Would McClelland Sell Their Recipes and Methods?

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renfield

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Oct 16, 2011
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It’s like when that dick Mozart died without teaching others to master harmony and composition to his level. It’s just rearranging some notes, after all.

The McNiels owe nothing to anyone and it’s selfish to think they do, IMO.

McClelland is not the first well regarded blender to go away and won’t be the last. I’m just happy that they were as prolific as they were. Maybe some day someone will consistently produce Virginia blends even better than McClelland. Maybe not. Either way, people should enjoy the blends we have available now before they go the way of the dodo.

Ultimately, it’s just pipe tobacco we’re talking about and there are many excellent blends currently available in every style.
 

sablebrush52

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Jun 15, 2013
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I've heard the McNiels' story many, many time times over. The effect on me is that that it becomes more and more a fairy tale every time I hear it.

When someone claims knowledge or skill that that can't be passed on, I think that that person doesn't understand that skill and knowledge enough to do so. It's like me and my handful of languages that I know enough to ask for the restroom and the price of an item. I can speak it but not enough to teach my kids.

To think that the McNiels can't teach someone to equal or better them smacks of gnotism and claims of arcane and occult knowledge. I..e, you can't teach something that cannot be understood. I simply refuse to take that proposition seriously.
We'll have to agree to disagree. I'll take my years of direct experience over your suppositions.
 

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hoosierpipeguy

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Jan 28, 2018
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i get it that they worked hard & it was their passion, and they don't owe us anything, etc., but here's the thing; how many times have we all heard an interview where the same story was repeated... we were working on blend X and no matter what we did, no matter how hard we tried we just couldn't figure it out. So Mary went to the library and researched how it was done, once she had that knowledge we tried again and VOILA!

Yeah, so just imagine if the people who had invented those tobacco processes had the attitude that the McNeils have and said, "hey, you know what? This is my proprietary process and F everyone else, I'm not going to share my knowledge."

Nobody operates in a vacuum, the McNeils certainly didn't, they gleaned their knowledge from the hard work of others, who understood this fact and were wise and generous enough to share the fruits of their labor so that others who were equally passionate about the tobacco process wouldn't have to start from zero.

I understand that they didn't want to sell the brand or recipes and see them diminished, but to refuse to even share the process, the unique way they processed their VAs, so that some other passionate proto-McNeils could learn from it, and expand on it, and hopefully create the next "McClelland" is a selfish, D**K move. Sorry, but it just is.

I guess I can't agree with that.
 

anotherbob

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Mar 30, 2019
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We'll have to agree to disagree. I'll take my years of direct experience over your suppositions.
Seriously some things are hard to teach. I have some tricks I can teach and some I can't. And some of the best ones are more of a knack. Hell look at smoking and packing a pipe. The two easiest things in the world yet most of it only comes from repeatedly trying over and over again.
 

sablebrush52

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So for the record, you still vote no?
Yep. People are born with different abilities. Some have a sensitive palette, some have perfect pitch, some have an ear for language, some have an amziing ability for mathematical calculation. It's a popular delusion that anyone can be taught to do everything as well as everybody else alive or dead.
 

hoosierpipeguy

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Jan 28, 2018
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Assuming the leaf needed to reproduce the McClelland blends could be acquired, and that's a big assumption, Mike would have to come out of retirement for at least six months to a year to get everything set up and teach an apprentice. Good luck finding someone with the passion and work ethic to work 60 'to 80 hours per week these days. I'm confident there's way more to resuming the McClelland products than handing over a file cabinet with the secret sauce and a few zoom meetings. Far, far more.

Even though they did a reasonable volume, I think McClelland was more of a botique blender than a mass produced product. If they had any desire at all to continue the product line, the time to put that plan in place was 4 or 5 years ago. Not now.
 

anotherbob

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Yep. People are born with different abilities. Some have a sensitive palette, some have perfect pitch, some have an ear for language, some have an amziing ability for mathematical calculation. It's a popular delusion that anyone can be taught to do everything as well as everybody else alive or dead.
though anyone can probably get better at most things. Doesn't mean the results are going to be stunning.
 
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chasingembers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
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Michael's tobacco that I've smoked is very good but doesn't remind me much of McClelland. I do agree with you though that he is mostly annoying. :sher:
He sent me one that was a bright golden yellow ribbon that he called China Cat Sunflower. Had all of the ear notes of vinegar and sweetness that I love about McClelland's blends.
 

karam

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Feb 2, 2019
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I never had McClelland tobaccos and likely never will, so I'll add some based on some (limited compared with others' here) life experience.

I agree some thins can't be taught, it's not about process, it's about feeling, and this is coming from a person who likes process and structure. My wife's grandma makes the most amazing bread ever. I've asked her to give us a recipe and on paper it is dead simple: flour, salt, yeast, some sunflower oil. Sure she uses local wheat, milled in a local stone mill, which my wife claims "adds to the flavour" but regardless, her bread can't be replicated.

