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  1. #1
    Administrator deluxestogie's Avatar
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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    Ootz is the Turkish name for the top 3 or so leaves of a plant. They tend to be tiny. They are said to be so highly valued in Turkey that none of it is ever exported. Now I know why.



    In the 2011 season, I grew some Izmir Ozbas (PI 494157). Izmir is the modern name for the ancient city of Smyrna, on the Aegean coast of today's Turkey. The best I can determine, Ozbas means "parental" or "original." Since I keep 4 stalk positions separate, I was able to identify the ootz (the tips). This was air-cured in the shed, and kilned for 1 month.

    Xanthi Yaka, a close cousin of Izmir Ozbas, notoriously burns poorly, and is not a candidate for a pure cigar. The Izmir Ozbas, however, has always burned well as a pipe blender or minor cigar element. (I grew those two varieties side-by-side. So the burn properties are inherent in the variety, rather than the culture method or curing.) So it was something of a risk to roll an Izmir Ozbas puro cigar, since my supply is severely limited--this one small cigar consumed about half of it. Once you light a cigar, the filler is pretty much unfit for other use, should the cigar not burn well. My puro was wrapped in the largest of these ootz leaves. At 8" long, the wrapper limits the size of the cigar to not much bigger than what you see in the photo. All of the filler is the same dark, oily leaf as the wrapper.

    I don't often rave about a single cigar. This ootz puro, though, is extraordinary. The burn is perfect, forming a gray-white ash. On the tongue, it imparts a clean, creaminess, with what seems to be a neutral pH. It tastes of walnuts and freshly cut poplar wood, with no trace of sweetness. The aroma is also nutty and soft, with no perfuminess. I would rate the body as mild+. As a wrapper, I found the leaf to be strong and flexible, though not particularly elastic. On the rolled cigar, the glossy wrapper has the polished feel of carnauba wax, rather than oil.



    As small as this cigar was, it lasted for a good 45 minutes, with its subdued, steady burn.

    Bob

    I should note that, prior to going into the kiln, the ootz leaf was a dull light brown with scattered green mottling, and smelled bitter.

  2. #2
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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    Wow, a 45 minute burn time? Nice looking cigar, Deluxe. It sounds fantastic. Will be getting some seeds germinated and in the dirt. Once they start reaching for the sun the plants will be patrolled regularly to keep the critters/worms off the little ootz leaves. Hope you don't mind if I pester you for advice on when to prime and cure those little jewels.

  3. #3
    Administrator deluxestogie's Avatar
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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    Tom,
    Tip leaves are most at risk from aphids in the late season. Aphids can be simply hosed off. Tips are mildest if the plant is left untopped, which is how they are grown in Turkey. I allow the tips to remain on the plant to become as ripe as possible without deteriorating. If you do this with, say, burley or a Virginia, the tips will knock you into next Sunday.

    Bob

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    Moderator Jitterbugdude's Avatar
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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    They are called Ootz huh? I'll have to call all mine oops, since I threw them all away because they were so small

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    Administrator deluxestogie's Avatar
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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    Randy,
    You may have made the right decision. These tiny leaves are truly a nuisance to work with, during maintenance, harvest, curing, and on down the line to making it into something to smoke. It's probably worth doing at least once, just to see what the fuss is all about. For production quantities, you'd likely have to charge $200/lb. to make it worth the bother. (That's about the cost of Cuban cigars. The ootz is more unique and more exclusive.)

    Bob

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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    For production quantities, you'd likely have to charge $200/lb. to make it worth the bother.
    What's the typical yield of 'cured' ootz leaf for one plant, less than an ounce?

    And, now that you've had time to reflect on your smoke would you 'stretch' the ootz by using a different wrapper, binder, filler or add some ligero? It seems to me that if it's blended with some other leaf it might even be better.

  7. #7
    Administrator deluxestogie's Avatar
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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    As noted above, the yield of ootz for one plant is 3 or 4 very small leaves (average 4-5" long). I often roll a puro of a particular leaf--even shade wrapper--to understand its burning characteristics, aroma, taste and uniqueness. Izmir Ozbas would be overwhelmed by any cigar leaf. Certainly blending with more subtle varieties has potential for discovery.

    Bob

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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    The Izmir Ozbas, however, has always burned well as a pipe blender or minor cigar element.
    Certainly blending with more subtle varieties has potential for discovery.
    I'm not that knowledgeable with regard to the more subtle varieties. Which varieties do you think are viable or have potential? Got any thoughts rolling around as to the proportion of the blend? Or, are those guarded secrets and/or processes locked away somewhere? You know, "If I tell you, then I'd have to kill you." kinda deals. I'm willing to help with the research and do some grunt work, especially if it involves burning tobacco leaves. Of course it's also assuming I can learn how to grow the stuff.

  9. #9
    Administrator deluxestogie's Avatar
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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    I think blending Izmir Ozbas with most other Turkish varieties is worth a try. The petiolated ones (there is some free stem separating the leaf lamina from the stalk--the leaf tends to be heart-shaped or spade-shaped), which are all probably derived originally from Samsun seed, tend to be stronger. Perhaps a small amount of very mild burley or flue-cure variety would make something. A tiny strip of anything stronger is always interesting. By tiny strip, I mean a single strip 1/4-1/2" wide running the length of the cigar. (A 1/4" strip of Perique-processed tobacco transforms a mild cigar into one that will give you a buzz, but it would be way too much Perique for an all Izmir Ozbas cigar.) A strip of the India Dark Air Cured (my prize for winning something or other) intensifies the character of any cigar.

    The secret is that if you have a lot of varieties ready to smoke, you can blend them in every imaginable way. All the permutations of a mere 10 varieties, not even counting the proportions of each, is, well...a big number. Include variations in the proportions, and it becomes infinite. Only experience and your own taste can guide you. AND, as with grapes or coffee beans, each new crop of the same variety will be different from the last.

    Bob

    EDIT: I should note that "smokable" un-kilned leaf always tastes different and blends differently, when compared to the same batch of leaf after it comes out of the kiln.

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    Rare Turkish Ootz Cigar

    OK, so a likely candidate for blending with Izmir Ozbas would be a subtle variety that enjoys an excellent reputation like the Black Sea Samsun-Maden. I believe it's loaded with sucrosester, has pink flowers and is a heart-shaped leaf.

    Then like you mentioned, some very mild burley (kilned?), a bit of India Dark Air Cured (flue cured or fire cured?), then for strength it would be something like I had 'once' in a Romeo Julieta Churchill with a fabulous kick that sent me into a floating state of gentle giddiness and wonderment for a few hours. Course that was a lot more than a tiny strip since it was a 7", 50 ring size cigar but with a very smooth, gentle kick.

    The secret is that if you have a lot of varieties ready to smoke, you can blend them in every imaginable way.
    Yeah, so many varieties, so little time.

    Now, all the Turkish varieties produce the little ootz leaves? Like Xanthi Yaka, or is that unique to Izmir Orbas? Oh, and lastly, Xanthi Yaka is strictly for pipe blending due to its poor burning characteristic, or would that be another potential leaf to consider in a cigar, as a substitute for Izmir Ozbas?

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