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Mac Baren Tins vs. Bulk

Discussion in 'Pipe Tobacco' started by User4408, Jul 3, 2013.

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  1. User4408

    User4408 Active Member

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    No doubt about it: the bulk is a better deal. But there seem to be differences between the tinned and bulk versions.

    My experience with MB bulks so far is good, but not perfect. They look and smoke like their tinned counterparts, and are a lot less expensive. But their pouch notes aren't the same. Close, but not identical.

    For example, tinned Mixture Scottish Blend smells like honey. However in bulk it smells like Scotch. The Va. No. 1 also smells like honey in the tin, but less so in bulk: more of a hay-like fragrance. Maybe I got bad batches. Though I wouldn't really call them bad, because they smoke and taste perfectly fine. Just not as good as the tinned versions.

    If you have experience buying MB in different formats (tinned, bulk, bagged), it'd be great to hear about it. Especially if you've found there's no difference. Maybe it depends on which vendor it's coming from.
     
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  2. Pipe Matt

    Pipe Matt Member

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    Could it be because the tins are kept sealed but the bulk isn't? Would the time in the sealed tin give it a slightly different character than the bulk?
     
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  3. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    I recently purchased a few 1 pound boxes of ODF and swore the bag aroma was a bit different from the pouch aroma, but assumed I was just nuts (which is, after all, a rational conclusion, thereby somewhat negating the main premise while providing evidence of it at the same time!). I also smoke Symphony in bulk and never noticed a difference.

    I'm not sure vendors cause a difference but, now that you mention it, I bought the Symphony from P&C and the ODF from smokingpipes.com.

    :popc:
     
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  4. MacNutz

    MacNutz Active Member

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    :xd::laff:
     
  5. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    So you're obviously a learned individual, help me out... was that a Tautology, a conundrum or a Zen riddle? :D
     
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  6. User4408

    User4408 Active Member

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    That might well be. If most respondents don't report a difference--which is actually what I'm hoping for--then I'll just assume I got freak batches. However, if they do report a difference, then the packaging itself could be the culprit.

    My number one hypothesis--based on a sniff test--is that they spray it with a different top note depending on whether it goes into the tin or into a bag. They might do this for reasons of preservation. Those sealed tins seem to keep tobacco forever. But clear bags, as explained to me by Greg Pease, are gas-permeable, no matter how high-quality they are. So perhaps Mac Baren guards against this by altering the top note.

    The ideal solution for bulk packaging appears to be mylar, or a mylar sandwich to protect against punctures. But maybe that's too expensive.
     
  7. User4408

    User4408 Active Member

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    I think this is the same technique for proving Gödel's theorem. So you're probably a genius.

    That's encouraging about the Symphony. Earlier, one the other PSFers told me that bulk Burly (BLB) is also pretty much the same as the tinned.

    I haven't tried ODF yet but plan to crack open my tin soon. Going bulk on this one seems to be the way to go, given the problems we've seen with availability. Hopefully the difference you smelled wasn't too objectionable.
     
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  8. Huby Springer

    Huby Springer Active Member

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    My bulk Va #1 is also more hay like.

    It's also awesome:D
     
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  9. RTOdhner

    RTOdhner Well-Known Member

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    I think that the tinned versions are just a bit better than their bulk counterparts. I've noticed some slight difference between tin note and bulk note, and think that the tinned versions have notes that are just a bit deeper. Ditto on the flavor. However, I don't think that the differences are all that appreciable, and I buy both versions depending on how often I smoke them.

    I prefer the tinned version of Navy Flake over the bulk. While the bulk version is less expensive, I don't smoke enough of it to justify ordering it by the pound. I bought a pound of it, but Navy Flake is still on the cellaring list so in the future I'll buy it in tin form. ODF can also be ordered in bulk, but the tinned version is so awesome I can't see rocking the boat on it so I'll keep ordering it in tins for as long as I can once by current stash (10 tins worth) is gone. I feel the same way about Plumcake, Club Blend, Latakia Blend, and Solent Mixture.

    Burley London Blend, Symphony, Golden Extra, and Scottish Mixture are some of my all time favorites, and I alternate them with SWR as my daily smoke. I smoke a lot of these blends, so as long as I can mail order them I'll keep ordering them in bulk. I think the tinned versions are a bit better, but not enough to justify cellaring the tinned stuff - that would be an expensive proposition indeed. Everybody has their favorite blenders, but MacB is mine. I think their bulk offerings (hell, all of their offerings) are about the best pipe tobacco deal on the planet.
     
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  10. User4408

    User4408 Active Member

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    Right said.

    Years ago I didn't care much for Mac Baren. I had some pretty ridiculous ideas that the Danish pipe smokers were a bunch masochists who loved walking around with tongue bite. Fortunately I came to learn that the tongue bite was just operator error on my part.

    Now I realize that Mac Baren is truly outstanding. They get all the details right: superb tobacco selection and blending, top-notch discreetly applied casings, flawless handling and packaging, and perfect consistency from year to year. Extremely good value for the money IMHO.
     
