Mysterious Tobaccos

Of all the strains of tobaccos, Orientals and Turkish are, to my tastes, the most exotic, and in a way, that makes them more fun to work with.

Virginia, for example, will taste different depending upon the growing region, processing, etc., but it’s still fundamentally Virginia. But there are so many different strains of Orientals/Turkish, and they all have unique flavors and properties. oriential_tobacco_leavesEven the names have an exotic ring to them – yenidje, basma, drama, bursa, basha bagli, kavalla, samsoun, Izmir, Smyrna, katerini, among others.

Most of these strains are small leaf varieties which are cured through exposure to sunlight. Their flavors range from earthy and umami, to musty, to floral/herbal. What makes them even more intriguing is how they interact with other tobaccos, especially Virginias and Latakia. For example, I find that yenidje combined with Latakia brightens the smokiness and adds an incense-like note to the aroma, while using Smyrna makes the blend creamier and more buttery in character.

The reason I’m addressing this subject is that a good friend has made a limited amount of some of the more rare strains available to me to do short-run limited editions. When I started blending almost 40 years ago, most of these tobaccos were just a phone call away, but now are scarcer than hen’s teeth. It’s been exciting to get reacquainted with some of these varietals, and I can’t wait to see what I can come up with. I’ll keep you apprised as to my efforts in the months ahead.

About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at or by calling 1-800-494-9144.