Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Writing Inspires Writing

After a few more tweaks to the new perfume formulation, I've put him to bed. Durraq, a languid, creamy-dreamy sweet fleshy peach and soft powdery orris & moss perfume is resting as I write this. Wardi is passing the time until the six-week evaluation date is reached (and so is Durraq now). I'm anticipating that nothing more will need to be done with either of them. Wardi grows more and more lush and beautiful as the days roll by, and Durraq needs time to embrace the natural isolates (to my nose, anyway) so that it stutters less and becomes seamless. In the four days since the final adjustment was made to Durraq, I've noticed a huge change -- the opening isn't just the mallow cream sweetness anymore; more of the jasmine and rose and peach peek out. I'm hoping this progression continues and the opening fades into the background as a supporting note for the vanilla and orris rather than the note one gets upon first sniff. Wardi I've nothing much to say about because she is near perfection already. Special. Dilution has done her wonders.

The writing. Man. The writing has become monstrously important lately. There is so much of 'me' in this new book that it is almost a diary -- a perfumer's diary filled with hits and failures and indecision and bold choices. I'm plowing through even the most boring of topics,most of which I have since cut from the book altogether once I decided that if I was bored writing it, you would be bored reading it and wouldn't get from it what you want. And I finally 'get' what you may want. Inspiration. Technique. No holds barred guerilla perfumery. I'm wrapping up the instructional bits of the book and am beginning to work more on the formulations, ideas for formulations, and home study portions. One fact that cannot be overlooked or understated is that you will never be a proficient natural perfumer by reading books -- it won't happen -- until you sit down in a quiet room with the raw materials, some scent strips, a pen and a notebook and study each and every one of those materials with concentrated effort. Forget the fancy bottles and the vacuum pumps and ultrasonics and magnetic stirrers and 'collections' -- none of that crap matters and can be overwhelming to a beginner or intermediate natural perfumer -- all that matters are those aromatics, your nose, and your imagination. Period.

** Sidetracked! I just opened the book file on my computer while in the middle of this post and ended up writing over 1000 words! Writing inspires writing. Amazing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Inner Artist

It's been a week of intense writing and formulating. Work continues on the new perfume(s) with Durraq taking a very serious turn into the land of candied fruits and jellies and mallow cream pie. Durraq is an experimental perfume -- my first serious try incorporating natural isolates into the fray. I made it a point to really build up the perfume with raw whole naturals before attempting to fiddle the natural isolates in. These natural aroma chemicals are not easy to work with -- they're demanding and bold and they try very hard to conduct the perfume in their direction. Manipulation of the aromatics takes time and patience (of which I am in very short supply lately) and accounts for a great deal of ridiculous frustration. Durraq now opens with this crazy sweet marshmallowy fruit note that segues into powdery soft peaches -- and then it flows back and forth this way for a while -- mallow sweet, soft peaches, mallow sweet, soft peaches. The longer it ages, the more cohesive and refined the scent becomes -- on day one the yuzu was a screaming mimi zipping and zapping throughout the mallow opening, and it came off as discordant, bitter yellow slashes amid a puffy pillow of languid candy cream. I thought at that point it was a wash. In my head it worked out, or I wouldn't have done it -- I was certain beyond certainty that it was going to be fabulous, and then my certainty dimmed considerably once the yuzu swam about in the soup. But now -- now that the juice has had time to sit and contemplate its existence, now that the wee molecules in the sauce have gotten to know one another better -- now -- now it is good. Better than good. Unexpectedly divine. I see a few more tweaks on the horizon, just a boosting of notes already in the formulation, then I'll allow Durraq to settle in and mellow. Wardi is as she's ever been. I periodically check on her to see if she's changed or needs changing, and so far so good. I've diluted her some to kind of open her up, but nothing more.

