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Jim's MacBaren Reviews

This is a discussion on Jim's MacBaren Reviews within the Pipe Related Reviews forums, part of the Pipe Smokers Forums category; Sutliff asked me to review eleven of their MacBaren blends. Here's what I thought of them. Capstan Blue Flake: This ...

  
  1. #1

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Sutliff asked me to review eleven of their MacBaren blends. Here's what I thought of them.

    Capstan Blue Flake:
    This is a little stronger, less sweet, and less cased than its brother in the gold tin. Slight citrus, fig, and a little grass/hay and earthy taste with a nice mild to medium Virginia flavor. It's not a very complex blend, though there are a couple of different Virginias in the mix. It's the kind of Va. flake that does well as an all day smoke. If you want something a little stronger and less sweet than Capstan Gold, or a straight Virginia that's less stronger than Gawith Full Virginia Flake, this will give you what you want. A very comfortable smoke to pack and light with enough nicotine to get your attention without overwhelming your senses.

    Capstan Gold Flake:
    A moderately sweet and mild easy to rub flake with a little sugar and citrus flavors complimenting the light Virginias. There's a light grass note present. A rather uncomplicated blend that burns well and even. It's comparable to Dunhill Flake, but with more sweetness and a little less citrus. There are several kinds of Virginias in the flake for a mild to medium balance of taste. This is the kind of blend I'd recommend to aromatic smokers who want to delve into straight Virginia blends without sacrificing the range of sweetness they are used to. It also works for the smoker who wants a gentle, sweet flavor without the earthy characteristics darker Virginias provide.

    Old Dark Fired:
    This is my favorite MacBaren blend. For my tastes, it's a little closer to medium than strong in regard to strength and taste, but I think it depends on how used to strong tobaccos you are. Burleys and Virginias work in darn near perfect harmony, and you can taste both in every single puff. There's a natural sweetness that was enhanced by being steam pressed, slight nuttiness, tart and/or slightly sour and tangy at times, with a light earthiness and smokiness, and the complexity works to its advantage. I didn't really get the fruitiness some have noted, except for maybe a little date note. There may be some flakes that are more complex, but not by a whole lot, and this gives you plenty enough as it is. It always smokes smoothly, and fairly evenly, and is tinned at the perfect moisture level with a decent nic-hit that gets stronger as you smoke along.

    There are stronger tobaccos, and I'm glad this is not one of them. I find these burleys work better with the Virginias than other kinds of dark-fired ones; not too strong to knock you off your feet, and certainly not weak. The flavor is dialed to the proper level. Though I like quite a number of other tobaccos, I find myself craving this one at times, and when that happens, not a whole lot else will do.

    Navy Flake:
    One of the easiest flake blends to rub out without being dry, and one of the easiest burning flakes, too. A slight taste of rum with lots of sweet honey and fruit notes, and an occasional hit of hay and oats. The burley flavor is subdued a little and is more noticeable as you smoke it down. The sweet Virginia and cavendish taste compliments the casing of this blend. There's a very light spice/cinnamon flavor here and there that really helps to make this tobacco interesting to smoke. It's a mild all day smoke with flavor, leaves a very pleasant after taste and has a pleasing room note.

    Vanilla Cream Loose Cut:
    A creamy vanilla smoke that burns well and isn't so sweet that it overpowers the smoker. I get a little honey and very light fruit taste that adds a very mild balance to the mix. It has some black cavendish as you would expect a vanilla flavored tobacco to have. The Virginias act as a base to tame both the BC and the top note, not to add their normal characteristics. It's a mild all day smoke with not much complexity as by intentional design. I find it more palatable than stronger vanilla flavored blends. People will like to be around you when you smoke it, so expect to be social when you're out and about in public.

    Virginia #1:
    The first thing that hits you when you smoke this is a honey and sugar taste. After a few puffs, the citrus and grassy/hay flavor you expect from a mild dark gold Virginia broken flake makes itself known, and the honey flavor becomes a little less obvious. There's also a spice note that joins with a hit of toast to offset the sweetness with just enough tang to keep this from being one-dimensional. Not much nicotine involved here, nor is there supposed to be. This tobacco was designed for the all day smoker who just wants a pleasant smoking experience. It's also a nice lighter change of pace for one who prefers stronger, darker Virginias.

