Ghelyoon News and Developments
As some of you I spent a bit of time in Iran recently on business and for the most part it was boring, stressful production planning/financial crap but a couple of things that happened that were pretty cool including spending some time on a boat smoking with a huge 13th Floor Elevator fan and showing the locals the wonders of rhubarb pie & green chile stew. Other then that I had my thoughts on leather hoses and the Iranian take on smoking changed/broadened a bit.
In Iran the water pipe which most of you call a hookah and I prefer to term a narghile is usually called a ghelyoon although the spelling varies and since Iran is a multi-ethnic country I’d guess that designs very quite a lot. Basically the ghelyoon differs from a narghile in that the main and down stems are made most often out of wood and have looser fitting components then a narghile which are often wrapped with string or leather to get abetter seal. Typically they are used for tumbeki (dampened leaf) with the coals directly applied and to a lesser extent they are also used with the drier variants of jurak. They most often use leather hoses with wood handles although modern style hoses are far from rare.
Contrary to popular opinion Iranians do smoke modern fruity style moassels and they also make narghiles that a very much like Syrian rigs that use Egyptian style bowls but the painted designs are very different and often extremely elaborate. In terms of mod style fruity moassels you can easily find Al Fakhur, Al-Shamim ( a fairly boring brand that makes a great saffron flavour), Fars Moassal Tobacci ( basically a good gulf style product but nothing special) and surprisingly Afzal and Jannet El Fawakeh from India which is sort of odd in my opinion.
In terms of traditional stuff I got to buy a little bit of something called “Joy of Babol”, a jurak called “relax” and some of the famous Khansar brand . The “Joy of Babol” is basically a strong fire cured tobacco which is blended with a little bergamot oil, some mint and cinnamon making for a nice if strong taste that is fairly complex and produces more smoke then you’d think. Relax is basically a mix of fire cured tobacco and more mellow flute tobaccos that have cedar like taste, something faintly cream like and a good bit of saffron which is a great combo. The Iranian Khansar brand is in a long running trade mark feud with the Syrian brand of the same name although I don’t much about that whole spat. The Iranian Khansar differs from the Syrian product in that it has a more mint & cedar like taste and is a bit stronger then the Syrian in terms of nicotine. Both share a complicated range of tobacco flavours with a creamy chocolate/coffee/toffee profile although the Syrian version is stronger in that respect. Both are different enough to be interesting no matter which one you like although I can’t say one is better then the other.
One thing I found interesting is that the ghelyoon seems to be developing in terms of construction as way of overcoming the natural tendency of the wood to rot with the passage of time in two respects. The first is that the main-stem sometimes features a wooden inner core held in place via a pair of gaskets which can be removed when the wood starts to rot and replaced for about 10% of the cost of the ghelyoon. I’ve also seen ghelyoons that have a down-stem that is made of brass which is screwed into the wooden main-stem and a brass tube that covers the outer surface of the main-stem which frequently has poetry etched into surface. This variant is also designed to have the wooden portion of the main-stem be replaceable and uses gaskets to hold everything in place.
All which bring up the matter of why use wood in building a water pipe? The answer is better taste in that the wood defiantly changes the character of the smoke for the better by adding a bit more flavour but also mellowing the stronger tobaccos via means I don’t really understand. I should also tell you that ghelyoons tend to have extremely easy draws and move far more smoke then a narghile typically does even when using a typical modern style hose.
It’s neat when you can find a different way to smoke that turns out be totally practical and yet unexpected!