Just a quick note on ambroxan

I’m still catching up on orders and have the contest winner packages to ship, so no time for working on scents right now. 

I saw the new Escentric Molecules 02 scents are based on ambroxan, and although I love that aroma chem I find it hard to imagine a scent made with it as a main ingredient.  Ambroxan has a wonderful musky amber quality with a soft animalic aspect, but in high doses it can seem a bit harsh or soapy to some people, while others hardly smell it at all.  It has always seemed best used as a soft base note to me.   It isn’t really very close to real ambergris, but it is my favorite of the related aroma chems I’ve tried (Ambrox DL and Cetalox have an objectionable animalic undertone that is sort of a BO note to me, while ambroxan has the good qualities of the others without the undertone that didn’t work for my nose).

The EM 01 scents used ISO E Super and that’s easier to imagine being a success because ISO E is practically a scent in itself.  ISO E is quite cedary but also has amber and musk aspects.  To those who smell it well, it is beautiful.  I find ambroxan beautiful too, but not a fragrance in itself.  I’d be interested someday to sniff the 02 and see what subtle touches they added to try to make a complete fragrance centered around ambroxan. 

Sample Drawing Results

We had a wonderful response to the drawing between the posts and all the emails, so I decided to draw 6 winners instead of 3 (really wish I could send to everyone!).  The winning names picked from the flowerpot are below.  Please send me an email with your address and I’ll mail these off to you by Monday.  I’ll also mail samples out to the testers who haven’t yet received the final version.


Thanks for joining the drawing and mentioning your favorite rose and violet scents!  Looks like I have a little list of things I still need to sample!  It helps me to be familiar with many scents because then when people tell me what they like and dislike I know what they are talking about and am better at helping them choose samples.


Here’s the list of winners for this round.  We’ll do this again in the future!






and two of the people who emailed: JS and SJ (I emailed you to let you know you were among the winners)



A new green floral discovery, and the drawing closes tonight

I’ve not had much time for working on scents the last few days, but I did sneak a quick try of Patricia de Nicolai’s Temps d’Une Fete.  I’ve mentioned that I have trouble finding green florals I like, and here’s one that worked for me, at least on first sampling.  It’s a very pretty floral with hyacinth and narcissus notes, along with green grass, moss, and hay notes, and a soft base with some sandalwood.  Luckily for me the hyacinth is not too strong but the narcissus is lovely in the heart, and the green notes make it feel spring-like.  It feels classical and unlike the modern green florals that often don’t do much for me.   I’ll need to try this one again when I have time.

I’m working to get orders out and to get Ambre Noir, Champagne de Bois, and Sienna Musk back on the scent list. 

I’ll close the sample drawing at 5 pm CA time and will do the draw in the evening and post the winners Friday morning.  I’ll ask for addresses Friday and will mail out over the weekend.

We had airplanes and helicopters over our house for 30 minutes this evening because of a small fire very close to us.  We could see and smell the smoke and watched the planes work until they got it under control from the ground.  It’s amazing how fast they catch these flare-ups and put them out, thankfully.  This one was small but very close and the planes were seriously close to the ground.

Draw for free samples of Vintage Rose and Wood Violet

ballerina rose

We’ll do a draw at the end of the day Thursday for 3 winners of one sample each of our two new scents: Wood Violet and Vintage Rose.  Just post here on the blog that you’d like to be entered or send an email to info@sonomascentstudio.com and you’ll be entered in the draw. 

Tell me your favorite rose and/or violet perfume while you are at it!  I’ll start by saying I have a huge list of favorite rose scents, but some of my favorites are Guerlain Nahema, L’Artisan Drole de Rose, Rosine Poussiere de Rose, Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare, and my new Vintage Rose.  For violet, I love Serge Lutens Bois de Violette, Drole de Rose (which counts as both rose and violet to me), L’Artisan Vert Violette, and my new Wood Violet.

The photo above is a Ballerina rose in my garden.  It’s a single rose rather than a rose with many petals, so people often don’t recognize it as a rose when they first see it.  This shrub rose blooms many times over the summer season, covering itself in pink blossoms with a white eye and yellow stamens.  Marjorie Fair is a similar shrub with red blooms instead of pink.  They have no scent, but are still wonderful in the garden and form a large crop of hips in the fall if you don’t deadhead after the last fall bloom.

So, let me know if you’d like to enter the draw!  It’ll be open for a couple days, until Thursday evening.

Champagne de Bois and aldehydes

I had been using a different labdanum absolute in Champagne de Bois than in my other scents and need to switch that formula over to the newer labdanum.  While I’m at it, I’m making some other adjustments to the formula and have been working on that today.  I thought I should decrease one of the aldehydes relative to the others and make a couple changes to the woods accord.

