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.
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.