Monday, April 21, 2008

David Mark to Speak in Private Perfume Class on Ancient Egyptian incense Kyphi and its fragrance properties

David Mark of Renaissance Aromas (website TBA shortly) and an Associate Member of the Natural Perfumers Guild will be a Guest Expert in my online Natural Perfumery class. David's topic will be Kyphi incense, the ancient Egyptian blend whose mystique and legend persists to this day. There are many "recipes" for Kyphi and for the Module 1 History section of my class, I give the students the option of choosing an ancient perfume or scent formula to recreate so that they get a hint of what was fashionable then. Overwhelmingly, they choose Kyphi. David has conducted scholarly research into Kyphi and graciously offered his services to me. I'm very thankful for his generosity, as it will give my students access to a great repository of information.

Here's how I broke the good news of David's schedule being firmed up in our class:

Well, guess why David can't meet with us this Saturday? Because he's going to a fabulous Egyptologist convention in Seattle! How cool is that?! Our Kyphi expert is right in the thick of it and I'm sure will be brimming with incredible facts and recipes to share.

So I've booked him for Saturday, May 3, 6PM Eastern US, 5PM Central US (his time) and late night in the EU and early morning the next day on "the other side of the world" for our far-flung student body. David says he's longwinded, and will stay on board as long as you want him. ;-)

I think he might prepare a written outline for y'all before the class, and I'll post it here if he does. Then the questions will all be open freeform style.

Sounds great!


Here's a quick Kyphi recipe I googled:

Kyphi is a mixture composed
of sixteen ingredients; of honey and wine, raisins and galingale, (pine) resin and myrrh, aspalathos and seseli; moreover, of mastic and bitumen, bulrush and sorrel, together with the two kinds of juniper berries (of which one is called major and the other minor), cardamom and sweet flag. And these ingredients
are not mixed by chance, but according to instructions cited in holy books, that are read to the incense makers while they mix them. Plutarch

yet another recipe:

"[Take 273 g each of mastic, pine resin, sweet flag, aspalathos, camel grass, mint and cinnamon.] Place the items in a mortar and grind them. Two-fifths of this will {turn out to} be in the form of liquid to be discarded. There remain three-fifths in the form of ground powder. [Take 1.5 lb each of cyperus, juniper berries, pine kernels and peker (unidentified)] Reduce the ingredients to powder. Moisten all these dry ingredients with [2.5 lb] wine in a copper vessel. Half of this wine will be absorbed by the powder [the rest is to be discarded].

Leave overnight. Moisten the [3.3 lb] raisins with [2.5 lb] oasis wine. Mix everything in a vessel and leave for five days. Boil to reduce by one-fifth. Place [3.3 lb] honey and [1,213 g] frankincense in a cauldron and reduce volume by one-fifth. Add to the honey and frankincense the kyphi macerated in wine. Leave overnight. Grind the [1,155 g] myrrh and add to the kyphi".

(Lise Manniche, Sacred luxuries, p. 51. See also Lise Manniche, An ancient Egyptian herbal, pp. 57-58.)

I'm so very pleased to be able to offer a glimpse into an ancient fragrant incense recipe from an expert in the field. These classes are so exciting!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Patchouli in Rwanda - perfume industry safety net? Economic safety net for Rwandans?

The price of patchouli essential oil has skyrocketed in the past year. An crucial and historic scent in perfume and body care products, various issues have conspired to create a shortage and suppliers and formulators are scrambling to control cost increases in their products.

I know I'm an eternal optimist. I also have a strong background in ethnobotany, economic botany and agriculture. I specialized in tropical and subtropical agriculture in my studies, keep this in mind when you check out the You Tube link, below.

In 2005, a team from Haiti met with the President of Rwanda to propose a Patchouli project. There is a series of five videos on You Tube recording the process of establishing a patchouli essential oil industry in Rwanda by the movers and shakers of this project. The videos are educational and uplifting. I am very aware of he political and military turmoils of Rwanda, having several close friends who traveled there in the aftermath and are helping with the rebuilding. Relative stability has returned, more so in some areas than others. When poverty is addressed in a forthright and productive way, all may prosper. Perhaps patchouli is one economic way to move forward.

Patchouli essential oil prices have skyrocketed recently due to many factors in the countries producing the heady oil. A few years ago environmental and political maladies struck the vanilla absolute industry, and those with vision took cuttings to India and Indonesia and now vanilla prices - for the beans, not the absolute as it appears the extractors have kept the price artificially high - have come back to a reasonable level.

I love the methodical way in which the questions about establishing and distilling the oil are addressed. Distillation units in place - at this time for geranium - appear in videos # 4 and 5.

Sustainable agriculture, and opportunistic agriculture to replace the fields that may be disappearing due to urban development, desertification or other reasons will always exist, so I do not despair very much when I hear of problems (such as the vanilla crisis of teh early 2000's.)

I find the videos very uplifting and relaxing -- and realistic in what may occur.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bob Marley's Mother, Cedella has passed

This photo was taken at the press party for the 10th Annual Bob Marley Caribbean Music Festival. It was the last year I worked as the PR person for the event, as perfumery business took more and more of my time. You can read more about Mother B here on Myspace I wish I knew how to work Myspace to leave a message, but I don't so I'll write here. Mother B was like a second mother to me and probably thousands of others. She spread her joy and wisdom and kindness to every soul she met, and she will be sorely missed. As I call friends today to tell them the news, and even as I told my own mother, I choked up and couldn't speak.

