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Shooting Star Tour

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  #1  
Old November 11th, 2008, 06:02 PM
Hajo Flettner
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Default Shooting Star Tour

Shooting Star Tour

As some of you know I recently spent a fair bit of time on holiday in Syria and one of the cooler things that happened is that I got to see the amazing Shooting Star moassel being made. A pal of mine introduced to the people responsible for Shooting Star and gave me a little tour through the various barns/flats/houses scattered around the Tartus Governorate from which this lovely product emerges.

First stop was off a dirt road in the middle of nowhere where a small clay brick building filled with bundles of cured leaves are bundled and stored and three small barns that could have easily been at home in rural Kentucky sat in splendid isolation. In the first barn I got to see Prelip and Shak Al-bent leaves flute cured in a method one would find in the Southern United States. The second barn had Basma leaves being fire cured with piles of barely smoldering wood while the third had some apparently shade grown leaf shaped like Samsun placed upon a mesh grating which stood about 2.5 -3 meters above smudge pots emitting clouds of smoke that smelled of cardamom and anise. Apparently two men climb ladders and use a sort of rake I didnít see to turn the leafs although I could find out how long the various curing processes take.

I found it amazing to see such a variety of curing methods in such a small area and the incredible amount of work that it takes to produce such a product says a great deal about the dedication and skill of the workers.

Next, we visited an apartment in Sāfītā in which a couple of women with long, delicate fingers skillfully stripped the vines and stems from the cured leaf in much the same way cigar tobacco is processed in a rolling gallery while they animatedly chattered.

In a near by apartment the leafs are blended together according to the recipes for the various flavours and are bundled in canvas before being loaded in to an old Peugeot estate wagon to a little house near Baniyas where the leaves are chopped, mixed with molasses and baked at low temperatures (around 250F I think) for anywhere from less then 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending upon the type of leaf and the flavour ultimately being produced. It is my understand that the various blends of leaves are given different baking times so as to vary the extent to which they assimilated into the agglutinant with a goal of maintaining rather then muting the natural flavour profile of the various tobaccos as is the case with Gulf and American style moassel. The tobacco/molasses mixture is then scrapped into big plastic tubs and put back on the Peugeot and sent to a house near Tartus.

Upon arriving in Tartus, portions from the various tubs are mixed in big kettles (with no heat being applied) with something that looks like a mash rake (a special paddle used in making ales) connected to a hand held electric drill and then transferred into wooden barrels where they are mixed with various essential oils infused with herbal and spice extracts. The various essential oils used in making the various Shooting Star flavours are produced in Al Hamidiyah by Greek speaking spice makers although I didnít get to see that aspect of the process. The moassel sits in the barrels for several weeks before being scooped and packed into small plastic barrels which are sent out to a few local vendors or simply plopped on some wax paper which is bound with string and given to the purchaser.

All in all Iíd say the whole process was fascinating and I hope that those of you that got some samples of Shooting Star have a bit more of an appreciation for the dedication, craftsmanship and knowledge that went into making such a delightful smoking session possible.

If anyone has any questions about any of this Iíd be happy to answer them.
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  #2  
Old November 11th, 2008, 06:07 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

awesome! thanks for sharing Hajo!
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  #3  
Old November 11th, 2008, 06:17 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

My God, I had no idea there was such a distinct process involved.

As amazing as the samples you sent are, I am really racking every inch of my train to figure out a way to try out any other flavors by Shooting Star, as I enjoyed smoking it and reading about how it's made to such a great extent!

What are some names and maybe a little description of some of the other flavors available?
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  #4  
Old November 11th, 2008, 06:25 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

pics man! i really wanna see what the process is like. words doesnt do it for me, i need visuals!! haha jp
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  #5  
Old November 11th, 2008, 08:00 PM
Hajo Flettner
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

The process is complicated for a couple of reasons. In part because they cure the tobacco they use whereas most producers simply buy tobacco already cured. The main reason for the production process being so complicated is that since itís a small, family owned enterprise they donít have the money to buy an actual production site forcing them to split up the operation over a bunch of sites which also double as homes for the workers/owners.

Basically that sort of operation is similar to what we in the West call ďcottage industryĒ and you can see examples of that sort of thing in the Italian automotive/automotive/bicycle industry. Such a model has the various stamping/panel beating /milling/boring/fitting/welding procedures done in various small shops and peopleís homes and carried by small trucks to a larger work shop where assembly takes place.

As to photos well I donít even own a camera and since most of the production takes place in someoneís home I donít think it would appropriate to take pictures anyway.

I donít know what the flavour line line up is but here are flavours I know of with brief, shallow descriptions some of which are second hand:

1) Delighting the Senses - Complicated flavour profile usually described as a combination of flute cured/sweet tobaccos, molasses, nutty/almond/date with floral spice like notes
2) Light of the Moon - Mellow, semi-sweet and Burley like notes with Cardamom and sweetened anise with a floral/mint nose
3) Gentle Wind - moderately sweet molasses like taste with tobacco notes coming from Shak Al-bent and Yenidje like notes, very smooth and at times light Cavendish taste with herbal/spice notes in background
4) Ayn Jalut - Yenidje/Basma like mix with rich coffee/toffee notes
5) Daily Reward - Agonya/Burley tobacco tasting base but sweeter/creamier aspect with almond/ vanilla/Cedar taste.
6) al-Kawakibi - Donít know
7) al Atassi - Donít know
8) Thoughtful Respite - Donít know
9) Badawi Al-Jabal - Rich, heavy toasted Cavendish/Perique type flavour with mint like after taste

Some of these are apparently seasonal but I donít know any details.
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  #6  
Old November 11th, 2008, 08:06 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

So near the end of the process when the spices and such are infused, are the leaves left in the wooden barrels to ferment? Some of these flavors sound really full and complex and the way you describe them are very reminiscent of pipe tobacco. i would really love to try this stuff!

