Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sugandh Kokila

So I ran across a one ounce bottle of this stuff in the box of gifted aromatics and became instantly intrigued. I mean, how can one not with a name like 'sugandh kokila'? Sounds exotic and rare, yes? Well, it isn't. Rare, that is. Exotic, yes. Different? Definitely. According to White Lotus Aromatics, sugandh kokila is a berry from the Cinnamomum glaucescens, syn. C.cecidodaphne. The oil from this berry, per WLA's site, is "a rich, sweet, penetrating, spicy-wood-resinous bouquet with a warm, radiant, herbaceous, camphoraceous undertone with good tenacity. In the deep dry out phase (after 12 hours) there remains a sweet, delicate, spicy herbaceous aroma on the perfumers strip". Yeah, that pretty much describes it. That camphoraceous note, though, is quite faint, definitely an 'undertone', as WLA presents. It's that spicy woods and resin with a radiant quality that makes this oil so special. It is multi-faceted, woody, resinous, spicy (think cinnamon -- true cinnamon), kind of a hard to place scent. It would come off as a perfume on its own if there were a sweeter element to it, vanilla or tonka or santal. Sugandh kokila is also used in Ayurvedic medicine as a stress and pain reliever, and as a general body strengthener, particularly the digestive system. The berry is derived from evergreen trees which grow in Nepal and Bhutan. Other names sugandh kokila goes by are cinnamon berry, gondsoroi, and malligiri. I prefer sugandh kokila, as sugandh, or 'sugandha' means 'fragrant' in Sanskrit. I don't know what kokila means. Berry maybe? I did with it what I normally do with these kinds of things when I dig them up -- I made soap. First I looked up whether it would cost an arm and a leg to replace if I used it all up in a single batch, and it turns out it's fairly inexpensive given its multi-purpose uses in perfumery. I added a bit of rosemary and peppermint oils, plus some powdered peppermint leaf and a teaspoon or two of organic poppy seeds to rough it up a bit -- exfoliating soap is so nice during the colder months. It smells out of this world -- spicy with just a hint of mint and a woody/resinous sheen. Invigorating and warming. A great transitional soap from season to season as it embodies both warm and cool elements.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Adventures In Compounded Incense Resins

Okay, so I've been going on a bit about these compounded incense resins without giving too much info out as far as how the stuff is put together. That's because I'm still learning, and I'm always writing about the process, the failures, the successes, what works, and what becomes disastrous, in my notebooks so that I hone down how it should be done, and never again do it the way it shouldn't be done. Make sense? I hope so. So I've been working on honey. Boiling the stuff to the hard crack stage so it will work better in compounded incense resin -- I want crystals, that's the goal. Crystalline, slightly waxy, almost drippy with oils. I'm getting closer, but I'm not there yet. Using unmelted powdered resins does give it some of that crystalline effect. I'm also learning that using gums in the cold portion is best, and using resins in the hot portion is also best. Gums contain more essential oils, and I don't want to burn all that off. Like I said, I'm still learning.

I am so in love with this new soap I made -- Sarasvati. I've actually held back a lot for myself. The scent of it just fills a room. Amazing. Vetyver, vanilla, marigolds (marigolds!) and mitti attar. It's just ... tingly.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I think if you're not experimenting, not willing to waste a little, not able to expand knowledge, not putting forth a ton of effort, or are coloring inside the lines and forgetting that art and life are about passion, you're wasting your time here.