    Scottish Blend Mixture:
    Because it's a complex medium blend aromatic with a variety of flavors, I had to smoke a lot of it before gaging how to describe this one. I didn't mind doing that because the more I smoked it, the more I liked it. Sometimes the Kentucky in the blend is more evident than other times, but no matter how present it is or isn't, it relays a very tasty spice note that contrasts nicely with creamy flavors. I don't know what kind of liquor topping it has, but it's pleasant and compliments the mild sweetness of the blend with a fruit and honey taste. And the cavendish hints of a mild sweet taste that works well with the topping. The burley is choice, with a little nutty mild earthy touch. The Virginia is slightly sweet and woodsy, with perhaps a touch of citrus, and creates a solid base for the other flavors. Occasionally, one bowlful will taste a little different from another, but that's due to how you pack it, and whether or not one component is more present in your pipe than other times. I like that.

    Plumcake:
    A tasteful mixture with several flavors going on in the smoke. There's just enough latakia to add a slight smokey note. The rum flavoring is very mild, and is a team player with the dried fruit and plum taste. The burley is lightly sweet without the nutty flavor often found in the leaf. The Virginia is mild and lightly sweet, too, and is complimented by the cavendish. Some people claim this tingles your tongue, but I think that's a matter of individual body chemistry and/or poor smoking habits, e.g., puffing like a freight train. I just don't have that problem. It's a mild to medium semi-sweet blend to be savored for full enjoyment.

    Dark Twist Roll Cake:
    A rich, flavorful easy to pack coin cut mixture with a very slight honey and citrus taste complimented by a fig note or two. A third of the coins have dark spicy cavendish and some don't. Depending on how you rub out the coins or stack them, you can get a variety of flavors as you go down the bowl, or from bowl to bowl if you want that to happen. At times, I've stacked the coins so that every other coin has the spicy cavendish in it. Other times, I've rubbed it out and codger filled the bowl. No matter how I've done it, I've enjoyed it. One of the things I like about this is that the cavendish does not impart any essence of vanilla to disrupt the Virginia base. Btw, this is the same kind of light and mostly dark Virginias I've noticed in some other MacBaren blends like Scottish Mixture, though DTRC blend is fuller in taste and less sweeter, and has a different flavor profile. I really recommend smoking this in a pipe with a wide bowl for the full experience of what this unique mixture is all about.

    HH Vintage Syrian:
    This is a smooth and creamy latakia dominant blend, well balanced by the other ingredients. The Kentucky is noticeable here and there, and adds a pleasing burley note and a hint of spice that takes a back seat in the latter department to the Oriental and Turkish components. Quality light and dark Virginias give a solid base to the blend, adding the natural sweetness one would expect from them. I am surprised that a Balkan with this much latakia is not a lat-bomb, which works to the favor of my personal taste. Smokey and woodsy, it is like a better, bolder version of Gawith's Squadron Leader without the hay taste, a more pleasing naturally sweet Virginia base, and light spice. The components are well mixed, resulting in a consistent tasting mixture that burns even and cool. One match and you may finish without relighting. Made for smokers who want a semi-complex tasting creamy mild to medium English blend. Your friends will smell it and think you've started a campfire in your den.

    Three Nuns:
    A little personal history is in order for this review. I've smoked Three Nuns since the early 1980s, and when it was no longer sold in the United States (199, I started buying it from Switzerland. In 2003, Orlik licensed the rights to make Three Nuns from Imperial and when they did, they substituted Kentucky for perique, and did not announce the change. The only way to discover the change was to buy and open a tin, and discover what had happened. In the beginning, I even found some tins with no Kentucky at all.

    Both blends had the light sweet and sour notes, but the spice and raisin notes from the perique were replaced by a mild to medium Kentucky flavor. I smoked that version for years, too, though I could never get over the disappointment of the change in the formula. I will say the second version improved greatly when aged, but it wasn't enough to make up for what was lost. I smoked it until June of 2013.

