Archive | August, 2011


30 Aug

 Shaping incense continues to vex me. Rolling it out by hand won’t work for mass production. I have these little sticks that I got from Essence of the Ages (which sells all sorts of natural incense, including some big American names like Fred Soll, Juniper Ridge, Ancient Forest, etc. (they also have a variety of east-Asian, Indian, Nepali, Japanese, etc.); these little sticks, maybe 3 inches long and 1/4 inch thick/wide/in-diameter, must have been made in a machine. The thing is I have no idea what sort of machine the company uses (these are from Ancient Forest). I found an electric pasta maker from a company called Lello; they have one disc for grissini, which are bread sticks. There are other discs too; I’d have to experiment with which disc produces an appropriate shape. Then Tami and I would have to cut the incense into correct lengths.
 These would be perfect, or I have to go back to where I started: making molds for cones. I couldn’t get that to work when I tried it about five years ago. I need to try a few more times. I’d have Pop make the molds for me. I really think the electric pasta extruder from Lello is the way to go. That’s guaranteed to produce uniform incense shapes and sizes. The only drawback is that it costs a couple of hundred dollars; if it works, it will be well worth that price. One other problem we ran into was that the joss sticks we made started developing mold! That was unheard of in the Pacific Northwest. I learned to line sticks touching each other, the idea being they wouldn’t warp, which I’d found, in the PNW anyway, they tended to do. I guess not only is that no longer necessary, it also can cause problems with mold and other unwanted effects. Nevertheless, I still need to discover the perfect way to dry any “finished” incense.
 Holly DeCarlo, who was my perfume assistant here in Florida for a short time, invited me to have a booth at Tampa Bay Fashion Week, an event she helps organize. For only $200, I can have my own booth with an eight-foot table–the possibilities of what I can do with that booth are limitless. Holly went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Manhattan, which is better respected than you might think. I’m having her help me with a bunch of PR stuff; if there’s one thing she knows about, it’s definitely PR, like how to get in touch with boutiques, magazines, and blogs, etc. The first thing we’ll do is come up with a wholesale price list based on my costs; we’ll also make a suggested-price list for retailers, which we have to be very careful with. I think we’ll have send a different suggested-retail list to each retailer, or maybe one for each kind. For example, Henri Bendel (Holly tells they’re to open a branch of Henri Bendel in Tampa) is a pricey department store, so they would get a list on the higher end; whereas, Whole Foods, should they have any interest at all in carrying my products, would get a list on the lower end.
 I recently bought an authentic Norman-Rockwell Jester from my brother-in-law, Brandon Kroll (married to my sister Leila). I had it reframed. It looks better than ever.


20 Aug

 Tami (my cousin) and I made a first batch of natural incense; it’s my first in at least five years. We didn’t happen to have any rosemary, so we couldn’t make the LJ-signature incense (orris, lavender, rosemary); we made Scorpio instead (frankincense, galangal, pine resin). This was held together with laha and lavender distillate water (which will always be my trusted binders, unless sandalwood distillate water turns out to be special stuff, which I think it might prove to be). We finally got rosemary, so we were able to make the LJ-signature incense. I’m still torn about the correct form in which to make incense; we tried short sticks. We even tried using an extruder, which utterly failed. The way to go is joss sticks or cones. My father is big on the idea of dipping coated incense sticks (on bamboo skewers) into various essential oils, coated with basic “flammable” incense dough.
 I’m not so certain that would even work, because essential oils smell very different when burned than the actual powder smells when burned–even the powders themselves are unlikely to smell similar to the up-close experience of the powder. Next up, I will try a pastry extruder (a conical bag with an appropriate tip); it should be perfect for extruding nice straight joss sticks. I will make an executive decision not to use essential oils for enhancing aromatic qualities of given natural incense. It makes sense that if essential oils don’t smell similar when burned as they do up close, I should eschew the use of essential oils in making natural incense. I’m happy figuring out which aromatic powders smell the way I want; I’ll come up with certain combinations with universal appeal. The hardest part will be extruding straight joss sticks (but I’m confident a pastry extruder/decorator will work).
I have the idea that certain aromatics might be considered “perfume blood.” I wouldn’t consider making perfume without certain elements. Benzoin, labdanum, or orris (concrete or CO2) should be used in every perfume; also ambrette. Rose/rose-otto, jasmine/jasmine-sambac are more that I tend to include in every perfume–the trick is knowing how much of those particular essences one can include without all your perfumes smelling the same. Orange-blossom in the heart and corresponding neroli on top are also elements I favor. As are rosewood, petitgrain, and black or pink pepper on top.
 Mary says she thinks the tendency to include certain extracts/notes in perfumes tends to make for a sameness in odor qualities between perfumes/EDTs/EDCs. I’m confident if I use the _correct_ notes, I will weave solid perfumes, perfumes with solid perfume substance. I have enough experience to know that I have plenty of variety in perfume smells that only the most important elements smell similar; as I said certain essences/extracts might be considered perfume blood. The trick is knowing how much of a given note you can include without all your perfume smelling the same. This is all nothing more than my opinion.


7 Aug

 It’s been so long since I was in China, I forgot this simple fact: most things we think are natural to the west in fact got going in China. says, “Fossils seem to indicate that roses existed in prehistoric times and rose gardening probably began in China some 5,000 years ago.” Quite different from the western roots I’d imagined for rose, which I think of as being one of the essential aromatics, along with jasmine and, they used to say, for perfume, sandalwood, but now, your guess is as good as mine as to what will be the next “must-have” aromatic for a perfumer. For other heart notes, I’d have to say magnolia or boronia, the former being much more affordable; also orange-flower absolute is a necessary companion to neroli in the top. For the base, I’d vote for pine-needle absolute, the thick, dark-green, and dilution-necessary sort, but then I have a particular fondness for this aromatic. For other base notes, I’d have to say benzoin and orris root. Rosewood, petitgrain, and neroli are also distinct possibilities for must-have top notes.
 One thing I haven’t mentioned further is my desire to include natural incense in the Silk-Road project. The first question which must be answered is in what _form_ to make the incense. Joss sticks (sticks with no bamboo skewer), cones, short fat sticks, etc. All of these can be burned in a bowl of sand; one can’t use a regular incense burner with any of these (regular incense burners are designed to hold bamboo skewers). I already have what I think of as a signature LJ natural incense; it’s based on orris-root powder, lavender-leaf powder, and rosemary powder (from now on, I will eschew the word “powder”), held together with laha (a great ingredient, like dar and makko, which makes for incense which you don’t have to add saltpeter to, a highly toxic substance not found in natural incense) and lavender distillate water. That’s a nice combination, and I’ll be proud to call that my signature incense.
 Other ingredients I’ll be interested to try in finished incense include: jatamansi, nardostachys jatamansi (which I know because I sometimes use an incense called Jatamansi from Nepal). It has an intriguing aroma, very earthy and rich (I just discovered this also known as spikenard, or, less commonly, muskroot) [I’m unclear about whether the root or flowers are used to make jatamansi/spikenard powder]. Also stone flower (which is like oakmoss), pine resin (I have a recipe called Scorpio which calls for frankincense, galangal, and pine resin), hibiscus, calamus, rhododendron, patchouli, etc. The thing is these aromatic powders smell very different when burned than they do up close and personal; you never know how a given aromatic will smell like until you burn it. For example, oakmoss/stone flower, when burned, smells exactly like a head shop from the ’70s; that’s just me, but you know what I mean (I think). The possibilities are many and varied for Lord’s-Jester incense.