I was gifted a nice sample of Christmas Cheer 2013 in December and decided to review the blend. In this review I broke it down over several bowls to give a more accurate account of my experience with the blend and how I “treated” it.
I decided not to view any other comments and reviews before I began this so it would be semi-blind and not slant my thoughts.
The blend presented as a lovely broken flake, mixed medium to dark brown tobaccos. The tin note was subtle, slightly hay-like with very little to almost no McClelland signature scents (BBQ, ketchup, vinegar, etcetera).
I chose a smaller Kaywoodie #10 bent billiard as the pipe of the morning for this blend. It smokes Virginias well and felt like a good choice, being well rested and of nice size (group 3 I guess).
I fully rubbed out my sample into a coffee filter as I always do. The first thing I noticed was the change in aroma; now the BBQ scent came out, but just enough to be known, not overwhelming. And there was more of the sweet hay-like scent, too, as the tobacco was prepped for fire. My sample was near perfection for my preference moisture wise and required no drying time. I packed the pipe with the method I usually use, a three-step variation, and gave it a char.
The charring light brought forth a nice flavor of slight sweetness and BBQ goodness. The flame also produced a nice bloom, one that didn’t expand too much but “just right”. I left the pipe to rest a few minutes while making a cup of black coffee to enjoy with my smoke.
Returning to the pipe, I gave it a light tamp and exposed it to the flame again. Again I was treated to a nice BBQ sweetness and perfect bloom. Another light tamp and it was off and going.
After the initial few puffs, the BBQ a taste fades and is replaced by a mellow sweetness that only comes from a nice Virginia blend, one with wispy hints of grassiness and citrus gently tickling the tongue and palette.
At the halfway point of the bowl I’ve had to relight twice, both times due to my negligence as I typed this review. The taste has remained consistent and mellow, very nice and not hot, or damp nor with a hint of bite. Very little attention needs paid to the tobacco: a gentle tamp here and there is all it needs to keep it burning. This bowl has lasted about 40 minutes and I expect I have about that much more to go yet. I don’t expect the second half to be any less tasty, and is likely to be better than the first. So I shall end this review here and savor the next portion of this classic Virginia blend. The remaining sample will most likely find its way into a pipe for Christmas Eve, a fitting smoke for that evening I think.
I have to say, I think this bowl hit its peak at 2/3 and seems to be lulling into boring territory toward the end of the bowl. It is still a tasty and well-behaved blend that smokes cool and dry; but it disappointed me with the sudden drop off in the final third of the bowl.