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Elf's Compendium of Notes 6- Chinese Star Anise

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Certain spices remind me immediately of particular places, and star anise is one of those that immediately remind me of China and Japan. Today Iíve put some Chinese Star Anise (Illicium verum) steam distilled EO in the heater, and itís wafting evocatively around the living room. Star anise is a small native evergreen tree of southwest China. The star shaped seeds are harvested just before ripening. Star anise is used in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian cuisine, among others. Itís one of the main ingredients of Five Spice Powder, and garam masala, and is used in traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. There is also a Japanese star anise, another illicium, but it is highly toxic and can only be used in incense. In traditional Japanese incense, star anise is found mainly in granulated incense (which is burnt in a censer or heated over charcoal and mica) and certain stick incenses that adhere to older recipes. Itís distinctive and delightful.
What makes star anise so compelling, I think, is that itís a study in contrasts. There are so many notes in this spice, it can take an hour to unravel them. Bitter and sweet, medicinal and candied, pungent and powdery, with peppery overtones, star anise is utterly unique. Itís been useful to me in oudh perfumes, spice accords, and historical perfumes with an Asian theme. I particularly like it in a cologne Iíve made called ďGenjiĒ, which uses the aromatics from traditional granulated incense (aloeswood, sandalwood, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, etc.). Star anise EO is not at all expensive, and itís been well used in my lab. For those who love the scents of Asia, I highly recommend star anise.



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