled separately and sold at auction. BY CONTRACT, you could negotiate a special reserve super premium cherry-picked quality with a family you built a relationship with - BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE LEAF WAS HAND GRADED!!!

That practice stopped when US Federal Regulations changed, with the intention of “helping” American farmers better compete on the global market.

In order to cut costs, selective, staged hand harvesting and grading no longer happens at all. Auctions are also a thing of the past. All commercially available bales contain all grades of all three leaf-types (low/mid/tip), harvested en-mass at the same time.

If you have a spare hour to kill, here’s a YouTube documentary which tells the whole story of what happened behind the scenes. American Leaf - Tobacco’s Last Harvest

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
Joined: 8 years ago

Noble Member
Posts: 389

In Cuba they distinguish five qualities of the tobacco leaf from the ground to the top of the plant. That kind of "help" to American farmers can only lead to a standard product in the worst sense of the word. 

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Sir Otter
Joined: 1 year ago

Reputable Member
Posts: 118

What a shame 🙁 I hate when governments step into businesses like this and destroy centuries of tradition. 

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