Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Soap and Chon and Jasmine and Hope

I've done something I almost never do -- actually a few 'somethings'. One, I used elaborate molds to make soap, and two, I used palm kernel oil in the soap -- ugh! I can't help but think of burnt orangutans when I use the palm kernel oil, and when this is gone, if I even use it up, I'm never buying it again. Besides, this particular bucket of palm kernel oil smelled somewhat off to me, but perhaps that's just how it smells? It's been years since I've used any palm product in skincare, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to look or smell like. And the molds -- I was given a stack of beautifully elaborate molds for soap making. I've rarely used molds for soap making. They're such a hassle to use and sometimes don't go through the gel phase like loaf soaps do.

I made a small batch of soap, about two pounds, using that lovely gifted vintage Mane lemongrass. That's this soap ~

Vintage Mane Lemongrass Soap
It's slightly brighter yellow than this photo depicts, and has a deeply sweet lemony fragrance. Lovely scent.

The other soap I made was perfumed into existence, a lovely blend of petit grain, neroli, three different patchoulis, vetiver, and vintage angelica root. It smells lush and floral and slightly orangey with hints of earthiness. Very lovely scent. This soap here ~

Neroli/Patchouli Soap
Note that it is somewhat paler than the lemongrass soap, though I did use the same mold. I might be putting a bar or two of this up for sale on The Scented Djinn Etsy Apothecary site. I used all sorts of molds, so variations apply.

Chon ~ I had a very brief conversation with someone this morning about Chon -- what is Chon? Chon is like Kopi Luwak, a coffee bean that's passed through the intestinal tract of a critter. Chon is the result of the coffee bean coursing through the innards of a Vietnamese weasel, whilst Kopi Luwak is the result of coffee beans through a civet -- very, very similar, but slightly different. Both bean-eating animals are probably in the viverridae family, but exist within different subfamilies. Anyway, Chon is gorgeous and tenacious with strong notes of, understandably, coffee. Beyond that the scent is sweet and fluid, like a dark, rich, boiled down syrup, almost floral. It also has a very, very, very slight caca back note. Civety caca back note. The rich, dark coffee, syrup, and floral notes dominate, while the caca note lingers on the fringes of the scent, not fully engaging. It's gorgeous stuff. Mixed with a tad of jasmine grandiflorum and ah! Poopy indolic madness ensues! It's one of those scents in which you want to bury your face. When I talk to non-perfume people about this, they look at me like I've completely lost my mind, which is why I start them off with the pretty stuff -- rose, lavender, lotus, gardenia butter, then I introduce the poopy stuff -- oudh, chon tincture, kopi luwak tincture, horse chestnut tincture, and African stone tincture. I figure I've buttered them up enough after the gorgeous stuff to then show them the dark side of natural perfumery. Still, many do not get it. It's only when I layer a little jasmine over chon tincture that they do finally begin to understand.

I'm still struggling with the 'business' end of what I do. I had a conversation with my son the other day about public speaking and how it terrifies us both. I think that's really what's holding me back. Fear. It's diminished quite a lot from when I first began my journey into perfumery, but it's still there, lingering in the background of my thoughts. I've overcome it before, and I will again, it's just emotionally exhausting getting ready to 'perform' for a class full of eager perfumery students, and the afterwards is worse -- complete, full-body exhaustion for a day or two. I just have to get over it, and the only way is to teach more.

Speaking of teaching, the Natural Perfume Academy has been making some changes recently, most of which I'm not savvy enough to figure out, techy stuff, but what I do understand is that the Irish government is offering to pay Irish citizens' tuition for our courses at the Academy, since the Academy is headquartered in Galway, Ireland. If you're in Ireland and interested in learning natural perfumery, contact the administrator at our website to get information about the grants being offered. The website is www.naturalperfumeacademy.com.

What I'm most interested in doing this year, though, is face-to-face classes. I'm scheduling a kyphi class in Fresno for May 2014, and then hopefully another kyphi class after here in Atascadero. I do plan to teach a perfume class in person, but I don't know when exactly. Still working out those details. The more in person courses I teach, the more the fear subsides. And, as usual, marketing is my enemy. I'm always amazed at some of these newcomers who pop up and take over with their grand ideas and their straightforward approach. I admire their clarity.


  1. Anonymous9:44 AM

    Hi Justine,

    Concerning beans that pass through a critter's innards, I'm always somewhat in awe of the first person who took the notion to fossick through the output and retrieve the beans and make use of them. A huge leap of faith or hope or desperation. Quite mind-boggling from this distance to comprehend how that came about.

    Beautiful soaps from the elaborate moulds: such crisp details and lovely tactile appeal.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh;-)

    1. I know what you mean. I often wonder the same thing about civet paste and musk pods and castoreum and ambergris -- and Africa stone.

      I love how the molded soaps look, but again, they're a hassle. I'll figure some way to work with them, though.

      Thanks for posting Anna.

  2. Justine, I love the mold. Do you always use cold process method for soap? Do you find that chemical process alters the scent at all? I make both kinds of soaps m&p (organic base) and CP I was just wondering which one would be better.

    I just want to say I do a lot of teaching and I'm an extremely introverted person but that shyness doesn't translate at all when I'm speaking or teaching! You might be a little nervous the first few minutes of speaking but that will go away and your passion for your art will take over!

  3. I always make CP soaps. There is a way to preserve the scenting elements using CP method, mostly has to do with combining the lye/water and oil at lower than usual temperatures, then letting the soap gel, and immediately cooling it down once it's finished a complete gel. Obviously, it takes a lot of babysitting and calculation on the soap maker's part, but the results are beyond gorgeous.

    I've done a fair bit of teaching as well, but I get stage fright every time. Once I get going, though, it goes away to some extent. I just focus on what I'm teaching and try not to be self-conscious doing it. It's still exhausting, though :)



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