I happen to avoid artificial fragrances. First, while perhaps a tad paranoid of me, they’re completely untested and unregulated, and can contain toxic or carcinogenic ingredients. Will they kill you if you’re not mainlining them? Probably not. But a lifetime of air sprinkled with petrochemicals isn’t my idea of olfactory joy.
I also happen to have grown up with a father who smoked a pipe (until a doctor showed him some x-rays of smokers lungs: he quit he next day). Everyone I know who grew up with pipe smoke loves it. It’s not that horrible funk of stale cigarettes.
While most of the carcinogens in tobacco come from the additives, burning it is not a good idea. Respiratory problems are a bummer.
So I came up with this recipe for beating the closed windows frusties.
London’s (probably) safe tobacco apartment cleanser
You’ll need a bag of decent pipe tobacco. I went with a Cavandish. Keep your spare stash in a tightly sealed container to keep it from drying out. You can also put some in large tea bags, then fold the bags up and stick them in a suitcoat pocket or a satchel to deliver a nice scent for weeks. (The same is true of a good tea or tisane: I’m particularly fond of the tangerine ginger tisane I get at the Grind.)
To start, heat some olive or grapeseed oil in a pan. Ideally, use a broad pan you don’t use much. Something with even conductivity like cast iron is best.
Add in a couple of sticks of cinnamon, a clove of garlicsliced into thick slivers, and a half-teaspoon or so of cumin and anise. Heat them until they become fragrant and the the cinnamon begins to unfold, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Reduce the heat to low and add a quarter cup or so of tobacco plus a cup of water. Note that none of this needs to be precise. You’re aiming for smell, so adjust until it smells the way you want it to. I added a small amount of ground ginger, but I’m not sure that came through in the final mix.
Let it simmer, adding water as necessary to keep it from burning.
After 15-20 minutes, my large two-bed room apartment had a mellow, but distinctive scent to it.
Keep the mixture (I just don’t empty the pan) and occasionally refresh with tobacco and—less frequently—the spices. Before you turn on the heat, make sure the water level is sufficient, so you don’t end up burning the mixture.
It doesn’t smell like tobacco, or anything else, really. But it’s a marvelous deep, dark scent that fights the frust.