Mac Baren - Dark Twist 3.5oz
Smooth but Pronounced Flavor
The aroma from the open tin initially takes me back to my cigarette-smoking days and a pack of freshly opened unfiltered Camels (40 years ago I really liked that smell). Ahhh, but then the sweet smells of raisin/prune step gently forward with a promise of something certainly more deeply interesting and flavorful than a plain old cigarette. The taste and pleasant room note from Dark Twist are qualities that lately have made this an all-day smoke for me. And I love the Roll Cake "coins" that lend themselves so readily to the preparation of a perfect load, so to speak. I roll the coins gently between my fingers to slightly separate the tobacco strands for the bottom third of the bowl and I use a hand grinder to more completely separate the strands for the middle third and finally, I use the fine bits from the grinder to top off the bowl. It lights very easily. This process may sound complicated but it takes only a minute or two. If you take it easy you won't get any bite and you will be rewarded with a fresh and sweet Virginia tobacco taste.
Mac Baren - HH Mature Virginia 100g
Hail to "The Old Dominion"
I recently opened a tin of Matured Virginia that I had been allowing to age for almost 5 years and, boy howdy, was I impressed?! This is true straight-up Virginia sweetness at its finest and I suspect that the newer stuff is excellent, too. I intend to buy some more for aging and also a little to try now.
Sutliff - Top Shelf 1.5oz
If you like Bourbon or the aroma of Bourbon you need to try this blend! The tin aroma immediately brought Maker's Mark to my mind and I was not disappointed when I fired it in one of my favorite billiards. Top Shelf has that pleasant sweetness one expects from a quality sour mash Bourbon, while blending almost perfectly the nuances of the Cavendish, Virginias and Burleys. It is full-flavored, but smooth, and not at all overpowering. Top Shelf not only tastes good and has no bite but it produces a very pleasant room note, as well. If you're looking for a good companion to a bold cup of black coffee, a good book or a favorite old movie this may be the blend for you. I promise you it's moving into my regular rotation.
James J. Fox - Hibernia 50g
This truly is top-shelf stuff! Each flavor of the individual tobaccos composing this blend combine to form a very rewarding smoking experience. The Virginias provide just the right amount of strength, roundness and subtle floral sweetness; the Burley shows off its best nutty qualities; the Perique imparts just the right level of strength, spice and character. I said it was top-shelf and the price reflects just that. That's the only reason I didn't give it a full 5-star review. Oh, and I wish it were available in 100g tins!
Mac Baren - Plumcake 3.5oz
I was first introduced to this blend by one of my college roommates in 1967 (thanks Craig) and I've always kept a tin handy since then. The nutty and slightly fruity room note produced when he smoked it was what first attracted me to Plumcake. My wife says, because of the aroma, this is one of her favorites for me to smoke. Latakia is listed as an ingredient but I can't taste or smell it either in the tin or in the room note. This is a blend that can get away from you if you smoke it too fast and will result in harshness, as well as a hot and gurgling pipe. However, if aired out a little before lighting and smoked in a leisurely manner, Plumcake will reward you with a tasty and all-around pleasant experience. It's not one of my every day smokes but I do enjoy it frequently. Len Barrett
Mac Baren - Original Choice 3.5oz
I've been a pipe smoker since 1966 and this absolutely is one of my favorite smokes, second perhaps only to Dunhill's 965. I know they're two different styles, as Original Choice contains no Latakia, but I like what I like. The naturally fruity and sweet aroma from an open tin (initial moisture level usually is fine) of this Mac Baren blend, especially in the mornings, makes me want to fire up a big bowlfull in one of favorite bulldogs and savor it as I sip a cup of strong black coffee. The room note and flavor of this blend are exactly what I expect from the tin aroma....full, a little sweet and very pleasant. This is a blend that produces fragrant clouds of considerable smoke and, when puffed in a temperate manner and with a little tamping, burns to a gray-white ash with very little, if any, dottle left in the bottom of the bowl. To me, the flavor and aroma produced by this natural blend represent some of the qualities desired from an aromatic blend but without the syrupiness and tongue bite experienced with many of those aromatics. I do feel compelled to state that Mac Baren's Original Choice is not at all a mild blend but if you like a full-flavor smoke, or are feeling perhaps a little adventurous, give it a try. Enjoy! Len Barrett