Pastils (or Pastilles) are a form of granulated or powdered incense material that is mixed with a sticky binder like as dried fruit, honey, or a soft resin, that is then formed to into pellets, balls or shards. They are often allowed to mature and dry in a controlled environment where the fragrances can amalgamate and become more coherent.
This is generally the main style of incense used in Levant cultures, where in Arabic it is known as bakhoor (بَخُورٌ), and in Eastern Orthodoxy as thimiama (which you can purchase here). Japan also has a tradition of kneaded incense called neriko or awaseko.
In this excerpt from The Toilet of Flora, Pierre-Joseph Buc'hoz details three exquisite formulas for Pastils. The recipes include ambergris, civet and even sea coral as ingredients, and ornamented with gold leaf.
Excerpt from The Toilet of Flora by Pierre-Joseph Buc'hoz, 1772
'An Excellent Composition to perfume a Room agreeably
Take four ounces of Gum Benjamin, two ounces of Storax, and a quarter of an ounce of Aloes-wood. When these ingredients have been well bruised, simmer them about half an hour over a slow fire, in a glazed earthen pipkin, with as much Rosewater as will cover them, and then strain off the liquor for use.
Dry the Residuum or Marc, and pulverise it in a warm mortar with a pound of Charcoal. Dissolve some Gum Tragacanth in the reserved Liquor, then add to your powder a drachm of fine Oriental Musk dissolved in a little Rose-water, and form the whole into a Paste, of which make pastils about the length and thickness of the little finger, narrower at top than at bottom that they may stand firm and upright.
When they are thoroughly dry, light them at the narrow end, and let them burn till they are wholly consumed. While burning they afford an exquisite perfume. To render the perfume still higher, add six grains of Ambergris
Pulverize together two ounces of Gum Benjamin, half an ounce of Storax a drachm of Aloes-wood, twenty grains of fine Civet, a little Sea Coral, and Loaf Sugar; boil the whole in a sufficient quantity of Rose-water, to the consistence of a stiff paste. If you are desirous of having your pastils higher flavoured, add twelve grains of Ambergris just before you take the composition off the fire; and the ingredients being thoroughly mixed, form them pastils.
Fragrant Pastils made use of by way of Fumigation
Take the purest Labdanum and Gum Benjamin, of each two ounces; Storax and dry Balsam of Peru, of each three quarters of an ounce; choice Myrrh, half a drachm; Liquid Balsam of Peru, half an ounce; Ambergrise, a quarter of an ounce; Musk and Civet, of each a scruple; Essential Oil of Rhodium, thirty drops; Essential Oils of Orange-flowers, Lemons, and Bergamot, of each four drops; Rose-wood, St. Lucia-wood, Yellow Sanders, and Cinnamon, all powdered, of each a drachm. With the assistance of a vapour-bath reduce them to a mass, which form into pastils in the usual way.
Pastils of Roses
Pulverise a pound of the Marc or Residuum left in the still after making Angelica Water; likewise a large handful of Roses; and with a sufficient quantity of Gum Tragacanth dissolved in Rose-water, beat them into a stiff paste, which is to be rolled out upon a marble with a rolling-pin, and cut into Lozenges, or formed into pastils. If you have a mind to ornament them, cover them with Leaf Gold or Silver.'
Disclaimer:The 'Smelling History' series has been published for purposes of entertainment & education. It is not recommended to recreate the formulas and instructions outlined here. The methods and materials in these historical exerts could be extremely dangerous.
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