Monday, March 29, 2010

Points On Perfumes


"Who Will Buy My Sweet Lavender?!"


Rose in Russian


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birth of a Perfume Circa 1967


Perfume Making Circa 1948

Thanks Shelley!


Thursday, March 25, 2010


I've been messing around a bit with co-distillations to obtain special hydrosols, and I'm gearing up to collect the materials to co-distill for essential oil (lemon flower, lemon leaf and lemon fruit co-distillation). There's just something about co-distilling that's a little more exciting than creating single distillates. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get.

Who could have imagined that a co-distillation of rose buds, sandalwood, orris root, violet flower, frankincense resin, acacia flower, ambrette seeds, palo santo wood, and henna powder would result in a crisp, spicy (like cinnamon), slightly woody, and vanilla-balsamic hydrosol? Or that as this hydrosol dries, it becomes more tolu-like and deepens in scent? It's meditative, this scent. Happy. And a little bit magical.

Another mad alchemist/perfumer I know (Nathaniel) has made Eau de Melisse Carmes, aka Carmelite Water by co-distillation. He commented to me that it was an eye-opening experience. I tend to agree that the entire co-distilling concept is eye-opening. The way in which the raw materials blend and marry is entirely different than how they would react if, say, one were to blend the essential oils together in a bottle. There's a synergy to co-distillation.

I have a bit more to learn about distillation in general, but I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it. I haven't ruined a batch yet. And there have been two really spectacular oils achieved through my bumbling -- a bright, cheery frankincense, and a sweet, lemonade-y lemon oil.

I recently purchased a copy of "The Practical Distiller", a reprint of a book published in 1809 (yeah, 1809), but it's mostly about distilling whiskey, gin, brandy and "spirits". I'm interested in the section that discusses how to conduct and improve the practical aspects of distillation.

So maybe one of these days I will somehow manage to blow up the kitchen . . .

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


This time of year has always been magical for me -- everything just opens up and spreads itself out; trees, green blooming fields, animals (in heat, usually), edibles. It inspires one to do the same (not the going into heat part), to kind of wake up and stretch, "soakin'", as my Texas raised step-daughter says. It's time for soaking, opening up, letting the good stuff in, getting warm.

Working on the course work book, reading and doing quite a lot of research has damn near worn me out mentally. So today I'm soakin'. Going to journal about the heart of that poison in beauty perfume, going to make the hyacinth evulsion the beating heart of the perfume, with the arteries and vessels made up of roses and jasmines and lotus . . . maybe a few spider veins of cananga and butter and black currant. The key here is the fusion -- without the fusion, it'll just smell like mud.

Almost done with Alec* Lawless' book, Artisan Perfumery or Being Led by the Nose. It's pretty good. Very concise and to the point; funny in some places. Clearly written by a man with no time for pretty prose and fooling around. I like that. A better teaching tool than some other more poetic perfume books I've read. This one is perfect for a beginning student or hobbyist. It'll definitely get them going down the right path, sans the blathering self-absorbed bullsh*t.

*I should look a little closer when I'm reading -- I initially wrote "Alex" instead of "Alec" -- sorry Mr. Lawless!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NNAPA / Natural Perfume Academy Testimonials

"From one lonely natural botanical perfumery novice/student to another ~ are you lonely and sad for not being able to share your burgeoning obsession with your beloved and friends because they just don't understand? Do you pray to the Goddess of ATS [All Things Smelly] for lively conversation and passionate banter amongst like minded perfumery folk? Do you wish for a friendly forum where you can learn learn learn and ask those dreaded newbie questions [without fear of retribution] in the safe and very capable hands of a highly skilled and knowledgeable teacher?

Once upon a time I was that lonely NBP novice perfumer, desperate for friends of similar ilk and a place where I could talk about perfumery, ask silly questions, feel loved and appreciated and learn learn learn! smile Within the Natural Perfume Academy I found this all [and more!]. The course is set up to be interactive, providing a vast and comprehensive introduction to natural botanical perfumery. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who would like to make something more of their passion. As a student I've loved the interaction I've had with the other students, the excitement of successes and discoveries, the sadness of the 'back to the drawing boards', and the learning, guidance, support and wisdom of our fabulous teacher. I just don't want it to end!!''
Holly Simpson

"Antiquarian Perfumery is a terrific course with a teacher whose first preoccupation is to make you feel at home.
I read a lot about Natural Perfumery, have books and everything, but the practice and discussions and forums and chats really make up a dorsal spine to your abilities, give you more sense of what to do and guide your choices to make a good composition.
The rest is your natural talent, your brain, your nose, your taste.
The course gives balance and teaches your first steps, letting you free to walk alone when you are secure. And the best of all: you make good friends.
Thank you Justine and Ruth to start a new line of course on Perfumery that is friendly, technical and intelligent at the same time."

