Most definitely a McClelland, similar to the Matured Virginia series. My tin has lots of age on it: 1994. The broken flake is a mix of red and dark Virginia, and is quite attractive. The old familiar McClelland aroma is there in spades. At the first light, on my first bowl, I thought I detected Perique, but after a few more bowls am pretty sure this is just the sharpness of the aged Virginia. And a nice, mellow aged Virginia it is! (Yes, that seems like a contradiction, sharp and mellow, but keep reading, I'll try to explain.) This hits me better than any McClelland I've had since Ashton Brindle Flake. There seems to be a tug of war going on between astringency on the inhale and mellowness on the exhale. I like it. You know, right before I typed that last sentence, I dropped my pipe and wasted a whole bowl! Not what you want to have happen while typing a review. Well, let me just reload...Ah yes, there we go. As I said, kind of sharp on the first light, but this settles down and mellows out. The flavors are typical of aged McClelland Virginia, but this one has a perfect balance and body. There is also a perfect balance between spicy, sour, and sweet. No bite whatsoever, even though I have both sipped and pushed it a little harder. What makes me sad is that I will have a hard time finding another tin of this so well aged, though the blend is still in production. I say blend, but something tells me this might be single-crop, with part of it stoved? Not sure. I've been hitting this stuff pretty hard since I popped the tin, but will try to save some for special occasions. This may be one of the best, at least with 16 years on it.
Picked up a 1996 tin of this and the Special Reserve II for a very reasonable price. This is a mostly brown broken flake cut with the heady and tangy tin aroma of a McClelland Virginia, the kind of smell that makes people scream "ketchup" or "vinegar". Oddly enough, I preferred this one with a bit of moisture left in the flake and not fully dried out. The flavors snapped into focus with a bit of pliability - about 3/4 of the way to tinder. I rubbed it out lightly so that it retained its harder texture but was less clumpy.
This reminded me very much of McClellands Matured Virginia #22, so I smoked a bowl of that back to back with this one. There may have been some minor differences but their similarities were obvious. A nice balance of high, light citrusy notes with lower, booming tang and crispness. This one had a lot of zest, even with 23 years of age, but was also tender and mellow. Just enough sweetness to balance out the zestiness, the sweetness being more of a buttery nature than honey or sugar. Balance is the key word for this one, as it tames the darker nature of McClellands #24 and #25 and adds some oomph to #27. This would be an excellent starter Virginia for the novice but it's also satisfying enough for the confirmed Virginia smoker. Makes me wish I had stockpiled more #22 as the age of this has moved it to a very strong 4 stars.
The various McClelland Virginias provide a potent burst of fermented tangy ripe dark fruit, earth, wood, bread, sugar, a lot of tart and and tangy citrus, some grass, mild floralness, light vinegar and spice, along with a bare hint of honey. The strength and taste levels just touch the medium mark. The nic-hit is step below that level. There’s no chance of bite or harshness, and barely has any rough edges. Burns cool, clean and a tad slow as moist broken flake blends do. I saw no reason to dry them, however. The deeply rich, mostly smooth flavor is very consistently tangy fruity from top to bottom. Leaves little moisture in the bowl, and requires some relights. Has a pleasantly lingering after taste, and room note. Can be an all day smoke provided that you can find a tin.
This is a great Virginia. I was lucky enough to obtain a tin at the Chicago show upon the advice of the seller. I had never tried it before, but he told me it was made by McClelland, it carried a date stamp from 2008 and the seller was not asking much for it. I knew I had nothing to lose.
IMO all McClelland Virginias are good, but some are really good. This, IMO, is one of the latter. It reminds me most of Blackwoods Flake. It carries with it the characteristic MC Va tin note that I love. It smokes easy and has a lot of natural Va sweetness. The sidestream is as delightful as the taste and the two combine for a wonderful smoking experience.
This is an easy four stars. I don't know how many tins of this are out there, but if you see one, snatch it up.
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