2013-07(July)-24: Frankincense Tears

Frankincense, which is just plain "incense" in most languages besides English, has been a prized ingredient in perfumery since ancient times. And as I learned recently, it was burned every morning by the pharaohs of Egypt in honor of the sun god, Rah. Here's Ayala Moriel on frankincense. I am a huge fan of the classic perfume ingredients, and this is no exception.

Not long ago, I made a soap with frankincense, honey, and ginger. It turned out well, but I was interested in exploring an even simpler recipe with just frankincense and honey. This was, in part, inspired by a perfume (Messe de Minuit, by Etro) that is supposed to smell like a musty old church, with beeswax candles and incense. While the essential oil of frankincense brings out the harsh high notes, like pine, being incorporated into soap tamps down on those high notes and brings the smell back to something closer to the actual tree resin, the frankincense tears.

Unlike many herbs and spices, frankincense tears are very dense. I imagine I can fit about 250 g into the 500 mL extraction vessel, possibly more. I'm also expecting that the resin has a pretty high percentage of extractable oils, but that's just a hunch. I'm a bit worried that the resin might melt if the temperature is too high, which would be a mess. I'll probably start with a lower temperature extraction, see what i get.

I ordered frankincense from two suppliers (so far), and I plan to compare the extracts to determine which I like best, and decide whether that's cost effective. But first I have to develop a method of extraction that works.

I don't plan on taking such long breaks between blog posts, but part of the problem is the battle with my internal perfectionist. The inclination is to do nothing rather than do something imperfect. To paraphrase Voltaire, the perfect is the enemy of the good. So here's to short, imperfect blog posts rather than none at all. I have lots to say, but that'll have to come later.

Last Modified:
10 November 2013

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