Saturday, March 10, 2018


All week long fellow pipe smokers have crawled out from under their rocks, blinked, and finally realized that a company they respected, or perhaps even of which they had smoked the products several times over the years, had closed its doors. And that every last shred of tobacco had been sold, there was no more, nope, that was it. It all happened in less than a month, and they had been asleep the entire time.

"How could this even happen?" they wailed disconsolately, and "is it a plot? The end times?"

"Well, boys", I would ask, "are you ever on the internet?"

Or "do you do Facebook?"

Apparently, no. And they just cannot understand how one of the bedrock brands of their world could disappear. Why weren't they warned?
Why is there no revolution?

The company, of course, is McClelland, which for over forty two years manufactured stellar aged pressed Virginias, as well as a number of iconic tobacco mixtures containing Xanthi, Samsoun, Smyrna, and Latakia.
Very many tobacconists and pipe mavens relied on them.
They ran out of sources of Red Virginia.
And decided to retire.

[There's more to it than that, of course. Changing crop patterns and post-harvest processes, small family farms versus big tobacco, state discouragement of certain crops, and the FDA as the big Mac Daddy of anti-tobacco thuggery ... all coming to a head at the same time. For McClelland it was the perfect storm.]

The news spread like wild fire, despite the audience being dinosaurs.
Many retailers hadn't a clue till the phones started ringing.

The speed with which all products were snapped up when it became clear that no more would ever be made was a snowball effect. It went from the merest rumbles to enormous clusterfudge in less than a week. But for many of these unhappy cavemen I mentioned, it is still incomprehensible. Evil must be afoot. They forget that they are, in the grand scheme of things, rather small and insignificant, like insects.

While they were puttering around in their forest glade, happily puffing some exquisite mixture that only they had heard about, a few thousand members of pipe smokers' forums, clubs, and Facebook groups went into overdrive and purchased an eternity's worth of their favourite blends, plus several dozen cans of anomalies and mixtures they had meant to try at some point. Plus a pound of this, and a pound of that. When a significant segment of the customers buy up far more than their normal usage overnight, it is not at all surprising that soon nothing is left.

Perhaps you should get out from underneath that rock more often.
Sign up for e-mail and Facebook, at the very least.
Connect with your fellow neurotics.
Be more 'social'.


Oh, and develop some perspective. Pipesmokers don't count for a whole lot. The overwhelming majority of all tobacco leaf worldwide is turned into cigarettes. What little is left (less than ten percent) is divided among cigars (including cheap rotten stogies which are the largest category of cheroot by far), chaw, snus, snuf, nicotine patches, vape liquid, and pipe blends.
Of all this, cigars take up the lion's share.

Pipe tobacco is a mere fraction, and almost all of that will be aromatic shite.
Most pipe tobacco will be a few big brands, sold at liquor and drug stores.
The percentage of smokers who actually like quality leaf, unperfumed and undrenched, is very minor indeed, and their attention is spread over several dozen brands, a few hundred blends. Which are all unique though unimportant, and far too often labours of love.

Admit it: you are the only person who smokes Syphilitic Sailor Shag you know, except for that gentleman you met many years ago while traveling.
But he preferred Porn Starlet Plug, or Fat Slag Flake, Ready Rubbed.

The nearest pipe smokers in your neck of the woods ALL smoke Major Roughshod's Vanilla Cake, and collectively think you mighty queer.

Among the dozen plus active members of our local pipe club, maybe half liked McClelland occasionally, three or four smoked some of their blends semi regularly. Most of the pipesmokers I have met in the last decade, who wouldn't join a pipe club if you paid them, were perfectly happy with 1-Q, BCA, RLP-6, Captain Black, and Borkum Riff Bourbon, Cherry, Black, or Original. Which are all aromatic Cavendish mixtures. The second largest group consists of Half & Half, Prince Albert, Sir Walter Raleigh, plus rare ventures into strawberry mango surprise and vanilla melon custard.
Yes, that's probably more than ninety percent of them.
You can understand why I keep to myself.
Too many eccentrics.

On a personal level, I can sympathize with the Luddites and their loss.
But generally speaking my piles do not bleed.


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