COLCHESTER, VT (WCAX) – Did you know that most frankincense is distilled in France? But one Colchester company proved to be an exception. Elissa Borden details a local incense still whose products are made in Vermont.
Although living and working in Vermont, Madhi Ibrahim likes to keep his roots in northern Somalia close.
“When I started my business, I came to Montreal as a refugee. I always thought I was leaving everyone behind, and I wanted to help identify a business that I could help,” says Ibrahim.
For this, Ibrahim turned to frankincense and myrrh – two exports from Somaliland in the Autonomous Region of Northern Somalia.
“It was a dream and I approached my wife and said, ‘What do you think if I import some frankincense to America?'” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim and his wife Jamie Garvey started their business in the incense business, but soon after, they decided to go a different route. “When he found oil in it, he taught himself how to distill it in the little tabletop still that we still have,” Garvey said.
That was the beginning of Boswellness. The couple has now found success in a niche market for essential oils, but it didn’t happen overnight. “Everybody knows everybody, so as a newcomer, people don’t just trust you. You really have to build that trust, so it took us seven years,” Garvey said.
Even though it’s been a long time, they say Boswellness is the first of its kind in the country. “We’re the only company in the entire United States that distills frankincense,” says Ibrahim.
Most frankincense distillation takes place in France. But the home field advantage has helped them wholesale from Colchester to businesses in Vermont and beyond.
“There are two types of frankincense – one called Boswellia carteri and Boswellia frereana. And myrrh – which is a completely different scent – is myrrh,” explains Ibrahim.
According to Boswellness, both frankincense and myrrh are good for oral health and skin care. You can buy their organic oils, resins, extracts, and hydrosols online. But the best part, they say, is that 20 percent of their revenue goes back to the loggers. In addition, they worked to increase the village’s water supply, which allowed Ibrahim to sleep well at night. “We’re a very sustainable business and we’ve tried to make a big difference in my hometown. We’ve done that and we’ve really raised the value of raw materials across the country,” he said.
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