Since 1977, Mary and Mike McNiel had built their company, McClelland Tobacco Company, on the reputation of using only the finest quality leaf available for their blends. Because of their dedication to using only the best, blends such as FrogMorton, Dark Star, 221 B, Bayou Spice, Pal O Mine and Beacon and a host of bulk tobaccos, won a legion of fans worldwide.
For approximately the last six months, rumors have circled the pipe tobacco industry that the McNiels would cease McClelland’s operation, due in large part from the difficulties that they were experiencing in obtaining tobaccos worthy of being used in McClelland blends, especially quality Red Virginia tobacco that they used in so many of their most popular blends. Last week, the McNiels confirmed the rumors and announced that they would be shutting down McClelland after 40 years of operation.
The following is a copy of a letter the McNiels sent out to McClelland’s customers that was read by Brian Levine on the Pipes Magazine Radio Show:
The McClelland Tobacco Company is closing after 40 years. We want to thank all the retailers and pipe smokers whose support and efforts to spread their appreciation of our pipe tobaccos have taken us from a very modest beginning in Grandpa McClelland’s basement in the Fall of 1977 to a company with a worldwide reputation of quality.
We’ve made our pipe tobaccos–Virginias, Oriental mixtures, Aromatics, etc.–from the highest grades of leaf and stripped tobaccos because of their basic richness and natural sweetness. That has been the beauty of McClelland and that is now the problem. We can no longer access tobacco of the quality we need. The time-honored labor-intensive process at the farms are disappearing. The aging of leaf over several summers to mellow is largely a thing of the past. We need old school methods at every stage before manufacturing to make it possible for McClelland to draw from the leaf the flavors that have been our hallmark.
Without the supportive infrastructure our government used to provide, a small company such as ours cannot continue. We might have limped along with lesser leaf but nobody would have been happy with the resulting products and we would have been ashamed of them. We’ve sold down all of the inventory that we have been able to produce with the finest leaf.
We want to thank you, our customers, and thank our great employees—friends who have been so capable and conscientious—and thank our leaf suppliers who have made an extraordinary effort to search out the finest leaf possible for us for 40 years. We will miss McClelland and our daily contacts with our friends in the pipe community. We feel privileged to have been part of this wonderful world of the pipe for so long. The finest people we know have been, and are, pipe and tobacco people. We hope to keep up our contacts as we move on to our next phase of life. We wish everybody good luck and good fortune.
For all the latest news from McClelland Tobacco Company, visit mcclellandtobacco.com.