    MacBaren licensed the rights to manufacture Three Nuns, and in the summer of 2013, began distributing it to the American market as well as for Europe. I was unhappy to discover they were using the Orlik formulation instead of the VaPer. However, I have now been smoking this new variant, and will relate my thoughts on the subject. There are differences between the new production and Orlik's product. The cut coins are a little bigger and more loosely spun. The Kentucky is generally more spread out in the coin rather than centered. The tobacco was fairly dry out of the tin, unlike previous versions, which had a slight moisture to them. The sour taste that was present in the earlier incarnations is very similar, but toned down a little. The sweetness is very slightly more prominent at times, which possibly comes from how the Kentucky is processed or perhaps there's a very light difference in the topping? This Kentucky is darker, fuller, a little more woodsy, and certainly spicier than what Orlik used, and is superior in every way. In fact, it's the same dark fired Kentucky MacBaren uses in several of their other blends. The Virginia is also darker than what was employed in previously made variants. Essentially, Three Nuns has gone from the original Bell's blend to being a MacBaren product that uses the Orlik recipe with their own tobaccos. The flavor profile is similar, but in a blind taste test, anyone who has smoked any of the previous versions could tell which was which. This is now a full fledged MacBaren product.

    How I feel about it now is the main point of this analysis, being that this is a review of the MacBaren Three Nuns. I like it. Very much. It's good fresh out of the tin, and I expect it to age very well if left in these exceptionally sealed tins over the course of time. But smoking it fresh out of the tin will provide you with lots of enticing, satisfying flavors. I spent a fair amount of time comparing this to earlier productions, but judging the MacBaren Three Nuns on own merits - which are considerable - it's most certainly worth your money and time. I'm going to smoke and cellar it.
    Last edited by JimInks; 10-08-2013 at 08:05 PM.

  2. #2

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Here's a review of the latest MacBaren blend that I have tried.

    Roll Cake: One of the spicier MacBaren products on the market, with a very light honey topping. The spice comes from a generous helping of black cavendish which imparts a very slight vanilla flavor, too, though it's not noticeable in every puff, and when you do taste it, it's as soft as a lover's whisper. There is a light sweetness from the gold Virginia which acts more as a base for the black cavendish to play off. The burleys are minor players here, but they add a very mild earthy flavor, and slight sweet tone. This blend has some of the creaminess noted in MacBaren's Scottish Mixture with a lot more spice, and a bit less complexity. Burns slow, but evenly, and consistently. Though I rate it as medium in strength, and light on the nicotine, I would not consider this to be an all day smoke. I consider this to be a real sipping blend due to the spice content, so puff moderately. I find it very compatible with hot tea or coffee as a drink.

  3. #3

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    MacBaren HH Old Dark Fired Ready Rubbed:
    My thoughts about this blend are similar to what I had to say about the flake version, with a couple of exceptions. While this is easier to pack because it's a ready rubbed tobacco, it seemed to me that the burley was slightly less stronger than it is in the flake version. It may be that the tobacco slightly changed because more of it is exposed to air in the processing of it. The difference is minor, but I did notice it.

    Here's my original review of the flake version, which mostly mirrors my view of the ready rubbed:

    This is my favorite MacBaren blend. For my tastes, it's a little closer to medium than strong in regard to strength and taste, but I think it depends on how used to strong tobaccos you are. Burleys and Virginias work in darn near perfect harmony, and you can taste both in every single puff. There's a natural sweetness that was enhanced by being steam pressed, slight nuttiness, tart and/or slightly sour and tangy at times, with a light earthiness and smokiness, and the complexity works to its advantage. I didn't really get the fruitiness some have noted, except for maybe a little date note. There may be some flakes that are more complex, but not by a whole lot, and this gives you plenty enough as it is. It always smokes smoothly, and fairly evenly, and is tinned at the perfect moisture level with a decent nic-hit that gets stronger as you smoke along.

    There are stronger tobaccos, and I'm glad this is not one of them. I find these burleys work better with the Virginias than other kinds of dark-fired ones; not too strong to knock you off your feet, and certainly not weak. The flavor is dialed to the proper level. Though I like quite a number of other tobaccos, I find myself craving this one at times, and when that happens, not a whole lot else will do.

  4. #4

    Abide Incognito11's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Incredible in depth reviews! Thank you sir

  5. #5

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Thank you for the kind words.

