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Local Kyphi

Local Kyphi Ingredients
In preparation for the Kyphi class I'm teaching February 21st, I've decided to experiment with making Kyphi with as many local ingredients as possible. I tried to use mostly plants and materials that I either grow or wild-harvest, or can be found locally theoretically speaking.
Some were included because they were traditionally part of the materials traded Incense Route and therefore have penetrated the local cuisine and pharmacopeia and are almost inseparable from the culture (such as Frankincense and Myrrh), and also I've included them because although the specimens I have are not grown locally - there is now a farm near the Dead Sea that grows them. The same is true for mastic (which although is from Greece, I can harvest my own - just wasn't patient enough to wait till next summer when I can collect enough resin!). And so on, for most of the resins. So this is not a strictly local product, but it carries the spirit of the landscape I now live in, and reflects its plant aromatic profile.

Local Kyphi in the Mortar
I began by soaking organic uncultured grapes in wine from the local vintner, and then set off to pound all the herbs I picked in the mortar and pestle. If you can recognize any of them in the pictures, and post a comment - you will be entered to win a little jar of my local Kyphi once it is made! It ended up very green and balsamic smelling, and with energy that is very vibrant and sweet, not unlike the Venus incense pastilles I made last year.
Local Kyphi in the Drying Basket
Here it is drying in a basket layered with a gauze fabric (okay, more like an antiquated baby diaper, remember those days? If you do then you're either very old or getting there!).

Incense Course Begins!

Incense Workshop
Today I began teaching my first incense course - a series of incense classes, covering the main burning styles and incense making techniques. Using natural raw materials only, such as precious resins, gums, woods, spices and herbs, we will pulverize, grind and mix together raw materials that were used in incense making since time immemorial.  I am very excited for this workshop - because it is taught to a very special group of women, and also is giving me the push to improve my incense making skills and learn new techniques!

Here's what's planned for the course:

1. Smudge Wands
Introduction to incense history and raw materials. Forage botanicals for making incense wands/smudge stick from wild and local medicinal herbs.

2. Loose Incense
Spotlight on resins and composition of a loose incense using resins, herbs and spices.

3. Kyphi
Relying on an ancient Egyptian recipe, we'll pulverize and grind various resins, herbs, precious woods and spices in a mixture of wine and raisins, and create small pellets that can be burned on a charcoal or electric incense heater or diffuser. You'll be able to pick up the Kyphi you made after a week (or get it mailed to you).

4. Incense Pastilles
Incense "candy" that is made of various type of resins, with added liquid, rolled into balls and burnt on charcoal or on aromatherapy diffuser).
Very suitable for children, as this type of incense is faster to make and does not require long drying time, and can be taken home the same day.

5. Neirkoh
Japanese incense pastilles - like soft incense caramels that are designed for warming on a hot plate rather than burning. Made from complex aromatics and aged for several months.

6. Incense Trails & Body Incense
Unique Japanese technique for incense burning, as well as perfuming the body or cleansing before entering temples for prayer and meditation. This class also serves as preparation for the most complex form of combustible incense.

7. Incense Cones
More technically advanced, this incense is hand-shaped into little cones that can stand on their base and are self burning - just like the more familiar joss-sticks, once they are ignited, they burn slowly from the tip to the bottom. Preparing them requires fine balancing of the ingredients and meticulous shaping, therefore taking much longer. You'll be able to pick up the cones you made after a week (or get them mailed to you).

Jardin Parfum Reviews Ayala Moriel's Kyphi, Incense Cones and Komorebi Perfume

“That Ayala is a highly esteemed perfumer is no secret. She also has a talented hand at incense, another fragrant pursuit she has had perhaps as long as or longer, than perfume.”

Visit Dabney Rose's blog, Jardin Parfum, to read her thoughts on Komorebi and my incense cones and my vetiver take on ancient Egyptian Kyphi.

“Her vetiver  Kyphi was INCREDIBLE. At some point in her life she had to have been a ‘ladybug’ on the wall when the ancient Egyptian priests were formulating in their temples.”

Incense Through the Ages

Smouldering Incense & Perfumes
It's winter. The most glorious season in Canada, where the energy is directed indoors, and focuses on social gatherings large and small. As usual, I'm an outsider peeking into what this is all about from the viewpoint of a traveller passing by. For, like, 17 years.

I am looking forward to the quite and solitude that tomorrow brings. For someone who grew up in Israel, it's funny to see how once a year, Canadians are experiencing the only tight-lid closure of stores and services. The rare sight observed today - of long, hectic lineups at the supermarkets and grocery stores, the traffic congestion, etc. are a weekly sight in Israel, where every Friday families stock up for a full day (gasp!) without shopping... I find it amusing.

One of my favourite things this time of year is walking in the West End (my neighbourhood  and home for my entire Canadian adventure) and coming across a waft of real, wood stove smoke. Am I the only human for whom the smell of pyrolysis stirs up strong emotions? I think not. It is at the same time a signal of danger in the forest, and the safety of the caveman's tribal bonfire.  No other recent can conjure so immediately and powerfully the feeling of freedom, adventure and coziness. It transports me to cozy nights with my family by the fireplace, my home village burning in a bush fire, and more recently - bonfires when camping in my imaginary gypsy tribe or spice caravan.