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  11. rondel65

    rondel65 Misplaces Lighters

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    This reminds me of bottled beer vs. canned beer, Which tastes better? I prefer bottled, but beer is beer. It's all good. I'm sure it's the same with tobacco. :th1:
     
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  12. RTOdhner

    RTOdhner Well-Known Member

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    Sums it up perfect for me. The first MacB blend I ever tried was Symphony. It bit the crap out of me, and I thought it was flavorless. I did go near the stuff again for several years. Then a shipmate gave me a tin of Plumcake. Loved the taste, but it bit the crap out of me and I couldn't get it to draw worth a damn. Tony (the shipmate) taught me the "MacB Secret Handshake": pack loosely, light gently, and sip. Bing-flippin-go! I've since discovered the joys of many other MacB blends, and about the only one I don't care for is their Virginia Flake. Does anybody know the "secret handshake" for this blend, cuz I can't get any flavor out of it other than cardboard.
     
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  13. User4408

    User4408 Active Member

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    I haven't found any secret to MB Virginia Flake other than increased familiarity. It gets slightly better each time, but I don't instinctively return to it very often. That's usually the most reliable sign of what I really think about a tobacco.

    However I did take elaborate measures with it the last time: carefully folded and stuffed to keep the tobacco as compressed and slow burning as possible. Sprinkled a few crumbs on top to get it going, and it ended up being a very good smoke. When it burns barely above a smolder, the fragrance is outstanding.

    I think MB crafted this one for all those Danes and Germans who seek the pure Virginia experience. There's a perception over there (as evidenced by a number of videos I've seen) that top-grade flue-cured leaf is the finest tobacco in the world, especially the strains that come from the US. Since good Virginia tobacco is fairly commonplace for us, maybe we're just a bit underwhelmed.
     
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  14. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Age the crap out of it (and I mean that literally!) and you'll get a decent grassy sweet VA - nothing special, but elevated considerably from fresh. I bought a pound of it 5 years ago - and to this day I don't know why - and it's starting to come into its own now... "it's own" being nothing special.
     
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  15. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Mac Baren's is far, far away from my favorite blending house, but I have to respect that they keep the prices so reasonable. I'm just not much into the "Danish style" of blending, preferring the Brit style, which is quite different. But

    Then again, these days I'm smoking more ODF than just about anything.
     
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  16. User4408

    User4408 Active Member

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    My last bowl of VF, puffed at a snail's pace, did produce some exceptional caramelization. I could detect those notes in the flavor and aroma. And it also stimulated cake development as well, causing it to glisten.

    It's possible that VF is built on top grade (lemon) Virginias with a high sugar content (up to 25%). Some of the German pipe smokers use this type of tobacco for breaking in pipes, since it builds a nice hard flavor-neutral cake.

    I've noticed in the YT videos that they puff a lot slower than we do on this side of the pond. And that might have a lot to do with why they enjoy this type of tobacco so much.
     
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  17. RTOdhner

    RTOdhner Well-Known Member

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    Considering how much I like some of their other offerings, I'll just chalk this up to not liking everything I try. Considering how much I like their Navy Flake and ODF, I have little room to complain about their Virginia Flake. However, I still mean to try it mixed in with some Pete Irish Flake.
     
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  18. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Maybe. I tend to think that the biggest reason is that people's tastes are just different. Regional tobacco styles seem to fit better with people of those regions. I've always preferred the Brit tastes, in tobacco and beers/ales, over Danish tobacco or Pilsner. Germans and Danes would likely find Brit blends too robust and too heavily flavorful.

    Then again, it doesn't take me 2 hours to finish a Group 3 bowl. I've learned over the years that there is such a thing as puffing too slowly. Too slow and the blends richness tends to get diluted, not to mention that I prefer a certain "mouthfeel" that doesn't come with too slow puffing. Slow gets it accomplished best but it should do more than just smolder in order to fit my tastes. I've heard that a low smolder is the best way to enjoy a lot of the Mac Baren's blends, which is why I don't get much out of most of them. On the other hand, even a low smolder in something like Scottish Mixture or Plumcake doesn't provide me with enough flavor, as I prefer richer blends.

    So I think it comes down to what you're used to and what methods/techniques work best for you with the majority of blends. This is certainly one reason why I stress that my tobacco reviews are relevant only to me, as a rule.
     
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  19. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    If I absolutely loathed everything else Mac Baren made, I'd still genuflect over ODF. I voted it my Best New Blend of 2012 and it's very high on my list of favorites. They actually took the concept of a dark strong flake and put it in everyone's reach by taming the brute strength of many such blends. It's a robust but mellow smoke, not too strong, but still hugely flavorful. I tip my cap to Mac B by buying insane amounts of this stuff.

    That said, I also love Symphony, a blend that flies far under the radar in this country, and Solent is a great smoke as well. And I'm working through tins of BLB and GE which I enjoy as well. Most of their blends aren't in my wheelhouse, but a couple of classics makes them an essential blender for me.
     
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  20. RTOdhner

    RTOdhner Well-Known Member

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    Great stuff, indeed. Pete Irish Flake has a great flavor, probably the best tasting flake I've ever had. Unfortunately, I find the nicotine content to be toxic. ODF does a great job of approximating that flavor, but it doesn't have nearly the same level of nicotine. Thus, it's the perfect flake for me. It's a real departure from typical MacB offerings, and I say they recouped their investment on the used pressing equipment they purchased. I'm curious to see what other blends they will come up with, using the same pressing gear.
     
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