A Salute To McClelland Guru’s Mike & Mary McNiel
After giving great enjoyment to untold millions of pipe smokers for almost 50-years, Mike and Mary McNiel (owners of McClelland’s Tobacco Company), have decided to “shut ‘er down,” and move on to the next stage of their lives, retirement. When Mike told me a couple of months ago that McClelland’s was shutting down, it was a bittersweet pill to swallow. While I was happy for Mike and his beautiful wife, I was also sad because I’ve never really known life without McClelland’s. I was always fired up whenever Mike and Mary released a new blend because I knew that it would be good. With Mary’s legendary taste buds and Mike’s creative abilities with every tobacco type on the planet, the two of them would come up with some real dandies that always drew a crowd. I personally think that those two fine blenders are a one of a kind, as it were, and we’ll never again see one company put together so many winners.
And talk about going out with a bang; last year at the Chicago Pipe Show, McClelland’s unveiled their 40th Anniversary blend (a Red Virginia broken flake), that I truly believe is the finest Red Virginia blend that I’ve ever smoked. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many tins of that Manna from Heaven that I have in my own cellar, so, I won’t.
It boggles the mind when considering all of the outstanding blends Mike and Mary created for us. The Frog Morton series – capped off by Frog Morton’s Cellar blend – is almost as famous as Elvis. Others that have come along over the years are incredible pipe tobaccos; Red & Black, Stave-Aged Virginia, all of the Matured Virginia series, including my personal favorite, #27, and the Personal Reserve Series, are absolutely exceptional. And, of course, another reason I love all of the above is that all McClelland’s blends are made to age! About a decade ago I popped a tin of #27 that was 20-years old. To this day I still remember the taste sensation of that leaf with all that age. What a smoke! If I tried to name all of the great blends and series of blends that Mike and Mary McNiel put together, I’d run out of cyber paper. Again, it boggles the mind!
As is always the case when a big announcement is made, the rumor mongers are out there to put in their 2-cents, which, most of the time, isn’t even worth a penny. No, Mike and Mary are not selling their company to another blending house. No, they will not continue to have some other blender produce their product. We must face the fact that all McClelland’s tobaccos that are on the market today will soon be completely sold out and there will be no new tinning of any of them. The McClelland’s factory is shutting down. Interior equipment is or has already been sold. The building will be sold. Nothing lasts forever down here on planet Earth and we just have to acclimate ourselves to the fact that McClelland’s will soon be just a beautiful memory for us.
Finally, Mike and Mary McNiel are two of the finest people you would ever want to meet. Despite their incredible talent and incredible success in the pipe tobacco industry, they are humble and generous to a fault. You can bet that I will make sure I continue going to the Kansas City Pipe Show every year just so that I can be around that dynamic duo (Kansas City has always been the home of McClelland’s). Congratulations to them both for being a cut above couple and thanks to them both for a great ride!
May God continue to bless Mike and Mary McNiel.
Happy puffing to all!