I got a very unhappy comment from a very unhappy, yet anonymous, reader of my blog about my last post and how they think I am illogical and unlearned in my belief that essential oils and other natural raw materials possess no life force (I think the words were 'natural forces'). I posted their comment, as this blog is moderated, and then my response, but the longer I left the comments up, the more I realized that perhaps I'd misspoken -- my intent was not to say that there weren't any magical forces at work in eo's -- that's a realm of work I'm very familiar with -- but that there wasn't anything living, as in a 'being' living in the eo's. They aren't alive. But they are magical. Two different things. A rock isn't alive, but crystals and other 'special' rocks do possess some magical attributes. If that makes me sound like a nut -- well, too bad. I guess it all boils down to what you consider 'magic'. Perhaps I am illogical and unlearned, but I'm happy in it and I'm hurting no one. Suffice it to say, I rewrote that paragraph in the book to redefine my meaning. Not alive; are magical -- oh, and 'vastly therapeutic'. And I removed the comments here on the blog because I felt that anonymous and I were both a bit out of line in our commentary.

Again with the writing -- I've cut another entire chapter from the book because the direction of the 'story'  is more artistic and focuses on creating natural perfumes rather than marketing and selling and all that crap, so the marketing and selling and crap chapter is gone. As we all know, I've never been good at that part of this business anyway. I've never been into commercialism; I can't decide on which beautiful bottles I want to use, so I use them all; I've taken my sweet ass time coming up with a decent logo that I'm happy with, and I waver daily between opening a shop and keeping things at the home studio -- flaky is the word I've used to describe this aspect of my business. Hell, I dread all two tax times a year with the same gut bunching angst as a day in court or a root canal, and buying liability insurance makes me hyperventilate! So nix on the biz part because it's definitely not in my wheelhouse. I've come to realize in the short time I've been on this planet that even though I consider myself a stoic realist, my actions deem me artist to the core. I harbor not-so-deep-seated desires and wishes for silly things, like accolades for my art, living a quiet, peaceful and abundant life in the country, traveling the world, flying like a bird, seeing sparkles come out of the end of my wand when I'm doing witchy work. I'm not interested in huge commercial success or awards (I lie only a little bit here with the awards thing) or acolyte adoration. Especially the acolyte thing -- it makes me very uncomfortable and anxious, that. I'd rather have friends than followers any day. So in a nutshell, I am coming to terms with my not-so-inner artist.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ghosts in the Juice

I was on a roll yesterday with the writing. I started early and before the usual computer routine of checking emails, checking money generating websites (mine), then hopping onto FB and basically wasting time while pretending to 'catch up' with what everyone else is doing; I got up, poured myself a cup of tea, sat down, opened the book document and began writing -- and writing and writing, and by 1 AM this morning I stopped writing and editing (bad habit, can't help but clean up as I go) and went to bed. I did pop into FB a time or two, stopped to make meals for the fam, drove someone to school and dropped off a forgotten thingamabob for somebody, but in the interim I was writing. A lot. And good stuff, too. I'm working on the chemistry of essential oils and now that I actually have some chemistry (very little) under my belt, I can confidently relay the information. All the work I'm doing in the book has inspired the perfuming as well -- Durraq is still a peach perfume, but with many more nuances and a sensuality that was missing. Drop by drop, the creation is becoming live. During one of the book writing breaks, I pulled out a couple of treasure boxes and began evaluating the current juice with eval materials to find which would work well, and I found several fascinating choices, about a half dozen are going to be added to the work to get it where I want it. My previous statement about having this ready by the end of September may not actually happen. I'm thinking closer to the end of October, maybe even the end of the year.

Here is a snippet from the book to give you a taste of what's to come:

"Working with natural raw materials can be a moving and deeply spiritual experience for a natural perfumer, however, the raw materials – the essential oils specifically – do not embody ‘plant spirits’ as many in the business have claimed. Essential oils are functional components of the plant (insect repellent, bee attracting), and waste materials of the plant – the poo, as it were – and it is inappropriate and downright silly to give them a designation of divinity. With the dubious exception of cold-pressed oils, essential oils, absolutes, concretes and CO2 extractions are the end result of applying heat, cold, solvents, or cold and intense pressure to a plant, squeezing out any possibility of a ‘life force’ residing in them. It would be the same as if we stated that the collard greens we cooked for 45 minutes possessed a ‘life force’. However wonderful the essential oils make us feel, there are no wee plant ghosts, spirits, or natural forces hovering in and around our natural perfume compositions."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Durraq ~ A Peach Perfume

Durraq is a new perfume that was inspired by the summer fragrance challenge hosted by natural perfumer Lyn Ayre. While working with the raw materials used in that challenge, I began to think about expanding the fragrance using other materials, and sort of switching the theme of the original from rose-peach to more of a peach-rose. While creating the perfume for the challenge, I was simultaneously writing the chapter in the new book on the subject of natural isolates, and I kept finding natural isolates in my research that would perfectly suit the perfume theme. I used a few, mostly aldehydes, to kind of deepen the rose and enhance the peach, and I added a lovely aged oakmoss tincture that I've been holding onto for something special. It's not quite done yet. I'm still in the tweaking stage, but I hope to have it bottled and ready for sale sometime in late September.

