Like all of you, I have a keen interest in aromatic explorations of all sorts. Finding sources for unique essences has occupied most of my attention for the past several years and that will continue to be a main focus of attention for years to come.It truly is an inspiring time to be involved with essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts, attars, etc from a small entrepreneurs viewpoint. More and more direct access to distillers/extractors is opening up and it gives people like us a chance to become involved with projects which may be dear to our hearts.
Recently I was asked by a number of people about the possibility of sourcing aromatic raw materials for them, especially those which could be used in compounding natural incense. So it is with regards to this subject that the bulk of this letter is taken up.
I have loved incense since I was a boy. My mom, used to go down to a small Japanese store in Sacramento, California where we lived at the time, and buy incense which she loved to burn. At that time(the early 1960's) very few people in the West were doing this sort of thing especially from a white middle-class background. But Betty has always been one for doing those simple things which brings beauty into her life and the life of others and so we had the early influence of incense in our home.(Incidentally she is also a great lover of essential oils and absolutes and gives lavender oil and absolute to her friends who are going through severe illness, often terminal. She tells me that the fragrance of lavender, which is special to people of her generation brings a lot of happiness to her friends. Generally they just use the lavender to diffuse through the room in which they are resting) As mentioned in the Frankincense newsletter, the smell of this incredible aromatic resin had a special meaning for me when burned in the church we attended. In the rich fragrance exhuding from the censer was contained a world of mystery and wonder that never failed to touch a young persons heart.
Later, in the early 1970's I went to live and farm in India. Near to the farm where i worked, was the lovely city of Bangalore, considered one of the main incense centers of India. I enjoyed wandering through the city streets smelling the aroma of incense drifting from small manufactoring facilities. One day I went into the shop of NK Bharatraj Setty and Sons on Commerical Street. I explained that I was interested in seeing traditional masala agarbatti's made so they took me into their production area where I saw many different raw materials assembled. At that time they were preparing their Kala Kasturi Agarbatti which contained over sixty natural ingredients. The site and smell of that process left an indelible mark on my mind, a true milestone on the aromatic journey.
This experience also provided the inspiration to begin my first importing enterprise and through contact with them I began obtaining high quality natural incense . A modest business evolved around this fine quality incense that provided me the funds to travel back and forth to India on a regular basis. In 1984 another phase of the incense experience manifested when I began working with a company in Poona called Haridas Madhavdas Sugandhi, who had a wonderful range of natural masala agarbattis. At that time I christened the new enterprise, Prasad Incense Company. As fate would have it, I could not devote enough time to make the company work on a commercial level, but fortunately the business was passed into the capable hands of Sandy Magram who has in the course of 10 plus years made Prasad Incense a great success.
All this is just to say that the subject of natural incense has been an interest for some time and now, so when the question of sourcing raw materials like myrrh, opoponax, mastic, frankincense, benzoin, etc. was presented to me, a new enthusiasm got awakened that has led into another world of odiferous explorations. When I began this quest, I was already aware that in the realm of aromatic gums and resins, various qualities were to be found, different origins for the same material, etc. But when I began searching for companies that offered graded materials, I was initially confronted by a blank wall. In a general sense I was able to find generically named myrrh, frankincense, etc but with few indications of source or grade. I did not even know what type of terminology to look for in this arena. But as you all know, when a person puts their attention on a subject with enthusiasm and sincerity, gradually one finds keys to unlock the doors one wishes to pass through. In my case, I always try to find my way to an expert on the subject, and then patiently wait for them to explain what they know over a period of time. At this point I have found such a contact and gradually I hope to learn more and more from them which I will in turn share with all of you. At this point I can share a few things which may prove useful. If your knowledge is deeper than mine, then you may happily inform me of parts that I have missed or need to understand better. This is a growing process which will be going on for years to come.
First of all, grading of aromatic resins/gums is on the basis of appearance. Generally speaking the appearance of the material and its olfactory characteristics correspond. Frankincense/Olibanum for instance is sold as First Choice, Peasize, siftings, natural and powder. Generally speaking the First Choice Olibanum, Myrrh and Opoponax is the finest from the aroma standpoint because they are the largest graded pieces which means that there is less surface area exposed to the air, which in turn means that the essential oil content is more. In almost all cases siftings and powder are of the poorest quality because there is maximum exposure to the air which means many of the natural essential oils in the resins get vaporized off. It sometimes can happen that the "natural" clumps of resin will give the most full spectrum oil. People who are well versed in selection of aromatic resins for distillation have developed their own unique way of selecting raw materials. The man who has begun sharing information with me sent me this information regarding selection of Olibanum and Myrrh for distillation.
"The grading is an optical matter, not for the oil content., but mostly the First choice of Olibanum, Myrrh etc. is the best also for oil distilling, for these qualities have, in comparisation to the weight, the smallest surface - means less space, where the oil can escape out. I deliver regularly to France, and I have important customers in Grasse. They normally buy 2 - 3 Original bags out of different lots, they test it and than they make the decision which lot to buy. I do not know which criterions the resin must fullfill - for sometimes a lot rejected by A is exactly the quality B needs. They never look at the price.It must be the nose of the perfumer - and they are different."
The price difference between a First Choice Olibanum and the powder from the same material is roughly 2 to 1 with prices on peasize, natural and siftings coming in between. Benzoin on the other hand is sold as almonds, splinters and grains , blocked powder and powder with almonds being the finest grade of material They also possess the best fragrance. A number of other terms can be used like garblings, cleaned, etc. Those who specialize in aromatic resins have slight variances in language as their is no formal system established but price of the different grades often gives the best indication of quality. This is just a brief insight into a fascinating topic to which more information will be added as time goes on. For those of you who wish to know more about the aromatic resins a nice selection of links is provided at the end of this article.
