Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Stuff

First, I want to share some information about incense making. I've been searching the web for years looking for a site that showed how someone who doesn't make incense every single day for a living (ladies on the roof style) can make paste that sticks to incense sticks. Watching the videos coming out of India makes me feel extremely inadequate as an incense roller person as those ladies whip those sticks out in about -- well, I don't know, it's so darned fast my eyes blur just a little. So I developed my own technique, which after a couple of hundred incense sticks, I've gotten pretty good. Some day when my hands aren't feeling shy I'll make a wee video of my technique to share. For now I'm going to share a video of someone else -- Carl Neal, an incenseur for decades, he's got the gig down pretty well. And he has a YouTube channel, so if you want to learn some basics of incense mixing, he's the guy to watch. The problem with watching videos of other folks making incense is that they can get boring after a while because they try too hard to preface the work with wads of information you probably aren't going to hear because you're too busy speeding up the video to the good bits to listen. Carl Neal gets right to it.

I made a batch of soap last week and it's soft as a baby's tushie. My scale is so far off tare that none of my oil to lye to water ratios turned out right. The soap is super squishy and lye-free, so I'm thinking I miscalculated (or my scale did) the lye and didn't put in enough. And I hate rebatching because it funks up the scent and whatnot and I put in a LOT of super fine oils, like neroli and orange blossom and gardenia and white champa and Kaffir lime and davana and a bunch more (vanilla, petit grain, lemon, olibanum . . . and more . . .), so I'm really resisting the rebatch thing. I'm considering turning it into a super fragrant creme soap and putting it in jars. It's only two pounds, but dang if that isn't going to be a ton of creme soap to jar up.

I bought a new scale today. And a dozen 4-oz jars to put that creme soap into.

The incense dust I created a few days ago is still melding away. I haven't had a lot of free time to take the last step and add the liquid to create the paste and then begin the rolling onto sticks portion of the game. For me it's meditative, I get in a groove and don't want to stop unless I absolutely have to. I'm back at that place where every time I try to sit down to do that kind of work, someone needs me to bake a pie in 15 minutes and vacuum the house because so-and-so's coming over in 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 . . . . I told my daughter I was packing my bags and moving to France, to which my granddaughter quipped, "Oh, Grammy, you're so silly."

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Little Bit of Griping, A Little Bit of Incense, A Lot of Hot Air

Why is it when I set aside a little time for experimentation, suddenly everyone needs something from me, like, right now? A ride, a few bucks, keep an eye on something (don't move while doing so), organize something, wash something, cook something -- it's flippin' exhausting! I feel like a puppy chasing its tail these days. Basically sick of being everyone else's rock and no one being mine. I got nothin', except this jar of frankincense. And a bag of sandalwood chips. And some weird black resin that sort of smells like frankincense but mostly smells like feet. And I think I'm retaining water.

I know I already wrote a bit about the goods from Mermade Magickal Arts, but my nifty little candle powered incense burner arrived from Germany and I've had a chance to actually warm some of those baubles and bits, to my utter astonishment. The Labdanum & Myrrh pastilles are insane! The room began to fill with scent almost the moment I dropped a piece of the resin onto a wee bit of foil in the burner dish -- now the room is awash in labdanum's bitterish amber warmth. This incense reminds me just how much I appreciate and love labdanum resin, the rawest and hairiest form that can be found.
Labdanum & Myrrh Pastille ~ Mermade Magickal Arts

Long view: Labdanum & Myrrh Pastille
Yesterday I burned a pinch of Floating World and -- well, amazing again. The quality of the raw materials used in these incense selections is phenomenal. Top drawer all the way around. And funny, this time around, I barely caught the camphor note in Floating World, not the way I had a few days ago when my head was swimmy with hay fever.

I also burned a few bits of genuine Mysore sandalwood chips that I received from JK DeLapp and damn near passed out! The scent was beyond words, and so intense. My wee cottage house smelled like a temple!
I guess I'm really feeling put out right now with all the home maintenance and catering to ding bats who can't seem to wipe their own bums without assistance and really, REALLY, the core of it all is that I haven't had time to sit down and create. There's a backlog of scented ideas in my head that are just screaming to come out, but the damned cat wants to be fed! Right. Flippin'. Now.

Gotta run.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Floating World, Puh-Er Tea, and Sandalwood of Exquisite Origins

I've been very busy lately, not just with the perfumery, but with life and the various and sundry curveballs it seems to enjoy throwing in my direction. I suppose it's no different from anyone else's life, it's just in how you handle it that determines whether you become an open human being or a perpetual victim. I choose moving on and not giving the issue any more attention than is required to deal with it -- there's a life to be lived here and a finite amount of time in which to live it.

