Some new books on ambergris and incense.

If you are at all interested in ambergris you should check out the newly published book “Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris” by Christopher Kemp. Not only does it contain lots of solid information on the subject but it also comes with a great story and lots of humor. It mentions some suppliers, among them the people I buy from “”. They are very helpful and as much as possible will attempt to send you the colors or scent profiles you ask for. Buying ambergris can be a real gamble, if you look up on EBay there are always people selling ambergris and musk, most of which is fake ( there is a great picture up there lately featuring a “sack” covered in what looks to be perfect designer styled animal hair, blond no less. The “grains” that are shown as musk look a lot like charcoal and the seller is asking hundreds of dollars for this. The same thing happens with ambergris so buyers beware.

Also Carl Neal has a new book out called “Incense Magick”. Carl is probably more responsible for the upsurge in home made and hand made incense then any other person I can think of. His first book, “Incense” was a real eye opener for many of us. These are great books to get one into blending and using incenses. It will also give you a greater appreciation for incense and the materials that go into it. Carl’s approach to incense is firmly based in using natural ingredients and in making scents that appeal to you and does this in a very straight forward manner, he is a very good writer. There is also a wealth of incense burning ideas and techniques in the new book.

As in any craft or art form the quality of the materials you use plays a big part in the finished product. I will be setting up a section in the left margin of this blog for suppliers, both incense and perfume materials (because they really do go hand in hand). Stay tuned.

Happy reading -Ross


New Incense and Aromatics Website

Check this site out.

Nicely done with lots of information on ingredients and the incenses and aromatics of different regions.


And Now for Something Completely Different…

A Review of Air Sponge – The Odor Absorber

The ORS is dedicated to finding and reviewing the best incenses and letting our readers know about them. Incense can be a great way to refreshen a room, change the atmosphere, or mask unpleasant odors. However, sometimes strong scents or even scents of any kind are undesirable. Be it incense that you don’t particularly care for, burnt food, or your teenager’s unkempt stale smelling bedroom, or your husband’s musty old gymbag…etc. There are areas and/or rooms (i.e. the bathroom) that can require a neutralizing agent, where odor is removed.

Air Sponge is an odor neutralizer. It’s a great little product that comes in 8 oz (227 grams) round plastic containers. It can be used anywhere, and can remove virtually any odor. The write-up on the container states that it absorbs and removes odors caused by tobacco smoke, cooking odors, pet smells, paint fumes, cleaning solvents, detergents, wet carpets, fire damage, locker rooms, gasoline, sewer gases, mildew, and decay. Air Sponge is biodegradable too, and resembles poppy seeds encased in turquoise blue putty or play-doh. It won’t win any beauty contests that’s for sure, but then again, it wasn’t made for its looks, but for its ability to neutralize odor.

I’ve been using Air Sponge for months, and I do recommend the product. In the wintertime, my little apartment can get stuffy and smokey due to the various incenses that I’ve been burning. Opening the windows and letting fresh air in can be problematic as that it lets out the warm air, too. And with heating costs rising, opening up windows in the winter can be cost prohibitive. Similarly in the summertime, if you’re using an air conditioner, opening up the windows will let the cool air out and the warm air in! Therefore, if you need to neutralize odor and are unable to open your windows to let fresh air in and circulate in your home, then Air Sponge can be a nifty product to have on hand. It’s very simple to use, all you do is crack open the container, remove the lid, and place the Air Sponge in the area in which you want odors to be neutralized. Incidentally, one Air Sponge can cover an area of up to 300 square feet. Note that Air Sponge emits a faint floral soapy scent, rather reminiscent of Ivory or Jergens soap. The scent quickly fades, though.

There is also an Air Sponge spray, which comes in a 118 ml bottle. The spray works instantly, whereas the round containers of Air Sponge can take a little while to kick in. For example, if you badly burn food, and want to remove the burnt aroma right away, the spray is the better option to use.

