Styrax & Charcoal

A few years back when I got my first bottle of ethanol I literally tinctured anything that came my way. I ordered tons of materials from incense suppliers and herbalists. Once I ordered styrax. Since Cuir Styrax by Prada is one of my favourite fragrances I surely needed this material. Surprisingly, when it arrived it was neither a resin nor some liquid but little pieces of charcoal smelling heavenly. Probably meant to be burnt – I tinctured them. Resulting in a lovely tincture of unknown concentration.

I ordered more from another supplier. A big bottle. You know what’s coming next. I encountered styrene. As a regular beginner I blamed it on the supplier. Bad stuff this must be. Nasty solvent residues. I put the bottle aside and forgot about it. Until i learned more about this material and set up an experiment.

I diluted 3 g of Styrax Honduras in ethanol (at 30%), took 15 g of charcoal* and dripped the dilution onto it until the charcoal was saturated and repeated this procedure several times as soon as most of the ethanol (and other fleeting molecules, assumingly the undesired ones) had evaporated. After the entire solution was applied I let the charcoal sit for one week and observed the change in smell.
I weighted the charcoal. It was 17.8 g. Obviously not only the ethanol evaporated. Then I tinctured it in 26 g of ethanol for two days.

The result is amazing. No styrenes. A warm, leathery, animalic smell with a slight cinnamic promise in the background.
After filtering the charcoal it still smelled intensely. So, if I would do it again, I took less styrax (maybe 1 g) but diluted at 50% and I made different batches of charcoal pieces, letting them sit for varied periods of time before tincturing them (in more ethanol).

Maybe you’ve got a dismissed bottle of styrax, too, that deserves a second chance!

*I had bamboo charcoal at hand. Any sort will do the trick, I guess. By the way, placing pieces of charcoal around your work place will significantly reduce olfactory pollution.