Thursday, December 28, 2006
I just knew I could do it! I finally got the blending station cleared out, cleaned up and put together -- again. The new blending table looks spectacular! With all my collectible jewel boxes standing in as oil and absolute containers, cruets filled with jewel-toned liquids, beakers, pipettes, scalies (that's a druggie term for scales that weigh in micrograms -- and you really don't need to know how I know that -- no, I don't sell drugs, if that's what you're thinkin') and notes scattered everywhere, it truly looks like an apothecary's bench.
I've had such fun these past few days arranging everything in a more organized way. I even had time to blend the beginnings of a perfume.
Onto things that are not me ~ ferreting out information and snuffling up scented goodies has become a passion. Here are a few of my findings (ok, so it is a little about me):
Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery ~ delicious little website with the most adorable graphics.
Molly's Artisanal Soap ~ Fresh! This chick also sells perfume ~ mmmmm!
Erzulie's ~ Bomb ass website! You could literally spend hours and hours perusing.
Go have yourself some fun hanging out at these gorgeous scented places.
And have a wonderful New Year.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The line in front of me was long, so was the line behind me and I'm looking, or rather sniffing, just as everyone else is, for the patchouli wearer.
The girl smiles at me as I get closer to the counter to order and says, "It's you, isn't it?"
Then it hits me ~ ha! My patchouli and neroli and clementine hair balm, my neroli and patchouli facial elixer ~ duh.
"Yeah, it's me," I say quietly.
My husband, who is standing right behind me grins and tells her, "Yeah, she makes perfume."
The girl's eyes light up and she asks, "Make perfume? With natural stuff like patchouli?"
I nod in affirmation.
"Do you sell in shops?" she asks, wrestling with a tortilla.
"No, just online," I reply.
"Card?" she asks, then expertly rolls a burrito closed.
"Yes, I have one here." I dig through my purse for the card. "Oh, and in the spring I'll be teaching a little beginning naturals class at a plant nursery up in the mountains."
She stops all her rolling and scooping and tossing and flinging. "Classes?" she asks, her eyes wide.
"Yeah," I laugh. "Classes."
"I just love patchouli," the girl says, staring down at the business card, her crinkly plastic gloves dirty with sour cream.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Marjoram for the hair.
Apple for the hand.
Thyme for the neck and knees.
Roman slaves to fill their mouths with perfume to shower their mistresses.
Amber and vervaine.
Orris and orange flower.
Neroli and frangipani.
Anne of Austria with her pots of vanilla.
La Pompadour affecting the essences of rose and jasmine.
Rose predisposes one to delicacy of feeling; geranium to tenderness; lilies to reverie and violets to piety.
'The devil may smell of sulphur, I shall smell of orris.'
Overused? Common modifier? Easy out?
So freakin' what? It smells too delicious to care if somone remarks that everyone, dahling, is using van-nilla.
*Pointing to my face* See me caring?
Vanilla and rose otto dusting powder with silver sparkles.
Vanilla, patchouli and jasmine whipped body butter.
Vanilla and osmanthus perfume oil ~ yeah, baby.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
I read the crimson annals of true love.
The violet flung me back an old romance.
All were associated with some link,
Whose fine electric throb was in the mind.'
I've been reading antique Victorian books on fashion and style for the 'modern' woman. I think we should take a cue from their gentle prodding words that a woman's scent, her perfume, should be personal, and thus smelled only within her personal space.
Can you just imagine how those long ago modern women would feel about perfume today? No more could they say, "Ah, she is a rose," or "She fills her seat with violets." Nope. Today, those women would be choking on toxic fumes of some unnamable essence for which no natural counterpart exists. Every woman who wears perfume today would be considered audacious and below society.
So, times change. Yet another trip to the perfume mart and $47 later, I hold a bottle of Opium. The salesperson asks, "Who is that for?" in her best trying-to-be-helpful voice.
"Mother-in-law," I say quietly.
"Oh, I didn't think it was for you. That's what the older ladies like," the salesperson says, using her fingers in the air to quote 'older ladies'. "Times change, don't they?"
Well, yes they do.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Take, for instance, these two distinctly different blends I've been working on.
Blend one ~ inspired by, well, erm, a lover. Base of patchoulis, both essential oils and absolutes. Choya loban, oudh, dirty smelling tinctures (Grains of Paradise, cumin), sandalwood, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, coffee, cocoa, frankincense, rose and magnolia.
Pre-Evolution: Blend one is beautiful in its infancy. Dark, mysterious, spicy, languid, sexy.
Blend two ~ inspired by a precocious girl, the epitome of '13 going on 30'. Blended in a base of berry tinctures, vanilla, rose maroc, rose bourbon, jasmine grandiflorum, green tea, honey, oakmoss, bergamot and amber.
Pre-Evolution: Blend two is a five-alarm fire siren blasting the hairs out of my nose, full of indoles and screaming citrus.
Post-Evolution: Blend one is mucky. No longer dark nor mysterious, this blend runs the gamut from sweet & powdery to rubbery leather asphalt. It never stays in one place. Toward the end, when it's run its willy nilly course, which, unfortunately, is about four hours later, it finally settles warmly on the skin. Darkly spicy and sweet. But what it takes to get there is sheer hell.
Post-Evolution: Blend two is honey sweet with vivid tones of lush, cloying florals and a warm skin finish. This one sticks for hours. And it should be worn by men.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
It's drizzly and cold out today. Not the best time to prepare bath bombs. But that's what I'm doing. They're drying on a rack with a portable radiator warming their little bums.
And do they ever smell sweet.
Jasmine Amber bomb ~ Eden Botanical's luscious jasmine amber essence resin, jasmine sambac absolute, jasmine grandiflorum absolute, a few other aromatic delicacies, organic sunflower oil, nilotica shea. Wish they were all mine and not being sent off to fizz in someone else's tub.