And there is Wardi, the rose-peach, not to be confused with Durraq, the peach-rose ~ ha ~ that is natural isolate free and splendidly rose tinged peach. I'm thinking of marketing them as a set for layering.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The writing is becoming a little easier. I heard back from one of my good friends, a mentor and alchemist, about putting forth the weird little circle thing with all the bleed over, and was reassured that I'm on the right track, that the work is genuine and useful. That's really all I was concerned about. I'm not trying to re-write anything here; it's all the same stuff, just a different way of looking at it. And it doesn't surprise me that in my mind's eye the construction of natural perfume is a series of circles -- everything I 'see' in my mind's eye is circles -- years, for example, in my mind are circles. When I was four I drew out a 'year' in crayon for my mother and she thought -- well, I'm not sure what exactly, but I think she was a little surprised and maybe a bit confounded. On my little year graph, I had made each season its own color, and each month as well, like a splendiferous rainbow pie. My spelling was poor as I had just learned to read and wasn't familiar with writing -- everything was phonetic. I think perhaps that's when my 'genius' peaked as I wasn't a particularly good student in school. I remember in first grade being publicly shamed by my teacher for not having an answer to a math question because I was daydreaming and had colored every one of my fingernails with a pencil. Math was a bore and that teacher, in my very vivid imagination, was a witch -- short pin curled black hair, white powdered skin, and bright red lips on a pruney face. She was a mean one, that lady, and she more than lived up to my imagination. I had a rather traumatic and colorful childhood, both at home and in school. Oh, the yarns of self-humiliation I could spin for you.

The point is, I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing in the new book -- continue with my POV and toss the 'right' way of doing it because honestly, my best work ever was done completely the 'wrong' way. Experimentation is my middle name! Not really.

We all, over time, develop our own way of formulating natural perfume, despite all the books and courses we may take, and so long as the end result is a lovely (and marketable) perfume, then the work was done correctly. Now I feel like I'm over explaining . . .

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Writing, Evaluating, and Finding Lost Treasure

I've really been knocking my head against the wall with this writing thing. I've put myself on a deadline -- this book will be done by October 12th or I'll eat meat. I'm a vegetarian -- hehehe. The problem is that the more I write, the more I need to write about. The new natural perfumery book is more free style, more personable, like this blog, than the first book. I caught a lot -- A LOT -- of crap from other natural perfumers about the book being a piece of -- well, crap. I tend to agree as it was mostly just rewritten stuff from the course I teach, minus a lot of instruction and hands-on stuff. Plus, I think people expected something more -- like detail and formulations and -- I don't know what -- blood? But I get it. I understand how someone who already has some formulating skills under their belt would feel cheated by a book that literally teaches the absolute basics of creating natural perfume -- compounding and whatnot, and not 'recipes' and all my secrets. The new book is full of secrets and silliness and instruction and formulations and ideas and permissiveness.

Like this thing that I started doing a while back when I realized that natural perfume compounds don't behave like traditional aroma chemical perfume compounds ~

~ that natural perfumery doesn't play by the rules, really. The head/heart and base note set-up with traditional perfume formulating doesn't apply to naturals. This also came about because so many natural perfumers were saying things like, well, it doesn't matter if you start your perfume at the top or the bottom, there's not hard and fast rule here, and all I could think of was, what about the theme? What about the meat of the perfume? The core? What the composition is trying to say? So I started thinking in terms of this circle thing and began working perfumes from the middle to the outside, all around, not up or down. Do you get it? All the notes in a natural perfume should enhance and extend what the theme of the perfume is, and if they don't, they don't belong in the composition.

