Thursday, September 08, 2011


Much of the mystique surrounding the term 'Yenidje' as used by Sobranie of London revolves around a Turkish tobacco which allegedly gave the product a rare perfume, a sweetness, and a resinous quality.
And part of the problem in correctly identifying that leaf lies in the name itself. Yenidje simply means "new settlement" or "new village".

[The term 'Turkish' refers to all tobaccos grown within the Ottoman sphere, including the Balkans, all of Asia Minor, the Levant, Persia, the Black Sea regions, and Egypt. Nowadays it generally is applied to small-leaf tobacco grown in a Mediterranean climate which is comparatively low in nicotine and possesses a grassy fragrance.
Turkish tobaccos, generally speaking, are a labour intensive crop that varies considerably from region to region and from soil type to soil type.]

So what is 'yenidje'?


Giannitsa in Greece is in Macedonia near where Alexander the Great was born.
Gennisea in Xanthi is near the border with Bulgaria.
Yanitsa ('yeni shehir': new city) in Thessaly is now named Larissa.
Yenice in Çanakkale Province of Turkey is opposite Gallipoli at the entrance to the Dardanelles.
Yenice in Karabük Province is in the north, just south of the Black Sea.
Yenice in Mersin Province is in the south on the Mediterranean Sea, near Hatay.

These aren't the only Yenidjes of record. In fact, almost everywhere in the Turkic world, including Central Asia and the Balkans, Yenidje in various spellings littered the land.

Tobacco is grown or traded in all of the places named above. Yenidje could therefore mean Macedonian, Bulgarian, Xanthi, Samsoun, something akin to Smyrna, or something else entirely.

NOTE: for an earlier mention of Yenidje on this blog, see this link:
Mentioned in regards to Balkan Sobranie.


By the late nineteenth century the Balkan region was split among different powers and divided along ethnic, religious, and linguistic lines. Ottoman Turkey, the Austro-Hungarians, Greece, and Russia either ruled outright or meddled in each others' bailiwicks, and intrigue in St. Petersburg, Vienna, Athens, and Constantinople often had consequences in local affairs.
With the Serbians and Russians taking sides in the Macedonian question and the Bulgarian National Revival, the Southern Balkans became of interest also to Russian revolutionaries.
Add the ambitions of the Italians and the Germans, and it is easy to see why the region was an irresistible political tinderbox.

David Redstone of Sobranie Ltd. was originally Dovid Roitenshtein (or Roitenshtern) from Odessa, a political troublemaker who emigrated to England in 1907 following stints in jail for anti-Czarist activity, and subsequently Anglified his name like relatives who preceded him in London.
After a number of years in the tobacco trade on behalf of others, he established a name not only for pipe mixtures, but also for excellent Russian and Turkish cigarettes.
Since words in his hands were both political and cultural more than dryly factual, there is little reason to assume that the term 'Yenidje' meant either a dominant ingredient or an actual specific origin.

Prilep and Yaka tobaccos were cultivated in Macedonia since before 1873 when the Ottoman Tobacco Monopoly started processing crops locally for export, and were I a betting man I would wager that the term Yenidje as used by Sobranie of London (established 1879) was meant to differentiate Balkan tobaccos from Orientals grown further south (Turkey), or even as a marketing gimmick, rather than to identify the main leaf in the blend.
It is quite possible that the term Yenidje was useful to distinguish this 'newer' Macedonian leaf from other more established 'Turkish' varieties.

[The Ottoman Tobacco Monopoly was one of the institutions created to increase revenue in the interests of satisfying foreign banks and whittling down the enormous national debt. Tobacco was one of the few crops in demand for export. Under their aegis, growing areas were expanded, and processing improved.]

Given that geographic source terms such as Turkish, Virginia, and Burley have long referred to three separate styles of tobacco and are used quite generically, except on a certificate of provenance 'Yenidje' might be nearly meaningless in any case.