We've been anointing ourselves lavishly with all sorts of natural goodies ~ shea 'n virgin olive oil with rose otto, sandalwood, ylang and oudh ~ dollops of the stuff in tubs of warm water.
Maggie, a reader of this blog, sent a link for a natural skincare company I think would be worth visiting ~ www.talulahskincare.com
Friday, December 08, 2006
Take half a cup of pure honey and warm it in a bain marie. Once warm, add one tsp extra virgin olive oil, 20 drops of sandalwood essential oil or 20 drops of rose otto, or both. Mix well and return mixture to warm on bain marie. Finely grind two tablespoons of green tea leaves and add them to the mixture. Remove from bain marie and whip. Store in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator.
To use your facial scrub and masque, warm the jar in a water bath and stir the contents. Scoop out about one tablespoonful of honey masque and apply to your face and neck. The tiny bits of green tea leaf act as an exfoliant. Scrub gently for a minute or two, then leave the masque on your skin for four or five minutes longer. Rinse with warm water and pat your skin dry. Apply a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil to your skin as moisturizer. Dab off any excess oil with a cotton ball.
This scrub and masque is especially wonderful for dry, winter-beaten skin.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Patchouli . . .
. . . bean . . . soap
Extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, avocado oil, nilotica shea butter soap scented with dark patchouli, oudh, a mere hint of Roman chamomile, and whole plump, lush vanilla beans.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I love this time of year. Not because everyone's seemingly in a better mood (though I've heard over and over again that this time of year should be renamed 'Suicide Season'), but because I love the way it makes me feel inside. I feel like hybernating. Curling up in bed with a thick, fat quilt and a big mug of creamy coffee, and one of my many books. So when someone calls and orders a dozen bars of peppermint and poppyseed soap, I give them a hearty 'hell yeah' response, but cringe inside. I know -- peppermint is the season's scent, but have you ever used a bar of soap or lotion containing this essential oil? In the winter? I'd rather eat soap than rub peppermint on my skin.
Cranberry. Now that I can live with. A fellow soapmaker friend of mine makes the most delicious real cranberry and amber butter shea soap.
Orange 'n clementine 'n lemon 'n spice. Pomander soap with hazelnut oil. Mmmmm.
Persimmon and olive oil soap is nice. Scented very lightly with clove.
I've been tempted lately to make egg nog soap with organic egg nog, fat vanilla beans and clove and nutmeg essential oils -- with lots of unrefined shea butter and hazelnut oil, maybe a dash of organic sunflower. Creamy.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
I don't know famous perfumes. I know Chanel (No's 5 & 19 ~ never smelled 22, or anything else from this house), I know Guerlain (Shalimar, Mitsouko, Samsara, Champs-Elysees, jardins de bagatelle ~ and only because I have a miniature gift box), I know DKNY, Mix by Arrogance, Amarige Mariage. I know Lolita Lempicka and we don't get along. I know Moschino's I Love Love (by the way, I'm not in love love with this one), I know Nanette Lepore and she's a sissy girl. I adore Prada.
I don't wear this stuff ~ much. I wear what I make, or something another natural perfumer has made. Nearly all my previous perfume experience was through Avon in the form of various Christmas gifts given me as a child (the bottles were fun), or tiny spritz's from one of my rich aunt's perfume vaporizers (I never learned the names of these perfumes, but I do know they were expensive as these ladies wore only the best), or the shoebox my grandmother kept at the bottom of her closet that held half full bottles of very vintage perfumes, names unknown.
And, of course, Jean Nate. Ugh.
The perfumes I remember most are those I 'made' myself ~ crushed geranium leaves on the wrist, gardenia flowers rubbed behind the ears. My favorite creations were those I made while living in the mountains. Manzanita berries, pine needles, sap, thyme, resin-rich cedar shavings and wild apple blossoms mushed together to make 'incense', which, by the way, never actually burned.
So, if I stumble and flub up on who makes what synthetic perfume, well, give me a bit of a break. I don't think it's necessary for me, or any other natural perfumer, to know which perfume house made what. It's not our gig.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Laura loaded her soaps with rare and delicious aromatics ~ warm, smooth Tamil Nadu sandalwood -- four ounces of that sandalwood, half-an-ounce of vanilla paste, and an ounce or so more of Rainbow Meadow's amber paste to a three pound batch of soap.
Now THAT was a bathing experience never to be forgotten.
And I haven't.
How about the scrubby bar? The big, fat one at 7 or 8 oz, made almost entirely of raw, unrefined shea, scented with spearmint and packed with ground walnut hulls. Man!
Ana defined artisan soapmaking. No one does it quite the way she did.
Friday, November 17, 2006
I hate the politics of natural & botanical perfumery. Just fuckin' hate it. People who were once on the same artistic plane have begun to chuck each other out the windows to please someone else whose coattails are a bit longer, fit more people, move faster and spread more ego-borne bullshit.
No matter how many black holes the so-called outcasts fall into, talent, integrity & honesty will win out.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I had the opportunity to use a bit (I do mean a 'bit', too, as this monster essence will invade, conquer and destroy anything you put it in if you're not being frugal) while blending a perfume I had planned to name -- well, you don't need to know that. Turns out my intended name choice went the way of the dodo because what I ended up with was more autumn~y and floral than what I'd anticipated, as if you'd awoken to mum baking buttery raisin and cinnamon scones and the scent of late season roses wafting through the open windows. And the choya loban, with its deliciously ambery essence hovering beneath these other scents ~ ah! Adds just the right amount of warmth and sensuality.
