Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Big Book, Events, Gym Socks and Enobling

While rifling through a bin of notebooks from my earlier days of scent adventures, I ran across the "Big Book", the one used to document the formulations for the products created at Delicia, my beautiful natural botanical skin care store in the Tower District (Fresno, CA). The Big Book is chock full of beautiful formularies written by both myself and my then-business partner, Monica R. -- her handwriting is steady and even with big loopy, perfectly drawn vowels and flourishes on the tails of 'y's and 'g's and 'j's, while mine is block print on this page, cursive on another, with no regard to comparative letter dimension, and appearing to have been written by many different authors. There was so much going on back then -- a dam break of ideas from both of us, me the creative, she the analytic. While I focused on procuring the best raw materials and creating the lushest of natural skin care, she sought out inexpensive advertising and planned promotional events. I clearly remember our grand opening gala, which occurred one month after our official open date. The tables were set with refreshments, all the shelves in the store were loaded with fresh product -- chunky hand made soaps, jars and jars of body butters and scrubs, mineral cosmetics (and perfumes from Opus Oils which drew the most attention. I think that Kedra's creations, more than any other one thing, prompted me to make the move from 'blending aromatics' to becoming 'a perfumer'). We, Monica and I, spent the entire morning prior to the Grand Opening fretting over details -- will anybody come? will the newspaper make a showing? will anyone like what we've done? what if this doesn't work? It was nerve-racking. But, as these things usually do, the event went off without a hitch, with the exception of the odd young man from the bong store across the street repeatedly making an appearance to fill a plate of food and disappear back into his store. As it turned out, everyone loved what we were doing, the newspaper didn't show but they did appear a week or so later for an interview, the house was full, and so was the bong man. So this successful event is what I go back to when I worry about my current event, or when I wake in the middle of the night, my heart pounding because I'm afraid I haven't collected enough chairs or I'm not planning to disperse the "right" information. However, I know in my heart that everything will be fabulous. I am an artist and a people pleaser and a closet extrovert. I'm allowed my eccentricities.

The Big Book also contains possibly the most atrocious scent combination ever created. When my friend Tonie reminds me that in her early days of blending, she was more likely to create a scent reminiscent of "sweaty Sumo wrestler taking a sh*t on burning tires", I have to admit that this horrendous creation written in the Big Book was much worse. And this from a somewhat seasoned scent blender. As some of you know, I love patchouli, and I love vetyver, so of course my horrendous, worse than Sumo's pooping on hot tires scent would include those two -- and a lot of cocoa absolute. Though in theory it doesn't sound like these three together would make anything so disgustingly gross, rancid and evocative of decay, it did. There is a specific reason why. Me, in my blind passion for the smokiest of vetyvers and the dirtiest of patchoulis thought that these two, plus another densely scented and heavily 'sweet' scent would somehow create a fragrance nirvana -- a sort of holy grail of darkly beautiful essences. Boy, was I wrong. I chose two vetyvers -- a dark bourbon and a smokey Indonesian, as well as a super dirty Indian patchouli that I thought would really ground the sweet, thick liqueur-like essence of cocoa. Again, boy, was I wrong. Something went terribly, terribly awry -- all those elements that I so dearly loved about the smokey vetyver and the dirty patchouli beat the living crap out of the sweet milky scent of cocoa. It smelled like dirty gym socks. Bitter, burnt, smokey, way dirty, sweaty, poopy -- there was even a heavy cloud of eau de mildew about the whole mess. Since then I have managed to blend the three together effectively, even to the point of creating something very balanced and beautiful. But I shudder each time knowing that the wrong vetyver or the wrong patchouli or the wrong ratio or the wrong dilution is all it takes to turn something potentially lovely into something that makes one want to run gagging from the studio.

Enobling. Nice word, isn't it? Enobling -- say it out loud now ~ Enobling. Ahhhh, lovely. Has a regal tone to it, yes? What does it mean? Well, to us perfumers, it means adulteration of a raw material, i.e., the addition of less expensive natural and/or (more likely) synthetic raw materials to another more costly material in an effort to enhance its scent, thereby creating a demand, thereby lining the manufacturers pockets with honest money gained through dishonest practice. I've heard of cases of enobling being committed to create in full or enhance hyacinth absolutes, jonquil absolutes, black currant bud absolutes and other rare and costly raw, natural materials. That's not to say one cannot acquire the real raw material, just saying enobling happens.


  1. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Enobling happens - ha ha - my new favorite euphemism!!

  2. I think it might be my favorite as well :)



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