Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 77 ~ One Year, One Nose

Hand crushed antique orris root.

As part of the golden kyphi project, I have been hand crushing all manner of herbs, roots, seeds, resins and so forth. After the initial breaking down of the nearly rock hard antique orris root pieces, I began the process of powdering it -- again, using a mortar and pestle. My pestle is a round at one end, pointy on the other end palm-sized granite river rock. I was advised by Mr. M. to use a rounded pestle with those wild elements that seem to want to escape the mortar during the grinding process, and my native river rock works perfectly in that capacity. So I'm sitting in the studio rocker, listening to Niyaz, crushing the orris chunks into powder, my mind wandering off to Berkeley somewhere, when I slowly became aware of the most intoxicating scent -- it felt as if it had completely enveloped me. I sniffed my sleeve, my arm and then I looked at my lap where the mortar sat and saw that the orris was very nearly dust and the scent, that lush, sweet, heady, candy-like violet scent was pouring from there. I mean, it was an eye opener, a revelation, of the power of orris. I have never smelled orris root powder that smelled like this freshly crushed antique orris powder. My initial plan was to use all the orris powder in the kyphi, but right then and there I decided not to. I decided to save out a few grams and file them away in the scent library. I don't know if this orris is special because it is vintage, or because it has survived the ages whole, or if it was the process of hand crushing the orris which lent it its magic -- I honestly don't know, but I do know that it has changed the way I think about raw elements in their basic forms, and how someone way back when was able to 'discover' the beauty of these elements so easily. I wholeheartedly recommend you become intimate with raw materials in their most basic form as a means of better understanding the complexity of the extracts and scenting materials created from them.

On another note, I am exhausted! I stayed up late in anticipation of some of my children arriving from the central coast for a visit, then went to bed a few hours after my usual bedtime once they were here. So at 2:42 AM I am awakened by the sound of splashing -- one of the upstairs neighbors' habits is to go clubbing until the clubs close at 2, then she brings home the catch of the night and instead of taking them into her dinky apartment, she brings them into the communal backyard where they continue their rowdy and loud partying until 3 or 4 AM -- well, last night a group of about three men she had brought home at about 2:30 AM decided they had to empty their bladders -- in the gardens I've worked so hard to mend -- when one of the drunken louts steps straight into the pond! All I can say is HA HA. My son who had come over from the coast went out and asked them to please be quiet and stop swimming in the pond. They cleared out of the yard about 15 minutes later. So I'm tired. Really tired.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Calling All Natural Botanical Perfumers

and dabblers, I need to ask you all a favor. I'm putting together a collection of quotes from real living breathing perfumers -- you!

So the quote should be in answer to this question:

Why become a Natural Botanical Perfumer?

Simple (the question, not the answers, I'm sure.)

So tell me why. Oh! And by submitting your answer you also give permission for me to publicize your quotes.

Much appreciated, my fragrant friends.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kyphi Project

 A few days have passed since the inclusion of crushed chamomile and aloes wood powder (18 June) and a day or so after that there was a very distinctive aroma of honey floating from the kyphi bowl. But just as with perfume, kyphi needs time and space to settle down to its natural scent and today it smells of chamomile and frankincense, an odd combination it would seem, but one that works nicely thus far. I am crushing orris root (antique/vintage orris root from Absinthe Dragonfly's Amanda Feeley) and let me tell you, orris doesn't like being crushed. It's like mashing walnut hulls, with every smack and grind, bits of orris are violently ejected from the mortar landing everywhere -- in your hair, your eye, in the baby's oatmeal. It's very persnickity stuff. But as you can see, I'm making good work of it. In another couple of days I should have a nice orris powder to add to the kyphi.
The kyphi itself, aside from now smelling of chamomile and frankincense, has turned from golden to red. The term 'golden' will still be applied to the finished project, even if it turns out purple. I have yet to add any oils to the kyphi as I am still in the hand crushing and grinding of herbs mode. The calamus, galangal and cardamom herbs haven't been added yet either and I'm anxious to see what they do to the mix scent-wise. Kyphi takes time and patience; time I have, patience ~ not so much, so I'm fighting the urge to whip out the herb grinder and just go for it. But that's not what the kyphi project is about. It's about listening to the incense through the stages of its creation, letting it tell you where it wants to go, how it must go, and working through with intention.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Winner of Father's Day Parfum Giveaway