Then I went trippin' off to the perfume counter at the local chee-chee, high-dollah boutique and found Youth Dew Amber Nude. Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! There was the choya again, all nekkid and stuff, and more likely as not synthetic. Eek! But damn! I was all blissed out over that crap, making the Estee Lauder perfume-counter-lady nervous. She was so gorked, she rushed to get her little note book, y'know, the one they train with that tells them the notes in the 'fume, and she read the note's list as she walked backwards -- away from me. I don't think they tell them what's synthetic and what isn't. It's sort of like what you'd get from Scent Direct when you request a geneology of a perfume ~ just notes but not ingredients. I kept saying 'benzoin' and she kept saying, 'oh, no, amber'. Whatever. Maybe a short course in natural perfumery could help these poor perfume counter folks.
At any rate, do the choya loban. Will at Eden Botanicals' has the stuff. I suspect my little quarter ounce bottle will last me until I'm dead. It gets an 8 on the SFS (Stink Factor Scale), because it lacks the gross-out, rankness of say -- butt cracks.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Ahhh! Gotta love the shea buttuh! 'Tis the season to begin the whippin' of luscious shea; nilotica, raw unrefined, water refined, yellow, beige, greenish ~ whatever, it's good food for the winter beaten epidermis.
I've still got a couple pounds of some deliciously soft, blissfully scentless nilotica with which to add a few of my newly developed oil perfumes. Maybe some of Will's delightfully stanky choya loban. Ooh, maybe infuse a few tablespoons of grains of paradise in a little organic refined coconut oil for that 'lord it just rained can't you just smell the wet dirt?' essence.
Can't hardly wait to fire up the KitchenAid.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Three Peckered Goat.
What is this? No, it's not literally a three-peckered goat. It's the name of a deliciously oily coffee roasted by a company called Raven's Brew out of Alaska -- or Washington State.
And it makes the most insanely divine tincture.
Do you see a pattern here? Goat this and goat that . . . must be the year of the goat, eh?
Saturday, October 21, 2006
To me it's like debating vegetarianism. Where's the freakin' debate? It's a choice, people. C-H-O-I-C-E, for whatever your reasons.
And who's to say what medium is best in which to create art? I remember several years ago reading an article about an artist who'd created sculptures with shit. Yeah, shit. Poo. Dooky. Doo-doo. Crap. Excrement. Critics razed this guy. Art lovers flocked to his show. He made loads of money and got his name all over the newspapers. And if I hadn't known the medium was crap, I might have looked harder, beyond the materials used, to the actual art, because honestly I can't say whether or not the sculptures themselves were aesthetically pleasing ~ to me.
So here we are, standing in the middle of a great Synthetics vs. Naturals debate that quite frankly just seems silly. A certain writer, with no obvious experience in the world of natural perfumery, has been bashing the use of all natural ingredients in perfumery from his lofty position in a well-read American newspaper. Natural perfumers don't like it. They don't like him. There are camps in the debate that say 'Let's go after the bastard!', others whose position is to leave him be and hope he'll just go away. One *almost* feasible response to this kind of bad press is to make something (a natural perfume) so extraordinary that he'd seem an ass to continue his hostile attitude, but this road is booby trapped. On the other hand, ignoring him seems the better option. No artist ever made great art with revenge as his medium (this is not the same as revenge as his muse).
How we ascend to that place in our hearts where joy and love and peace surround us is our business, even if it means adding a drop of aldehyde c-11. Choice and art. Art and choice. See? No debate.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
And maybe in some small sense, this is what I'm trying to do within my tincturing adventures -- find some special witch's brew of essence.
Like this dark, soupy, almost resinous green tea tincture that's more like an essential oil or diluted absolute than anything else. When I sniff it, I think of bongwater, mossy rocks in a cold running stream, the loamy soil of a warm forest floor.
Tincturing is an artform itself. No, it isn't difficult to gather up the materials, fill a jar with them and pour a good alcohol over the top. But selecting the right materials at the right time, finding the just right proportions and knowing when to decant the resultant sauce is a trick.
I now have requests to tincture from customers. Can you believe that? One woman wants me to tincture her bra to extract the essence of lactation and warm mother's skin. Wild.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Perfume? Natural perfume?
But I couldn't have been more surprised than I was when I visited the local perfume store and found someone who actually got it. And it was the perfume salesperson! You just cannot know how wonderful it feels to have piqued and held someone's interest while droning on about tinctures, dilutions, absolutes, essential oils, organic grape alcohol and dreams of Grasse while grasping a half dozen scent strips stinking of synthetics. You just can't -- unless you've been there.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I've tinctured saffron. Just a smidge cuz that's all I need. Saffron isn't one of those smells that makes you all squishy inside and ask questions. It's interesting. Foody, of course. Stains the hell out of whatever it's mixed with.
I read somewhere, can't recall where exactly (age creates these memory lapses . . . ), that women in ancient times would blend saffron paste with rose oil and apply it to their nipples for their lovers' pleasure. The theory is that the nipple sniffer becomes extremely excited and gives the old girl a healthy toss before passing out next to her, his bright orange nose glowing in the darkness.
So now I'm off to find an acceptable rose oil. And then . . . well, that's none of your business.
Some things, let's face it, have a greater capacity for high ratings on the Stink Factor Scale.
I imagine animal-derived essences, especially those originating from the excretory and reproductive systems (that would be pee-pee, ca-ca and 'come thee hither' squirt), have a higher rating than say, sandalwood or rose, though both of these have some of their own urine/fecal/sex-me-up swill about them, they're just nicer about it.
One such high rater on the SFS is cumin. Pee-yoo! Another blogger piqued my curiosity about this seemingly innocuous spice with her descriptions of man-sweat, so, of course, I had to try it.
I tinctured one ounce of cumin seeds into 3 ounces of organic grape alcohol just a few days ago. When I went to give it its daily swish, I realized the cap wasn't on tightly because a bit of the juice spilled over my hand. No biggie. Until people in the house started asking if someone needed a bath. And then my daughter had an asthma attack because, she said, someone hadn't "showered after their marathon". I didn't think it smelled THAT bad. I actually thought it was pretty damned good. But maybe in smaller doses instead of a wash.