Maybe this will help define the concept a little more:

There's overlay and extension and -- well, no up or down but all around.

And in my mind's eye, it can look like this too, with the petit grain not just sitting there on the cusp of both the core and the enhancer, but spreading all the way across the spectrum to include the whole perfume.

Is any of this making sense? I hope so, because it's in my head, and now here and I'd hate to think I'm the only one on the planet who gets this weird thing.

I've received a couple more natural isolates to add to the new book, and I think I'm going to stop now. There are dozens more that I could add, but the book isn't just about natural isolates (I'll leave that to the experts) but a book about opening your eyes to the potential of expanding creativity using what is available, legal, and accepted. Besides, I'm learning a LOT about natural perfumery studying the natural isolates.

So this morning I was thinking about creating more solid perfumes based on some liquid perfumes I have in the works when serendipity struck. Whilst escorting the wee one to the can, I perused the shelf of many scents and found an unlabeled tin of natural solid perfume I made last winter, and when I opened it -- aaahhhh! Sublimely beautiful and so much better (I'm sure) than when I first made it. So the trick to creating good natural solids, as with liquid natural perfume, is time. Time and a label so I can find the formula in the books.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Save the Date!

September 19, 2015 from 1PM to 4PM ~ learn the ancient Egyptian art of Kyphi making at the Kyphi Workshop hosted by Seasons of Spirit (Shannon Wing) in Sanger, CA. Details below:

Cost: $45

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

This Week With Oh True Apothecary

It's been a wild and wooly week. We got a new family member, family came from all parts to visit, even though the newest member hasn't yet been released from the hospital. Complications during birth -- nothing permanent, and she's coming along nicely. Should be home within a day or so. I just wrote a three-page evaluation of a student's perfume, lamenting her use of  fragrance oils in a natural perfume, only to discover I was evaluating the wrong bottle! Color me embarrassed. And the more I write in the new book, the more I find to write, and the more inadequate I feel about it. I write, then I edit, and I write, and then I edit -- I've edited entire chapters at this point, re-directing the focus of this book over and over again, and there's so much more left to do. The natural isolates chapter has turned into a hideous monster! It continues to grow and consume page space like the blob from the old 1950's movie called . . . y'know, The Blob. I'm adding more of 'me' into the pages as well, in a rather un-blob-like manner. I added that middle-of-the-night natural perfume composition epiphany into the book. It looks a bit like I'm trying to invent something, but I'm not -- it's actually how I see natural perfumery in my mind's eye -- it's actually how I see a lot of things in life in my mind's eye. If no one else sees it the same way I do, my feelings aren't going to be hurt. We can't all be strange and unusual creatures, can we? Now back to writing in the book.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Ambush and Ephiphany

I'm back. Sort of. The trip didn't go as planned -- there was a huge glitch and then what looked potentially like someone was trying to ambush us (metaphorically speaking), but their plans kind of got blown too because of that huge glitch. Then on the two-hour drive back, my daughter, heavily pregnant, tells me her back is killing her and she thinks it's because of the long drive over and now the drive back. Sciatica, she says, has been plaguing her for the past couple of days. Sciatica my sore thumb! She was in labor. She was in labor the day of our 'business' but didn't think anything of it because her C-section was scheduled for the 19th of August and it was too soon to be in labor. She was in labor on the way home when all she could think about was getting into bed and straightening out for a comfy night's sleep. And she was definitely in labor when she came downstairs hours later to inform me that her water had broken. Long story short, we have a new granddaughter. Once my daughter was in the hospital and resting through contractions, the monitors picked up that our baby was in distress, so the C-section was kind of a rush thing at this point. Then baby gets here and goes into respiratory distress and has to be put on forced air in the NICU for a few days. Stressful stuff. Baby is now in the regular nursery under observation, breathing on her own and getting stronger every minute. So that was the beginning of my week. None of this was predicted in our horoscopes . . .