I am getting ready to put together more compounded resins *slash* solid perfumes. Last weekend, the son and I went wild crafting for pine resin and found a nice little stash tucked away off the road between Atascadero and Morro Bay. Because of the drought, the trees seem to be putting forth more resin. When we harvest, we are careful not to pick too much, usually scraping the softer white resin from the bottom of the tree's wounds. In no time, and with the help of about five trees, we can fill a bag with gooey fresh resin. I bring it home, lay the pieces out, or more likely, scrape them onto waxed paper, and let the mess dry for a week or so before putting them in jars. Pine resin is a crucial ingredient in the creation of Kyphi and I'm storing up for the start of a new collection -- 2013 Ponderosa Pine from Huntington Lake, CA, Sierra Nevada Mountains, 2014 Ponderosa Pine from Atascadero, CA ~ hoping to acquire more from different areas, all hand harvested. I used to wild harvest every seasons -- elderberry flowers in the spring, elderberries in the fall, gooseberries, oakmoss, mountain misery, tree resins, manzanita buds, but I haven't done much of that lately. Not in the last four years or so, actually. It's fun getting back into the swing of it.

Seeing a future, and it smells good!

Friday, October 10, 2014

What I Don't Know

What I don't know could fill a galaxy. If I knew it all already, life wouldn't be nearly so fun. Clearly I'm referencing Kyphi and incense raw materials' research. And everything else ~ ha!

Yesterday I received a little jewel of scent in the mail -- an unexpected fragrant traveler from across the country. A well-known perfumer sent me a sample of a naturally compounded Mousse de Saxe base, and I was immediately struck by how deep and gorgeous and 'vintage' it smelled. It would be the base notes of the perfume Mata Hari wore when she performed her famously near naked dances, with roses and sweet lemon rind in the top. This Mousse de Saxe has some of the same beautiful attributes as DSH's Pandora, only this one is deeper and darker and rich without all the sparkly notes, because, well, it's a base -- an accord, an unfinished piece. I can't wait to see what this perfumer does with this astounding base.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Compounded Incense Resins

The journey continues.

I've read for years that beeswax was used in the making of those lovely super fragrant 'amber resins' but I just couldn't get my head around it -- beeswax? Turns out not really quite beeswax. It's actually a bit of beeswax and significant amount of propolis resin. Bees produce propolis resin when they take plant resins from leaves and buds and maybe even trees, and mix it with some beeswax, maybe a little honey, and then use it to stabilize their hives. Like hive glue. The dirtier the propolis in terms of refinement, the better for incense purposes. So basically another resin but somewhat processed by the bee.

I'm two compounded incense resins in, and I'm already learning the dos and don'ts. Texture is my thing. I'm using beeswax, propolis resin, and lots of cappings, honey, and mad amounts of super fine powdered resins. Once all that's done, I add by drops rare or special essences, like an organic Uttar Pradesh distilled rose oil, and rose floral wax. Just by playing with this stuff, I'm learning about ratios, much the same way I learned with traditionally compounded Kyphi incense, and the kupar-like incense I made sans fruit paste -- it's all about experimenting and toying with the ingredients. I'm finding myself more deeply connected to the raw materials in Kyphi and compounded incense making than I ever did with perfumery, however closely related the two are. There's just something magical about it -- something happens during the grind when resins or woods are being turned to dust, as if the spirit of the plant rises up and fills the room. When I think of this -- when I ponder the emotion that feel, I am reminded of that moment of clarity I felt while beating senseless a small batch of 50-year-old orris root when I kind of went into a trance and snapped out of it in an instant when the scent of orris filled the room. It was sublime. Beautiful. A lesson. It never ceases to amaze me how after combining all these elements, even the ones that aren't so beautiful and sublime (camphor, camphor bark, poopy pine resin, thyme), that in the end, the incense created is so utterly gorgeous and works! Seriously works.

The current project includes finding appropriate prayers and songs to be sung to the incense while it's being created. I'm reading Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead by Normandi Ellis -- great book, by the way -- and it's turning up some really beautiful stuff that can be incorporated into the process. Well, I read the book when my Nook isn't being highjacked by a three-year-old intent on feeding her Pou. 

