Mac Baren added another great blend to their “HH” series of pipe tobaccos. Like the others this one is somewhat of a break from their usual Scandinavian style. In no way have they compromised on the quality of tobaccos, and if you are already a fan of Mac Baren blends you’ll still recognize their special touch.
Fully matured Virginias, Ready Rubbed Burleys, Latakia and a touch of Fire-cured Cavendish is the recipe. We added one of the world’s finest 30 year old Scotch whiskies, Glenfarclas. The natural flavors from the tobacco and the delightful taste of the Scotch marry perfectly, so when smoked you experience the mellow taste and subtle smoky note of the tobaccos combined with the overtone of a fine scotch.
This has a very interesting taste at first light. It is a very familiar almost caramel candy-like flavor that I believe forms from the combination of the tobaccos and Scotch whisky, certainly not any aromatic component. Aside from the whisky this is straightforward tobacco. Once the ember is going this unique taste slides behind the expected flavors of the tobacco.
Be careful to take your time lighting this one. This is not a blend you want to burn hot. I have to really watch my smoking cadence with Mac Baren blends else I wind up bitten. With Highland Blend’s inviting but reserved character I can easily get carried away puffing a little too greedily, chasing more of the flavors.
My guess is this blend will appeal more to those who generally steer clear of the heavier Latakia-laden blends. While an English or Balkan lover may like this in his rotation as a change of pace, it bares little resemblance to the typical English blend in character and body.
The taste from the component tobaccos throughout the bowl is very dry, crisp, and almost sharp. While I detect the sweetness from the Virginias I cannot think of this as a sweet blend.
The Latakia is also always present but applied very delicately. Highland Blend is a textbook example of the blender using Latakia as a condiment rather than a component. The way the Latakia coaxes the sweetness of the Virginias out from behind their tang and zest is artful. It plays well with the whisky too.
The Burley and Cavendish has a welcome but fairly nondescript role in the Highland Blend, especially early in the bowl. Maybe the Burley is what brings the crispness to the blend’s character. As the bowl passes the halfway point the Burley begins to stand out more and contributes an increasing amount of body and depth. Very nice.
Mac Baren is a must-try if you are comfortable with the disciplined and observant smoking. For me, the strength of the blend is in the complexities. I cannot fully enjoy it as an all-day smoke. It needs too much attention. Anyone willing to give this tobacco enough attention will be rewarded an incredibly interesting experience.
Video Review of Mac Baren Highland Blend