One very positive thing happened, though, while we were out of town. Early Monday morning, well before the sun had come up, while still about three-quarters asleep, I had an epiphany about the construction of natural perfume in comparison to traditional aromachemical perfumes' construction. It was so amazing to me that I hopped out of bed in search of paper and pen. I couldn't find any, so I grabbed the four-year-old granddaughter's coloring book and a purple crayon and drew the 'new' construction format on the back inside cover of her coloring book with all the little details. It's amazing how intuition and spirit move through us to show us these things -- revelations in art!  Once I had drawn the new construction out, I went right back to sleep -- well, not right back -- I first had to listen to a brief 10-shot gun battle in the parking lot next to the hotel we were staying in. I kid you not. Then I went back to sleep.

I'm working on two new perfumes now, same general theme (roses), two entirely different compositions, one completely raw natural materials, the other raw naturals and a few natural isolates. Even though they both have the same bones (rose/fruit/powdery soft bottom) they won't smell anything alike when they're done. There have only been a few minor tweaks from the original composition to both of these 'new' compositions, and already they smell completely different from one another. Perfumery amazes me and opens my eyes every day to all sorts of revelations -- like how to properly apply spices to food, or how to add color to paintings (I do a little painting for fun), or when to know where to add embellishment in writing and when to go for the straight forward gut punch. Perfumery teaches subtlety versus harshness in drops, so the art can be taken as a metaphor for life -- add (or don't) the emphasis or importance in a few drops, or many, but always strive to make something beautiful.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Full Disclosure and Whatnot

I know that I've wavered on the issue of using natural isolates in my natural perfume creations. I've decided that for a few select compositions, I will be using them in miniscule amounts. There is an art to learning to use natural isolates, just as there is an art to learning to use natural raw materials. Natural isolates are included to add another facet to a perfume composition, to modify and/or enhance an already present essence, for example, I wouldn't use phenethyl alcohol (PEA), the quintessential chemical in nearly all rose perfume compositions if a natural rose element weren't already included. The point of a natural perfumer using natural isolates is to enhance, not take over, the natural feel of the compound. Rose oxide, for example, a natural isolate that I dug up out of the box of gifted perfume chemist's box, smells of deep, red rose with piercing green leaf notes and a slight spicy nuance -- something like peppery basil -- and it would be beautifully presented in a natural rose compound at even the slightest amount (it's allowed up to 2.0000% in a fragrance compound per TGSC). But again, I will never use more natural isolate in a compound that natural raw materials, and never in all the creations I compound. I just love the naturals way too much to compromise their integrity by burying them under a silken cloak of a single molecule, however 'natural' it may be. Studying the natural isolates has been fascinating, to say the least. I've learned so much over the past month or so between ordering and evaluating natural isolates, and taking a short essential oil chemistry course. It's like this perfumery thing is a huge jig-saw puzzle and all the pieces are beginning to fit together to create a whole picture -- finally. Now I can read the organic chemistry books I purchased years ago when I first begin perfuming, and understand a little of what they are teaching, instead of being swallowed whole by weird science.

Another natural isolate I discovered in the gifted chemist's box is salicylaldehyde. I've been keeping this box of strangely named bottles in a mini fridge so I'm assuming they're still okay to evaluate. It's hard to tell if they've gone 'off' since I have no frame of reference other than TGSC's database of what's-it-smell-like. Salicylaldehyde is also known as 2-hydroxybenzaldehyde, and smells like bitter almond and mint (wintergreen?) but only slightly. It's not a pretty scent by any stretch, but it is compelling. The interesting thing is, the moment I smelled it on the scent strip it reminded me of that minty tone in tuberose. And I just happened to have some tuberose in the house, so I sniffed the tuberose, then the scent strip, back and forth, and yes, there is a hint of that salicyl thing going on in tuberose. Again, interesting.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Importance of Research

After several hours which spanned over two days, I've discovered that two of the new "natural isolates" I received are not. Natural isolates, that is. Phenylacetaldehyde is synthesized from cinnamamide, which is 'synthetically derived from a plant secondary compound', cinnamic acid, which comes from? The plant, I'd be guessing, but what plant? So phenylacetaldehyde is the great-granchild of a living plant, a few too many steps away from the original source to suit my tastes. I could still include it in the book as a natural isolate as my sources claim it is, but with the synthesized from isolated cinnamic acid hierarchy listed. The other aromachemical, benzophenone crystals, I was aware was not a natural isolate right away. In fact, I'm not sure why I ordered it in the first place . . . but rabbit holes abound in this quest for information and sometimes those rabbit holes hit dead ends. Or the mouth of a fox ready to lie his breeches off to get what he wants. Let me be clear, though, my supplier is not at fault -- my research is at fault if anything is.