Watch this space for more on compounded incense resins, Kyphi, kupar, and other beautiful amalgamations of scent.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Inspiration Abounds

A long time ago when I first started out, I used to buy that amber resin stuff that came in dark, light, rose, sandalwood and on and on and on, that was marketed as natural but was actually compounded naturals and synthetics -- tricky, tricky -- and used it in soap and a few basic perfume oils before I realized it was too good to be true. Anyway, since then I've always been intrigued with creating something like those resins compounded using only naturals. I think I'm going there. Actually, I already went. I've notebooks of perfume and compound sketches -- incomplete formulations that never saw the light of day, heck, never even made it off paper! But within all that were a few fledgling formulations for compounded resins. Then today I had a nice conversation with another incenseur who directed me to a blog where the inspiration was reignited. I cracked open one of those old notebooks and made fragrant gold. Compounded incense resin with rose and tons of myrrh. It is intoxicating. I love following the Kyphi path!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Going Deep!

I used to be really, really, really, really great at research. And notes' taking. Since the advent of computers, at least in my home, I'm not so great at it anymore. Too much bad information online. And the fact that I can now put down in words (type) as fast as my ADD allows, which is pretty flittering fast. I feel like my brain's in overdrive. Reminds me of my severely ADD brother-in-law, who is in his late 40's, who will do 12 things at one time, none very well -- can't tell you how many burnt meals I've had with my sister and her family because he cooked and decided it was also a good time to do an oil change on the car (that wasn't finished), start a bonfire in the back 40 with a gallon of gasoline (did I mention he's a bit of a pyro too?), put clothes in the washer (but never turn it on), and pick walnuts (leaving the buckets of walnuts in the orchard to rot). My brain feels like that sometimes ~ ha! Anyway, I'm researching Kyphi -- again and some more. Kyphi research is fraught with rabbit holes. Down one, up another, one bit says this, another says that, both argue over the same piece of translation -- it's this, not it's that! I want answers and there aren't any. Just the way it is. Most of what's written about Kyphi come from Greek writings after the fact -- even the Edfu Temple inscriptions were done during the time of the Greeks. It's all so flipping maddening!

Okay, back to the snug little rabbit hole I found ~ hahaha!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Being in One's Own Company

Being in one's own company for too long can become maddening. What I mean by that is that not having someone of similar ilk, in this case, someone involved with scent, to talk with on a consistent basis bogs the creative process. At least for me it does. I feel as if I'm creating within a vacuum. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. It's not that I'm alone, no, there are plenty people underfoot to not be considered alone, but if one more set of eyes in this house glaze over while I'm talking about my 'big plans', I'm going to scream. Or move out. Or both. Oh, and don't expect me to listen to you go on ad nauseum about your dreams, and more often now, your fears, if you won't give me the respect by just listening to me. I have no truck with fear these days, so . . . I get it, you're the center of the Universe, and I'm chopped liver. Moving on.

Okay, that was weird ~ ha!

I've lost my camera battery charger again. This is two since I've moved here. I NEVER lost my camera battery chargers before I moved here, but something about this place makes one absentminded. Me. Makes me absentminded. I've had both of those chargers in my hands in the past 30 days, but for the life of me, I can't tell you where either of them went. This is a sign of something not great happening inside my brain. My body is telling my spirit -- RUN!!!!! Or something like that.

So, I can't upload the latest soap photos is what I'm saying. I can't upload ANY photos is also what I'm saying. I feel naked without my photos! It's hard to sell stuff when people can't see what you're selling, and I'm not a good enough writer to describe it eloquently enough to make someone curious enough to buy sight unseen. Can I just say, though, that I'm sitting 10 feet away from a batch of the most gorgeously fragrant lavender and kyphi 'flavored' soap that was ever created? I mean, this stuff is intense! It's taking it's sweet time setting up, though. Soft and creamy. There's another batch, further into the drying area, that's a knock out too -- vetyver mitti and marigold soap -- this is a nice vetyver, too, not bitter or teethy, just sweet smoothness with that lovely pop of sunshine from the marigold absolute. I had this imagery in my mind when I was whipping this scent up of those beautifully earthy and floral fragrant blooming teas, a marigold basket, with jasmine, amaranth, and marigold blossoms that unfurl in hot water. I thought that scent with the earthy warmth of mitti attar and vetyver would be something truly special -- and it is.