[Virginia: flue-cured; the tobacco leaf is killed and fast dried in heated barns, which preserves the natural sugars yielding a sweet medium strength leaf. Burley: air-cured, originally from Kentucky and Tennessee; the leaf is dried outdoors, maintaining nicotine and certain chocolate-like flavours. Maryland and Caporal are close relatives of Burley which are often steamed under pressure till dark to further develop the taste.
Nowadays Turkish is used primarily for Greek, Cyprian, Turkish and Levantine tobaccos that are not Latakia.
Latakia, formerly tobacco from the port of that name in Syria, now also comes from Cyprus. What differentiates Turkish from Latakia is the curing process, Latakia being a smoke-cured leaf that is dark, tarry, and crumbly because of the incorporated soot. Both types fall under the heading of Oriental Tobacco - which doesn't include Indonesian leaf, Virginia or Burley grown in India, Thailand, or Indo-China, or the thin and acrid tasting Chinese crops. Russian tobacco can be any one of these types, or even some nasty greenish-black shag of unidentifiable origin, depending on region and process.]

With all that in mind, you will surely understand my interest upon once again opening a tin from McClelland's 'Grand Orientals' series, even though I've smoked the product in question before.


Tin blurb: "The finest of Xanthi in this blend comes from the best original Yenidje growing area of Western Thrace. These small, delicately aromatic, top leaves from the mountains (Djebel) and lower slopes (Yaka) have been renowned for their sweet, mild, fresh flavor and delicately tangy aroma since the 1600s. This blend is designed to demonstrate why this particular Xanthi is known as "The Queen of Tobaccos."

Even after leaving the tin open for several hours, the reek of that vinegary treatment to which McClelland is addicted is almost unbearable. Surely there are better mold-retardants and bug repellents than British sweatsocks?
I've often thought that the presence of acetic acid narrows the flavour spectrum of many McClelland products, almost killing those tobaccos which are furthest from fully fermented Virginias.
It is especially objectionable in something that purports to have a "delicately tangy aroma".

The appearance of this blend is of small shreds of medium brown and darker hues, the amalgamation likely steamed to meld the flavours.
Taste-wise, it is a smoke that induces contemplation, and while the pong of vinegar in the tin is unacceptable, when lit little thereof is even noticeable, especially if smoked with a steady pace. Instead, there is an old-fashioned quality that promotes peacefulness.
You should not smoke this if you are a nervous or easily agitated person.

It has a pleasant real tobacco taste all the way down, due to the inclusion of other leaves in the blend. Enough nicotine to satisfy, nowhere near enough to knock your sock off. But if you are smoking this, that isn't what you wanted anyhow.
Reduces to a velvety ash, only slightly gritty.
Rather reminiscent of Virginia Woods, though much more like McClelland's Orient 996. Both of those also contain red Virginia. The smoker of paler tobaccos will find the first a good companion to Yenidje Supreme, the aficionado of darker Orientals will favour the latter in rotation with it.
Goes well with black coffee.

This is not a tobacco for a talkative man. If I were still employed in draughting, this would be perfect to smoke at the office..... if one could still smoke at the office.
Quite possibly my father would have liked it.
I shall have to try it in his old Canadians during a quiet weekend.


Most of the lower grades of Turkish leaves, irrespective of country where they are grown, are destined to become cigarettes, and will consequently be treated much like American tobaccos. Usually the factories will augment the sugar-content and steam or toast the leaf to make it fit the flavour-profile expected by smokers, who since the Second World War have been exposed to 'Anglo-Saxon' preferences.
Where formerly there was a large market for the Turkish taste, especially in Central Europe, most brands now cater to smokers of blonde leaf. Exceptions are elderly fossils, hinterland peasants, and intolerable eccentrics - but other than the French and Mittel-Europeaner, these are not a large audience.
Pure 'Oriental' cigarettes are a specialty market. Pretty much the only things that can be said for mass-produced smokes is that both nicotine and sugar will be present; the one for the addictive hit, the other for the smooth taste.

Pipe tobacco is, of course, another story.


NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Anonymous said...

I'm a pretty new pipe smoker, have been smoking my way through the Grand Orientals series trying to get a handle on what oriental tobacco is supposed to taste like. Agree it's hard to discern the flavor through the usual McClelland funk, best I can do is it's sort of a toasted-spice edge to the virginias, like when you start making chicken karahi.

Anonymous said...

Man hott 'Odessa' gesogt... dos iz a geladdene termo.

Odessische zangerei


Oh, Dessa! said...

Good singing:
Alec Kopyt & Yuriy Gurzhy - Limonchiki 14.07.2010 Frankfurt

Unknown said...

"Exceptions are elderly fossils, hinterland peasants, and intolerable eccentrics - but other than the French and Mittel-Europeaner, these are not a large audience."

You paint a colorful palette

Thanks for the info on YENIDJE

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