COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) – Did you know that most incense is distilled in France? But the Colchester company proved to be an exception to the rule. Elissa Borden has more on a local incense distiller whose products are made in Vermont.
Despite living and working in Vermont, Madhi Ibrahim likes to keep her northern Somali roots close to her.
“When I started my business, I came to Montreal as a refugee. And I always thought that I had left all the people behind and I wanted to help find a job where I could help,” said Ibrahim.
To do this, Ibrahim turned to frankincense and myrrh — two exports from Somaliland, an autonomous region in northern Somalia.
“This came from a dream, I went to my wife and said, ‘What do you think if I import some incense into the US?'” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim and his wife, Jamie Garvey, started out in the incense industry, but shortly after decided to take a different path. “When he discovered that it had oil in it, he learned how to distill it with a small table still, which we still have,” Garvey said.
That was the beginning of Boswellness. The couple has now found success in the small and niche essential oil market, but it didn’t happen overnight. “Everyone knows everyone, so as a newcomer, people won’t just trust you. You really have to build that trust, so it took us seven years,” Garvey said.
Even with the long timeline, Boswellness is said to be the first of its kind in the country. “We’re the only kind of company that makes incense in the entire U.S. — distillation,” Ibrahim said.
Most frankincense distillation takes place in France. But the home field advantage helped them wholesale to businesses in Vermont and beyond, starting with Colchester.
“There are two types of frankincense — one is called Boswellia carteri and Boswellia frereana. And myrrh — which is a completely different scent — is Commiphora myrrha,” Ibrahim explained.
Both frankincense and myrrh are good for things like oral health and skin care, according to Boswellness. you can buy their organic oils, resins, extracts and hydrosol water online. But the best part, they say, is that 20% of their revenue goes back into the harvesters. In addition, they worked to increase the availability of water in the villages, something that allows Ibrahim to sleep well at night. “We’re a very sustainable business and we’re trying to make a big difference back home where I’m from. And we did, we really increased the value of the raw material throughout the country,” he said.
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