I've been putting the finishing touches on the Kyphi class at The Natural Perfume Academy's website. Step-by-step instructions with tutoring, pictures, links, history, and room for research. I'm really hoping to delve into Kyphi as I never have before, and take a few people with me on the trip. I'm also thinking about going through all my notebooks from the Delicia days and creating a little recipe book for the holidays. I know I've said that before, but this time I'm serious. I feel like I need to get this stuff 'out there' now.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Vetyver Mitti & Marigold Soap

Something is different today. My perspective is somewhat altered -- off a bit. I watched a video that was both sad and deeply inspiring, but that was only part of why I'm feeling the way I do. I'm not sure where the rest is coming from -- perhaps it's another one of those shift-lock-change things. I am ready for change. And I am not afraid.

I made soap. Nice, beautiful, creamy, deliciously scented soap. One is a sweet, earthy aged vetyver and mitti oil with vanilla and patchouli and a big bouquet of marigold, and the other is spike lavender with kyphi oils (frankincense, myrrh, orris, santal, et al). Both smell amazing! I mixed things up this time and used sunflower and evoo and just a bit of coconut cream, not a lot, so the lather is fine and smooth and creamy. If I had more room, I'd bust out a couple more batches, but these have to dry and set up and get wrapped and put up in the stockroom before I can spread more out all over the place. Space here is an issue I still can't get used to.

I'm working on a couple of custom perfumes -- one based in sweet vetyver and the other a spicy floral. I used to not be able to work like this, with two 'fume projects going at once because I'd get confused, discombobulated, but not now. It's like one feeds off the other, striking inspiration. It's kind of weird for me.

Vetyver Mitti & Marigold Soap

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cold and A Cold

It's chilly this morning, first time in months it's been really, truly nippy. It didn't rain here, but it did pour in Fresno, soaking the parched earth for about 15 minutes before clearing up and blowing away. I got that news second-hand from friends over there.

I think I'm getting a cold. I can never tell anymore if my runny nose, watery eyes, and chest congestion are from an actual virus, or by the bug spray or flying pollen or dust whipped up by the wind. But this time, I'm thinking cold. The kid had a cold last week, just as I was beginning to feel well again after a summer-long lung problem. Figures. I'm getting on it, though, not letting it settle in and take over another hunk of my time. My nose is my tool, and I can't afford for my tool to be out of commission this long. So it's garlic and turmeric and menthol steams and whatever else I can use to keep things open. I think I'm going to make up a batch of fire cider because it's not yet winter and I'm already getting slugged by the bugs.

Scented herbal sugar scrub ~ jasmine, cocoa, vanilla, herbs, raw sugar, jojoba

I've begun blending sugar scrubs again after a years'-long hiatus. I don't know why I don't make them all the time, they're amazing and I use them when I've got them to use, and they work. The same oil blends that create younger looking soft skin are used in the sugar scrubs I make, and again, they work! I've been using an herb blend made fresh by Shannon at Wilwand Tea, Co., in Atascadero as the herbal portion of the scrub -- things like organic cocoa powder, organic fenugreek, kava kava, organic orange peel, organic rose petals, uva ursi, and wild cherry bark -- these things love us and our skin -- and then mixing all that with non-gmo raw sugar, a few drops of select aromatics (jasmine, cocoa, vanilla, ???), and a drizzle of organic jojoba. The scrubs coming this fall are going to be stellar. I prefer the scrubs over butters because there are fewer problems with melting and leaking with scrubs, and the scents can be just as astounding, and as moisturizing as compared to a butter. But that doesn't mean butters are off the menu this season ~ ha! Small jars might be available from time to time throughout the cooler months. So more sugar scrubs with fabulous herbal potion blends and great oil combinations are on the way.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