So, after careful testing, with considerable attention to feedback, I give cumin in tincture form a 9.9 on the SFS. Ten being the highest, zero being water.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Just received a lovely 5ml bottle of jasmine grandiflorum of French origin from New Directions. Knocks. Yer. Socks. Off.
Diluted that baby down to a 30% in organic grape alcohol and already my imagination is whipping up formulas to use it with.
Mmm -- I think I'll blend it with a bit of this lusty long pepper tincture I've been brewing. Maybe toss in a drop or ten of patchouli. P'raps a droplet of oudh. Or go another way entirely and fold it into a Calamyrna fig fruit tincture and add a little peachy accord I stumbled upon.
Oh, the possibilities.
Friday, September 08, 2006
The last few weeks have been spent a'samplin'.
I received samples of rosemary, pine and lavender essential oils from France that are just delicious. They smell different from what I'm used to getting, cleaner and 'sparkly'. I am intrigued by these samples.
I received samples of natural perfumes, as well. Quite a few, in fact. Sampling so many different perfumes as I have reminds me of how vastly different blending 'hands' can be. The hands run the spectrum of light, airy, barely-there blending, to heavy, shoulder sagging, slap-you-up-side-the-face, "Look ma! I'm RIGHT HERE!" kinds of blending. Choices are good, no? I mean, it would be a shame if every single blend had the same intensity. Just as our moods change, so should the density of our scent.
When I'm riding, my helmet smashing down my hair, goggles leaving funny alien-eye impressions on my face, I don't want a heavy, flowery, cloying cloud of essence swirling around me. I want sunshine and blue skies. Something light and magical that makes me feel that more than just my body is flying in the wind. Not that I can smell the perfume I'm wearing while cruising down the road at 55 mph, but there is the occassional required stop to dry off the monkey butt or get a cool drink. I don't want to be smashed in the nose with heavy ylang and jasmine and tuberose with a healthy dose of patchouli as I step off the bike ~ I want citrus, a little yuzu with pink grapefruit and maybe a scosh of lime all dressed up with a pinch of labdanum, a hint of galbanum ~ maybe even a bit of that French rosemary.
When I'm off to my favorite pub to share a basket of fried pickles and drink warm, dark beer with a few friends, I want something earthier. Cepes, patchouli, amber blends, oudh with rose, sandalwood with a shadow of jasmine sambac. A scent that's a little heavier, not so floral, more attuned to the atmosphere of dark walls, dark woods, throaty laughter and the scent of rich foods.
Other times, like when I'm feeling a little frisky, I splash on the florals. Linden blossom absolute diluted way down with a teensy bit of vanilla, loads of jasmines and a touch of mushroom, or maybe something a little more complex with carnation, jasmine, rose, tuberose and neroli based in Himalayan cedarwood and oakmoss.
There is a scent for every mood, and a scent-maker for every moody person.
The latest perfume samples I received came from a perfumer who's been at the game a while, but has been thrashed about by the 'powers that be' to the point of almost losing confidence. She needn't fear her creations are as bad as some claim they are (considering the claimants have never actually tried the perfumes and are basing their opinion on hearsay). The samples I received were elementals, beautiful representations of Air, Fire, Earth and Water. The elemental Earth is sensuality in a bottle, warm and sexy, like the strong, muscular arms of your favorite horny he-man. Water is a step away from the beach and delves into the depths where seaweed and quiet lapping waves live, enveloping and gentle. The Air element is fresh and herbal and whispers of open meadows and endless blue skies. Fire is my favorite of the elementals in this batch of samples. It blends the spicy fire with sweetness, like eating Thai food with a big pitcher of sweet tea to douse the flames. Scrumptious!
There are two points I'd like to make here. One is to sample, sample, sample to find your perfect mood scent, and two, don't dare give your opinion of someone's perfumes unless you've actually tried them.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a lucky person, though I've had my share of luck, both good and bad. I recently had a spate of very fortunate luck on Ebay in the form of true ambergris resin. I won't go into details except to say that I walked away with a 'steal of a deal'. I'm sure the fact that plunking down good cash for something that may be fake had something to do with the reason I was the one and only bidder on this particular hunk of 'gris. But I take chances (which explains my streaks of bad luck) on things like this ~ you never know, right? So I get my chunk of ambergris (grey with black), open the little bag it came in, and inhale deeply through my nose, hoping to capture a fragment of scent that will remind me of something amber~ish. Big mistake. Not only does ambergris NOT smell like amber (in any way, shape or form), it smells distinctly of crap ~ or some other bodily excretion you don't want to get too close to. Well, it is whale puke. What was I expecting?
So what does it smell like, you ask. It's sweet in the same way that butter and cream are 'sweet'. It has a marked greasy smell to it that isn't altogether disgusting. It also has some swampy aspects to it ~ like rotting seaweed. And there's a bad breath-like accent floating in it ~ like standing next to someone with a touch of halitosis. I know these descriptions aren't flattering and they're not meant to turn you off of ambergris because the 'gris does have SOMETHING. Something that lures me in closer, like the smell of puppy breath or the warm, sweaty head of a little boy.
And since I'm on the subject of animal smells, what's all this about goat hair tincture? Frankly, when I first heard about it, I mentally retched. When I was a kid, my family raised goats. Big, stinky, rutting billy goats. It was my experiences with these nasty smelling creatures that a) led me to refer to my ex-husband as the Goat God, and b) causes me to run swiftly in the opposite direction of any petting zoo I stumble upon.
However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me. Like ambergris, goat hair tincture has its place in the world of natural animal derived essence, more than civet or musk deer given the cruelty issues. I mean, I don't think the goats mind an occassional trim. My problem would be getting close enough to the animal to cut the hair without puking on my shoes first. Yeah, it's totally psychological, I'm sure. I was scarred by goats at an early age. I've got a problem with them. Ok. I can live with that. Can I live with the tincture? Can YOU live with it? What do consumers think of goat sauce? I don't know. We'll have to wait and see what pans out ~ get it? 'Pans', 'Pan the Goat God' ~ har har yuk yuk. Ok, I'm done.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Island Girl Collection ~ 100% Natural Perfumes
Island (Hawaiian) ~ Coconut, crooking its sand-and-sea finger in a 'come hither' fashion, is lushly draped over folds of pink lotus, orange blossom, champaka, plumeria, tuberose and pikaki, leaving one's head filled to overflowing with images of soft white beaches, lofty palm trees, warm tropical breezes brushing lightly upon naked skin, and intoxicating drinks served in coconut shells.
Sugar Island (Caribbean) ~ A sugary, sweet confection with a hint of juicy lime. This 'fume imparts 'tropical' shades of buttery coconut and sun-warmed skin, slightly floral and light. It is sexy and sweet and speaks of beach parties, barbeques and swimming under the moonlight.
Tiare (Tahitian) ~ Rich in floral opulence, Tiare is the siren of this bunch. Jasmine, ylang and vanilla create a lush cloud of smooth, creamy sexiness. Coconut, which strolls out about three minutes after the 'fume is applied, brings the perfume together to complete the whole 'Island Girl' motif. I hate to say it, but I'm sorely tempted to lick where this 'fume's been applied. Maybe I should put this on my husband, no?
Mantra (Bali) ~ Mantra reminds me of something ~ something lost in my memories. It opens in shades of vanilla and honey, light and airy, and for a moment I almost smell something bitter, like frankincense. Perhaps it is the oudh that lends the bitter, resinous character. At any rate, I like it. It's more incensey than the rest of the 'Island Girl' collection; softer, quieter and more hypnotic.
Tropique (Madagascar) ~ Tropique is just downright edible! Predominently coconut and vanilla with hints of coffee and cocoa, it's no wonder I want to eat it! This is a very lush, full-bodied 'fume, one that will cause heads to whip 'round and set minds to wonder what it is.
All the 'Island Girl' Collection is fun. I'd recommend getting a few samples and carrying it around in, oh, say, January, when your rear-end is freezing and the heating unit just broke down. Smear a bit under your nose and you'll be transported to a) the beach, b) a warm coffee house, or c) swimming in a cloud of coconut cream!
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
So far I have tinctured, with relative success, coconut, green tea, figs, strawberries, blackberries, piloncillo, vanilla beans, frankincense tears, peaches, apricots, beeswax and Balinese long peppers.
With no success I've managed to make tinctured mashes of honeysuckle blossoms (which I already knew was a near impossiblity, but never say die, right?), oleander flowers and dirt (yeah, don't ask).
My favorites of all my tinctures are the gunpowder green tea and the Balinese long pepper. They make me think of dark, dank places where one can smell the water and the moss and the slippery little things that squirm over the surface, of wet birth and soft cries. Primordial.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I had to answer no.
What I know about aromatherapy, without cracking my volumes of books on the subject, could fit neatly into a thimble. Well, maybe I exaggerate just a bit. I have studied aromatherapy, but it has never held my attention for very long. There was just something about its medicinal applications that didn't appeal to my sense of beauty.
Aromatherapists as Perfumers
Aromatherapists appear to show a lighter, hesitant hand. That's not to say their creations aren't beautiful, because most of them undoubtedly are. It's just that there seems to be a hint of caution in the formulations made by aromatherapists; a line in the imaginary sand of essence they toe but do not dare cross.
So while the perfumes and eau de toilettes presented by some aromatherapists seem (to me) to be repressed and quiet, they still have the ability to elicit the same emotional fever that stronger, louder perfumes do.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
I took one of them, a loose translation of Fracas, poured it into a perfume atomizer and proceeded to spray myself -- liberally -- everywhere. Then I got into a car. A very tiny car. With my husband. A very large husband.
About five minutes into our drive, he asks, "What is that scent?" He shifts the car into 5th gear, his shoulder brushing against mine.
"It's something I made." I replied happily.
"It smells like . . ."
"Oh, isn't it wonderful?" I ask. "I've been working on layering scent, y'know, like top goes first, then middle, then bottom, and they combine and meld and . . ." I prattle on.
"Like . . . a urinal."
I just sit there open-mouthed, my tiny blooming new perfumer's heart crushed. "A urinal?"
"Yeah." He answers. "Or an old lady's bathroom. Like she's sprayed her favorite perfume in the bathroom to mask the odor of stale urine."
I sniff my wrist.
"Ooh! I know!" He exclaims, his index finger pointing in the air. "It smells like a nursing home!"
"So, did you like the other perfume I made? The clementine perfume?" I ask dejectedly.
"Yeah, I liked that one. It smelled like candy."
Urinals and candy. Wonderful.
The lesson here is: Always test drive your perfume.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I’ve come to realize that my perfume reviews are boring. In comparison to other, more sophisticated perfume bloggers, mine seems elementary and basic.
Instead of saying exactly how a perfume smells, I use too many adjectives like ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘wafting on the wind‘, which honestly don’t tell you anything!
Now, if a particular ‘fume smells like the waxy red dashboard of a 1964 Impala (and you know with certainty what that smells like because you’ve lain across it while drunk out of your mind) with jasmine oil and a scosh of pine poured over it, that’s what I’m going to say.
