Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Perfumer's Bible

Arctander on Amazon at $194 and change.

UPDATE! June 29,2008 ~ Oops! It appears the 'deal' went out the door and the books are up to $246. Still, that's a deal ~ the publisher's price is usually $349, oh, and maybe a 10 or 20% discount.

Another Update! July 3, 2008 ~ the price is down again, to $224. What's up with this yo-yo pricing, eh?

FDA Globalization Act of 2008

Here's a bit more information on this subject. In a nutshell, this new act will kill small independent businesses by the thousands.

Read more here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Underestimating the Power of a Tincture

Just a brief note here ~

Tinctures need diluting. Or at the very least, a better understanding of their nature; knowing that some tinctures can rival the strength and quality of a good absolute is important, and they should be used in the same manner as an absolute ~drop by drop.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

White Witch

Ruth Ruane, aka White Witch, has recently redesigned her website ~ it's easy to maneuver, easy on the eyes, and the products listed are -- well, run on over there and take a peek for yourself!

White Witch

Photo copyright White Witch

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Caution: Perfumer Knows Less Than It Appears

I'll be the first to admit I know next to nothing when it comes to this gig. I'm learning something new and wonderful about this art form I've chosen to follow every single day. From peers, from books, from research -- from life! Today is a good day and I'm not feeling the dark cloud of the FDA hovering over my head or the fact that taxes are due (ugh!), or the bottles I wanted for the relaunch of The Scented Djinn are too costly, or that I feel more and more out of my element.

It's a good day because I love this job. I am uncomfortably happy with it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Antiquarian Perfumer

The most recent entry into the current line-up of explanations of 'what we do' has arrived, via Martin Watt ~

Antiquarian Perfumery

While many of us veer away from frivolous and pretentious monikers in this business (i.e. Master Perfumer, Artisan Perfumer), and all the hooting and honking that goes along with them, this one seems to better explain our intentions. 'Natural' doesn't seem to quite fit because no one can agree upon what it means, and because modern industry has turned everything that is 'good for us' into a marketing tool; 'botanical' is closer but it shuts out the goat hair and hyrax poop people and makes liars out of the sneaky folk who slip in a little civet to extend the perfume's skin life, and we wouldn't want to make liars out of 'em, would we? Pre-Modern, Synthetic-Free, Perfumer -- good, but boring, maybe? Or confusing? Pre-Modern sounds like an anthropology term for caveman, and Synthetic-Free sounds like a marketing wedge; Perfumer doesn't go far enough.

Further, do I say this is what I am? I am an Antiquarian Perfumer? Or, is it what I do? I make Antiquarian Perfume?

Oh, blast!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Natural&Botanical Perfumery 101 ~ Where to Start

Well, at the beginning, of course.

Get thee swiftly to thy apothecary ~ in this case, that would be American Science Surplus, and buy up as many of those little 5 ml dropper bottles as you can fit in the shopping cart (ok, 50 or 75 or 100 are more than enough to get started).

Starting out blending in an oil medium is probably the best way to go. You'll avoid all the legalities of purchasing pure grape or grain alcohol, or schlepping with vodka or everclear. Mountain Rose Herbs has a lovely organic jojoba that's just screaming to be used in your first (middle and last) perfume-making endeavor.

Aromatics ~ well, I'll just give you my preference, White Lotus Aromatics. Only Washington state residents are required to provide proof of a resale license. And the minimum order is $100. Before you run screaming for the door, you have to know that $100 really isn't going to get you much ~ unless you take advantage of the 10 sample per order policy at WLA (this is where you pick up the most expensive and rare aromatics), and flesh out the rest of your minimum with not-so-expensive ingredients ~ like WLA's gorgeous French lavandin absolute at $4.02 per 1/4 oz. Be sure to add some top note aromatics to your order ~ it seems people who are just starting out overlook them, opting to get the more lush and longer-lasting middle and base note aromatics (see patchouli absolute, fir balsam absolute, jasmine sambac/grandiflorum/auriculatum absolutes, rose otto, etc.) WLA offers a great little group of citrus essences, citrus oils distilled from the juice rather than the peel ~ they are gorgeous and fresh-smelling and perfect to start out with.

Try to get three or four top note essences, three or four middle note essences (typically florals) and three or four base note essences (woods, resins, roots), and don't forget to take advantage of the samples for those more costly essences.

Then get yourself a good perfume primer, one with a kick-ass materials' safety chapter.

To be continued . . .