This is exactly what I was hoping to learn. Thanks Hajo! I'm so jealous you get to experience this stuff first hand. How is it that you are so lucky?

Last edited by RushN24; November 11th, 2008 at 08:13 PM.
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  #7  
Old November 11th, 2008, 10:33 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

Where would I get some of this stuff? Directly from Syria?
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  #8  
Old November 11th, 2008, 10:43 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

i too want to smoke stuff from the motherland
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"blu mist rulz dawg an that stuff ain't like it an if youz don't agree you bez a shithead yo" - Hajo Flettner
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  #9  
Old November 11th, 2008, 11:35 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

Quote:
Originally Posted by RushN24 View Post
So near the end of the process when the spices and such are infused, are the leaves left in the wooden barrels to ferment? Some of these flavors sound really full and complex and the way you describe them are very reminiscent of pipe tobacco. i would really love to try this stuff!

This is exactly what I was hoping to learn. Thanks Hajo! I'm so jealous you get to experience this stuff first hand. How is it that you are so lucky?
That is a good question about fermentation. Unfortunately I suck at languages and my poor native ability gets worse with age so I couldn't ask. I assume that a secondary fermentation occurs in the wooden barrels as I noted they had what I think are air locks which implies the need to release gases but I didn't smell anything that I associate with fermentation so I may be wrong.

Yes these flavours are very complicated rich and very different from the stuff we all buy normally.

As to how I do what I do, well I have always been fortunate to run into very interesting people and I've all kinds of crazy stories but then my life has been pretty varied.
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  #10  
Old November 11th, 2008, 11:38 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog_916 View Post
Where would I get some of this stuff? Directly from Syria?
Basically you buy it directly from the people that make it. You don't get a choice of flavours but just take what they have on hand at the time. No packaging just so many bowls worth wrapped in wax paper tied with string. I recall hearing somewhere that that back in the day that is how you bought Al Waha but I can't recall the details.
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  #11  
Old November 11th, 2008, 11:44 PM
Hajo Flettner
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

Quote:
Originally Posted by photolinger View Post
i too want to smoke stuff from the motherland
No doubt, Syrians are cool people to smoke with and you can get a really different perspective from the old guys if someone can translate for you which people have done for me. The funny thing is that everyone can't quite seem to grasp the idea that a guy like me winds up the places I do and enjoys it.

Thing is these guys are pretty serious about protocol/tradition so no loud music, everything is sexually segregated and everyone keeps their narghiles at the cafe and has customary seating. Very old school. It's a trip to see people get up early to get a morning smoke before going to work. Very different pace to life then what I am used to.
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  #12  
Old November 12th, 2008, 12:07 AM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

wow i didnt know the amount of process dedication and know how that goes into 2 this process. thanks hajo
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  #13  
Old November 12th, 2008, 01:40 AM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

Simply put: WOW!

I am amazed at how dedicated these people are! Your explanation of this goes to show me how a simple hobby of mine is such a way of life to them.

Were the natives using similar hookahs to what we use?

Are most shisha manufacturers using similar techniques? Like.. is say, Al Fakher just as complicatedly made, yet obviously done in mass quantities?

Interesting post man, loved it.
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  #14  
Old November 12th, 2008, 04:24 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

One of main things that appeals to me about tobacco is the craftsmanship involved and seeing something like what I did really shows what that means. Some say the profession picks the man in the case of crafting traditional moassel i'd say that is definitely true.

The locals use narghiles that are either like the Syrians you can buy in the states, heavier and less ornamental rigs made by a friend/family member or something they inherited.

Bigger firms like AW, AF, SB etc follow the same basic procedures but everything is automated and done on such a vast scale that no real craftsmanship comes into play. Of course the big firms also wash the tobacco in an effort to remove as much flavour as possible so the care and attention given to the tobacco itself simply doesnít apply to the big firms. I understand that Tangiers is a big scale firm yet uses unusual methods but I donít know the detail as the guy that knows those people doesnít post here any more.
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  #15  
Old November 12th, 2008, 05:09 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

tangiers is definitely not a big scale firm. very far from it. i wonder why mdl stopped posting here.

im jealous of you hajo. sounds crazy. i wish we really could get that stuff out here. all the import brands are terrible for the most part.
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  #16  
Old November 12th, 2008, 06:28 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

that's friggin cool man...you're always doing cool stuff...you're my hero
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  #17  
Old November 13th, 2008, 11:13 PM
Hajo Flettner
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

Thanks for all the nice comments guys. I think it's so amazing that people are into traditional stuff and want to learn more about it.

Thought you guys would want to know that I got an email from someone that has been reading the threat and found out that the spices/herbs used Shooting Star are made friends of his family and they have another little brand of jurak called Neroulos (named for the family) so I guess it's small world after all.
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  #18  
Old November 13th, 2008, 11:16 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

i'm assuming that is also hard to get your hands on as well?
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  #19  
Old November 14th, 2008, 12:14 AM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

wow dude sooo cool.. you always have such awesome experiences... i envy you... =P
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  #20  
Old November 22nd, 2008, 01:55 PM
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Default Re: Shooting Star Tour

It was brought to my attention that HPs very own Mr. Bungle has posted a video review of shooting star here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYPS9eYq-10 I think he said somewhere that it produced more smoke once it got going a bit longer. As far as I know that is the only video review of the stuff around.
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