At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


About two weeks ago I popped open a tin of McClelland's Arcadia.
I had been smoking some of their other blends which are medium-heavy on the Orientals - frequent readers will know that I have a thing about Orientals - and after experimenting with British Woods, 996, and Yenidje Highlander, I required another comparison.

You may have heard me rant about marketing departments, hype, poofle, and cutesy-poo images and ideas involved in separating the sucker from his money.
In the main, I believe a product should have a straightforward name, and rely on quality and word of mouth for converts.

For example, Bag balm is perfect in that regard. It is exactly what it says - an unguent for massaging the chafed and chapped udders of cows - and it is an altogether admirable product whose stellar reputation has won it aficionados among farmers, people who work with their hands, and any number of perverts who consider it a perfect topical lubricant.

Very good for users of erotic leather, sailor boots, as well as women who persist in wearing bras that are far too small for their chests.

[Note to women: ALWAYS have your chest measured for a bra, and buy the right size for your rib cage. Nothing is more upsetting than seeing a lady from behind, with her back trifurcated by an unsuitably garment. And frankly the sight of deep grooves cutting through back flesh, which painfully bulges on either side of the mammary control device, is traumatic. Support is NOT in tight constriction, but in sound construction. Bag balm will soothe those crimson wheals. Let me know if you need help.]

Bag balm. You know what've you got. Get it.

Evenso, most pipe smokers are easily won over by image presentation.
Romance, mystique, evocations of distant time and place.
We're easily enchanted by shiny things.
One could probably sell a product by advertising that it was the favourite weed of the last emperor of all the Russias, and was found in the best salons of Paris at the fin du si├Ęcle.

Exotic blend from Samarkand, by license from the household of his majesty in St. Petersburg

'This luxurious and robust mixture consists of rare small-tip Soukashtouka, traditionally harvested by trained gibbons in the poisoned jungles of Tashkent, and reserved for the highest nobles of the realm.
With a mere soupcon of matured Old Belt for an exquisite balance.
Available in fine hotels, and from purveyors to gentlemen.

Just put a picture of a cavalry officer on horseback outrunning wolves on the label, and watch the sales take off like a rocket. Sixty years later, grizzled coots will lament that it is no longer made, and sniff disparagingly at modern substitutes proffered by the young fellow at the local shop.
"Boy, you should have smoked Gavniyok! My heavens, that was good stuff, everything that tobacco should be. But they no longer grow Soukashtouka, damn' this modern world!"

Okay, enough of my own poofle, now to the product at hand.

McClelland's 221B Series.

'An original pipe tobacco recipe worthy of offering to one's best friend.'

TIN POOFLE: "It was Dr. Watson's favorite smoke. It was said to be of such arresting character and delicacy that it stopped all conversation. Holmes recognized it by its characteristic fluffy, white ash. We hope that our formula, deduced after careful study of vintage examples of what was known as the original and made available to us by dedicated collectors, will please the most discriminating smokers."

Like almost all imitations of fabled mixtures, there is more magic in the memory than in the actual product. This is McClelland's attempt at reproducing Craven A, and while it is of excellent quality, it just isn't very exciting.
Craven A Mixture consisted of a broad spectrum of Virginias supporting an Oriental component, augmented by Latakia in the proportion that was considered high-end of the scale at the time it was originally compounded. So by our standards, a blend with a somewhat mild level of creosote, albeit having an assertive flue-cured character due to a fermented darkness.

Once McClelland's Arcadia has been allowed to air quite a bit and the vinegar stench has fled, this stuff has a lovely tin-aroma. The first several bowls were uninspiring, irritating even, but it has grown on me, and while I think it not likely to become a regular smoke, I gladly concede that it has a place. This tin dates from 2009.
A bit of age becomes it well.
It is particularly enjoyable, now that the reek of acetic acid has departed, to hold the container to my nose and sniff deeply. At such time it is the incense of Asia and the New World harmoniously combined.

Like many products by McClelland it must be smoked slowly. The Oriental will seemingly not dominate, and the Latakia is scarce noticeable to the English fanatic. Instead, the most prominent feature is the subtle sweetness of the Virginias. Do not overload your pipe, and choose a bowl of medium diameter. The taste will remind you in some ways of strong black tea. As will, remarkably, the appearance of the blend, which has a resemblance to golden tippy Yunnan.

I stress that it must be smoked slowly, and with attention.
It is not bold enough to excite you otherwise.
But it's rewarding, and quite pleasant.
Once you've got the hang of it.
Indeed, a very fine ash.

There are some McClelland products that are sheer dynamite, plus a very large number that are excellent, but rather boring when not exactly your cup of tea.
McClelland is, however, the Virginia smoker's co-conspirator in the United States. They do things that no other manufacturer still does, and without them the world would be a poorer, darker, and far drearier, place.
Arcadia Pipe Tobacco might suit you perfectly.
But if not, give the tin to someone else.
It will probably be appreciated.

'An original pipe tobacco recipe worthy of offering to one's best friend.'

That, of course, is sheer balderdash.
My best friend is Savage Kitten, the woman who until last year was my significant other and better half.
She cannot stand smoke. The last time I offered her a puff she damn' near floored me.
And tobacco preferences are so personal anyway that even if she did indulge, she would probably not like the same products.
I rather imagine her preferring Vapers (Virginia and Perique concoctions).
Possibly even dark twist.
Or Lakeland flakes.
She's perverse.



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  • At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cool, a McClelland oriental blend I haven't tried yet, thank you! Have been thoroughly enjoying the Grand Orientals series, would love to hear your thoughts on Classic Samsun if you've tried it -- it's anything but subtle, and I am simultaneously repelled and fascinated by it. I have the sense of smoking something very old, but lack your history with the classic blends to know for sure.

  • At 7:47 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Samsun at some point in the near future.


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