I put a page up 10 years ago that hosts a photo I took of Mother B the night I met her in 1996. It remains one of my favorite photos of her, regal on her birthday throne, radiating her love out.

Peace and joy and rest Mother B, now you are in Zion with Bob and Anthony.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I love lavender - and new study says you should, too

One of my earliest scent memories is the fresh, uplifting scent of lavender soap. I know I liberally splashed on Yardley English Lavender cologne from about age 10 or so, when I got my first bottle. Always floral, herbal and clean, it's always has made me smile. It's one of the few "unisex" scents meaning men and women use it with no thought associations that it is more relevant to the opposite sex. For example, many men may balk at wearing a rose scent, but not lavender.

I have about 20 different extracts of lavender in my perfumer's organ: organic essential oils from South Africa, England and the United States; conventioanlly farmed essential oils from all over the world; high altitude from the French Alps; absolutes and concretes from several different countries and several different species other than the most common one I'm discussing here, which is Lavandula vera aka L. angustifolia. I dilute them out to evaluate them, and I find one emotional thread running through all of them - they relax and inspire me, they make me feel ten years old again, and I love them.

I have yet to use lavender in one of my perfumes, but I do plan to in the future. The fragrance will be set like a crown jewel in a mossy, tender background.

A report out of Japan bolsters lavender's use in aromatherapy. They found that sniffing lavender may enhance antioxidant levels in the body, and also may lower the dreaded hormone cortisol's levels. No wonder I feel young when I sniff it - that's just my unscientific anecdotal opinion to bolster my belief in the study ;-)

I cannot find the study cited on the RealAge site, and if anyone can, please let me know.

Robert Tisserand cites a study here, but it's not the same study. I have found other studies on infants and monkeys, but not the study on co-eds.

Just a soft little blog on a beautiful Monday morning, a love letter to lavender, and I'm off to sniff some now, maybe make a light massage oil.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Defining the word Natural

I recently attended an online webinar that addressed natural flavors and fragrances and one of the topics discussed was "developing realistic definitions of what is, and is not, natural." First, as a lead-in they talked about the various ins and outs of the word "organic", how it is defined and the legislation that governs that word. The various agencies that have a piece the action as far as defining "organic" is large, varied, international, and (typically) non-binding. I'm deliberately vague because that definition is a related, but different subject from what I wish to cover here. The term organic seems rather fluid at times to me, and to write about it would keep me blogging for days, so I will pass on that effort.

The word natural in the flavor and fragrance industries is unregulated at this time. That means that any company, for any reason, can label a product natural in an effort to market to the yoga moms and other marketing demographic that yearns to use a produce that comes from a "natural" source. At this time there are countless companies selling perfumes labeled natural that are composed of synthetic chemicals. For this reason, we in the Natural Perfumers Guild support the effort to define the term natural.

However, a problem came up when the speaker addressing the definition of what they consider a natural aromatic said that only distilled, extracted, tinctured, infused, CO2-extracted or otherwise innocuously derived aromatics would be considered natural in draft proposed legislative language they're working on. Concretes and absolutes were mentioned as not meeting this criteria, since they are extracted via solvents, such as hexane.

We in the Guild define a natural perfume as one that contains natural aromatics. This includes concretes and absolutes which are extracted via hexane, petroleum ether and other solvents. These solvents are typically carried over into the finished product in the ppm or ppb, and many, if not most, are considered so safe as to meet GRAS standards for food products.

If concretes and absolutes were left out of the definition of allowable aromatics that are natural, that could cripple the ability of natural perfumers to employ the full palette of aromatics, as we would not be able to call our products natural perfumes.

The speaker stated that the Natural Products Association is spearheading the Natural Personal Care Product Standard initiative and that the committee would be meeting the week of April 8th and that a copy of the initiative would be available on their site. I searched but could not find it.

So I put out a call on the Yahoo Natural Perfumery group and the Yahoo NPG groups I host asking for a volunteer with legislative experience who could dig deeper, since time was of the essence, and an old hand with such matters could cut to the chase.

I couldn't have gotten a better person to step up - Steve Earl of Glen Custom Perfumery immediately wrote me and offered his services. He worked on a lot of legislation in the past, and after an hour-long phone conversation, I knew I could have complete confidence in him to relay the concerns, wording and interest of the Natural Perfumers Guild to the proper sources.

Steve immediately drafted a letter to the folks we we needed to reach. The exchange between Steve and the other professionals was increasingly synergistic, the definitions and ideas flowed freely, and within a day he was in touch with the NPA rep in DC who will be at the initiative meeting next week. There will now be an investigation into OVI (Organic Volatile Impurities) levels and we'll need to get our ducks in a row to work through this process, but the quick and responsive communications are very, very encouraging for many reasons.

Thank you Steve! The Guild is tiny and we depend upon the volunteers to help us with our forays into legislation, technical areas, public relations, committees and all matters of opportunities and issues that come up. I will post here as more developments occur in the definition of naturals, especially as it relates to our ability to create natural perfumes.