The winner drawn randomly is: Yash!  Yash, please send me your mailing address privately by emailing me at


Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 76 ~ One Year, One Nose

It's these types of experiences that bring me right back into the center of all natural perfumery ~ a simple deux fleurs of tuberose and tea rose liberally applied between the breasts and inhaled with every breath until the realization dawns that this is a perfume!

Upon initial application the scents are definitively separate -- there is the deep, sultry, lush, exotic, sweet, sexy tuberose and just as distinctly there is the slight spiciness of the intense rose of tea rose. As the day progresses, they combine in a marriage that is nothing short of spectacular. They become the most expensive, most delightful, most intriguing scent ever smelled -- there are dainty top notes of whispering rose, heady heart notes of vintage Joy, and the base notes provided by warm skin.

Try it. Dab a bit of tuberose between your breasts/on your chest, then atop it add a dab of tea rose. The beginning is predictably tea rose with tuberose, however, by day's end you will find that you've created a unique perfume -- what really pumps up the scent is a workout, a little sweat and heat.

The first time I tried this, I actually thought I'd sprayed some vintage floral perfume and forgotten I had done so. The next morning I did it again and by late afternoon I was swooning in a classic floral parfum created by superb raw materials and my own chemistry. The tenacity is incredible -- literally 8 or 9 hours.

Again, experiences like this reawaken my desire for Natural Botanical Perfumery.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Summer Solstice 2012!

I've noticed a lot of people are checking out last year's Summer Solstice post so I thought I'd update, give 'em something else to read.

Tonight we're dining dans le jardin ~ pulling out the long table and laying it with fresh melon, grapes, berries and ratatouille. There are candle sconces along the fence, so we'll be lighting those up for the first time this year. We'll be dining by candlelight and probably listening to reggae music while the babies run wild in the grass. But, of course, even the most well laid plans are apt to get side-tracked. By evening's end we may end up sitting in a sticky booth at McDonald's eating yogurt parfaits.

More plants are going down this evening as well -- I found an adorable boxwood basil that smells so good, like basil and mint with a hint of chocolate and vanilla. It's a very odd little bush. I also procured a more mature tomato plant to round out the collection we have going here, and I'm going to take a risk and place the newer plants at the end of the driveway outside of the back fence. It gets much better direct light during the day and it remains fairly hot, perfect for tomatoes. My only concern is that is it on the outside of the fence and subject to vandalism. I don't mind if people are hungry and wish to pick a tomato or three to fill their stomachs; I do mind if some jerk comes by and decides to tear the plants up for spite. That's happened. You wouldn't believe the crap (literally) I've found in my yards that the vagabonds of every ilk have dropped in their wake, or the things they've snatched off my front porch, or who I have found sitting on the lawn furniture out back at 3 AM.

Happy Summer Solstice everyone. May your summer be mild and carefree.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Enfleurage Complete

The gardenia enfleurage is complete -- I was able to get three rounds of deep infusion before the weather changed and baked the remaining blossoms on the bush. The scent of the pomade is just as all the other gardenia enfleurages I've experienced -- a couple California enfleurages, a Brazilian enfleurage, a Mexican -- lush, heady white flower heaviness that lasts on the skin about an hour before fading into the ether. I think I'll keep this batch to myself as I do so love the way gardenia and coconut oil behave together -- pure decadence. But, as I posted previously, I had hoped to get up to five rounds of infusion out of this summer's gardenia 'crop', alas, that wasn't to be. The weather went seriously blazing (109 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday) and one could almost watch the gardenia flowers brown and shrivel in a matter of minutes. Very sad. However, every dark cloud is often followed by a rainbow (or has a silver lining, whichever you prefer) and all this extra warm summer weather is perfect for growing tomatoes and summer squashes and pumpkins, which are planted everywhere in the back garden. The parsley is going mad, as are the various basils and mints; the freshly put to earth oregano loves its new home and rewarded us with new tendrils of lush growth. The lavender is in bloom, the rosemary filling out the blank spaces in the garden, and Houston, we have cilantro, the first time I have ever been able to grow this delicate sprite of a plant. I also put my vetyver in the ground and watch hopefully as they regain consciousness from their long trip, waiting for fresh shoots of pale green to jut up above the darker older growth. Several varieties of cucumber vociferously stake their claim to the most desirable position in the back garden -- you should see them tangle -- we're considering giving them a time out in the corner, but they'd probably take it as an opportunity to climb the fence and tease the neighbor's chickens. It is a garden of happy mischief.

