Whole Costus root-Saussurea Costus. Used extensively in incense, perfume and traditional medicine.
One of the few Botanical ingredients that come close to the aroma of an animalic ingredient, Costus root has a beautiful, musky, tenacious soft scent that is similar to that of warm animal fur.
I adore the fragrance of Costus. To me is reminiscent of the smell of one’s lover in the morning.
Costus, called “Kosht” in the Old Testament, is another one of the ingredients used in the Sacred Jewish incense, “Ketoreth” used in the time of the First and Second Temples.
Aromatic artist Justine Crane from “The Scented Djinn” produces a wonderful incense she named “The Ram” based on Costus root. This has been my favourite incense to burn at home for a few years now. If I haven’t purchased all of it you will find it in her Etsy shop here-https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/TheScentedDjinn
I chose the whole root rather than pre-powdered material because if given the chance, I always prefer to powder my own ingredients. This is for two reasons-
1-Keeping the material whole usually helps preserve the aroma of herbs.
2-Sometimes, the powdered material is adulterated with less expensive or sub-standard material such as old or very small pieces and dust from the bottom of bags. Even though you may be buying from an honest and reliable retailer, materials often pass through the hands of numerous middlemen and brokers before they reach your supplier and they may have no idea of the material’s history.
Though it may seem a challenge, (It really isn’t!), these whole pieces of costus root can be easily powdered in a clean coffee grinder, (or mortar & Pestle), after breaking up into smaller pieces.
My trick is to put them in a ziplock bag and smash them with a hammer first. Costus is not a fibrous root and will shatter nicely into smaller pieces. Easy-Peasy.
Costus root not only adds an animalic musk note to perfume blends, it also acts as a fixative. The root can be used to prepare a perfume tincture once it is ground and macerated in 95% alcohol. I suggest leaving it in a warmish place for at least 4 weeks before straining through a paper coffee filter and storing it in an airtight container in a cool dark place.