When I started pipe smoking, there was a lot I wasn't familiar with. I was just learning about pipes, and was admiring my brand new Savinelli Qandale Churchwarden when I realized that I had no idea what to put in it. Yeah, tobacco, I knew that much, but I didn't realize how many different kinds of pipeweed are out there. For a new pipesmoker, it was quite daunting. Between different aromatics, strengths, flakes, blends, and the use of terms like Burly, Latakia and Virginia, tobacco was a new world to explore.
Fortunately, sitting in the offices at Smokingpipes.com surrounds one with plenty of experts and aficionados. Next to me, Adam suggested McClelland Walnut Liqueur. Since this sounded like a good starting point, I headed up the store to get some. While there, I also bought some McClelland Creme Caramel.
I tried the Walnut first, followed by the Caramel a day or so later (I am by no means a heavy smoker, enjoying my pipe only once or twice a week). Both of these made for a fine introduction to pipe tobacco. Over time, I was offered bowls of this or that, and I can't say that I found any that I didn't enjoy. However, the real surprise came with the suggestion that I get some Gawith Hoggarth & Co. Bob's Chocolate Flake.
What really got me about it was how the smoke coated your tongue with a silky layer of chocolate. It was as if you had popped a piece of Hersey's into your mouth and just let it melt on your tongue. That was great, but even more surprising was how it reduced the lingering tobacco aftertaste, which I found very pleasant. So, I started to experiment, mixing in a little Bob's with my next Caramel bowl. Just as they go in the food world, Chocolate and Caramel seem to be made to go together in the tobacco world as well.
It was then that I threw in some of the Walnut Liquor, and I really began to enjoy the blend of the three tobaccos. It is currently my go-to bag when I desire a smoke, and have begun to call it my "Snickers" blend. Of course, it was all made with a bit of this and some of that, so I can't give you a recipe, but it is more Walnut Liquor and only a bit of Chocolate with a helping of Caramel in the middle. Bob's is very light but goes a long way in reducing the aftertaste. Adam has also suggested McClelland Just Plain Nut for a more accurate "Snickers" blend, should anyone be interested in experimenting further.
Of course, after a month or so of this mixture, I am starting to look around for new tobaccos to blend. So, off I go to the tobacco jars; the adventure continues.
It should be mentioned that as we were scrambling today to put together this Thursday’s update, we were simultaneously engaged in hurryingly unpacking somewhat of a gigantic shipment that we’d just received from the good folks at McClelland. This was no ordinary delivery from Mike and Mary McNeil, mind you; this is the day we got in Christmas Cheer 2012. That this blend is newly available is important news and worthy of a second, more focused broadcast, we believe.
And so we’d like to bring to your attention in a most particular way the long awaited arrival of one of the most popular seasonal offerings we’re lucky enough to present each year at Smokingpipes.com. McClelland’s Christmas Cheer; coveted by many a pipe smoker for its generous helping of vintage Virginia, and naturally sweet smoking characteristics, this year’s blend is sure to age exceptionally well considering how complex, though nuanced and smooth, it is fresh from its tin. Be sure to pick up more than a few right out of the gate, because once it’s gone, it’s gone and no two Christmas Cheer vintages are alike.
While we’re at it, it should be observed that we’ve also released a handful of other new blends by McClelland this afternoon. Be sure to check out Contest Blend, Holiday Spirit, the particularly exciting Stave-Aged 35, as well as another new Craftsbury option in Frog Morton’s Cellar. And last but not least, M-94 and M-95 join rank with the rest of our McClelland bulk tobacco selection.
I’m an enormous fan of J. R. R. Tolkien. Of course, I dig that he
was a pipe smoker and am particularly fond of the fact that he included in the world he called Middle Earth an
entire roster of characters who too preferred fine leaf and pipe smoking. Naturally, there have been crafted
numerous Tolkien-inspired blends over the years but unfortunately most have been either troublesome to acquire or
rather terrible to smoke.
In my opinion, ‘Frog Morton’, of McClellands’ Craftbury Collection, is likely the most remarkable tobacco blend
anchored in the fictional Arda, despite that it’s a Tolkien reference totally obscure. The name itself is derived
from a small hamlet mentioned in ‘The Return of the King’ in the East Farthing of the Shire called Frogmorton, which
means frog marsh. The village is notable for its inn ‘The Floating Log’, the place where Frodo, Sam, Merry and
Pippin are arrested as they make their way back to Hobbiton having destroyed the One Ring. However, McClelland’s tin
depicts the pipe smoking frog, ‘Frog Morton’, sitting on a log, probably smoking what’s described on the label as
the result of four years of blending and his proudest achievement. What’s this have to do with LOTR? Pretty much
Nevertheless, ‘Frog Morton’ is some good tobacco. The mild addition of smooth latakia to McClelland’s signature
mature Virginia has this blend smoking so sweet I might have thought it spiced with Cavendish. Flavorful, yet mild,
‘Frog Morton’ is one of those blends that I find I enjoy terrifically with a book on a cold night after dessert.
This stuff is big time satisfying.
Because I’m a total geek Because I’m so fond of Tolkien and his wonderful world of characters, I’ll keep
waiting for that perfectly inspired and readily available Middle Earth based pipe tobacco to hit the market. In the
meantime, it doesn’t get any better than ‘Frog Morton’.
Sykes and I have talked over the years about tobacco blending, which is not surprising, and we decided that our blog is a great way to talk about some of the blends we make for our walk-in customers. When I began working for the company, we had a huge variety of bulk tobaccos - and now we have even more. While nearly all of my time is in my second-floor office working on various aspects of our weekly updates, the chance to talk tobaccos with a customer is always great.
There have been many pipe smokers in our store, Low Country Pipe & Cigar, and some of them like to taste our various blends to decide what best suits their taste. We encourage this, and always enjoy helping them pin-point what it is they like about a certain blend, and how best to alter it. Back in 2006, a gentleman came into the store looking for a tobacco he could no longer find. As we have come to notice over the years (and I'm sure you have as well), many tobacco shops take a stock tobacco and give it a cooler name. To avoid confusion, we leave the names as the companies do. For example: We have Lane RLP-6, which countless customers have walked in with under such monikers as "Revery", "Captain's Delight", "Lamp Lighter", etc. While these do sound inviting, it's really difficult to figure out what the blend is. The tobacco this particular gentleman was smoking was not this, but there were subtle flavors I could detect. He wanted a blend that was mild, sweet, flavorful, and lacking tongue-bite. After discussing McClelland's Pastry blend, he decided it was good, but just a bit too sweet for him. Taking note of this, I suggested blending in an unflavored tobacco to tone it down a bit - McClelland Eastern Carolina Ribbon (ECR).
After making up a few small samples for him to try over the following weeks, we hit the nail on the head. This customer comes into our store every month or so, and this enjoys smoking a blend made especially for him: 10.5 ounces of Pastry blended with 5.5 ounces of ECR.
To add to this post, I've made a short video explaining how we blend small batches for our walk-in customers, and ourselves. It's really a simple process since no other pressing, stoving, or topping is involved. We hope you enjoy the video, and hope to make more in the future.
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