I finally figured out what's the matter with me -- why I feel woozy and unwell most of the time, why my sinuses have been acting up since July, why my possible bronchitis hung on for so long -- bug spray. Eco bug spray, to be specific, because, gosh, I don't want to poison my plants or pets. But this stuff. It's poisoning me. What is the safe threshold for clove and mint oils? How about a little menthol? How about whatever the hell else is in there that I don't know about? Because I have to leave the backdoor open for the puppy to piddle and poo, and there is no screen door, the flies have been nearly pouring in the small opening, hence the eco bug spray. I usually don't subscribe to such things as I'm pretty handy in the apothecary and can whip up a batch of peppermint spray to rid myself of the flies and whatnot that manage to squeeze in here and there, but other people in this house think my efforts are lame. The thing is, there are no fewer flies buzzing around now that they're air bombing the house with eco bug spray than there was when I was judiciously squirting a shot of homemade bug spray here and there. Victims of slick marketing, those people. I have no problem, however, shooting that stuff in the back strip to get rid of the hovering masses of flies that alight on a single scrap of puppy poo. The whole city is suffering from an abundance of flies this year, I'm thinking perhaps because of the drought. Everywhere you go where there's an outdoor trash receptacle, there's a black mass of buzzing flies. It's crazy. The upside is that the weather is set to cool soon and the flies will be a thing of the past -- and so will that ineffective eco spray.

So, yeah, that was my 'ah-ha' moment.

I'm out of olive oil and want to make soap, so perhaps on my way home from the costume store in San Luis Obispo this evening, I will stop and pick up a liter. There's a sweet bottle of sandalwood oil sitting here just screaming to be put into some soap.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Off Topic

This is way off topic for me here, but it's something that's been eating at me since I experienced it and I just want to let off some steam. I was having a conversation with someone yesterday about rape and rape culture and all that entails (too much for me to go into here) when the person I was talking to said, "Yeah, well, women aren't the only ones who are raped," with this look in his eye like, sure, he's experienced it and, yeah, it ain't all the guy's fault, y'know, we can be victims too. I felt a brief moment of empathy, and then I remembered a conversation we had two days earlier wherein this same person said to me, after I explained to him about a young man who had oral sex forced on him, "Bullshit. No man has ever had oral sex FORCED on him. Hahahahahahahaha!"

This, men, is exactly the problem.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kyphi ~ Of Spirit and Art

The other day I posted about Kyphi making and all its controversial parts. That post has received hundreds of hits. That can only mean one thing -- people are deeply interested in this artform, as they should be. I think when one embarks upon walking the Kyphi path (thank you, Dabney Rose), they learn things about themselves, about nature, and especially about their spiritual focus, and their capacity for spirituality in general. When we focus on what we're actually doing during the process of creating Kyphi, and that it's not about mixing together of various 'correct' resins and herbs with wine and honey and voila! It is about the truth of what Kyphi represents. As I mentioned in the last Kyphi post, the process of creating Kyphi, particularly based on the Edfu Temple formulation, is a process of resurrection. You become a humble and undeserving creator of something that represents all the wonder that the Universe has to teach -- you create life where there was none. Dramatic, yes, but this is the mind-set one must have when creating Kyphi. Must have, or you may as well be making cake from a box mix.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Facebook is a Mind Numbing, Soul Crushing, Dead End Activity

