Oriental Tobacco - Pipe 101 - Cigars International

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Before we get into this discussion, we need to a little background. Each of these varietal families (Virginia, Burley, Oriental) is a direct descendant of Nicotiana tabacum. Through genetics these distinct types have been developed along with numerous hybrids of each variety. Also, just like cigar tobacco, the microclimate where the tobacco is grown, the trace elements in the soil, and the specific way the tobacco is processed have a great affect on how the tobacco tastes when smoked. Virginia tobaccos are the most widely grown varietal family in the world, growing in Maryland through the Carolinas and other states, in Canada, from Central America to Brazil, several African countries, in Europe and Asia; and is a base tobacco in many pipe tobacco blends. While most of the Virginia grown in the world is used for cigarettes, higher grade varietals and heavier leaves are used for producing pipe tobaccos. Oriental tobaccos constitute one of the most unique light tobacco varietal families in the world. Since the tobacco is grown in very dry conditions; the tobacco plant forms a layer of wax on the leaves to prevent them drying out. This layer of wax contains natural aromatic oils. Oriental tobacco is picked by hand, leaf by leaf. After harvesting the leaves are hung in garlands and dried in the sun. Sun curing, which takes between a few days to a few weeks, will produce a brighter, more yellow leaf. Oriental tobaccos are often fermented after being cured, in order to develop their flavor and release their impurities and acidity. This produces small leaves which are low in sugar and nicotine content. The Oriental plant leaves produce the fragrant yet dry flavor profiles they are prized for (smaller leaf = higher aroma). Oriental tobacco derives its name from the area in which it is grown: the Eastern Mediterranean. Mainly Greece and Turkey. For all intents and purposes this is all one region, united for many years under Turkish rule (hence the interchangeable terms "Oriental" and "Turkish".) Each of the varietals, in fact, is named after the town or region it comes from; i.e. Yenidje, Smyrna, Drama are Greek, Samsun and Izmir are Turkish, and Xanthe is from the region of Thrace Oriental, or Turkish, is a spice tobacco, which is very mild in strength and known for its nutty, somewhat "sweet and sour" flavor. Turkish varietals, unfortunately, are next to impossible to obtain, even to professional blenders. Cigarette companies snap up most of the Turkish leaf production, and the remainder is made into a generic Turkish blend. This is the Oriental tobacco (often referred to as "basma") that one finds either in bulk, or in ready-made blends. It's a main component in English blends, along with Latakia (which is itself an Oriental that's been flavored with smoke). An "Oriental blend" contains at least one and often several of these tobaccos.