Without speaking at all to the quality of the blends themselves, the renaming and repackaging of these pseudo-Dunhill blends is a little sad. What a way for the iconic Nightcap with its fine packaging and presentation / tin art to go down... Night Club!
Here's the latest three that I have tried: Robert McConnell Black Flake:
The mildly floral dark Virginia provides mild, lightly tangy sweet and slightly sour dark fruit, wood, earth, and light bread notes. The lighter Virginia offers a little tart citrus and some grass and hay in a secondary role. The dark Virginia is not as deep or dark as the Orlik version, and there seems to be a tad more brighter Va. here as well. No fermentation or sugar from the Virginias to speak of, whereas the Orlik production has a small hint of both. Despite the product description, there is a little raisiny, plumy, figgy, lightly spicy perique in the mix as a background player. The strength and taste levels are medium. The nic-hit is in the center of mild to medium. Won’t bite or get harsh, and has very few rough edges. The flake is lightly moist and easy to break apart. Burns cool, clean and a little slow with mildly sweet, consistent flavor from top to bottom. Leaves little moisture in the bowl, and requires some relights. Has a pleasant, short lived after taste and room note. Can be an all day smoke. As this blend lacks some of the depth and sweetness of the Orlik version, I give it three stars (barely) for its own merits and two and a half stars as a match. I gave three stars the the Orlik version. Robert McConnell Paddington:
The Virginias provide a lot of citrus, grass, hay, earth, some dark fruit and wood, and light, dry floral and spice notes. I believe a pinch of dark fired is present as well, chiefly due to a slight smoky nuance that I have also detected in the original. The fermented plum topping is the star as it sublimates the tobaccos to a fair degree, though it does allow the varietals to speak to your taste buds. I also sense an added light fruit topping in the mix. The toppings are similar to Orlik’s Royal Yacht, but lack a little of the depth, sweetness, and delicate balance employed in that manufacture. The same can be said for the tobaccos to a mildly lesser extent compared to the Murray’s and Orlik brands. However, the toppings are a little closer to the Murray’s version than they are to the Orlik. The strength and taste levels are a couple of steps past medium, and both fall just short of the Orlik version of RY thresholds. The nic-hit is a rung short of medium. No chance of bite or harshness. Burns cool and clean at a reasonable rate with a very consistent flavor that continues on to the lingering after taste. Has a strong room note. Leaves little moisture in the bowl, and requires an average number of relights. Not an all day smoke. Three stars for its own merits, and two and a half stars as a match. I gave four stars to the Orlik version. Robert McConnell Shakespeare:
The Virginias provide a fair amount of grass, hay, and citrus, a little earth, wood, bread and darker fruit as well as a floral note. Not sure what the very mild topping is, but it doesn’t tone down the tobaccos. It’s present to help create a sliver of fermentation and “Royal Yacht”-like plum essence which is more evident in previous Dunhill Ye Olde Signe versions. It succeeds on a minor scale as it’s muted in its effect, though it does gather a touch more potency by the half way mark. Overall, the entire composition is weaker in every way than what they have tried to copy. The strength is in the center of mild to medium, and the taste is a step and a half past that. The nic-hit is almost as potent as the strength level. No chance of bite or harshness, and has no rough edges. Burns cool and clean at a moderate pace with a very consistent flavor that translates to the lightly lingering after taste. Leaves little dampness in the bowl, and requires an average number of relights. An all day smoke. I give it three stars for its own merits, and less for being a successful clone. I gave three stars to the Orlik version.