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Smellin' Ethical

Sydney Morning Herald, Life&Style Section

Helen Greenwood, June 12, 2008:

"The Emporio Armani Red perfumes for men and women raise an interesting question: when it comes to perfume, can you smell ethical?

These perfumes are part of the Red campaign that channels part of the profits from products bearing the symbol into aid for African women and children with HIV/AIDS. The packaging is environmentally friendly, the red graphics are by the Ghanaian artist Owusu-Ankomah and money goes to an impeccable cause."

Read the rest here.

Photo by Hannah Crane

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Research & Rediscoveries

I spent a bit of time on White Lotus Aromatics' website perusing the archives. Reading Christopher McMahon's descriptions of blue lotus & agarwood made me drool.

Blue lotus is a spectacular essence. No words can aptly describe it. It produces a physical response when sniffed, something dreamy and ethereal passes through the mind. It embodies water magic.

Agarwood is similar, with a slightly stronger response (for me), something that comes from the gut, as if this element were a primordial calling card, an olfactory image projecting the spirit/soul of the earth (Gaia).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Roses, Roses, Roses announced today: Bulgaria expects record production of rose oil in 2008

Sophia, Bulgaria - Bulgaria's rose oil distilleries expect record production this season of the ingredient for the world's highest-grade perfume, officials said Tuesday.

Total rose oil production could reach a record 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds), compared with 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds) last year, said Nedko Nedkov, director of the Institute of the Rose in Kazanlak, the center of Bulgaria's Rose Valley.

Read the rest here.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Cost of Doing Business 2008 Style

I've been thinking a lot about the FDA's proposed Globalization Act of 2008 and how it will affect the art of natural&botanical perfumery.

As the act is currently written and proposed, there would be a mandatory $2000 annual fee per each manufacturing facility imposed upon any person or business that creates cosmetics ~ n&bp falls under this category. There are additional fees to register each item in the business' products catalog ~ and if you're not keeping up, some n&bp'ers have dozens of perfumes, which would translate into thousands more dollars in fees.

Many of the n&bp companies, and some that have been around for a while, will disappear. Completely.

This act will affect the n&bp community drastically, setting back the art form to its beginnings, possibly leaving only a handful of the more successful businesses available to the public. Instructors in the n&bp movement will lose money as well. What's the point of putting out so much money to learn an art form which will be cost restrictive to start?

In a practical way, the act makes sense, and this goes back to the issue of material's safety and consumer protection. In an artistic way, it is the death knell for a beautifully exploratory era.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Blending & Safety

I think it's sad how modern natural perfume books (teaching material) have so little information with regard to raw materials' safety. Redirecting the reader/student elsewhere, away from the book or teaching manual, isn't a responsible route to take as the book should be comprehensive enough to use without outside backup.

If you're a student of natural&botanical perfumery it is wise to acquaint yourself with those raw materials which should be used with caution, or, in some cases, not at all.

I don't have a current comprehensive list (that I can share) of raw materials which cause phototoxicity, sensitivities, are carcinogenic or toxic irritants. The folks at IFRA can't decide what underwear they want to wear today let alone what's on or off the restricted/use with caution list, it's hard keeping up with their shenanigans . . . take them with a cup of salt, but do become informed in this neglected area of natural&botanical perfumery education.

Finding Joy

I find joy in simple things.

Rediscovering what I thought I'd lost.

Jasmine pearl green tea with just the right amount of raw honey.

Kalamata olives.

A ten-year old bottle of dark patchouli.

Photos of people I haven't seen in years -- or better, photos of people when they were hopeful children.

Old love letters.

Full bottles of antique perfumes I've never heard of.

A freshly watered flower garden.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


That, my friends, is the result of two years and one month in the life of a forgotten tincture.

Boswellia carteri, pea-sized tears of African origin, soaked and sealed in organic grape alcohol, and abandoned to the dark depths of the Cupboard of Scented Oddities.

Not everything a natural perfumer does has to do with marketing and thrusting oneself upon the unsuspecting scent savvy masses. We often close ourselves up in our laboratories and try to pry, poke, prod, soak, stew or hammer fragrant gold from scented lead.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Reflecting on My Scented Beginnings

Celestiale was one of the first perfumes I sold. Back when I was a partner at Delicia Skincare Deli. Damn. It was so much fun running a street shop ~ hard work, but great fun. I was so sad when we had to close up.

So, Celestiale . . . she was oil-based. And she was sultry. All my left over stock of this perfume sold out shortly after the store closed and I never made more, though an occasional request comes through from time to time.


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