Come wintertime, and few things please me more than immerse myself in fragrant smoke. And I'm not alone - incense, and in particular - frankincense and myrrh, from the desert trees which grow wild and are cultivated in Southern Arabian peninsula and West Africa is a symbol of the Nativity Scene and is burnt in many Churches. Beginning with some basics, just straight-up burning of substances in their raw form, preferably on hot charcoals: white sage, leaves and twigs of redcedar, frankincense tears and sticks of palo santo (that tend to self-extiniguish repeatedly...). And then to some wonderful Egyptian Kyphi - a concoction that is my own modern spin on the ancient recipe. Although not accurate, it is done according to the technique and the scholarly deciphering of its original 16 ingredients. It may not be accurate, but I can attest to its fragrant heavenliness and ability to banish the worries of the day - which is what Kyphi is all about...

Dabney Rose's modern Kyphi

I've been blessed with wonderful incense friends, who generously send me their incense creations. Above you can see Dabney Rose's version of Kyphi, in 3 different "flavours" (from top to bottom): Soliliguy, Févriér Amour and Winter Sleep (Conifer). They are made very differently from mine, which is granular and is meant to be sprinkled on the hot coal. Rather, after the ingredients have been pounded into a more-or-less uniform level, they've been shaped into little "candies", and one is meant to break off little pieces to place on the hot charcoal, or on a mica plate. Although the shapes are adorable, I am wondering about the extra work required both by the incense maker (who needs to put a ton of effort into each piece!), and the user - who needs to break off the piece from a very hard piece of re-bound resins. Perhaps I am missing something in the process or the technique. It sure would make for an interesting ritual if there was a special knife that would cut through these elegantly.

But what truly matters, more than shape or form, is the scent itself. And in deep winter Winter Sleep is a most befitting incense to burn. It's a wonderful way to celebrate Winter Solstice; and once the celebrations are over -  to rejuvenate and counter the winter blues that tends to follow the over-partying or maybe just feeling left out after
The name is a bit misleading though: it's actually a great way to wake up from winter hibernation! The elegant incense candy smells like juniper, spruce needles and pinon pine, and it reminds me of a crisp winter walk in a snow-covered coniferous forest. When it's burning, I'm smelling primarily myrrh, but also the resinous coniferous notes and a sweet-balsamic after-note.

Another favourite of mine to burn at this time of year is Ross Urrere's "Ocean of Night" loose incense that look like kohl or charcoal with bits of woods and oakmoss strewn in. Ocean of Night is a rich, luxurious, ambery-balsamic yet floral blend that is very perfumey. It reminds me of the floral Russian and Greek Church incense, yet without the unpleasant synthetic aftertaste these have. It's like an incense version of Nuit de Noël!

Curious to explore more incense-themed perfumes - check out my Christmas 2015 Newsletter: Smouldering Incense Gift Guide.

Fall Escapism: Champaca, Kyphi, Hiking and Chai

I'm burning Kyphi incense tonight, and it seems particularly befitting for the season. I've been "getting back to my roots" so to speak this week as I was teaching my intensive, week-long perfumery course focusing on the Oriental fragrance family. Kyphi is the most ancient perfume in the form of incense pellets - it combines about 16 different resins, spices and herbs, which are bound together with honey, raisins and wine. I made this incense three years ago (in September, actually...). It was burnt in ancient Egyptian temple in the evening, to "banish the worries of the day". And it does just that!

Now that my busiest season has began, I'm already finding it essential to keep my life balanced. Fall's transitions into the school year are exciting but also taxing. And with the market season beginning, I must take good care for not falling into stress-mode because this is going to last nearly 4 months and I am hardly going to have a single weekend off in the coming weeks!

I began making perfumes 9 years ago, when I was a full-time student in an intensive program, and also a very new single-mother. Stress was inevitable, and just as inevitable was me waking up at 5am every morning so that I can get a few moments to myself to burn incense and meditate. It seems like things are coming full circle now and I will be needing to go a similar route: wake up early and make sure my day does not begin with answering emails, or even making breakfast... But with thanking for and paying attention to my breathing. And what better way than burning incense to become aware of one's breath and deepen it?


Hiking or simple long walks in the neighborhood (the West End is surrounded by water in 3 directions, as well as a nearly-natural rainforest of Stanley Park). Morning visits to Coal Harbour always make my day seem promising and exciting, and the water always pops new ideas into my head! And in the evening, a long stroll along the seawall all the way to Lost Lagoon, Beaver Lake or the Rose Garden are a good finale to a day - usually with a companion that can share the beauty of the scenery and reflect on the day that just gone by.

And than, of course, there is tea to warm my hands on that early morning stroll, or lift up my spirits just before the workday is over. Chai tea is special in that it has to be actually cooked in a pot with all the spices and milk - something I hardly ever do on a week day, but reserve for weekends and guests... Or when I decide to go to the Indian restaurant to get lunch instead of cook it myself... Fortunately, there is a really good one right next door and it feels like home there (sort of, except for the giant Bollywood marathon on their big-screen TV).


Champaca Chai, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

And last but not least - here's a one-of-a-kind perfume that is especially appropriate for today: Champaca Chai. The fantasy of this perfume encompasses both the hiking, chai and smoky components that seem to save my mundane life from total disaster... It speaks to my fantasy of an outdoorsy tea ritual, preferably after a long hike on the mountains, and has a soothing milkiness to go with its rustic smoky surroundings. I also find the essence of champaca flower, with its complexity and fruitiness, to be reminiscent of Kyphi.

Top notes:
Ginger, Nutmeg, Mace, Cardamom, Fennel, Caraway

Heart notes:
Champaca, Jasmine, Coconut, Honey

Base notes:
Black Tea, Budhawood, Clove bud, Tonka bean

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