I've discovered a pattern in my life. Used to be, back before Facebook was an entity, and even before Yahoo Groups dominated the scene, the morning routine included a little light reading with the coffee -- some daily news in the form of paper -- you remember that stuff, right? Newspaper? Well, it was a mind numbing, soul crushing, and dead end activity too, unless you were looking for movie times or employment. But Facebook -- Facebook. I mean, what? What's it for? I started on Facebook as a way to promote my business, and because everyone was bailing from the groups to join FB. People realized that they couldn't sell their perfumes to other perfumers, and FB offered free advertising.  Everybody was doing it. Everybody was getting the word out there. Everybody was happy! Today, Facebook is no longer helping the small businesses that relied upon its free advertising venue. Today when I post on my business page, I'm lucky if two people see what I've posted in their feed. Two. I don't have a regular website. I use Etsy as my selling platform because, a) it works, and b) it's cost effective, and c) I despise web designing that sells itself as easy and ends up needing a computer programmer to help figure out. I have excellent stats pages at Etsy as well -- it keeps track of sales, trends, customers' point of origin. For a fact, less than 3% of my sales come from Facebook. Less. Than. 3%. Chew on that a while you consider I spend hours on Facebook writing and perusing and shoving my business up people's noses there -- this is the pattern I spoke of earlier. I get up, make tea, plop down in front of the computer, check emails, check book sales, check Etsy sales, check blogs (sometimes), then it's on to Facebook, the meat of the meat and potatoes routine here, wherein I spend a good deal of the remainder of the morning, and sometimes the afternoon, doing . . . what? Snooping. Get caught up in other people's business, people for whom I have only a passing acquaintance. I check on the complainers and what their complaint of the day entails, then I check on the never-seen-a-rainy-day people, perpetually optimistic, even when the shit hits the fan, and I wonder at those people. I wonder how they do it. I wonder how they face the day with so much enthusiasm and love and happiness and good heartedness -- I wonder at them with equal parts envy and concern for their mental stability. I wonder, and I get way off track. I was there to promote my business, right? How'd I end up reading about the bog mummies in England?

The memes are great though, aren't they?

Have you not noticed, though, how Facebook has joined so many people who might never have 'met', yet the connections seem much more superficial than those made in Yahoo Groups? There was a sort of intimacy in those groups. More sharing and caring and helping one another up, while Facebook just seems to be the place to brag on one's accomplishments and push people toward their newest, greatest product? I think I'm done with Facebook for a while. I'll check for messages, treat the forum like email, and all those posts as spam. If you need to get in touch, email me at thescenteddjin@yahoo.com. Simple enough.

I have work to do, and Facebook is like the Enquirer -- beyond belief but interesting enough to read page after ridiculous page, and I'm getting nothing done.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Refining Formulations and Those Limiting "Little Darlings"

The Kyphi perfume oil formulation is giving me fits. I think it's because my nose, rebounding from a summer-long upper respiratory something-or-other (bronchitis?), isn't picking up the molecules the way it should. I'm not working with optimal equipment here. Moving from Fresno has had some unexpected physical outcomes -- for example, my sinuses and my entire system has to get tuned into the 'new' allergens that live around here, which, I'm sure, are made worse by the deepening drought. Things aren't spreading their spores the way they normally would, the dirt is dry as a 4000 year-old Egyptian mummy, fires pop up, and in the same day, the marine layer decides to grace us with her presence, turning the atmosphere muggy and smelling of dessicated seaweed. Anyway, I've been testing the Kyphi perfume oil on skin and strip for the entirety of this week and every day it smells like something else. First it was predominantly myrrh-y, then yesterday it was as if frankincense were the only ingredient, today I'm getting this really pretty sweet resinous smell, like orris and rose with frankincense. I've been waking up having to irrigate the snoz every morning in order to smell anything at all, so I attribute the chameleon-like character of this perfume oil to that problem. On the day that all I smelled was frankincense, I really -- and I mean REALLY -- wanted to doctor it with some of my little darlings (rose, patchouli, neroli, petit grain, vetyver, vanilla). I resisted as those things weren't normally used in Kyphi incense -- not a version of the 'authentic' Kyphi anyway -- so much to the chagrin of my ADD, I settled for adding a titch of a gorgeous iris absolute that was shared with me by Laurie Stern of Velvet and Sweetpea's Purrfumery fame. It's actually a library piece, something I'm savoring and sharing as a curiosity with novice perfumers (sharing as in letting them sniff a bit). I'm hoping it satisfies my temporarily broken olfactory system. 

