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Another McClelland thread- where did the leaf end up?

tfdickson

Well-known member
Sales
Patron
#1
Anyone have an idea what happened to the leaf that McC would be using if they hadn’t closed? I’ve read plenty of commentary on the hole in the market that their departure created but this is coming at it from the demand side of things. What about supply, even if currently available leaf was not to their standards? I realize the premium pipe tobacco market is tiny but wouldn’t other premium pipe tobacco manufacturers now have easier access to some leaf, red VA in particular? Or was it the process more than the raw materials that made McC what it was? It’s Friday night, let’s indulge in some baseless speculation.
 

Spillproof

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
Sales
#4
Anyone have an idea what happened to the leaf that McC would be using if they hadn’t closed? I’ve read plenty of commentary on the hole in the market that their departure created but this is coming at it from the demand side of things. What about supply, even if currently available leaf was not to their standards? I realize the premium pipe tobacco market is tiny but wouldn’t other premium pipe tobacco manufacturers now have easier access to some leaf, red VA in particular? Or was it the process more than the raw materials that made McC what it was? It’s Friday night, let’s indulge in some baseless speculation.
Mike McNeil said that very little Red Virginia is being cultivated these days and what is available is not of sufficient quality/consistency to continue making McClelland blends up to their standards. This was a big part of the reason they decided to close shop.

Sutliff launched their new Red Va blends not long after McClelland closed. So while the Reds being produced today won't cut the mustard (or ketchup) for McClelland, apparently it's "good enough" for other blenders.
 

Sasquatch

Wizzard
Staff member
#6
Yeah the question is maybe posed wrong - it's not like there's piles of top quality leaf going un-bought, rather, its scarcity is one of the factors in McClelland closing. And again, I could buy top quality leaf and turn chicken salad into chicken crap, to reverse the common saying. Because I don't know what I'm doing as a tobacco blender! I assume the big blenders (like Mac Baren and K/K) buy every scrap of everything that looks good enough to them. It's not like there's not other top shelf tobacco being made.
 

tfdickson

Well-known member
Sales
Patron
#7
I’m thinking good leaf/bad leaf isn’t like an on/off switch, that leaf quality and characteristics sufficient to allow the McNeils to continue to produce their blends lies on a spectrum. I’m guessing the McNeils’ trigger point for “good enough” lies a good bit higher on that spectrum than most of us might be able to detect had they continued production. So they were buying leaf, and then they were not. Did the leaf they would have bought just get swallowed up by big blenders like K&K or Mac Baren as mentioned above and get blended into the rest of the leaf further down the quality spectrum?
 

blackmouth210

Well-known member
#9
I’m thinking good leaf/bad leaf isn’t like an on/off switch, that leaf quality and characteristics sufficient to allow the McNeils to continue to produce their blends lies on a spectrum. I’m guessing the McNeils’ trigger point for “good enough” lies a good bit higher on that spectrum than most of us might be able to detect had they continued production. So they were buying leaf, and then they were not. Did the leaf they would have bought just get swallowed up by big blenders like K&K or Mac Baren as mentioned above and get blended into the rest of the leaf further down the quality spectrum?
My guess is that's exactly what happened.
Anything that could have been bought by McClelland just got sold to someone else when it proved to be substandard for what McClelland was in the market for.
 

tfdickson

Well-known member
Sales
Patron
#11
Did they just stop buying leaf, or did their buying taper off? I don't really know how blenders purchase and store leaf and how long they store it, but it does seem possible they were buying less and less while using leaf they had purchased previously. I am just speculating.
Great question, I have no idea.
 

Russ H.

Patron-Fight The Good Fight
Patron
#13
The issue was addressed in the statement the McNeil's released as to the reasons for their closing. However when we look at the tobacco being grown it was pointed out that as with anything as far as growing crops the outcome, and quality will vary wildly due to influences of weather, climate, rainfall, or lack there of, and many factors.
When I was young Tobacco was a big crop in Lancaster county, Pa.. Just as any crop many things influenced the quality, and from there what the buyers were looking for, and wanted.
Each year brings forth its own set of problems with each crop, and from there how it was handled moving forward.
To say that the current tobaccos available are lesser, or better is a stretch. One would have o be able to look at the tobacco from growth, through harvest, and then processing to be able to state without untruth if the end product was made using only extreme quality tobaccos, and ingredients
Each crop, and the end product is only as good as the base ingredients, and Mother Nature plays the biggest role in this. The crop is only as good as it can be with all kinds of things influencing the crop.
Ozark Wizard would know quite a bit about this as He grows his own. Insects, disease, mold, weather, soil conditions all can wreck a crop, and turn it into a very poor quality outcome.
On another note--I remember picking those huge green tobacco worms off the plants--buckets of them--they'd chew up the leaves, and destroy crops.
Where the tobaccos go to today--same buyers, and same people who process them that are still in existence. As to the quality tobacco blends we can get, well I'm sure all blenders strive to get the best they can, but again defining the best--well the best is only as good as Mother Nature has allowed it to be when it comes to base tobaccos.
 

JAK

Well-known member
#15
Mike McNeil also said they could no longer hand pick their tobacco's because the government started a lottery system and the crops were being machine picked. Said they just couldn't get the quality and he wasn't going to put out a subpar product. It was a culmination of many factors as some others mentioned above. It all just played into the closing. He also said they will never sell the name or blends. They sold all of the equipment and put the business to bed.
 

Kayro

Well-known member
#16
I grew Burley in Kentucky for many years. It was not "some" of the best in the world it was THE best. When I was a young man each stalk of tobacco was stripped and sorted into five different grades. When it went to market it sold according to what grade the leaf fell into, with the higher grades selling for more as one would expect. I am an old man now and have not grown tobacco since our government destroyed the American market and chose to subsidize the importation of the same tobacco we used to grow. What burley is grown now is simply sold in bales like hay with no grading done. I don't know how all this effected Virginia tobacco in its many versions. I would imagine the same ill results on the quality of the product was evident in one way or another. Its not that American farmers can't produce enough of the high quality product. The old tobacco belt covered a wide swath of the country. The problem is there has been a concerted effort to prevent them from doing so. I hate that McC is gone. At the same time I believe their explanation as to why.