Review by cortezattic
Virginia #1: medium flavor, strength and body in a mild, smooth smoke.
My experience with Mac Baren Virginia #1 is entirely with the bulk form. For someone who has been smoking a pipe since the late 1960's, I'm a relative late-comer to the Mac Baren line. Because of Mac Baren's reputation for tongue bite, I denied myself half a lifetime of Elysian pleasure on the basis of hearsay! The lesson learned: never trust authority or consensus in matters of taste; sample it for yourself.
In discussing my experience with other smokers I have come to the conclusion that, like the division among people who can and cannot tolerate artificial sweeteners, pipe smokers of the world are in one of two camps: those whom Mac Baren tobaccos sting like an angry wasp, and those for whom it is ambrosia. So if you've been heeding the questionable caveat about Mac Baren bite, give it a try for yourself. You may be very pleasantly rewarded.
Virginia #1 is composed of honey colored shreds of coarsely rubbed flake with a predictably grassy, sweet aroma. My supplies of the bulk tobacco arrive at the perfect moisture level for immediate use -- but then again I prefer my Va.'s to lean toward the dry side: supple, but not obviously moist. This is not a very fussy tobacco to pack and light. I just randomly stuff the shreds into the bowl and fire it up.
It has a true Virginia taste sharpened and intensified by the flake pressing process, and is sweetened to perfection. My guess would be that it's cased with a water solution of brown sugar, and nothing else. Mac Baren product specialist Per Jensen states that Virginia #1 is the only Mac Baren product composed of only Virginia tobacco leaf. From what I can tell, that would be primarily lemon and orange, and perhaps a little red.
Virginia #1 immediately generates a comforting volume of luscious smoke with a racy Virginia flavor, caramel sweetness, and a mix of citrus zest and salinity that begs you to draw on it non-stop -- not because it fails to satisfy, but because it satisfies so well! It has a medium depth of flavor and nicotine strength delivered in a very mild and smooth envelop of smoke. It does create a very gentle, almost negligible peppery sensation on the margins of the tongue, but nothing even faintly approaching bite; ascribe it to the natural piquancy and spicy attitude for which Va. flakes are renowned.
As the bowl progresses, the tobacco flavor holds its own, but the blend loses its initial balance between tartness and sweetness: as the smoke progresses to the bottom of the bowl the sweetness fades, causing the citrus finish to become more noticeable.
This blend not only tastes great, but you have to intentionally puff like a locomotive to coax even a slight nip out of it. Further, it is so mild tasting it makes a great all day smoke: totally well behaved, and a candidate for anybody's go-to smoke. For an in-depth video tour of Mac Baren visit: