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 plant 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.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lately, most of my artistic energy has been focused on writing the new book. I'm in a big hurry now since the book was promised in 2014 and here it is halfway through 2015 and still no book. I finally let it out of my slippery hands for an objective eye to view and one thing really popped out to the 'extra eye' -- the introduction. I guess my problem with writing introductions is that I'm trying to be brutally honest about what's in the book, and to me, the way my psychology works, often brutal honesty is unpleasant. What I forget is that it doesn't have to be. It can be positive and uplifting, helpful and useful and good. So my focus today will be rewriting that crappy intro!

I'm also working on a new perfume in conjunction with the new book, which can be inspiring to the writing and the perfuming. The new perfume will include some natural isolates that I've been writing about in the book, and one of the modifying accords in the perfume will be used as a demonstration in the book. Plus I can never be committed to just one creative project at a time because when I am I have nothing to do when I lose inspiration or become bored -- ADD raises her overactive head and turns things to rubbish when only one project at a time is in the works. And along with these two very intensive creative projects, I am in the process of ordering and cataloging all the goods necessary for the upcoming Kyphi workshop. I just found out my daughter's significant other can create a mean video slide show, so I'm hoping that with the help of the photographer, we can put together a show for my Youtube channel and the Natural Perfume Academy.

Oh, yes, and taxes are due.

I'm considering starting an enfleurage of rosemary -- I know, rosemary isn't something that's normally treated this way, but I'm curious about something and I'm wondering if I can assuage my curiosity by creating an extrait or pommade or wax of rosemary for soap and skincare projects. Rosemary soap was one of the very first handmade soaps I ever used and the scent of that soap is firmly planted in my mind -- it was as pure as the freshly snipped herb and try as I might, I've never found a rosemary essential oil that can produce a soap of the same scent. Tinctures don't work because the herb is best used when fresh and the leaves contain a lot of water so that the alcohol becomes tainted -- waterlogged -- and then begins to change scent, becoming muddy and dark and rather not like fresh rosemary. Dried rosemary tincture also doesn't smell as nice as I'd like, and incorporating tinctures into soap can be tricky. Infusion oils never seem to become strong enough. I'm studying enfleurage so the next step, and one I've never done in the past, is to make an enfleurage of rosemary leaf. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yes, I Still Make Perfume

 Prettily boxed up and ready to fly home to its new owner, Parma Parfum Extrait, one of my favorite perfumes ever. Not many people order violet-themed perfumes. It's just not a favorite of most folks anymore, but I have to be honest with you -- it just makes me tingle with joy when I smell it.
 Jinko Noir XX is a custom blend for one of my long-time customers, Ms. E. This XX formula contains loads of super stinky raw materials -- oudh, aloeswood tincture, valerian absolute, valerian concrete, mitti, tobacco, patchouli, jasmine, orange blossom absolute, some other wicked dark things -- and it smells divine.

I don't just 'do' incense, or teach classes on incense and perfumery; I compound perfumes as well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kyphi Rolling


Kyphi Making Workshop Coming in September

This workshop is $45 per attendee, and includes all raw materials, full instruction, and a wee packet of Kyphi incense to take home. If interested, contact ME via email at, or contact Shannon at Seasons of Spirit's website. Closer to the event, I will give out my phone number and the phone number of the gardens where the event is being held. Pre-payment of this workshop can be made at The Scented Djinn's Etsy Apothecary beginning August 15, 2015.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

263 Warm Bodies -- or Bots?

You aren't going to believe this, but this blog is only 263 hits away from 200,000 hits -- and the hits keep coming! Not that anyone is reading the content . . .

I've been working diligently on the new book, putting more of my voice in there, more of my anecdotal 'evidence' in the works. I'm told that anecdotal evidence is crap in nearly all cases, but I can't talk about yours, or the perfumer's who lives 200 miles away, or something I read in a book but have never applied, can I? That's all just regurgitation. First-hand experience teaches a person more than what can be got from a book, so if I say, 'this is what I did and if you want it to work for you like it appears to have worked for me, you might consider doing it the way I did it too' we may get somewhere. And then you're free to develop your own anecdotal evidence of successful processes.

I'm off to write more poo diddly in the book -- or hopefully not write poo diddly, but gems of wisdom, yeah?

Until next time

Friday, July 03, 2015

Phenethyl Isobutyrate Natural Isolate

Phenethyl Isobutyrate nat iso is my second favorite natural isolate. It is pure tea rose with peachy, apricoty, jammy notes under a rich, solid, petal soft pink rose note. It is, in a word, intense. Two words -- super intense. Absolutely stunning in every way.

Last year I drove up to Salinas to meet with two of my dearest friends, Lisa and Laurie, for a bit of a sit-down and some lunch. They brought with them and handed over to me a treasure trove of natural raw materials for perfumery, as well as some natural isolates, and some weird stuff, which I've written about here before. So one of the natural isolates was this phenethyl isobutyrate, which I'd never heard of or seen before, and just sort of boxed up and put away in the back of the mini fridge until I had time to play with it. I think when I first got it home I looked it up online and didn't really find anything significant about it, plus sniffing it straight from the bottle (a big no-no for eval purposes) didn't tell me much -- I got this subtle fruit and honey note and that was it. If only I had known . . .

I ran across it again a couple of days ago when I was rummaging through raw materials for this upcoming project and decided to give it a whirl with the CAS ID at The Good Scents Company, and bingo! There it was, phenethyl isobutyrate, tea rose, honey, peach-apricot jam, pastry -- so after reading all that, I grabbed a scent strip, a pen, and printed out an eval sheet and got to work. I was in for a big surprise. This stuff just blows my mind. It is a beautiful, loud, bold hit of fresh, 'ripe' tea rose -- you can actually see the color pink when you smell this! It isn't linear, as in the same scent from beginning to end, and you don't just smell one thing -- in one sniff you get the honey, in another the sweet, fresh, pink tea rose emerges, the next sniff might be apricots, and the one after that peach, then you might catch a bit of waxy, fat petaled pink rose, then it's honey again -- it's a bit of a trickster, but in a very good way. Because this nat iso is such a screaming mimi, it wouldn't take but a few drops in a composition to be heard.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

200,000 'Hits'

This blog -- this wee, bitty, sometimes useless, often helpful, mostly self-absorbed little blog is close to reaching its 200,000 'hit' from readers around the world. This second 100,000 hits came about much more quickly than the first 100,000 hits. The first 100,000 was reached in eight years. This second one? Two. Two years. And with almost no help from bots. Using my super-duper math skills, I've calculated that . . . let's see, 100,000 times . . . divided by . . . plus a nickel . . . and subtracting a blue print . . . dividing the mass times a puff of smoke, and yes! Roughly 1000 people read this blog, most by accident. Probably 900 by accident, per my calculations. So thank you. All 100 of you. You have my eternal love ♥ and gratitude ~ ♥ XO ♥ ~*~♥

Since making the decision to rewrite the latest perfume book, I've managed to make it sound more like me, and cull around 1000 words of poo diddly caca. I'm still working on it as chapter three is in dire need of an overhaul. It's a wreck. Why I thought to write what I did in that chapter -- it's me trying to keep up with the Jones' or impress my detractors or something, but it isn't me at all. I mean, so, so, so not me. It's not what i stand for, it's not what I mean, it's just poo diddly caca that I wrote to get words on paper and inflate the word count. That's it. So culling I will go and put this piece of crap to rights. I feel so much better even culling and rewriting the little bits I already have. The writer's block is unblocked. The hesitation gone, and this experience reminds me that I HAVE to listen to my intuition and stop writing for everyone else -- writing or perfuming (unless it's custom work, of course, in which case, the customer takes the lead).

Monday, June 29, 2015

On Reviews and Writing

I haven't had a review of my work in a few years, but one is currently in the works and I'm a little bit nervous about it. I've read the review and it is, in a word, stunning. In another word, it's humbling. The reviewer captured exactly how I feel about natural perfumery but never had the words to express. Me, a writer-perfumer, without words.

I'm rewriting the entire book. I've been contemplating it for some time and have now made the decision to write it more in my voice rather than in a text book-like way. As much information as I've got in it thus far, I still feel very detached from the work, and that's not how a writer should feel about a work in progress. Same goes for a perfumer -- if a perfumer isn't feeling the work, then the end result probably isn't going to be a good one. I just have to be who I am and duck when the stings and barbs come flying my way.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Problem With Making Lots of Experimental Product Is . . .

. . . you sometimes end up with this:

1250 mls of thick, goopy liquid soap and no containers to put it in. I'm thinking of adding some borax and baking soda and making it a stain lifting thing for laundry.

I did use some of it (the container was once full to the top) for laundry and it worked very well. It isn't suitable for dishes because when I add it to water, it instantly clouds up and when it finds greasy stuff, it curdles and further fudges the dish water. Plus it wasn't cleaning the dishes well without direct application. What I've got here isn't suitable for shower soap yet as my goal is to get it clear, which means somewhere along the line, probably in the weighing of the raw materials, I messed up. But I want to get rid of this first before I challenge myself to another batch -- I'm running out of large containers to hold all this soap! I'm only making 1 lb test batches and this is what they grow to. I will master this someday. Promise. Then there will be beautiful soft, bubbly, liquid soap from The Scented Djinn in sweet little bottles at the Etsy shop.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Belated Father's Day Mumblings

Father's Day came two weeks after learning about my heritage from an autosomal DNA test, so my dad was already on my mind. I wondered how surprised he'd been to learn (upon his demise) that he was in fact not as Native American as he was led to believe. This is what happens with broken families, sketchy record keeping, and oral family folklore. I was surprised to learn the truth of my heritage for more reasons than the 1% Native American. I also learned that I was 1% North African, 2% Eastern European, 5% Italian or Greek (?), 9% Iberian, 12% English, 14% Western European, 27% Scandinavian, and 29% Irish. I mean, duh on the Irish, I kind of knew that being that I'm fair-skinned, freckled, a red-head, and my maternal grandmother was first generation Irish American, but wow on the rest, right? It's interesting learning about your roots, but also a little disheartening. A part of me is mourning losing my Native American identity, but another part was kind of relieved because it never felt 'real' to me anyway. Like wearing someone else's dress and going to their church. I felt like a fraud, and now I know why. What that 1% says is that one of my four times great grandsomeone was Native American. That's my great-great-great-great grandsomeone. That's a someone who lived roughly around 1700, give or take 25 years. In my mind, 1700 wasn't that long ago. History is alive for me, and it always has been. I don't see it as some old shit that happened a long time ago.

Anyway. I didn't really celebrate Father's Day this year. I didn't post a photo of my da on FB or say Happy Father's Day to my husband. I did give the husband a polished rock that had the word 'joy' inscribed on it because, well, everyone needs a rock with the word 'joy' inscribed on it, especially when they forget the joy on the daily and focus all their attention on the shit.

That's twice I've used that word here and spelled it out instead of replacing the 'i' with an asterisk. Progress.

Over and out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

36 Bottles of Natural Isolates On the Wall, Take One Down, Pass It Around

Phew! I am so glad that's over with. I have evaluated 36 natural isolates this past month, plus two otherworldly thingamabobs that are on the agenda -- brown sugar distillate, and cantaloupe distillate -- technically not isolates but skirting that hazy area. The natural isolates run the scent gamut, ranging from amazing all the way to wtf. I mean, truly, some of them are completely functional, while others are little more than library pieces to make fun of. To find out more about them, you'll have to buy the book, whenever, and if ever it makes its way to publication.

I'm thinking about creating perfume again. Well, I think about it all the time, but I don't often get the bug to sit down and formulate something -- I need inspiration for that and I think I've found it. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say there will be a new perfume from The Scented Djinn by the end of 2015. Get 'em while they're hot because I won't be making a 2nd batch.

And speaking of not making a second batch, I kind of wanted to touch back on the previous post here about perfume is art and I never make more than one batch of a 'masterpiece' (and I'm saying that a bit tongue in cheek) -- let me just clarify that a bit. I think in my entire perfuming career I've made a 2nd batch of perfume once. The reasons for not making any more than one batch -- and by 'batch', that can be anywhere from a small 500 ml run to a less small 2000 mls -- are manifold. I often use rare, one-of-a-kind raw materials in my perfumes; blue lotus, for example, in Lylli Bleu. There is a LOT of blue lotus phytol in that composition, and since it was for an exhibition, I held nothing back. I had a few 5 ml bottles I offered for sale, as well as 1 and 2 ml samples, but nothing more than that as the cost of the perfume was stratospheric. And that's how I like to perfume. I like adding rare and one off raw materials, some I've created in my stillroom, and that too makes it nearly impossible to recreate a batch. Since increasing the size of the offerings in the past few years, a batch can run from 32 - 15 ml bottles to 135 - 15 ml bottles. Rarely, rarely, rarely do I ever make a batch larger than 2000 mls, however, if the trials turn up something I feel I can't live without, I might be convinced to double that, or triple it, just so I can have my very own stash to pour on my head. Another reason, and I touched upon that in the previous post, is that I get easily bored doing cookie cutter perfumery. I have to resist the urge to change something up, to experiment, to try to make it better or more intense or lighter or darker or -- you get the picture? It's an impulse disorder, I'm certain of it. The impulse not to remain static.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


My official stance is that the perfumes I create are art, as in, one off work never again to be repeated. I've never actually stated this before, but it is the driving force behind why I rarely, if ever, make second batches of perfumes, despite their popularity. To recreate a natural perfume over and over again is the ultimate definition of boring, plus, one can never truly capture the elegance and refinement and perfection of that first batch. It just cannot be done. What is made is a close approximation, like an oil painting reproduction of a fabulous original -- the copies lose the shimmer of the original, however deft the painter. If a natural perfumer were to continue to recreate a batch year after year, using the same raw materials but different suppliers of those materials, different LOT numbers, different years of distillation or what have you, what you've really got is a reformulation.


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