Since I have just received a small first consignment(1 kilo of each material), I am going to limit procurements of the resins to 4 ounces. Once I get an idea of what all of you might be interested in, I will make a larger order and offer them in 1 kilo plus amounts. Naturally prices will be lower when purchased in larger quantities. Please note one more very interesting thing. Those of you who are working in natural perfumery can also make your own incredible tinctures based upon opoponax, myrrh, benzoin, olibanum, etc. High grade undenatured alcohol(190% or 200% proof) is available from:
Nancy Smith Marketing Manager /Pharmco 800-243-5360 ext 113
You need to buy in 4- 1 gallon quantities and undenatured perfumer's alcohol is not cheap, but it is wonderful for natural perfumery purposes. A full stength tincture can use be made by digesting freshly crushed resins in pure perfumers alcohol in a ratio of 1:10 for a minimum of one month. It should be shaken on a daily basis. This will give a wonderful fixative base for perfumery work. If anyone has more details on this process they would like to share then kindly feel free to tell me and I will share it with folks subscribing to the newsletter.
OK- Here is the list
Gum Benzoin/Siam-Select Almonds 4 ounces-$13
Gum Benzoin/Sumatra-Select Almonds 4 ounces-$9
Gum Elemi/Manila soft, white 4 ounces-$5
Gum Myrrh/Somalia-First Choice 4 ounces-$8
Gum Myrrh/Ethiopia-First Choice 4 ounces-$8
Gum Olibanum/Aden-First Choice 4 ounces-$8
Gum Olibanum/Eritrea-First Choice 4 ounces-$7
Gum Olibanum/Somalia-First Choice 4 ounces-$8
Gum Olibanum/Oman-First Choice White 4 ounces-$10
Gum Olibanum/Ethiopia(Boswellia papyrifera)-1st Choice 4 ounces-$8
Gum Olibanum/Ethiopia(Boswellia neglecta)-Natural 4 ounces-$7
Gum Olibanum/Ethiopia(Boswellia rivae)-Natural 4 ounces-$7
Gum Opoponnax/Ethiopia-Natural 4 ounces-$8
Samples available of Dragon's Blood Powder(also available in balls), Gum Dammar Brown/Indonesia, Gum Mastic No. 1 Tears/Greece, Gum Labdanum/Spain, Gum Sandarak, Amber Lumps/Yellow(Russia), Gum Styrax, Gum Copal/Congo, Gum Copal/ Manila-
Enquire for prices on 1/2 ounce sample sizes.
If you know what you are looking for in terms of grade of materials(First choice, pea size, natural, powder, etc.) it can be procured but a minimum of 32 ounces of material is required for special orders. Normally I am only going to be stocking the highest grade of each aromatic resin. In the past few weeks a few new absolutes and essential oils have come in:
Miel/Honey(France)-$25 per ounce
Cassie/Acacia farnesiana(France)-$170 per ounce
Oriental Tobacco Absolute/Nicotine Free(Bulgaria)-$10 per ounce
also available in 1/4 and 1/2 amounts
Cypress/Cuppressus sempervirens(France)-$5 per ounce
Lavender/Lavandula agustifolia(Bulgaria)-$6 per ounce
available in quantities up to 32 ounces
CO2 Select extracts
Coffee/Coffee arabica extracted in France-$25 per ounce(very fine)
Ginger/Zingiber officinale-$14 per ounce available in quantities up to 32 ounces
This week(on Friday) I am ordering essential oils of Geranium/Egypt, Geranium/China, Coffee(steam distilled in USA from roasted Arabian coffee beans), Spikenard/Nepal Select Green If you need 16 or 32 ounces the prices are:
Geranium/Egypt 16 ounces-$85, 32 ounces-$150
Geranium/China 16 ounces-$75, 32 ounces-$125
Coffee/USA distilled 16 ounces-$85, 32 ounces-$150
Spikenard/Nepal Select Green 16 ounces-$175, $32 ounces-$300
These are preorder larger quantity specials for this particular newsletter. Here are web links for the different aromatic resins:
types of amber, copal and resins
story of amber http://daphne.palomar.edu/wayne/ww0702.htm
neotropical amber http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/physic.htm
physical properties of amber http://www.drabik.com.pl/amber.htm
mysteries of amber
http://www.brost.se/eng/education/facts.html amber facts
Go to: http://members.aol.com/indiaroma/eo.html click on: Balsam Peru
King's American Dispensatory.
definition of benzoin
nice images of copal
meso american copal resins
good information on origins on various products bearing name of copal http://www.uky.edu/AS/Geology/webdogs/amber/copal.html
Understanding the important differences between Copal and Amber...
Go to: http://members.aol.com/indiaroma/eo.html Click on Elemi
Frankincense Go to: http://members.aol.com/indiaroma/eo.html click on frankincense
Galbanum Go to: http://members.aol.com/indiaroma/eo.html click on Galbanum
good general information about Cistus
the tree and its resin http://www.beyond.fr/flora/lentisc.html image, leaves http://www.hortpix.com/pc3300.htm
uses of oil
http://daphne.palomar.edu/wayne/ecoph8.htm#mastic great image of mastic tears
Myrrh Go to: Go to: http://members.aol.com/indiaroma/eo.html click on Myrrh
kings american dispensatory
Friendly regards, Christopher