Speaking of those little darlings, I've noticed a trend that began in cooking. Some years ago I read somewhere that adding nutmeg to a dish was the equivalent to adding love, so a lot of what I prepare gets at least a faint dusting of freshly ground nutmeg. I'm using a lot of nutmeg in soap formulations. It's seemed appropriate to the formulation at the time, but perhaps it's connected to the 'adding love' thing. Or maybe I just have a lot of nutmeg essential oil!

Let's talk a little bit about natural isolates. The Perfumer's Apprentice is now carrying a small selection of natural isolates that I've been slowly acquiring one by one over the past few weeks. First up, octanol natural, also known as alcohol C-8. To my nose, it smells oily, like used cooking oil after, say, chicken's been fried in it. Not exactly like that, but tones of that, and sweat. Maybe old running shoes? Mold? Mushrooms? Unscented paraffin wax? This is straight from the bottle undiluted, so I'm sure once the nose is in good working order, and I've diluted this isolate, I will get something else -- or something more. So, what could this be used for in a perfume formulation as I smell it today, you're wondering (I'm guessing you're wondering, I have no idea, really), well, lots of things. Dark perfumes, such as an earthy perfume with loads of patchouli and cepes, to help deepen the tone; floral perfumes to offer a platform off of which the roses and jasmines and orange blossoms can rest, or even kewda and davana, adding even more greenness and a sharp biting note. I actually like this isolate. It is unusual, but I see possibilities for enhancing a number of different formulations in several perfume families.

Next is cocoa essence natural. It smells like cocoa powder. Not rich and dark like a hunk of bittersweet chocolate, but powdery and strangely intense and slightly bitter unsweetened cocoa powder. This can be used almost anywhere in a formulation. Cocoa has some of the same fix-it-all benefits that vanilla has. Except when poorly formulated with patchouli and vetyver, then watch out! Go ahead and play with that one to see what I mean. Sounds good on paper, but . . . again, it's a ratios game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kyphi Perfume Formulation

The Kyphi perfume formulation I began working on in September is nearing the point at which it can be added to the menstruum, either jojoba, fractionated coconut, alcohol, or a balm base of beeswax and shea. The formulation possesses some unexpected characteristics. It's bright, for one. Bright and clean and deeply resinous with high lemony notes and warm honeyed tones, and the richness of dried fruit and low lying spices hover along the edges. Once the concentrate is formulated with the menstruum (whatever it is), it will continue to mature and evolve, just as whole botanical and honey based Kyphi does. The more well tended and mature Kyphi becomes, the better the scent profile.

A couple of years ago when the Kyphi Project began at the Natural Perfume Academy, I was hell bent on creating straight Kyphi; not Kyphi oil, not Kyphi perfume, but real (or as real as I could get it) Kyphi incense. A couple of the participants of the Kyphi Project did formulate oils and perfumes, and one in particular, one created by a graduated student, really sticks in my mind. It was intensely sweet, like honey, and had mad masculine tones to it -- like a lovely bay laurel soap with shadows of frankincense and the barest hint of rose. Much subtler than the formulation I'm working on, but no less intense and, if I do say so, beautiful.