Air Sponge is an American made product that is available in North America. It can be purchased in hardware stores, Walmart, Zellers, and even local grocery stores (look for it in the cleaning products aisle).  If you are outside North America, you can purchase Air Sponge online. Go to:



Mystery of Musk Part 1

There are some great sources of information about musk from many of the blogs of people involved in this project that is being put on by the Natural Perfumers Guild. One of the main people orchestrating this is Elena at Perfume Shrine. Besides having a tremendous amount or articles about musk she has also written much about Aloeswood and Oud and is, in general, just a tremendous storehouse of information about perfumes and scents, all of which are well written and oh so well researched.

Be sure to check out the blogs of the various perfumers(at the Perfume Shrine link above), many who have writings on their journeys with the use of musks.  Ambrosia Jones come to mind. If you have not read  Avery Gilbert’s blog, or better yet, read his book “What the Nose Knows” you are missing a great resource on scents written from the science side. Very real, with tongue firmly in cheek, lots of humor and backed up with real world knowledge. Something of a rare combination in this very PR driven field of perfumes and scents in general. Anya McCoy ‘s blog has tons of information and much about the behind the scenes fight to save the use of the basic building blocks of perfume from way too many assorted government agency’s. She is also the guiding light of the Guild and has a tremendous amount of information on natural perfumes.

I am hoping to get together a listing of musk scented incense early next week (of which there are many) that range in price from the very reasonable to the not at all reasonable. One thing about musk in incense that I have found is that it really depends as to what else it is mixed with as to how it’s going to affect the overall scent of the incense. Pretty much all the classic kneaded styles from ancient Japan  used musk as an ingredient, but given the different proportions in each formula that might not be obvious. Also many of the high end sticks of today imitate (to a degree) those older scents. So the musk can act as a fixative or base to anchor all the other scents or it might be used in such a way as to take center stage. I am not at all sure how it works in the Tibetan style incenses, but I do know it’s in some and hopefully Mike and Steve will chime in. Oh yes, real musk, and pretty much anything that has that quality of scent is expensive. So it can add a lot to the price of incense. This means that while, yes indeed, you are paying for that oh so nice Kyara/Aloeswood scent in the mix, you are also paying for the addition of musk or perhaps ambergris and a few other olfactory  gems. All of which are getting harder to source as old stocks run out. Price goes up.

OK, back to sitting in the sun at the ORS High Altitude Mobile Research Station here in Lake Tahoe. Now, if I could just remember where I left the BBQ sauce….Ross

Incense Trading Wiki

For those who have wanted to trade incense with others, Kristin of Sprays of Blossoms, Curls of Smoke has set up a very nice site. Here’s the announcement (please read first).

Baieido on Facebook (Ross)

Some great information on some of the more popular formulations from Baieido on their Facebook “wall”.  Nice insight on how the different Aloeswoods effect the scent. Plus an intriging comment on materials and the possible differences of today’s vs what was used (or available) long ago. Baieido must have an amazing materials library by this point.

Always nice to get real info on incense from the makers, it is something of a rare event  🙂  Thanks David

Kodo Utensils Post at Alices Incense

David Oller, who besides being Baieido’s representive in the US,  also has a large amount of great information about Japanese incense, its customs and uses. He has posted a great blog entry on Kodo equipment with descriptions and pictures. Nicely done and very informative.


Oud Article at Perfume Shrine

Found this great post about Oud at Perfume Shrine.  Some really good insight on pricing and availability. The author is a great writer and always has fascinating pieces on scent. A good read.


The Frankincense Trail

While the link lasts and probably only for our UK readers as BBC often blocks streaming video outside, you can watch episodes of the documentary The Frankincense Trail here. Thanks to Claire for the link!

Agarwood Info from Trygve Harris (from Ross)

Absolute Trygve is the blog of Trygve Harris, who owns a Essential Oils store in NYC.  She is one of the few in the business who actually goes into the countries where the oils are made, direct to the growers and distillers to make sure she gets the best. She is also a self admitted Agarwood lover and writes some great articles about it and other aromatic materials. This one just came out and I wanted to bring it to your attention. Makes for some very interesting reading. As a side note, Trygve is currently distilling her own Oman Frankincense oils, which I would think smell amazing.

There are also some new articles at The Incense Room, which is the discusion group for the website Incense Making. Check in the News section for information on Sandalwood cultivation and genitic help. This could mean an upswing in Sandalwood production, not right away, but sooner then expected.


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