Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Mortars and Pestles and Distillates, Oh, My!

So the weeks, and now months, of rifling through boxes digging about for 'lost' things is over. I'm taking in boxes one at a time and going through them, all the way to the dust at the bottom. The garage is divided into halves now -- the half with boxes filled with aromatic goodies, and the half filled with haphazardly piled empty boxes. Since making this commitment (ugh), I've discovered a liter bottle of perfume I had thought used up. One that a long-time customer had been asking about. One that I had mistakenly told her was gone, gone, gone to the ether. The reason I had not been able to locate this bottle on my Tasmanian devil-like scurryings in the garage was the bottle had slipped its label. It took a side-by-side sniff test to determine exactly what it was. Now relabeled, the bottle sits happily in the new done perfume repository (the Harry Potter bedroom under the stairs).

I wrote about the Nook I received as a Yule gift in a previous post, now I want to talk about a gorgeous Lao style clay mortar and pestle set I bought myself as a Yule gift at the Asian market in Fresno. I've been on the hunt for relatively inexpensive mortars and pestles since I began my journey into kyphi making. I do indeed hand crush all the resins, however many days it takes, because it's cathartic and meditative and really puts something special into the finished product, and also provides a fairly decent upper body workout. I once wrote here about orris root, particularly an antique orris root sent to me by my dear friend and perfumer, Amanda, that put me in a swoon while I macerated it in a mortar. It just crept up on me. One moment I was gazing out the window, crushing the root in sort of a daze, not really connecting movements to any thought process, kind of putting myself in a hypnotic state, and the next thing I know, I'm jerked out of that space into the present again as this scent -- this gorgeous violet hued, buttery rich scent -- rose from the mortar. That's when the true beauty of making authentic kyphi struck me. The spirit of orris awoke me to that feeling of wonderment and bliss and happiness and connection, so it's no wonder I make it a habit to hand crush all the resins and herbs used in the kyphi making process. The new mortar and pestle are fabulous, really big and bulky, the mortar made of glazed clay, the pestle resembling a vintage wooden Louisville Slugger cut in half. And it cost less than any other mortar and pestle I've ever found -- half less. AND it works beautifully. The inside is somewhat rough and unfinished so crushing resins and herbs is a fairly easy endeavor. When next I visit Fresno, I intend to purchase a few more, building stock toward teaching kyphi classes here at home.

This particular Lao mortar and pestle can be purchased at

Using the Lao mortar and pestle, I was able to render spikey rosemary leaves into dust within 10 minutes.

Speaking of rosemary, I did finally make a big batch of rosemary soap. I added some gifted arnica flower absolute, which turned the soap a rich mossy greenish brown color. It smells so darned good! I love a rosemary soap. I forget how great it is because I think of it as a stock item in every soap maker's inventory, which makes it seem ordinary. It's not. Not really. This particular batch has all the hallmarks of a good cineole rosemary -- eucalyptus notes, camphor notes -- with the arnica flower adding an ambery nuance, warming it up and smoothing out the pointy edges. I went easy on the coconut cream this time as I've found that it makes soap a bit too creamy and gooey in the bath. It's great for skin, but does nothing for the lifespan of the soap itself.

In my possession are a few flavor distillates which I find interesting and perhaps useful in perfumery. I am currently playing around with a brown sugar distillate that embodies all the rich caramely notes of brown sugar, however subtly. It's definitely not a screecher. Very muted and somewhat weak in aroma, but it is there. Sweet, warmly caramel, honey-like. I haven't as yet worked with it in a composition as I'm still in the evaluation stage. I'm not even sure it would be a viable component to a perfume, seeing how quiet it is. I will keep you updated when I do use it -- perhaps combined with butter CO2 and vanilla it will pop as a rich caramel note.


  1. After many attempts I learned to make soap rosemary.

    1. It's lovely, isn't it? I feel good having finally done it. I think my hesitation in making it comes from being afraid of not making it smell strongly enough to satisfy my nose. I like a rosemary soap that is super strong smelling, one that kind of knocks you over a bit. I think I made that soap now :)

  2. Anonymous7:29 AM

    Finding forgotten treasures in storage boxes is the only good thing about storage boxes!

    I'll bet your longstanding customer will be ecstatic about your find:-)

    cheerio, and good luck with those boxes,

    Anna in Edinburgh

    1. Right! My customer is quite happy, however, now the negotiations begin -- how much for how much? It's unbottled and I've given her options for bottle sizes.

      Back to unpacking ~ :)



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