So, instead of saying it smells ‘unusual’ or ‘twacky’, I’ll elaborate by describing said twacky scent -- say it smells like burning amber incense with a hint of pickles, that’s what you’ll get -- and not just any nameless pickle, either. It'll read bread and butter pickles. Dill pickles. Garlic pickles. Moldy, homemade pickles with a gloss of high octane ethanol and the pungent, cheesy essence of toe jam.
You get what you pay for.
Monday, May 29, 2006
I loves, loves, loves me some Artemisia Natural Perfumes! Lisa Fong of Artemisia NP has created the most ambrosial perfumes I've ever had the pleasure of drenching myself in. I also love my friends who so graciously send me little samples of some of their most favored stinky goodies. Without them pointing me in the direction of these beautific scent designers, I wouldn't have a blog to write!
Saffron Eau de Parfum - this eau de parfum has a surprisingly lovely character. It starts out all citrusy and bright, then quickly, and I do mean quickly, fades to a warm, slumbering sandalwood. Sandalwood and 'aged patchouli' and Himalayan cedarwood make for a balmy, sexy, sultry dry down. There is still a thin sheen of citrus, blood orange, to be precise, but it isn't nearly as overpowering as the initial dip. All together these elements produce a lush mosaic of olfactory brilliance.
Lavender & Clove Eau de Parfum - okay, so I'm not a huge fan of the lavender, and I'm not a huge fan of the clove, so why is it then that I find this eau de parfum so totally captivating? It has an almost cloying, candy-like feel to it, as if it wants to be food and sedation, but has changed its mind at the last moment. Layers of spice blanket heavy florals without the herbaceous slap typical of most lavender perfumes. This is made with lavender absolute, which is indisputably different than lavender essential oil, which, in turn, makes this eau de parfum perfect.
Eden Botanicals is one of my very favorite places to find rare and beautiful smelly things. Over the past few years, Will Lapaz of EB has been diligently seeking out those ingredients which natural and botanical perfumers love to possess. He consistently obtains some of the most exquisite scenting elements the world has to offer.
Here is a short list of some recent goodies I received.
Orange Blossom Water Absolute - in a word -- luscious! I do so love orange blossom over neroli. Orange blossom is full and robust and brings to the forefront of my mind hidden childhood memories of cool, breezy evenings and the scent of blooming orange floating on the air.
Linden Blossom Absolute - linden is a choice find for any perfumer. Most linden, I've heard, are fakes posing as the real deal. This bewitching contribution to natural and botanical perfumers is well worth that gamble. It is real. Dark and oozy and resinous, like thick, blackish honey, so unexpected in its appearance and texture. The scent is indescribably lovely - very honied and wine-y with osmanthus-like attributes, those sweet, boozy tones overlaid with fruitiness. I equate this particular fruit essence to prunes - not a very appealing idea, I agree, but there's much more to this multi-faceted essence than that. So much more.
Cardamom CO2 Select - I'm not a huge fan of the CO2 extractions. They oftentimes seem to enjoy an unreasonable added expense for so little return. Not the case with this cardamom CO2. A sweet, fruity and spicy essence hastens from the bottle, a little bulldozer of scent intent on making you love it. And you probably will. Swirling around the sweet fruitiness is a shade of camphor - not much, and certainly not enough to relegate this gem to the eucalyptus-peppermint-tea tree shelf of topical self-medications. Used sparingly in a perfume blend, I can see this delightful little CO2 adding just the right amount of fruit 'n spice.
Clementine CO2 Select - Oh, my darling Clementine! Another CO2 extract that makes itself worthy of its price. Clementine is just the sweetest, most darling little thing! I'm a big fan of red mandarin essential oil, all snugly in its candy-like blanket of essence, but this - this beautiful clementine is a true Tootsie-Pop wonder! I want to eat it. I want to pour it in cake batter and frosting and tea. I want clementine kisses and clementine tears. I have big plans for this deliciously heady little citrus. No, I'm not really going to eat it - ah!
Nagarmotha Cyperus - this is the very first nagarmotha I've ever sniffed. At first I thought it smelled like my father's old boot polishing kit with all its funky balms and blackened flannel strips. Then it took on a cedar-like character, not the warm, creamy scent of Himalayan cedar, but the bitter astringency of Virginian cedar. It's warmer than VC, though, and not so similar that one would mistakenly think it cedarwood. But still, that leathery, boot-polish tone could be quite useful. I like it, odd as it is.
Lavender Seville (absolute) - Wow! This is different. If someone where to hold the bottle under my nose without telling me what it was, I would never guess lavender. This stuff is sweet and jelly-like (in scent, not texture), fruity, berry-ish. It reminds me very much of fruit leather! This nectareous little essence can, and probably will, be used to create a faux berry parfum that may turn out to be nothing less than irresistable.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Blackberries birth jelly and syrup; decadent, sticky sweetness.
Raspberries kiss tarts.
Strawberries herald summer, the red, white and blue, and fireworks.
So why can't natural perfumer's create a true-to-life berry perfume?
Well, they can. Not a huge market for it, but probably a fun project, nonetheless.
Other unusual or non-perfumey things I like to point my nose toward are . . .
the scent of new money . . .
the rich, warm scent of a new baby's head . . .
line dried sheets - as a child I'd tell my mother that the sheets smelled of apricots when dried in the sun . . .
rusty window screens . . .
the upholstery of an old pick-up truck . . .
the scent of rain on hot asphalt . . .
warm, black tea . . .
ice . . .
San Francisco at dawn . . .
the scent of the woods and water at Big Sur while sitting on Adirondack chairs placed in the middle of a winter-cold stream . . .
a box of my father's possession sent to me after his funeral . . .
Friday, April 28, 2006
There's quite a lot of chatter going on in cyberspace about the rebirth of the formerly defunct Artisan Natural Perfumery Guild, both positive and negative.
Take it with a grain of salt. As someone who wasn't actually there when it laid down its head for its supposed final slumber, I can't say which side of the controversy I am on.
