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Incense and Sensibility

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As people’s interest in cultivating self-care grows, things such as incense are becoming increasingly part of common-place culture. Historically, incense were used in traditional ceremonies to clear the space or bring forth spirits, buddhas, and bodhisattvas. The power of burning these majestic scents was, and still is, believed to be profound, which is why founders Emily and Fred L’Ami are expressing their fascination and love for ritual and scent with their incense company Bodha.

What inspired you to found Bodha?
We founded Bodha to help you come back to yourself through the power of scent. Nurturing a connection with yourself is the most fundamental thing you can do to be happy. We all have a clear and wise inner voice but it gets lost amongst the noise and distractions of daily life. Our senses are our way into connection and of all our senses, smell is the most powerful, with its ability to instantly shift your subconscious. I’m trained in perfumery and aromatherapy, so, we saw a way to bring these two worlds together and create scents that not only smell beautiful but also work on you at a deep level. We call it therapeutic perfumery and we’re excited to share this new world with you.

fred and emily l'ami, photo by megan cullen

Can you describe the process of making incense?
Incense is the original form of perfume. The very first incense was simply the burning of different fragrant woods for ritual, ceremony, and pleasure. Overtime, people started mixing the woods with other fragrant materials, which is more like the incense we know today. To make incense, you begin by making a dough out of a special wood powder, water, and fragrant materials. The dough is kneaded like pasta and extruded into sticks, which are then cured and dried.

What makes for quality incense?
Like most things, good incense is about quality ingredients and quality craftsmanship. There’s a huge variation in the quality of incense out there, with the cheap stuff relying on fillers, glues, and synthetic fragrances. I often meet people who say they ‘don’t like incense’ but when they try ours they’re amazed because there’s no smoke and the scents are subtle and refined, not headache inducing!

Do your products differ in any way from other brands?
We’re creating a whole new world of therapeutic perfumery. Traditionally, perfumery has little regard for ingredients or their effect on your body, while aromatherapy formulas often lack structure or refinement. We’re bringing the best of these two worlds together to create scents that smell beautiful and work on you at a deep level. All of our products are designed with a single purpose in mind – to help you come back to yourself through the power of scent.

Why did you choose to produce your incense in Japan?
The Japanese tradition, level of craftsmanship, and reverence for the art of incense is unparalleled. Incense was our first Bodha product and when we were doing our initial research we realized incense fall into two main types – Japanese style and Indian style. Japanese style doesn’t have a stick core (less smoke) and we found the scents to be much more subtle and complex. Then, by chance, we met a man whose grandfather was an incense ceremony master and we finally had our way into the tight-knit world of makers!

Tell us about the trip you just took to Japan
We recently went to spent time with the incense craftspeople of Japan’s incense island. Centuries ago, the emperor of Japan decreed this island would be responsible for incense making, and today over eighty percent of Japanese incense are made here. Because of the way the wind hits the island, it has the perfect conditions for drying incense. You can still see factories with walls made from movable wooden slats to control air circulation. The incense craftsmanship is a skill that’s been passed down through generations and we met a few makers who were still going strong well into their nineties!

Do any of your incense contain fragrances originating from wood?
The base of all our incense is the wood of the Japanese bay tree which, when mixed with water, creates a natural binding agent. Our most wood-fragranced is our Ground Smokeless Ritual Incense, which is quite a traditional scent using Hinoki, Cedarwood and Frankincense. It’s a great scent when you need to earth or focus. It’s also the perfect thing to take with you when you travel or to use when you get home from being away because it’s very grounding and comforting.