"Being part of the Natural Perfume Academy has proven to be a positive step in my natural botanical perfumery studies. When I started the course I was so happy to join others who have the same passion for NBP as I did. Although we each had varying levels of knowledge of this art one thing I can appreciate about the course is that all instructions were clear & understandable. You didn't feel like you were so far behind other students that you'd never catch up. Or that the course was so easy that it was a waste of your time. That happy medium had been met! And no student came in with a "me" attitude. Everyone has been very helpful and willing to share ideas, suggestions, resources and "new to us" discoveries. The assignments are challenging and each student has been very encouraging every step of the way. And with the guidance of our very knowledgeable teacher, who practices what she teaches, you just feel like you're in the right place to learn."
Michigan, USA

"As a student of the NNAPA, I have managed to turn my passion for perfumes into something so much more. The course has opened my eyes to every aspect of natural botanical perfumery that I could possibly have hoped for. Being armed with this greater knowledge not only allows me to grasp a better understanding of the processes behind creating a new perfume; but also helps me understand those scents that already exist.
With a lot of valuable direction and encouragement from the NNAPA staff and other students, this course has given me a platform to realising my ultimate dream of producing marketable perfumes. I feel anyone who is resolute to study hard, share ideas, and has a genuine passion for perfume would fully benefit from this course."
Dimitri Dimitriadis

NNAPA / Natural Perfume Academy

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

House of Gabler Rogaux

A few years back I became the lucky "winner" of this full coffrett of perfume samples from the House of Gabler Rogaux. Since then I've been attempting, albeit not terribly hard, to find more information on this perfume house. Last night I got a little closer. This entire coffrett, and perhaps the entire perfume house, came and went in 1940. What's pictured here is a sample box and every sample in it has some perfume left, each one smelling different than the next, but all carrying this weird aldehydic muskiness. The box itself is in excellent condition and each bottle is seated and glued into a depression in the lovely golden yellow velvet lined floor. I paid very little for this coffrett, somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 maybe? But I'd like to know more about it. About the house that created it, about the perfumes, not that there's anything particularly extraordinary about them. I just want to know what the heck I have here!

There are 12 bottles in the coffrett, and their names are Apple Blossom Fragrance, Chypre, Dream Bouquet (which is actually quite nice), Gardenia Fragrance, Gypsy Myth, Heather, Naughty, Orange Blossom Fragrance (also quite nice), Royal Street, Sandalwood Fragrance, Spice and Will-o-the-Wisp.

So, anybody know anything about them?

Friday, March 12, 2010


Years back, before I got an ultrasonic, I tinctured. Like a fiend. I tinctured valerian root, aloeswood chips, sandalwood shavings, coconut, dried lemon peel, olive leaves, figs, sugar, dirt, long pepper, white pepper, boysenberries, saffron, oregano, lawn clippings, honeysuckle, jasmine, rose leaf, local oakmoss, rose petals, lemon leaves, animal poop, cheese . . . there really wasn't much I wouldn't try to tincture. But my very favorite botanical to tincture was, and still is, tea. I have tinctures and evulsions of Earl Grey, gunpowder green, China green yunnan (jade supreme), China jasmine (da zhang select), China green (chun mee dao ming), China black (flowery orange pekoe), season's pick green (gen-mai cha), China green tea (chun mee), Sungma Estate 2nd Fl. (darjeeling), China keemun (dao ming), and Banaspaty Estate (assam). Suffice it to say, tea is one of my favorite things -- to drink, to tincture or evulse, to use in perfume. So diverse, yet retaining all that rich, earthy tea-ness. My favorite of all of these is my gunpowder green -- it's turned to resin; rich, oozy, dark green tobacco-like scent with faint notes of sweet fruit, something like cactus pear, dominated by notes of wet grass, powdered henna, and damp earth. It's just really special.

Botanical Soap Making Class

Botanical Soap Making ~ $60
Saturday May 22, 2010
9:30am-3:00 pm
Justine Crane, Soap Maker
Make cold processed soap using fail safe methods perfected by soap maker, Justine Crane. Learn to make both form mold and box mold style soaps using essential oils, salts, clays and herbs. Swirling color will also be demonstrated. Wear an old, long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms from the lye being used in the soap making process. Gloves and goggles will be provided by the teacher. Safety issues will be presented and discussed extensively. A soap making booklet and two bars of pre-made soap will be yours to take home. Class is limited to 10 students, must be over 18 or accompanied by an adult.

Sign up here.


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