There's a lot to be said for guilds in general. They help their members get in touch with potential markets, help them find rare materials, and protects their interests when something like a lawsuit spins 'round the corner. On the other hand, guilds can be a place where the board members rake in guild membership fees and offer little, if any, support to its members.
Watch for the guild to formally open its doors, check it out, if you're interested, and make up your own mind. Remember, though, not everything is as it seems. I'm certain that you will find listings of some of the most proficient natural perfumers in the world on the new incarnation of the Artisan Natural Perfumery Guild's website. The sad thing is, not all of the very best of the best will
be passed through the rigorous committee review required for admittance. Politics are what they are. Plain and simple.
So dive in! Get your hands dirty or wet or stinky -- whatever.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
are 'natural skincare' companies who claim something is natural when clearly it is not!
For instance, they claim to distill gardenia essential oil via their very own steam distillation process. Amazing! They've somehow achieved a feat that thousands of contemporary alchemists are unable to accomplish. Truly amazing.
And they will sell this delicate, 'natural & organic' essence for a mere $15 per four ounces. For added beauty and rarity, they toss in just a hint of real tulip essential oil, which they also distill on site. Hmmphrf.
When I received my package, I was stunned to learn their measuring techniques are as flawed as their claims of all natural. What was touted as 'Two - 2 ounce' bottles were, in reality, two - 1/3 ounce roll-on bottles. Okay, perhaps I should give credit where credit is due -- the perfume oil with the bottle weighs 1 and 3/4 ounces -- maybe that's what they meant, huh?
I don't get it. There are literally millions of consumers in the world who don't give a flaming fart in outer space whether a product is good for them or not! So why lie? Your stuff smells good, man, but it ain't natural!
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
. . . you get a sloppy, wet, boronia scented kiss for this one!
La longue vie au parfum normal!
Monday, March 27, 2006
. . . the Perfumer's Apprentice in beautiful downtown Santa Cruz, California.
Amongst the crowded streets of downtown Santa Cruz wander folk from all walks of life. It is, however, a predominantly pseudo-bohemian, retro-hippie haunt dotted with micro-breweries, cafes and quaint shops offering everything from Santeria styled art and East Indian clothing to funky magician's toys and custom made perfume.
Yes! Custom made perfume!
At Perfumer's Apprentice, you can sample the wares of Mandy Aftel, the High Priestess of Natural, Botanical Perfumes, or perhaps peruse the beautifully packaged botanical wonders of Italy's Profumo, another wizard of essence blending. Or even, perhaps, whiff and sniff the blended body oils offered by the artisan(s) at Perfumer's Apprentice.
Elegantly furnished and well-lighted, Perfumer's Apprentice offers a wide range of experimental wonders. From the top shelf, where apothecary bottles filled with such lovelies as tuberose, Dragon's Blood resin and Madagascar vanilla beans soak in alcohol, to the tables lined with student's spaces topped by lazy susans and cluttered with 5ml bottles of every essence, natural and synthetic, known to humankind, you will find a veritable gold mine of olfactory treasures.
Make-your-own-perfume blending sessions at $15 per person entice those hesitant to explore their creative talents. If you're new to perfumery blending, $15 is a very small price to pay to learn the basics. Each student's station comes equipped with a tool kit, which include scent strips, strip stand and various essences, all within arm's reach. Also available are synthetic perfumer's ingredients like aldehyde C 11 and coumarin, among others.
All in all, the set-up is geared toward teaching perfumery at its basic levels. But if you're interested in purchasing natural perfumes, the selection presented at Perfumer's Apprentice is skimpy at best.
What would make Perfumer's Apprentice the perfect place to hang out? More. That's it. Just more. A wider selection of natural perfumes from lesser-known natural perfumers would be wonderful. More tinctures and infusions lining the upper shelves would be great, too, so that We Who-Do-Not-Tincture/Infuse-But-Talk-About-It can see what really goes into the process of extracting essence from rare and lovely botanicals.
So the next time you're in the neighborhood, ring up Perfumer's Apprentice and make an appointment for a blending party. You and, say, five of your closest girlfriends (or boyfriends), can while away the day getting punch drunk on your very own personalized perfumes.
Oh, and the steam distillery in the front window? Beautiful. Makes me want to go out and pull up all my lavender just to see if I can do it too.
1319 Pacific Avenue (Upstairs)
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Wed. 11:00a - 6:30p
Thurs. 11:00a - 7:00p
Fri. & Sat. 11:00a - 9:00p
Sun. 11:00a - 6:00p
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Debra's Rhapsody is quite possibly one of my favorite places to find beautifully made body soap.
I first experienced this company's wares some four years ago (or so) when I received a box of mixed company products for review. One soap stood out from all the rest ~ On a Whim. There was just something more about that particular soap. It was crunchy, literally, but soft at the same time. I remember feeling amazed that so much went into that little bar of soap, yet it still held a lightness and gentleness that most 'packed' bars do not.
Normally when using loaded soaps, those soaps which contain lightly crushed herbs, powdered nut meats and spices, there's a certain amount of scratch involved. There is a heaviness to the bar, as well. As if you're holding something more substantial than a bar of handmade soap, something more solid and, well, masculine.
On a Whim wasn't like that at all. It was delicate. Feminine. Soft on the skin. I remember using that particular bar sparingly, wanting to get as much out of it as possible, and removing it from the bath between showers so no one else would use it up. And the scent was delicate as well. Citrus~y and sweet. I loved it.
So when the opportunity arose to try a few more of Debra's Rhapsody's fine handmade soaps, I jumped. This time 'round I got Lemongrass Vanilla and Ethereal.