Random photos from Delicia store c. 2004

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Golden Kyphi Luban Dakar

The Golden Kyphi is coming along beautifully ~ he began with a few handfuls of golden raisins, a handful of dried apricots, a huge scoop of luban resin, organic neem honey, and a gorgeous rose wine. Today he was plumped up with a generous helping of powdered benzoin and hand crushed tears of myrrh. In the following days more will be added ~ hand crushed green cardamom pods, galangal, calamus and Egyptian chamomile. Then in a few weeks labdanum gum, and then the oils -- frankincense and santal, a drop of rose and cassia. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Mutterations

I have not been sleeping well these past few nights, so forgive me if this post seems more off than my usual 'offness'. I am excited to say that I will be attending the 1st Annual Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco July 8, 2012. I'm taking the train. And perhaps my ex-business partner, Monica, to see if I can re-inspire her to join me in the quest of fragrant art. We make a good business team.

My dear friend Shannon, owner/operator of Season's in Sanger, CA is closing up shop due to serious health problems she's experiencing. Which means all those classes I had scheduled with her are no longer going to be held at Season's. I'm holding them here! In the Tower studio. Soap class in August; Spiritual Oil class in September; Kyphi Incense class in early October, and a holiday soap class in mid- to late-October. Season's will continue to be an online resource for spiritual tools and books, and the sacred plant nursery will still be in operation as well.

My current batch of Golden Kyphi is coming along. I showed it to someone the other day and they asked why I was keeping a bowl of vomit in the butler's pantry! The nerve . . . so in retribution, I stuck my finger in the mix and smeared it on their arm.

So about a month ago I got these cute little guys from a dealer in Lithuania. They came packed in an adorable Lithuanian six-pack cardboard carton for eggs. I attempted to keep the egg carton because it was unique (to me anyway, I've never possessed an egg carton from Lithuania -- do you see the potential hoarder in me rising to the surface?) but it didn't survive the traveling band of berserker granddaughter babies who frequently use the studio as fertile marauding turf. I found its poor mangled body spread willy-nilly across the studio's hardwood floor, and two giggling one-year-olds holding hostage tattered remnants in their banana and peanut butter smeared hands. I know, these are for bloodletting (how gory is that?) but I saw a tribe of Monclins the moment they popped up on my computer screen. Do you see them? I've used them in that capacity and am quite pleased with the result -- I take a small bit of scent paper and soak it with scent, then lay the paper atop a piece of clean glass, then set the open end of a globe over the paper and wait a few minutes for the globe to fill with scent, then pick it up and tuck in my nose -- works like a charm. And they're great conversation pieces.

It's getting late. Gotta run. The J O B calls . . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Perfume ~ Father's Day Giveaway

I know, a day late and a dollar short, that's me! But here it is anyway, the Father's Day Giveaway ~ a new perfume by The Scented Djinn called . . . um, hmmm, looks like it's listed in the formulation book as 'love juice', but, well, I don't think that's a very Djinn worthy name. It's very manly smelling, like dad's Brut and kiss of fine florals (hey, this stuff smells amazing on women, by the way -- I'm wearing it to work).

I used my fougere base in it, so understandably, it's a fougere. It's made up of oakmoss tincture, ambrette, vintage benzoin, tonka, vanilla, lavender mailette, carnation absolute, clary, wheat grass tincture, mountain misery, cassia, santal, vetyver, bergamot, tuberose and cocoa absolutes.

