Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Somalia problems - Myrrh

Just so you know.  For a year or so I've been hearing rumors of problems with products from Somalia.  Political unrest, primarily, and more climate problems.

This week I was told by one of my suppliers (we had a LOT of artisan distilled unusual oils on order) that they can't ship.  DHL, the international shipper shut down their operations in Somalia, and my distiller friend can't export his products.  He is frantically investigating alternatives.  Those who import the resins and distill in Europe or the USA, I am told, export the heavier and more bulky raw resins by ship.  Up the Gulf of Aden,  through the Mediterranean,  to France, out out through the Gibraltar straits to the United Kingdom or the US.

But the distiller does not want to ship his oils by sea.  He wants them to fly,  where they will be handled with greater care and, of course, arrive much more quickly.

So,  we wait for the arrival of large quantities of our new, Somalian Frankincense specimens.

Myrrh.   What is so complicated about Myrrh?

Our Myrrh, like our Frankincense Somalia, and our Cistus, comes from a distiller in France who just
Myrrh Resin
shines at distilling the resins. Myrrh is a greater challenge than some of the others.  Because the essential oil has the same specific gravity as water, when the distillate leaves the still into the condenser and the separator... it doesn't separate. Instead of floating on top (most oils) or even sinking to the bottom (clove and vetiver, etc.) the essential oil floats through out the hydrosol, making it a challenge to separate.

And cleaning the still?  a nightmare! You know how sticky Myrrh can be, how it glues shut your little bottle cap? Can you imagine all that sticky, tacky essential oil coating your still, all the joints, all the tubing? Yes, Myrrh has its challenges and when one finds a good distiller, one treasures him and his product.

Late this summer our supply of myrrh was running low. I called my distiller's USA branch and said "I need some more Myrrh, please." And she suggested sending me a sample. She had several lots, and I should check them out and select one. Okay, this was one oil that, in the past, I would buy without sampling, I had that much trust. the samples came. Oh dear.  they were.. pale blonde in color.. and offered only a whisper of the assertive aroma I expected. They whispered, rather than speaking out.  This won't do at all!

I called my supplier/friend. It seems that the big commercial buyers.. perfumers, fragrance houses don't like our wonderful traditional Myrrh oil because it discolors their products.  They need some pale cousin of the Myrrh that we know and love.  And in adjusting the distillation to remove the color, they evidently reduce some of the vital components. The samples were just a ghost of the Myrrh that we expected. This will never do!

And our supply continued to dwindle.  We took all bulk sizes off line.  We told our wholesale customers "No, you can't have it."  and the supply dwindled.

Finally, a phone call. "We have a batch a major commercial buyer returned, it is too dark and too "strong" for their specs."  WONDERFUL!  Yes.  She sent us a sample. YES! this is the Myrrh we've been seeking.  And, because we had so much trouble sourcing it, and because it is, after all, from Somalia, with the increasing sourcing problems that brings, I ordered lots!

It's online now, and available in bulk sizes.  Enjoy!

I'm reminded of a quote from a colleague who is also a supplier. "If this were easy, everyone would do it."  

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