At this stage in time, the ingredients in true Egyptian Kyphi is anyone's game. I have seen references online and in books about Kyphi that state copal was an ingredient. My understanding is (was) that copal is a New World resin, grown in parts of Mexico, as in black, golden, and white copal. But after some research, I found that 'copal' has been used as a term to simply mean incense, or resin. These references to copal being used in 'authentic Egyptian Kyphi' are mainly coming from sellers of incense who have, understandably, substituted a resin or ingredient in place of those which no one really knows the true identity. Like peker, and camel grass -- though camel grass today is identified as cymbopogon schoenanthus -- we don't have any way of knowing if this is the camel grass the Egyptians used. And cyperus grass -- if cyperus grass is correctly identified as the cyperus grass of today, I had that stuff growing out by my pond in Fresno! However -- you knew that was coming -- cyperus is a sedge, and there are over 600 species of sedges, which include cyperus grass, papyrus, umbrella sedges, and -- well, over 597 more. See? Narrowing down what goes into authentic Egyptian Kyphi isn't an easy process, as over 2000 years of speculation has proven.

Most folks out there making and selling Kyphi are selling the recipe from the Edfu Temple writings. This included raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine resin, sweet flag, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, cyperus (grass or...?), juniper berries, pine kernels (?), peker (?), and cinnamon. The problem here is with the cyperus grass, as previously discussed, peker, and aspalathos. According to the blog Root and Rock, aspalathos might have been misinterprested as 'asphalt', though later explains that it might be something like rooibos (red bush) as it is a member of the aspalathos plant group, peker is an unknown entity, and cyperus may be nutgrass, which not coincidentally is a member of the sedges I talked about here. So we're all kind of spiraling around the truth here. Now, I know referencing a blog isn't research per se, but it is a way for a researcher to discover who's done what thus far. Not everyone is a scientist.

Here are the common Kyphi recipes which are found online and in various books:

Papyrus Ebers ~ honey, frankincense, mastic, sweet flag, pine kernels, cyperus grass, came grass, inektun, cinnamon

Edfu Temple ~ raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine resin, sweet flat, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, cyperus, juniper berries, pine kernels, peker, cinnamon

Manetho ~ raisins, wine, honey, myrrh, resin, mastic, bitumen of Judea, cyperus, aspalathos, seseli, rush, lanathos, sweet flat, cardamom

Harris ~ raisins, wine, honey, mastic, pine resin, camel grass, mint, sweet flag, cinnamon

See the similarities?

Then there is Kupar, also Kyphi, of which there are three common recipes:

Syriac-Kupar ~ raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, spikenard, saffron, mastic, aspalathos, cinnamon, cassia

Rufus of Ephesus ~ raisins, wine, honey, 'burnt resin' (?), bdellium (guggal, false myrrh), sweet flag, camel grass, cyperus grass, saffron, spikenard, aspalathos, cardamom, cassia

Dioscorides ~ 'sun raisins', 'old wine', honey, myrrh, 'pure resin' (frankincense?), juniper berries, sweet flag, camel grass, aspalathos, cyperus grass

Some ingredients' lists are shorter than others, but they all resemble each other very closely. I've read (somewhere, can't find my notes) that there were Kyphi recipes that used upwards of 50 ingredients!

But, as important as the ingredients are, the process by which Kyphi is made is just as important. Kyphi making isn't a paint-by-numbers gig if you're doing it right. Sure, you can whip up a batch in a day with a good herb grinder and a lot of impatience for the process -- like waiting for the wine to soak into the herbs, boiling the honey and frankincense and pine resins, soaking the raisins sufficiently. You might even make a nice Kyphi.

The Edfu Temple recipe -- and remember, this was literally written in stone -- was made up of 16 ingredients, beginning to end, but not including your reverence. Those 16 ingredients represented the pieces of Osiris, who was murdered and chopped to bits by his brother, Set. The 12 days taken to create a traditional Egyptian Kyphi represent the 12 days Isis spent locating those pieces and putting her husband/brother back together. The making of Kyphi is a recreation of that process -- this is why the reverence is necessary! Through the creation and building of Kyphi, you are resurrecting a god.

Sources: Karl Vermillion, Ancient Egypt online, Root and Rock blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Egyptian Kyphi Doctoring

Added sandalwood powder and whole saffron to the mix. Smells divine.


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