I've seen masterclasses of Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata (widely considered among the hardest pieces of music ever written). You'd have a student playing it in perfect timing and yet something was lacking. "All the notes are there", Andras Schiff would say, yet it felt wooden and lifeless. When he played it all the notes were there still, but the piece would come alive. That can't be taught, it can be developed. Bach wrote the Art of the Fugue and Well-tempered clavier, both blueprints of the Fugue. Is there another Bach when it comes to Fugues? No.

I understand making a brand and not wanting to see it touched by anyone, so that's that, their brand, their choice. Maybe they were not keen on the forum here saying that "the old blends were better" :)
 

newbroom

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Jul 11, 2014
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Ok, here's my evolved thought(s) on the subject.
Subject: McNeil's tobacco aka/McClelland's
Yes, this couple worked hard to make a quality contribution to pipe smokers and earn a living and when they retired, they closed up shop and left people wanting more.
Whether or not they share or have shared, or plan to share in their memory, any of the techniques that might have made their production special, I do not know nor do I fault them if they quietly slip into their next phase of life.
e
What has troubled ME is the idea that the availability of the quality tobacco the McNeil's required, is no more. I now look at red va offerings askance, or with the perception that they're never gonna be as good as 'the old days'.
 

smudgersmissingleg

Preferred Member
Jun 9, 2018
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Don't worry lads it's all in hand. I'm planning on winning the lottery (I just haven't got round to it yet) and when I do I'll offer them $100,000,000 for the recipes.
Obviously if I'm laying out so much cash the blends will have to retail at about a thousand Dollars a tin. Still, it'll be cheaper than what you're paying at the moment on the vintage tin market.

You're welcome🤗
 

jpberg

Preferred Member
Aug 30, 2011
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Yep. People are born with different abilities. Some have a sensitive palette, some have perfect pitch, some have an ear for language, some have an amziing ability for mathematical calculation. It's a popular delusion that anyone can be taught to do everything as well as everybody else alive or dead.
Yes. The idea that the the blends could simply be recreated is asinine.
We don’t have to guess about the what ifs about McC, just compare a current tin of C&D with one that the Tarlers made in Pennsylvania or Morgantown.
@karam ’s bread analogy was spot on.
 

karam

Preferred Member
Feb 2, 2019
946
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Athens, Greece
Ok, here's my evolved thought(s) on the subject.
Subject: McNeil's tobacco aka/McClelland's
Yes, this couple worked hard to make a quality contribution to pipe smokers and earn a living and when they retired, they closed up shop and left people wanting more.
Whether or not they share or have shared, or plan to share in their memory, any of the techniques that might have made their production special, I do not know nor do I fault them if they quietly slip into their next phase of life.
e
What has troubled ME is the idea that the availability of the quality tobacco the McNeil's required, is no more. I now look at red va offerings askance, or with the perception that they're never gonna be as good as 'the old days'.
That's a good point. I recall reading the Gawith keep 3 years' worth of raw leaf stock at any given moment. Also recall Per Jensen of MacBaren showing their warehouse with leaf bales, some from as back as the 70s. Naturally eventually all the old leaf will be consumed but by that point the "new leaf" (i.e., picked now) will be old.
I've also read that Cyprian Latakia is not at all Cyprian anymore, it's actually grown and smoked in Turkey, and only packaged in Cyprus before sent to manufacturers. Syrian Latakia hasn't been produced since the late 60s.

Things change, nothing anyone can do about it. As @sablebrush52 very nicely put it once, newer smokers imprint on what we have at hand. If it's good for us then it's good and that's the end of it. Smoking, whether we like it or not, is not a popular pastime or industry, for many years now, so we get no advocacy and we're not cigars having a powerful lobby, or cigarettes still widely consumed all around the world. We fly under the radar, seen as niche, old world oddities.

I don't know so won't comment on whether the leaf McNeil required was "the best", it probably was overall, and surely was for what they wanted to do. And now for a number of reasons these tobaccos are over.

My own eye opening experience was Dunhill stopping production, I'd been buying 2 tins of Nightcap per couple of months for years before that and suddenly a) they were no longer produced, and b) Danish and UK shops stopped sending to the pipe tobacco desert that is Greece. So I decided that I am not going to be left without again so I'm parsing out ~100 euros per month for pipe tobacco and building. Got enough for a few years now and adding every month. Do I get tobacco I love? Absolutely, so I'm happy with that. Would I want to try their legendary red Virginias, with my newfound love for red Va? For sure, but won't happen, and won't lose any sleep about it.

To come back to the point, it's about imprinting and change I think. I'd imprinted on Dunhill Nightcap and the new Peterson tins I had were 100% the same with those from 2012 or so, so some leaf is available that meets my needs, and I'm content :)
 

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