Ethereal is gently scented with pink grapefruit & lavender, and other essential oils, which are not named. Bits of rosemary spice are sprinkled throughout, giving the bar a greenish, speckled appearance. The soap base itself is made with rice bran, shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil and palm kernel oil. I especially love the effect rice bran has in soap. Very moisturizing. Again, even with the addition of raw spice, the soap is soft and gentle on the skin.
Lemongrass Vanilla is a slap-you-in-the-face-and-wake-up! kind of soap. This was my favorite of the two. I loved the balance of scent between the lemongrass and vanilla. The soap bar itself was equally lovely. More rice bran, shea butter, coconut and palm kernel oils. It was the scent, however, that had me reaching for this bar over and over again. There was also a bit of exfoliating power in the bar with the inclusion of lemon peel powder. The overall effect was, in a word, awakening.
Debra's Rhapsody soaps are treasures. Delicate, beautifully crafted, delicately scented, wrapped in handmade paper (in the tradition of Anastasia Crabtree) ~ absolute treasures.
You must take a trip over to the Legerdenez blog to read a beautifully done interview with Andy Tauer, perfumer.
I found it enchanting, informative, and in my own child's words, 'what he says about his mama is sweet'.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
The Goodie Bag
Patchouli Absolute from India ~ Oh My Gosh! Black like tar, smoky like old burned wood, and the best part? Wine! Smells like a nice, rich, oak~y glass of Merlot or Shiraz. Now THIS is what you use in perfume, not straight up patchouli with its powdery top note, but this stuff, with big, heavy feet and a lush, robust bottom! Love it!
Artemesia (eo) from South Africa ~ Pushes out of the bottle like it's exhaling. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Smells like a combination of German chamomile FLOWERS, not eo, yarrow FLOWERS, dry grasses and bits of sage and lavender. Beautiful oil. Would make a luscious top note for a lavender theme perfume.
Petitgrain Bigarade, organic from Egypt ~ I think petitgrain is my favorite oil in the non-earthy tableau of essences. It has some of the same floral notes as neroli but lacks the heavy sweetness. And petitgrain 'sticks', whereas neroli, expensive as it is, is an extremely fleeting essence. In combination, they're a one-two knock-out punch! I'm experimenting with a perfume oil for my granddaughter using lime, petitgrain, neroli and beeswax absolute ~ so far I've got a delicate, feminine, sweet, citrusy, well-grounded girleh scent that I think she'll enjoy. Smells a little like candy. As for this petitgrain, I'm so NOT disappointed by it at all. It's the best I've smelled yet and it should prove itself well in some of the blends I've already been working with.
Ambrette CO2 from India ~ back a year or so ago I ordered some ambrette from another supplier. I remember not being terribly impressed and basically not 'getting' the brouhaha that all the natural/botanical perfumers were making over it. Now I get it. This is the musk note I've been looking for. That animalic essence that digs its fingers (paws? hooves? horns?) into the ground and won't let go. However, it has a funky top note. Kind of like dill for a fleeting second, then the musky, sweetness comes through. You have to remember, all these descriptions come straight from the bottle. When diluted and blended down or into other aromatics, these essences take on a different tone completely. I'm really looking forward to playing with this stuff.
Vanilla CO2 ~ smells like vanilla. Rich, heavy vanilla. I only bought a sample bottle so I don't really have a lot to go on. I do like it, though. It's rounder, fuller and sweeter than any other vanilla I've used. I once bought a vanilla oleoresin from a supplier on the east coast ~ that stuff must have had something in it, synthetics or solvents or something, because everything I used it in ended up smelling like rubber! And it was darker. This CO2 is cream colored and looks a little like butter cream frosting. Cool stuff.
Lavender Absolute ~ no further information was provided except that I got it for free. I ordered an ounce and was sent a sample ~ must be out ~ too bad, because it's divine. Lavender absolute is as different from lavender eo as patchouli absolute is from patchouli eo. Richer, fuller, rounder, more floral than herbal. It has a sweetness and heaviness that lavender eo lacks. Absolutely perfect for perfume and I'm thinking it would be great in soap as well. Since an ounce is something like $24 (or less), it's well worth it to get something more out of your lavender products.
Aglaia Concrete from China ~ aka Peppery Orchid Tree ~ oh, dear. Light, airy, floral, fruity ~ smells of peaches and baby's breath and fresh breezes. I have no idea how I'm going to use this essence, but I'm surely looking forward to it! Top note ~ definitely a top note!
Rosa Bourbonia Absolute from India ~ aka Edward Rose ~beautiful! Nice, fat, heavy floral rose with a hint of earthiness. Has almost a tobacco~y back note to it ~ really nice. This isn't the kind of rose you'd use in a girleh girl type perfume. This is the kind of rose you'd use in a WOMAN's perfume! Bold and voluptuous and confident and fearless ~ that's what this Edward projects.
Jasmin Auriculatum from India ~ I've been looking and looking and looking for this jasmine! Completely different from sambac and grandiflorum in so many, many ways. Auriculatum is a hopping sprite intent on mischief whereas sambac is a lusty woman intent on you-know-what, and grandiflorum is the 1950's Hollywood diva/whore. This is the jasmine you smell in the tropics. The jasmine on the Hawaiian breezes that makes you wanna run barefoot in the sand and kick up your heels. This is a coy, prepubescent jasmine compared to the other two 'lady' jasmines. Ahh, I can't wait to play with this one!
Champa Concrete ~ this smells unbelievable. For a split second, at the beginning of the sniff, you *almost* smell wintergreen ~ *almost*, but not quite. It doesn't fill out and suddenly you smell ~ a massage parlor! All these different scent molecules bombard your head and it's very hard to distinguish what's what. Really, I can't even tell you what it smells like ~ like a hundred different things at once, all soothing, all relaxing. Perhaps the scent will separate a bit once it's been diluted. It's almost too much to take in the way it is. I really, really like it.