Whole Leaf Tobacco

Wood types for Latakia

ChinaVoodoo

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I have read all of the threads in the Latakia section of the forum, and i thought a good idea would be to have a thread dedicated specifically to cataloging the efforts people have made in the realm of wood selection, asking questions, and making suggestions, but limiting discussion of "how to" because that's been clearly covered. It seems that although there are different accounts of what woods are used commercially, and historically, we do know some, and that for the most of us, the traditional fuels used for Latakia production are unavailable.

Unless if my reading skills are abysmal, in Cyprus, Latakia is usually made with a blend of wood, mostly consisting of Mastic, but also smaller portions of myrtle, cypress, and pine. In Syria, it's less certain, but most likely, Latakia is smoked primarily with oak, with smaller portions of pine. I'm sure everyone has access to some sort of pine, but pine only accounts for 4%of the fuel in Cyprus.

I hope to give Latakia making a shot this year, and hope to do the most accurate rendition I can with the wood choices available to me. It would be nice if one day, we can nail this Latakia thing.

Other woods that have been suggested are juniper, fir, cedar, spruce. One source I found when reading about mastic gum (the sap), is that almond sap has been used in the past as a substitute. Perhaps the wood would also be a good substitute? Peach is closely related to almond, anyone ever burn peach? Another suggestion is larch. The needles are softer and cleaner because they are deciduous, and they have a more generic conifer smell than pine which is rather distinct. (and they grow around here.)
 

Jitterbugdude

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I really do not think anyone is going to find a substitute for the wood used in Syria/Cyprus. But what the hell, playing around is half the fun. Spraying mastic oil onto various varieties of leaf had no effect whatsoever so there is definitely more to it than mastic.
 

chillardbee

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The uniqueness of latakia comes down to location. The aromatic woods that are local to the region and (once was) most available, produced the latakia we've all become acustom to from Syria and such.

I think it would be good to find local aromatic woods within our own regions to cure and process our own unique style of latakia. Here in BC, I might try using cedar, Spruce, Pine, with other woods native to the area like willow and alder. local climate will probably play a big part of it too since a high humidity climate for the curing and firing stage will allow the leaf take a better treatment. Elaborating on this last sentence, let me explain. The leaf being in higher case and cooler then it's enviroment when subjected to a warmer moist smoke will better accumilate the layers of particals of smoke eventually making it black.
 

istanbulin

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Genus of Prunus (almonds, peaches, plums etc.) can't provide an aroma which can be attributed to Latakia's. For both Syria and Cyprus some same Maquis (Mediterranean - mostly evergreen - both low ang high shrubs) take place while smoking tobacco and smost of those shrubs are not native to North America. The main trees growing in the region are below.

- Oaks (Quercus)
Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera)
Valonia Oak (Quercus macrolepis)

- Pines (Pinus)
Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis)
Black Pine (Pinus nigra)

- Cedars (Cedrus)
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)

- Firs (Abies)
Taurus Fir (Abies cilicica)

- Junipers (Juniperus)
Eastern Mediterranean Juniper (Juniperus excelsa​)

If I intend to smoke up some tobacco to make Latakia I'd pick woods and greens of the trees above. Wetted woods also provide more smoke. I did write the names in Latin to avoid name confusion. For example, Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is actually not a cedar but a juniper. Search Juniperus, Abies, Cedrus, Pinus and Quercus ​on a databease and find out if they're growing around you and see if they work out nice on fire curing to produce your local Latakia.
 

FmGrowit

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Keep in mind the first order in creating your own Latakia will be using the proper Turkish/Oriental variety.

We broke down a few bales of Latakia a week ago and there was a very distinct kerosene smell from the freshly opened bale interior.



My guess is the kerosene smell was off-gassing of whatever pine that was used. I'd suggest allowing any homemade Latakia to rest for a while, perhaps several months, before using.



I assume the gases couldn't escape the bale because it was so tightly compressed.

Coincidentally, a vendor from Turkey recently approached me with an offer to purchase Latakia. It was being sold as "this years crop", but was actually from 2013. This might have been a typo or Latakia is held for a year before it is offered on the market.
 

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ChinaVoodoo

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I read that smoking meat with cedar can cause serious allergic reactions. However, I read this on the internet. Is there truth to that? Should we be concerned at all. I always assumed they were referring to Thuja plicata.
 

Traveling Piper

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Genus of Prunus (almonds, peaches, plums etc.) can't provide an aroma which can be attributed to Latakia's. For both Syria and Cyprus some same Maquis (Mediterranean - mostly evergreen - both low ang high shrubs) take place while smoking tobacco and smost of those shrubs are not native to North America. The main trees growing in the region are below.