I finished up the chemistry course and feel only a little more confident about what I know about essential oil chemistry. A little less in the dark, but no expert by any means. Now I know what all those terms mean: terpenes, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, esters, ethers, aldehydes, alcohols, ketones. The truth is, this information is only valuable to me personally, as customers of my products couldn't give a rat's patooty about the 'ketones' in my creations. What the information does for me is helps me to better understand composition and to potentially help me to tweak formulas.

The current tuberose enfleurage is close to coming to an end -- my tuberose stems are nearly spent and I won't be able to go to the farmer's market to pick up new stems on Monday, so the next session will have to come the following week. Remember, this harvest is to last until October, which I plan to take complete advantage of. My newest perfume challenge is ready to be shipped off and then I will be making a few adjustments to the remaining formula and put it on the market in a couple of months -- I think. Well, that's the plan, anyway.

Old weird stuff c. 2008

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kyphi Workshop September 19, 2015

In a week or so I'll begin ordering what I don't have in stock for this upcoming workshop. I got a fat glob of galbanum resin after using the last of a four-ounce container of liquid galbanum resin, which was a real eye-opener (the glob). The new resin is a sticky wad of balsamic, grass-green, woody, cigarette butt goodness -- well, good if you like those sorts of smells. As I cleaned the studio storage closet, I was able to locate a few jars of resins and whatnot that I'd forgotten about, and I now have a huge chest filled to overflowing with Kyphi and incense ingredients and tools. I've also got quite the collection of clay mortars and pestles. I was thinking that I need to find or build a nice wooden chest for all this stuff, something with wheels and a handle, like a cart, and then I thought, no! What would really be nice is a genuine gypsy wagon! Can you imagine? The Kyphi Show on the road in a brightly painted and beautiful gypsy wagon? It would be too much fun. But for now, a portable chest will have to do.

The last time I was mulling over whether to make stick incense I ended up making cones instead, which kind of bummed me out. The paste wasn't sticky enough when I began rolling it, but it turned out that about halfway through making cones, the paste became sticky enough and I could have rolled them onto sticks, but the wee one was helping and I didn't want to stop mid stream and introduce her to another technique when she'd barely gotten the cones down -- or, rather, the 'witch's hats' as she calls them. I'm beginning to get the itch to make another batch of stick incense. Now that I have and adore this new galbanum resin, I'm thinking incense with that in it, then later an incense with red champa flower absolute as the main component. Making stick incense is so much more meditative than rolling cones, but less meditative than making Kyphi. I can hardly wait for the workshop. The energy of all the students that goes into the finished work is so much MORE than what solo Kyphi making produces. It's surprising, really.

The students at the Natural Perfume Academy are on a break until August 10th, which frees a little more time for me to mess about in the studio. Time. It doesn't actually exist, yet here we are, struggling to find more of it. I'm using the time to finish up a perfume project, and then take the bones of that project and expand it into something else, the first perfume of 2015 for The Scented Djinn. My track record these past few years is one lovely perfume per year, which makes for a very short selection list of perfume in the apothecary. I must get cracking on making new ones. Hopefully the fall will produce the necessary magic in the air to get the perfume-making ball rolling again.

Please, if you're in the area or can take a drive -- a bit of a road trip -- please attend the Kyphi Workshop hosted by Seasons of Spirit in Sanger, CA (20 minutes east of Fresno). Seasons of Spirit hosts all sorts of herbal and wise woman courses and classes, and also offers card reading services, plus, if that weren't enough, their gardens are astoundingly beautiful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The tuberose enfleurage is coming along nicely. I was concerned yesterday because all day long I wasn't smelling much coming off the tuberose blossoms, then night fell and it was as if someone had sprayed tuberose perfume in the house -- the scent was heady and lush and not a little narcotizing. I won't be able to collect the blossoms from the farmer's market this next Monday because I'll be out of town on business, but I plan to keep at this until October when the tuberoses stop showing up at market. By then I should have a nicely saturated pommade. I'm also using palm oil (oh, no!) in the enfleurage instead of my usual organic coconut. The palm is organic, ethically grown, and supposedly fair trade, so though I still feel guilty, at least I know I tried my best not to leave too big of a carbon footprint on this here wee planet of ours. I'm saving the spent tuberose blossoms and freezing them for a distillation for hydrosol at a later time. There's still quite a lot of scent in them when I pluck them from the fat and I don't want a single molecule wasted.

