What do you get when you marry two hundred years of business stretched over four generations of family ownership, keen attention to heritage, expert tobacco knowledge, and a commitment to innovation at every step of your process? Three words: Mac Baren Tobacco. Helmed by the Halberg family, and benefitted by the expertise of master blender, Per Georg Jensen, Mac Baren is responsible for some the finest pipe tobacco on the market. Spanning categories from straight Virginias, to Cavendish, to Dark Fired Kentuckys, to Latakias, every tin of Mac Baren commutes a premium puff and enlivens the nuances and joys of pipe smoking.
But where to start? With a mighty roster of Mac Baren originals, and the company’s reproduction of famed blends like Three Nuns, there is a lengthy list to smoke through. The curious piper will ultimately take the full tour but let us help out with an educated shortcut on seven essential Mac Baren blends you should try now.
1. The Morning Puff
There’s no greater pleasure than a crisp early morning with a strong cup of coffee, a great book, and a rested pipe with a reliable tin of tobacco. Just half an hour of that meditative time sets the day to rights. Maximize your morning ritual with a fine Mac Baren blend that affords a mild citrus and grassy flavor with zero bite. This straight Virginia is full-bodied without being overpowering, so you’ll wake right up but not feel blown over by nicotine. The Mac Baren “ready rubbed” technique makes packing effortless too, and we’re all for those easy wins as you start out your day. Originally blended by W.D. and H.O. Wills, Capstan Original Navy Cut has over a century of fame under its belt and was even the preferred blend of luminaries like J.R.R. Tolkien. Hard to argue with that kind of legacy.
2. The Heavyweight
For the piper who prefers blends with a sturdy kick, Mac Baren has got you covered here too . Beyond the limited edition Rustica, a favorite for strong-stomached smoking aficionados, seasoned pipers consistently turn to Mac Baren’s HH Old Dark Fired Hot Pressed. Composed of perfectly balanced Burley and Virginia tobaccos, the HH is a flake cut blend that’s “hot pressed,” a process in which steamed heat is supplied to the tobaccos, resulting in a bolder flavor. With a flavor profile recalling earthy, nutty notes and nic hit that you feel without it taking you out, you’ll be back for round after round with this mighty contender. Just enjoy it with something in your stomach.
3. The Tried and True
One thing pipers love is reliability. Once you’ve settled on a tobacco blend that really strikes your fancy, you’re in it for the long haul; tins aren’t enough—you’re moving to bulk purchases. So it is with Mac Baren’s Plumcake Pipe Tobacco – Navy Blend. This expertly orchestrated blend of Burley, Cavendish, Latakia, and Virginia tobaccos first hit the market in 1957 and it’s been a mainstay of discerning pipers ever since. Featuring ribbon cut and ready-rubbed tobacco with hints of plum and a subtle topping of Jamaican rum, this naturally sweet and intricate blend is classic, delicious, and a mainstay you will return to consistently.
4. The All Day, Everyday
We love the gentle blends that ease you into the day and the major robust knockouts that send you to sleep, but for the in-between times, it’s all about that perfect staple that’s not too little and not too much. Enter the Capstan Gold Navy Cut Flake Tobacco. This Virginia flake was first blended over a century ago and carries a gentle touch of citrus sweetness with a delicious kick of spice. It’s marvelous to find that blend that sits as the backbone of a daily smoking routine, and once you smoke Capstan Gold, you’ll always have a tin or two at the ready to fill in the gaps.
5. The Experiment
You know what they say about still waters. They run deep . . . but they’re also a bit boring. What’s not moving, innovating, shapeshifting, and evolving is slowly going the way of the buffalo. With a couple of centuries in their rearview mirror, Mac Baren has done their fair share of paradigm shifting. One of the most enduring of those experiments is the Mac Baren Mixture Scottish Pipe Tobacco. A staple since the late-1950s, this mild aromatic Burley, Virginia, and Cavendish blend is flavored with liquor and vanilla and composed of an incredible variety of thirty-five tobacco leaves from around the world. The resulting smoke is a carefully orchestrated symphony that reveals a sprawling array of flavors from earthy elements like grass and nuttiness to a delicious mild sweetness. Every bowl will incorporate a slightly different pinch of this complex blend, meaning that the core flavors are present with slight variants that are as surprising as they are pleasing.
6. The Dessert
It’s the moment we look forward to every day. That post-dinner, post-kids in bed, post-dishes, post-living room clean-up, post-check in with your spouse. It’s porch time, and that means pipe time. The house is quiet, you’ve got something nice to read or watch, and you need the right blend to keep you company as you begin to unwind. For this significant nomination, consider Mac Baren’s Black Ambrosia Loose Cut Pipe Tobacco. A mild aromatic ribbon cut blend that burns nice and cool and delivers a pleasant room note should anyone interrupt your solace, this citrus-inflected dessert tobacco is perfect for topping off a full evening and collecting yourself for the day ahead. Enjoy it as you start your downtime, especially knowing another bowl is waiting for you tomorrow night.
7. The Evening Sendoff
The night wears on. You’re binging The Walking Dead, you’re in the midst of a meme-black hole on your smart phone, you’re outmatched at chess with a buddy from your smoking lounge, or you’re pouring through Ulysses. It’s that time of the evening where another hour seems like it won’t make any difference in the end. The rest of the house is silent, and you settle on a final bowl before the Sandman comes calling. What do you pick? What’s the optimal flavor, and the perfect inspiration, to send you into whatever hours of the night remain? Mac Baren offers many worthy options, but we recommend Bell's Three Nuns. The original Three Nuns was first blended over a century ago and was a favorite of legends like C.S. Lewis. With subtle spiciness, this dark fired curly cut Kentucky & Virginia blend brings a bit of punch so pace yourself with this final stretch. You’ll be dreaming of your next bowl all night.
Mac Baren is both legend and mainstay, and their blends have held strong throughout the ebbs and flows of the tobacco industry for nearly two centuries. From pleasing aromatics to robust flavorful medium blends to carry you through the day to heavy-hitters that are not for the faint of heart, Mac Baren tobacco has a candidate for every palate and preference. While we’ve toured just a few fan (and staff) favorites here, let it be said that this is far from the end of the story. Grab your favorite Peterson pipe, Savinelli Pipe or Rattray's pipe and pick up a couple tins from the list above, but then dip your toe further into the waters of Mac Baren. There’s an ocean to cross.