It's very . . . heavy and sensual, smooth like velvet. Sexy.

So, if you have a sexy dad, or know a sexy dad, or want your kids to have a sexy dad, toss your name in the hat for this giveaway to win The Scented Djinn's sexy man parfum not called love juice.

8 mls in that pretty green flacon (tiny silver funnel not included).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

At Last!

The studio is cleaned up! There are still a few boxes here and there needing to be put away somewhere out of the way (perhaps when I get another table in here I can store them underneath), but the space is unbelievable. My granddaughter and I come in here now to put on Indian Vibes on Pandora and dance until we're sweaty. So enjoy the little Sunday pictorial and perhaps the next time I share photos of the studio, there will be students in it learning the ancient art of perfumery. Ignore the ugly, dirty recliner -- it was left here by the previous tenants (my son) and is useful for rocking babies to sleep.

Soap pics of the soap made by the students in the soapmaking class June 2nd.

These are big, clunky 6 plus ounce bars. Mostly extra virgin olive with a bit of organic coconut and organic sunflower. Nice stuff.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Day 75 ~ One Year, One Nose

Cardamom Evulsion

Cardamom is a scent I had some difficulty getting past the acquaintance stage. But I now adore cardamom. The scent embodies a lot of the kinds of essences I crave -- earthy smells, resinous smells, foresty smells, and throat tingling spice smells.

I have a tincture I made in 2006 and at its birth it was nothing to dance about -- it was weak and somewhat flat, and seemed very one dimensional, as if all the elements hadn't quite matured, and I had yet to get past the shaking of hands stage with cardamom on any level. Today, six years later, Mr. Cardamom Tinc. is sublimely lovely; he feels like an intimate friend. There is a warmth in his scent, masculine yet not overbearing. And the spiciness, like the way horseradish likes to whip your olfactory nerves about, it's there but in the background, laying low with no plans for an ambush. There is an earthy, resinous and pitchy pine-like scent with hints of lemon all about the tincture; mouthwatering, really.

Cardamom tincture is sexy, and we are well past the shaking hands stage of our relationship.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Class Dismissed!

So even with the glitches, the class went very well. Forgot to take pictures again, though I think some of what we did was being streamed to FB as we went along. I'll find out later and direct you where to look if you care to.

The future class schedule looks a little bit like this, though maybe a bit of rearranging is in order:

August ~ Botanical Soapmaking Class

September ~ Spiritual Awakening Natural Botanical Anointing Oil Class

October ~ Golden Kyphi Class, and a Three Kings Soap class, on separate days

The students who showed up today have shown a lot of interest in attending these classes as well, and with a bit more lead time, we shouldn't have a problem filling the spots.

Now I'm off to watch a movie that I may very well not last to watching 'til the end.

Peace out.

Gardenia Enfleurage and Other Saturday Things

I began my very first gardenia enfleurage today and I'm taking photos to record the process. First, I bought a pound of organic refined coconut oil because I didn't want the scent of coconut interfering with what I hope is a beautiful gardenia pomade. Then the coconut oil was gently melted and poured into a clean Pyrex dish, then the dish was placed in the freezer so the oil would harden. Once that was done, me, the Pyrex dish of coconut oil, a pair of scissors and a bowl went out to the gardenia bushes and the snipping commenced. When the bowl was filled with gardenia blossoms (about 15 or so) they were placed face down onto the hardened oil. Now, the way I had wanted to do this was to suspend the hardened oil over the gardenias without the two ever touching, but the temperatures here are going to be well into the 90s so the oil would have never stayed solid, and the other option, to place this enfleurage 'kit' into the refrigerator, was a no-go because one, there's no room, and two, I don't want gardenia and chow mein scented coconut oil. So the blossoms are face down in the solid oil, and the Pyrex dish placed in a cool, dark cabinet. Now I wait, and while I do so, the gardenia bushes continue to push out new blossoms for the next infusion.