I ordered some new raw materials that I'm dying to share with you. From Katlyn Breene of Mermade Magickal Arts I received costus root (skunky!), some calamus root, and a packet of wispy warm powdered Himalayan juniper wood. The costus blows my mind, as costus usually does. It's deeply animalic and skunky and armpitty, but oh, so alluring and primal, and dare I say it -- sexy? My experience with costus up until about a year ago was limited -- most of it was highly diluted (now I understand why) and not terribly impressive, plus it's on the no-no list with the IFRA, banned because it's a very strong sensitizer. The problem with the IFRA banning stuff is that often the amounts necessary to cause an adverse reaction are hundreds if not thousands of times higher than what one would be exposed to in a leave on product. That isn't 100% the case in all instances, but it's pretty darned close. Some of the reason the IFRA bans or restricts stuff is based on the LACK of research and lack of funding to conduct research, hence it is stricken off the list of useable raw materials because they simply don't know what it does, if anything. I digress . . .
Costus root smells of dark, loamy earth and skunk butts. If one were to make a natural musk incense, this would be the go-to raw material to get that musk funk. I could probably also find a use in a cannabis themed incense, providing the desired "skunk" note of a well-grown plant.

Calamus is a material I used to use years ago in soap making, before I found out it was on the IFRA's no-no list. It was used as a magickal element in a soap called Green Man. The root is more herbal than rooty, however, I must confess to a recent bout of hayfever, so my nose may be off a bit. It's clean and fresh and more like cedar than something dug from the earth. I'll have to get back to it once this allergy issue clears up.

I also got a few dabs and dashes of finished incense and wee samples of other raw materials from Mermade -- we'll begin with the exquisite and mouthwatering Labdanum & Myrrh Frankincense Pastilles ~ Ho-Ly Mo-Ly! The labdanum is rich and warm and silky unburned -- gorgeous and toe-curling stuff. I've not burned any of the incense yet because I'm awaiting a fancy-pants brass censer from Germany to arrive so I can do it up right. The texture of these pastilles is like dirt clods, only denser and more sturdy -- they don't crumble away when you press them but will break up with some effort. The scent, as I said, is divine -- hits the pineal gland like the beating of a gong. Next is the kyphi -- sweet and powdery, resinous and honied -- very nice. I hope to learn more about it once it burns. Next is a light green frankincense tear, sacra of Omani, and it looks like a gemstone rather than a glob of oleoresin. It is fabulous. It sparkles and shines with cool and warm notes. There are no high bitter notes coming off this frankincense. Then there is Floating World, a finished incense. It is transportive. Moving. Gets you in the gut and the heart. I smell the camphor in it like I've never smelled camphor before. Usually camphor, despite how hard the incenseur works it, smells like a note out of the song, a brassy horn, out of tune and out of place in a composition of cellos, but this camphor is completely entwined within the music of the incense, a piece that if missing would throw off the entire composition. This one I cannot wait to get burning. I believe the reason that I really caught the camphor is because it's what my head needs right now -- with the hayfever abating and the sinuses being a bit sore and raw, the camphor is a balm. Again, I'll get back to it once I burn it with clear sinuses to let you know. All in all, everything from Katlyn is top drawer luxury.

Floating World

Another package I received came from JK DeLapp, a doctor of Chinese medicine, a fragrance compounder and perfume educator living in Georgia, USA. He sent these beautiful puh-er teas with osmanthus, rose, and chrysanthemum -- can you imagine? Chrysanthemum tea? I've only tried the rose and it was, to say the least, a revelation. I'm a huge tea fan, so this probably wasn't a hard sell here. It reminds me of the smell of Teazer World Tea Market in Fresno, CA, a little shop that started in the heart of the Tower District and has expanded to include a total of four shops in Fresno. Again, I digress . . . rose puh-er is earthy and subtle, and best served warm. It's a very round tea, meaning it doesn't have weird bitter notes in the back, like an over steeped black or green tea can have. It's smooth and calming and delicious. I haven't tried the other teas, the chrysanthemum that I drool over, or the osmanthus. I'm saving those for days when I need to treat myself. Also in the package from JK I received wee samples of sandalwood, and not just any sandalwood, the good stuff, the Japanese grade stuff, the stuff used in ceremony and ritual, the stuff that makes you dream in magenta and gold with the sound of bells tinkling in the wind. It's so exquisite, so warm and creamy and buttery and lush that I'm afraid to burn it! But I will, once my little brass brazier makes it in.

Another post about these gifts will follow in a few weeks. I have to get my head clear and the censer set up to really do these incenses any justice. Until then, may you be blessed with sweet smells as well.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

New Natural Perfume Course Begins April 20, 2015

The Natural Perfume Academy is happy to announce the newest session opening for the natural botanical perfume course. If interested, contact the administrator at

Natural Perfumes 2010


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