Making your own blotter strips can be quite a contemplative experience. Last night, whilst the snow steadily covered the skylights at Maison Persolaise and the temperature plunged below 'you can't be serious', I sat down to work with my pads of paper and my mini guillotine. As I ran the blade back and forth across the pages, my mind wandered to the increasingly complicated problem of purchasing raw materials. Until recently, it's been possible for me to make do with pretty small quantities of essential oils and aromachemicals. 10 ml has usually been more than enough; even 5 ml has been adequate in some cases. However, now that things are beginning to get more serious, I need to think ahead and try to identify a few suppliers who a) stock high quality stuff, b) are willing to sell it in amounts that would be substantial to me, but would still be considered tiny by a multi-national perfume chain and c) aren't based so far away from the UK as to make postage (and potential tax) costs prohibitive.
It's a tricky little conundrum with no immediately obvious solution. Anyone who's ever typed 'essential oils' into Google will know that there are many UK-based firms selling all sorts of interesting-sounding potions - including a few CO2 extracts - at reasonable prices. However, their quality is, shall we say, variable... which basically means that it isn't good enough for use on a larger scale. Several highly reputable US companies sell materials in niche-friendly amounts, but buying from them would raise the aforementioned issue of costs. Then there's all the business of trying to buy a suitable solvent. In the UK, mere mortals aren't allowed to purchase ethanol unless they obtain a special licence and can guarantee that they're able to store the stuff safely. If I wanted to apply for such permission, I would have to build a nuclear bunker in my back garden. As far as requirements go, this one isn't unfair - after all, the juice with which we so love to spray our necks and wrists has the potential to cause tremendous destruction - but it is entirely unrealistic and impractical. What to do?
Like I said: there is no obvious answer. But I'll have to give the question more thought, and I expect I'll address it again on this blog before too long.
As we head into the weekend, here's one final reminder about tomorrow's giveaway draw. You'll kick yourself if you miss it!