So mum came by today bearing plants -- what they are are anybody's guess -- one looks like holly, and the other, well, I don't know. But plants are always welcome. We're in the process of putting herbs in the flowerbeds out back, replacing all the scraggly ornamentals that have been growing out there for years, like the ornamental garlic that do nothing but provide loving homes to snails and slugs and stink the place up when touched. That bed will be turned to lavender and rosemary and balm. We're also working on plans to hang gutter gardens along the future chicken coop wall, a tier of about three will do. One of the tiers will contain strawberry plants we have that are just going crazy but can't find a sunny enough spot to put them just yet. Gutter gardens don't take up much space, and lots of yummy food can be grown in them.

I'm gathering all the tools and do-dads to teach the soap class. I'm also taking some stuff to demonstrate perfume, so with any luck I can get a few of the future soap makers interested in becoming future perfumers. Time to get back to work.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Oodles of Fun

Tomorrow I teach. As much as it terrifies me, the public speaking part, I find it one of the most exhilarating and fun things to do. I remember only a few years ago going completely numb at the very thought of standing up in front of a group of people and talking; today I feel excited. I know I will stumble my words, I know I will say something embarrassing at least once (ho ho ho wood!), and I know I will get through it just fine.

I simply cannot wait to begin teaching classes here in the studio. I know I've been saying this for months, and you're probably wondering what's taking me so damned long to get this show on the road, so to speak, but it's a matter of storage. There's so much stuff in the studio that really doesn't belong there but is there because no one, including me, knows where to put it! The long clothes closet in the hallway is jam packed, and the step closet (no, not like 'step-child', but a real step closet -- it's the bottom half of the stairwell that used to lead from the 1st floor of the old mansion to the 2nd -- it is blocked off with fragrant cedar boards about 1/5th of the way up, leaving the steps as shelved storage space) is in such disarray to the point that when the door is opened, the contents fall out in comic fashion right on top of your head -- a sock dangling from the right ear, a baby bib from the left, and a pile of towels and pillow cases snuggling at your feet. That's what happens when chores are delegated, people hear a literal translation in their heads when you say, "Just stuff those blankets in the step closet," because that's exactly what they do.

Once the step closet is cleaned out (who needs 50 pillow cases anyway?) and put back in order, there will be room for the pile of folded blankets, curtains and sheets currently residing in the studio. Unfortunately, the deal with the red velvet 1920s sofa fell through, so nada on that 'look' -- for now anyway. Still trying to get the dude living in the basement to bring up the butler's pantry door. Asking is getting tedious. It validates the old saying, 'If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself'. Maybe if I put a lock on the outside of the basement door and refuse to open it until I have verification that door is coming up the stairway . . .

Day 74 ~ One Year, One Nose

Fresh gardenia

Only a handful of things in this world of olfactory remembrances brings to my mind the love and joy of being in the presence of my grandmother -- there is Vick's Vap-o-Rub, the cloying scent of old aldehydes emanating from a shoe box full of 1950's perfumes, starch in a stiffly ironed homemade cotton apron, and then there is gardenia. Precious, pure gardenia. "Never touch the flowers," Grandma would say as she would nimbly snip a blossom with her fingers, "your fingers will turn the white petals brown." Then with a reverence not normally afforded a flower in our chaotic household, she would fill a bowl with water and gently float the gardenia blossom on its surface. The house smelled as if the gardenia bush had been planted in the middle of the living room floor. That single blossom's scent would linger for a day or two until it began to brown along its edges, the scent finally spent.

For the first time in years, I have gardenias blooming in the garden. Four low bushes which last year produced nothing, have sprouted all crazy with poofy white blooms so heavy with scent it seems there are woozy-making drugs in the air. 

Gardenia flowers are heady, languid, narcotic, densely sweet, pervasively heavy scented; upon closer examination, a marked tuberose-like intensity emanates, along with green tones, something almost minty swirls about, little snakey green tendrils of crisp green breathiness climb up and over the near nauseating sweetness.

Tonight, by the light of candles in the garden, they will be lovingly snipped and carefully enfleuraged.


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