Oriental Pipe Tobacco

The common name “Turkish”, given to tobacco currently, really refers to tobacco grown in not only the country of Turkey, but other parts of the world, including Greece, Macedonia, Russia and Asia. More specifically, the reason why the name is used in a general way, was due to the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, centuries ago, when the Turks were conquering and occupying new territories.

“Oriental” is a more accurate name to the tobaccos we know of today, which add marvelous aromas and tastes  to pipe tobaccos that are grouped into categories of Balkans, English mixtures and Scottish mixtures; these tobaccos being naturally aromatic, to various degrees. They are from the plant Nicotiana Rustica, the leaves being very small compared to other tobacco. They are mostly sun-cured, and harvested by priming the leaves off the plant, one by one. They grow on mountain plains, hillsides and the base of valleys. Soil conditions in many areas in which they are grown are unique. Generally, modern agricultural techniques of fertilization, irrigation, crop rotation, etc., are not used. The plants have developed a waxy coating on the leaves to help it to survive dry conditions. The beauty of this natural reaction, is that the wax on the leaves help lock in and preserve natural organic essential oils, which give the tobacco their famous herbal and spicy, aromatic qualities, so valued. The tobacco which is one of the most aromatic of this kind is called “Smyrna”, of which “Latakia” comes from. Latakia is the name of a Syrian seaport. The “Latakia” tobacco is simply a sun and fire-cured product of the leaf, being cured with the smoke from the Asiatic Oak tree and other herbs, for a period of several weeks. The other exotic names of  Oriental tobaccos are taken from the regions they are grown, the towns near the seaports where they are traded, and the foreign language names of where they are cultivated: “hill tops”, “mountains”, “open plains”, etc.

To our enjoyment, these Oriental pipe tobaccos are used mostly as a “condiment” addition to our pipe tobacco mixtures, and sometimes have been used a “base”. The Oriental tobaccos differ in levels of aroma, sweetness and color, depending are where they are from. Knowing the fine differences of each, will enable you to be familiar with them, and how you would use them in your favorite mixture, either to compliment another type of tobacco, to layer flavors,  etc.

Please do not be overwhelmed by the numerous names of these tobaccos, but do some fun investigation of your own, and ask yourself some questions about the names of some of them: does the name mean a city, area or place, or does it mean a name of a product , or a method of production of the tobacco?

By Eric Whitaker

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