I received my final shipment of natural isolates for the book -- hydroxycitronellol (laurine), and phenyl acetaldehyde. Phenyl acetaldehyde has been used for a while in perfumery -- Poucher writes about its use in hyacinth oils, and that it is 'prepared synthetically . . . from cinnamic acid' and 'employed' in flower compositions like narcissus, sweet-pea, lilac, lily, jonquil, and rose compounds. I'm not sure how to take the 'prepared synthetically' bit -- as a secondary bit of chemistry magic, first the cinnamic acid fraction is then chemically altered into phenyl acetaldehyde? More to research. Despite what I find out, the education is priceless.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day Off

I took a day off from the chemistry studies and the research and the writing and the work to go to the farmer's market in Los Osos (by the sea), and discovered a person there selling these:

D'you know what they are? Tuberoses. Stems and stems of tuberoses just stinking up the place. There are two local nurseries who grow tuberoses and sell them until mid-October when the season ends. I had no idea. That picture up there depicts the midnight enfleurage I started moments before dragging my weary bum up to bed. I've never 'done' tuberoses before because they just don't grow in the sweltering heat of my hometown, ye olde Fresno-On-The-Hell-Hole. It's so different here on the coast. What I've discovered about the farmer's markets around here is that in the spring, around March and April, a wee lady brings the branches of blooming lilacs to the San Luis Obispo Thursday evening farmer's market, and in mid summer through the fall, we get these beautiful lush tuberoses to work with. It's amazing moving from a place where finding a bergamot orange is impossible (even though several farms in the area grow them) to coming here where exotic baubles and bibs of natural gorgeousness are sold weekly, some coming from my old hometown! I asked one of the valley growers why they don't sell bergamot or other exotic produce at the farmer's markets in Fresno and she said it was because there wasn't a big market for some of the more exotic things there, but there is a market for them here. Go figure.

The studio smells like an expensive perfume with this vase full of yet-to-bloom tuberoses awaiting their turn in the grease spa. Tuberoses are a beautiful evocative scent -- kind of a weird mixture of honeysuckle, cananga, wintergreen, waxy orange blossom, and bitter almonds. I remember my first experience with tuberose absolute being extremely unpleasant as the extraction was of a very poor grade and upon dilution the tuberose 1% smelled like boiled beef weiner water. My first real experience came from White Lotus Aromatics, and it's where I absolutely fell in love with tuberose after being so solidly turned off by it before. These stems of blossoms smell exactly like the tuberose from White Lotus. Astounding.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chemistry Schmemistry