  6. #6

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Here's my review of MacBaren Symphony:

    It's mainly burley and black cavendish with a little Virginia. I taste almost no chocolate from the burley, but I do get some of its natural sweetness, and very light nuttiness. The Virginia is a minor player in the drama, unlike the cavendish which makes its presence constantly known, and amplifies the other sweet notes. The light hay notes come from the Virginia. There's a little spice note, too, and the barest hint of honey lurking in the back ground on occasion. It burns well and even for a broken flake, and doesn't need much relighting. No goop or bitterness either. It's a good sipping blend, which I recommend doing considering the amount of burley and cavendish in the mix.

    I've smoked both a fresh sample and a thirty-five year old sample. The aging effect is simply amazing. It's much more spicier and sweeter, like the fresh version on steroids. If you can be patient and give this blend some aging time (you don't have to wait 35 years), you'll be rewarded with an even better smoke.

  7. #7

    24 hr's ain't enough splattttttt's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Thanks for taking the time to share your views on a brand I know so little of.
    Been on the fence in wanting to try Three Nuns due to having read what you've already stated in regards to its history. Sad I missed out on the original formula, but your description sounds inviting.
    Going to make a point of remembering this thread for future reference when considering my next purchase.
    it has been my experience that folks who have no vices have few virtues- Abe Lincoln

  8. #8

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Quote Originally Posted by splattttttt View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to share your views on a brand I know so little of.
    Been on the fence in wanting to try Three Nuns due to having read what you've already stated in regards to its history. Sad I missed out on the original formula, but your description sounds inviting.
    Going to make a point of remembering this thread for future reference when considering my next purchase.
    Thank you for the kind words. I'll be very interested to read what you think of the new Three Nuns when you try it.

  9. #9

    "Guns Up," y'all! TTecheTTe's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    I have five tins of Syrian, and think I might have to pop one now!

  10. #10

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Quote Originally Posted by TTecheTTe View Post
    I have five tins of Syrian, and think I might have to pop one now!
    I just finished smoking a bowl of it. Simply great stuff! Well worth the money.

  11. #11

    "Guns Up," y'all! TTecheTTe's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Quote Originally Posted by JimInks View Post
    I just finished smoking a bowl of it. Simply great stuff! Well worth the money.
    Lol, I saw that!

  12. #12

    Puffer Leviathan cpmcdill's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Great reviews, and I think I'll be adding some of these to my wish list, for next time I make a big tobacco order.

    And now a confession: due to your EGR avatar, I cannot help but imagine Robinson's voice when reading your posts.
    "Quite simply, my dear, tobacco is the greatest pleasure that we have ever discovered... I know of no other miracle like it in nature." -- Bela Lugosi, 1939

  13. #13

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Quote Originally Posted by cpmcdill View Post
    Great reviews, and I think I'll be adding some of these to my wish list, for next time I make a big tobacco order.

    And now a confession: due to your EGR avatar, I cannot help but imagine Robinson's voice when reading your posts.
    Dat's good, see. 'Cuz if you'da hoid dat mug Bogart's voice instead, I'd have Slats and Junior come and teach yuz a lesson, see. Myeah!

  14. #14

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Here's my review of MacBaren Golden Extra:
    It's a little nutty with light chocolate notes, and the barest touch of honey. The Virginia acts mainly as a cooling base to contrast and smooth out the burley. Burns well and even, and tastes even better when you sip it and don't puff away like a train. It's kind of light in strength, but it's designed to be that way. A pleasant, uncomplicated mild to medium sweet blend that doesn't tire you out from repeated smokes during the day.

  15. #15

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader JimInks's Avatar


     

    Re: Jim's MacBaren Reviews

    Solent Mixture:
    A well blended aromatic/English blend that burns well, cool, and even. There's a taste of rum, and a cocoa note or two from the burley. Overall, the Virginias are earthy and modestly sweet. The black cavendish adds enough of a vanilla hit that well enjoins the other sweet flavors without controlling them. The mild addition of Syrian latakia pushes a smokey and slightly woodsy flavor, adding complimentary strength to the other ingredients. The multiplicity of flavors are lightly amplified by a mild spice that I've tasted in other MacBaren blends. Best smoked in a wide bowl for full effect, and while it may not be an all day smoke for some, it's certainly a mixture you can reach for more than once a day. One of the better crossover blends on the market with enough strength to satisfy non-lat bomb aficionados without disappointing those who crave a stronger latakia presence.
    Last edited by JimInks; 03-04-2014 at 04:22 AM.

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