- Oaks (Quercus)
Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera)
Valonia Oak (Quercus macrolepis)

- Pines (Pinus)
Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis)
Black Pine (Pinus nigra)

- Cedars (Cedrus)
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)

- Firs (Abies)
Taurus Fir (Abies cilicica)

- Junipers (Juniperus)
Eastern Mediterranean Juniper (Juniperus excelsa)

If I intend to smoke up some tobacco to make Latakia I'd pick woods and greens of the trees above. Wetted woods also provide more smoke. I did write the names in Latin to avoid name confusion. For example, Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is actually not a cedar but a juniper. Search Juniperus, Abies, Cedrus, Pinus and Quercus on a databease and find out if they're growing around you and see if they work out nice on fire curing to produce your local Latakia.

@ChinaVoodoo I would really like to see this thread "fire" back up.... or perhaps a slow smolder...
I hate that it ran cold. I, too, am very interested in seeking a means to create a Latakia-type tobacco that can be produced and consumed at our back door steps.
Did anyone find any decent concoctions?
Did anyone try anything that was absolute crap?

When I have the time, I'd like to start a spreadsheet that details all the compounds(and their concentrations) per species of plant. Given this, we could potentially seek to identify candidates and emulate (to a degree) the chemical composition of the volatile profile that's been documented in Latakia.
There are so many questions that can be posed in regards to this topic. Additionally, it is an opportunity to explore!
I think this discussion should REALLY be had.
 

Jitterbugdude

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I've tried and failed. I tried some of the essential oils from the woods that Istanbulin listed. I tried pure mastic too. I sprayed leaves and didn't even get close. My next step (to be done one year in the future) will be to inpregnate some wood with the essentail oils and smoke the wood in a smoker with the tobacco leaves. I'm not too optimistic though.

The few homegrown-homesmoked samples I've tried from others seem to me to have a taste not quite like Dark Fired and not quite like Latakia.

Also, I believe Gallaher in Ireland tried in the 50's to make a spray on Latakia flavoring but gave up due to inferior results.
 

Alpine

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A co-worker is from Syria, and his brother in law is a forest officer. We once talked about Latakia, and he told me that the original specie of tree is no longer used to smoke tobacco since it’s an endangered tree with high risk of extinction. I’ll see him tonight and will ask if he can tell me the EXACT name of the tree. Once the genus is known, it’s easier to find possible candidates for substitution. I think.

Pier
 

deluxestogie

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The way I test natural items for their potential to enhance the smoke used to cure Latakia is to place a tiny bit onto a cold burner of an electric stove. I then turn it to "high", and sample the smoke that is emitted. It is in that manner that I determined that mastic gum ("Tears of Chios") is a wonderful prospect, although its cost is astronomical. It melts, then sizzles and bubbles, then turns to ash. By contrast, burning a tiny bit of gum Arabic emits a truly foul aroma.

Combusting a fleck of a toasted almond reveals the unpleasant smell of burning fat. Pistachio nuts smell like burning fat, yet pistachio shells have almost no aroma.



Burning a bit of a dried sweet gum seed pod releases a delightfully subdued fragrance that would probably compliment mastic, in making Latakia. The sphere of each pod is about 1 inch in diameter, and is mostly air. But they do char nicely, and smolder well.

At the parking lot of my Veterans Hospital, in Salem, Virginia, I discovered piles of sweet gum pods during the fall. I believe they drop over an extended period during the autumn. This coming fall, I plan to collect 5 or 10 gallons of them. I have high hopes for them.

You can use the same method to test evergreens. Just place a single leaf (needle) on the burner, then heat it. Likewise with a tiny segment of stem.

Bob
 

Traveling Piper

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I've tried and failed. I tried some of the essential oils from the woods that Istanbulin listed. I tried pure mastic too. I sprayed leaves and didn't even get close. My next step (to be done one year in the future) will be to inpregnate some wood with the essentail oils and smoke the wood in a smoker with the tobacco leaves. I'm not too optimistic though.

The few homegrown-homesmoked samples I've tried from others seem to me to have a taste not quite like Dark Fired and not quite like Latakia.

Also, I believe Gallaher in Ireland tried in the 50's to make a spray on Latakia flavoring but gave up due to inferior results.
I am not so naïve to think we'll replace regional Latakia. That said, I'm pretty confident that with the knowledge and broad reaching tendrils here--we can arrive at boutique leaf finish types that are absolutely pleasant. There's so much out there to be explored. I would imagine that if there's anywhere to spearhead something of the like--FTT is the place to do it.