Lots and lots of essential oil chemistry is going on over here in the studio. So much that I woke this morning with the word 'd-carvone' rolling around in my head, and how it smells of dill. As little as that is, at least something is sinking in. The fact that I'm now dreaming in eo chemistry says a lot. I don't dream things unless my brain is really working through understanding the issue. Learning eo chemistry along with studying natural isolates makes both easier, the dots are more easily and quickly connected. I get what each natural isolate is (alcohol, aldehyde, ketone, etc.) and I can find where they occur in nature (most of the time). I've done a fair bit of natural isolates research and found that most natural isolates are manufactured for the flavor industry more than for the fragrance industry, mostly due to their cost of production, and because people tend to avoid food products with 'artificial' flavors in them but seem not to quibble much over 'artificial' smells. It typically costs much less to synthetically produce a scent/flavor molecule than it does to gather the plant material and distill while extracting the fractions, or distill and then extract the fractions from the previously distilled oil. Bergamot FCF is a result of this type of fractional distillation with the furocoumarins vacuumed off, except with natural isolates, it's the vacuumed off bits that are desired and not the remaining oil. Since a lot of natural isolates can be (fractionally) distilled, they are, kind of negating the whole 'it's not natural' argument. You know, because an eo is the result of distillation anyway and if fractional distillation is 'unnatural', then so is regular water distillation, because the function and means are the same. And don't even get me started on the naturalness of solvent extraction. The bottom line is, I want to know where it comes from, and if it comes from petroleum feedstock, regardless of whether or not the molecule is identical to the one that comes from, say, clove oil, then I'm going for the clove oil source because it makes me feel better about using the natural isolate/molecule, even though, technically, petroleum is also natural. Also, I would never use natural isolates exclusively in a perfume like some perfumers use synthetics. I believe a mixture of natural raw materials and natural isolates would make fabulous smelling perfumes, though, a bit on the expensive side. So what? It's art, right? And art does what it wants.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Once again, I'm left to mull over another bad review. To be honest, this is only the third one, but to date it is the most annoying. Dear anyone who leaves a review of anything, please explain the reasons for your dissatisfaction -- saying "don't buy! waste of time! lost my money!" helps absolutely no one in either deciding to buy or not, choosing to waste their time or not, or losing their money or remembering they can get a refund within 30 days of purchase. Yes, I inserted the teeniest bit of snark in there. Explain why YOU think someone else shouldn't buy it, waste their time with it, or lose their money on it. Explain. This helps me as well on improving what can be improved. If, however, what you bought from me wasn't what you expected based upon your not reading the description of said product, then that's entirely on you. If what you bought wasn't what you expected because I misrepresented myself, then yes, my bad, allow me try to fix it first, and then if that doesn't work, feel free to leave your bad review written in a way that explains your dissatisfaction -- the whys of it all. That turned personal very quickly-- hehehehehehe.

I finished the initial formulating of the new perfume and am waiting a few weeks before attempting to tweak it. Right now some of the notes are a little raw, but I know from experience that they will settle down and the ones that I want to come to the fore will, while those that I want to hide a bit will do just that. I'm always hesitant to begin a new piece of work because I fear I'll screw it up and waste materials. I really do hate wasting materials, especially now that I'm attempting to downsize to the barest minimum and can't afford to buy a bunch of new stuff -- finding places to put it all is becoming a chore. I did finally manage to clean out the storage closet in the studio and I made a lot of 'new' space for stuff by categorizing and putting things in bins, but there's lots more to do. I've got a bin that's full of stuff that I might never use, but I keep it . . . well, I suppose because I'm an aromatics hoarder! I never know when I might need something strange and unusual to toss into a formulation -- and that bin is brimming with weird stuff I've never heard of before. Strange wood oils from Australia, leaf oils from South Africa, spice oils from India -- I'd give more details on the oils, but the bin is put up in the storage closet, and, well, y'know, it's a pain to drag it all out. Hog root! Hog root is one of the oils I have. What is it? I've seen it listed as lovage on vodou websites, but beyond that, I don't know. Not sure if it's even the same vodou 'hog root' as I'm assuming it wasn't manufactured by a Mambo in her hounfour, but by an essential oil company in steel distillation units. It remains unevaluated.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Neryl Acetate

Yes, another one of those. I've still got a shipment of I believe three more natural isolates to evaluate before the chapter in the book on the subject of natural isolates is done. Between all the natural isolates and the distillates and blended essences, there are going to be over 40 different evaluations of molecules to include in the book.

Neryl acetate is pretty. It's fresh and sparkly and reminds me of apple flesh and pear skin with shades of rose and orange blossom flowers. It lasts for over two days on a scent strip at 100%, which is good. That means diluted to 10%, the usual recommendation for dilution, it will serve nicely as a head to heart note and be detectable for at least half a day or so. Everything changes upon dilution -- the scent profile changes, the length of time it presents strongly on a scent strip -- everything. Most of the natural isolates I've been evaluating were at 100% straight from the bottle onto a scent strip, with a few, the crystalline ones, being diluted to 10% for study purposes. It seems that the crystalline natural isolates have just as much substance at 10% dilution as do the other, liquid nat iso's at 100%. Some of these natural isolates are real beasts, screaming off the scent strips after days, weeks, months, and in the case of the raspberry ketone, years.

What's fun about studying natural isolates is that I'm now able to pick out more and more of what's being used in a lot of body sprays, bath bombs, shampoos, and lotions from big box stores. There are a lot of notes in those things which are entirely synthetic, so those I can only guesstimate.


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