A co-worker is from Syria, and his brother in law is a forest officer. We once talked about Latakia, and he told me that the original specie of tree is no longer used to smoke tobacco since it’s an endangered tree with high risk of extinction. I’ll see him tonight and will ask if he can tell me the EXACT name of the tree. Once the genus is known, it’s easier to find possible candidates for substitution. I think.

Pier
Pier,
This would be great information to obtain. I hope your friend can mine this info. I agree that knowing what it is will assist in finding potential candidates.
Thanks, man

The way I test natural items for their potential to enhance the smoke used to cure Latakia is to place a tiny bit onto a cold burner of an electric stove. I then turn it to "high", and sample the smoke that is emitted. It is in that manner that I determined that mastic gum ("Tears of Chios") is a wonderful prospect, although its cost is astronomical. It melts, then sizzles and bubbles, then turns to ash. By contrast, burning a tiny bit of gum Arabic emits a truly foul aroma.

Combusting a fleck of a toasted almond reveals the unpleasant smell of burning fat. Pistachio nuts smell like burning fat, yet pistachio shells have almost no aroma.



Burning a bit of a dried sweet gum seed pod releases a delightfully subdued fragrance that would probably compliment mastic, in making Latakia. The sphere of each pod is about 1 inch in diameter, and is mostly air. But they do char nicely, and smolder well.

At the parking lot of my Veterans Hospital, in Salem, Virginia, I discovered piles of sweet gum pods during the fall. I believe they drop over an extended period during the autumn. This coming fall, I plan to collect 5 or 10 gallons of them. I have high hopes for them.

You can use the same method to test evergreens. Just place a single leaf (needle) on the burner, then heat it. Likewise with a tiny segment of stem.

Bob

Bob,
This could potentially be a revelation. I am rather familiar with these trees and have spent a lot of time around them. They grow EVERYWHERE here and are found to be a nuisance tree in planted pine stands. I agree that they do have a very nuanced and interesting aroma--in a pleasant way, IMO. The leaves are also intensely fragrant when crushed. The sap wood is moderately aromatic and the limbs fall somewhere between the two.
I am a threat to explore this option as well.

At any rate, I'm pretty giddy to see this thread gaining some momentum.

What say you...... @ChinaVoodoo
 

Traveling Piper

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You should try smoldering some green ones as well - they are really aromatic. Just don't step on one in your bare feet. (Don't ask me how I know this)
These things are hell on the bare foot fo' sho'! I'm sure smoldering green ones would waft some pretty intense smoke.
 

ChinaVoodoo

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I must confess that I never found the time to truly explore this. We don't have such trees like the sweet gum trees in my part of Canada. My efforts should be in the realm of conifer wood, needles, juniper berries, cones, etc.

I can confirm that blue spruce sap is a terrible idea. :sick:

Moreover, Manitoba maple tree wood, although tasty, is nothing like Latakia.

I'm also curious about random plant material, like rosehip, carraganna, silverberry, peat, etc. Maybe one day I'll find the time.
 

deluxestogie

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My experience is that juniper (which includes the so-called red cedar of the eastern US, Juniperis virginiana) seems much closer than the several pines I tried. The latter lend a turpentine/campfire aroma. I have not tried western red cedar, Arborvitae. Douglas fir is not a fir, but actually in the pine family, and is also one I have not tried.

Bob
 

Traveling Piper

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I must confess that I never found the time to truly explore this. We don't have such trees like the sweet gum trees in my part of Canada. My efforts should be in the realm of conifer wood, needles, juniper berries, cones, etc.

I can confirm that blue spruce sap is a terrible idea. :sick:

Moreover, Manitoba maple tree wood, although tasty, is nothing like Latakia.

I'm also curious about random plant material, like rosehip, carraganna, silverberry, peat, etc. Maybe one day I'll find the time.
I can sympathize with the time factor. I hope to at least grow some orientals and Bathe them in the smoke of some plant matter of interest during the cooler months. Sampling a Fall 19’ Sweetgum Sassafras Duzce seems like a reasonable way to spend NY 2020.
 
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ChinaVoodoo

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My experience is that juniper (which includes the so-called red cedar of the eastern US, Juniperis virginiana) seems much closer than the several pines I tried. The latter lend a turpentine/campfire aroma. I have not tried western red cedar, Arborvitae. Douglas fir is not a fir, but actually in the pine family, and is also one I have not tried.

Bob
I have read (online) that western red cedar smoke is highly toxic and should never be used for smoking meat. I once constructed a plug press out of it and the flavour was less than desirable. Also, I had uncured wrc fence boards on the floor of my curing shed when I first made it and you could taste the wood in the tobacco for a long time, also not good.
 
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