You’ve probably smelled aldehydes like C-10, C-11 undecylenic, C-12 lauric, and C-12 mna in various fragrances (Chanel No. 5 being the most famous example).  They all are very potent and need to be highly diluted before working with them for small test batches of trial formulas.  They have a characteristic odor aspect that you learn to associate with aldehydes, and they have varying degrees of citrus, floral, waxy, fatty, green, soapy, and/or ambery nuances.  They can add sparkle, lift, and elegance to fragrance, and each one smells different.  I usually prefer to use very tiny amounts of them, but I used a bit more in Champagne to give it the fizzy character.  Most people do fine with very small amounts of aldehydes, but some people don’t care for them when they reach noticeable amounts in a formula.

So, I need to get back to the trials on this.  I hope to finish and have Champagne back on the list soon.  No mail on Monday for Memorial Day, so I won’t be shipping orders out until Tuesday this week.   Hope your holiday weekend is a great one.

Healdsburg Botanical Artist Martha Kemp

We have so many wonderful artists here in Sonoma, and I wanted to mention a recent discovery.  I’ve always admired classic botanical drawings that document plants in beautiful detail.  Martha Kemp of Healdsburg is a botanical artist who has won numerous awards, including six medals (five Gold and one Silver-Gilt) from the Royal Horticulture Society.  She specializes in exquisite graphite pencil drawings, though she works in other media as well.  She illustrated the book Wildflower Walks and Roads of the Sierra Gold Country by Toni Fauver and her illustrations are also featured in Celebrating Clematis by Kaye Heafey and Ron Morgan and in The Trees of Golden Gate Park and San Francisco by Elizabeth McClintock.


She’s a lovely person, warm and enthusiastic.  She’s illustrated quite a selection of our native California plants for some of her projects, but I especially love her gorgeous graphite pencil rose illustrations since I’m so fond of roses.  She is represented by Susan Frei Nathan in Millburn, New Jersey and you can see some of her artwork at this link:




Martha’s work is in the permanent collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, and in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society, as well as in the Shirley Sherwood Collection in London.  Here’s a link to some information and images at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s site:




She offers prints and also has notecards with her illustrations.  If you’re interested in her work she can be reached at mrgkemp@gmail.com.

The American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) is a great resource for locating botanical artists in your area or for finding workshops to help you improve your artwork (Martha usually teaches one of the workshops at the ASBA annual meeting).  Here’s their website:



Boxes on the way!

My edp boxes shipped today, so that’s exciting.  I sure hope they look good, but I’ll have to wait in suspense until later next week to see them.  I’m anxious to see how the colors turned out.

I’m still covered in dabs of various scents throughout the day to test the things I’m working on.  It gets hard to find more space on my arms.  I test various versions of one scent on different spots.  Scent strips can help me when I first start on a scent, but when making the final adjustments I find I really need to put it on my skin.  I just operate better that way, though it may make the job take longer. 

I’ll put the new Wood Violet on the site this weekend and send out a newsletter to announce it and Vintage Rose.  Next week we’ll give away some samples.  Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Musks and anosmia

We were talking about musks in a perfumery group and it got me thinking about the issues I’ve run across when having testers try new scents in progress that have musk in the base.  We all smell musks a bit differently because some people are anosmic to certain musks or can smell them but not as strongly as other people can.  I smell most musks quite well, so if I make a blend with a fair amount of a single musk in the base, that blend will smell very different to someone who can’t smell that musk.  One strategy is to use a combination of musks in the base so that if someone can’t smell one, they might pick up on another.

Different musks have different odor profiles though, and I like to choose the right ones for the scent at hand.  Ethylene brassylate is sweet and fairly strong, ambrettolide is sweet and very strong with a slight fruity nuance (only a tiny bit is needed), galoxolide is powdery and clean and a bit too reminiscent of laundry to me, habanolide is a little powdery and has a metallic nuance, isomuscone is powdery and less sweet than brassy or ambrettolide are to me, arova is similar to brassy but not quite the same, velvione is pretty and a little softer than habanolide to me but maybe not to others, and on and on.  So many musks are available.  Nitromusks like musk ketone are not used much in perfumery anymore because of environmental concerns, but there are plenty of newer non-nitro musks to choose from.   Some musks like Exaltolide are meant to have an exalting effect on the blend so that you would notice their effect even if you can’t smell the musk itself.

People can be anosmic to other ingredients besides musks, such as ISO-E Super.  Some people (like me) smell a nice, strong, consistent cedary musk scent from iSO E, but others have the scent fade in and out, and still others smell pickles, lol, though that’s usually only at higher concentrations.   I think fragrances smell different to different people partly because we each smell things differently, partly because of skin chemistry, and partly because of our preferences and associations.  These differences make it very challenging for the perfumer, and a one-scent-fits-all blend isn’t possible.  That’s what makes room for so much scent variety in the market, and what makes custom scent work so special.

Sonoma Update: I’m trying to get Vintage Rose on the site tonight and Wood Violet tomorrow.  I’ll send out a newsletter about them probably Sunday and will offer a little draw for some free samples of them next week.

More Scent Testing

I’m still testing and tweaking a few scents.  I took a brief break to try a fragrance that’s new to me: Patricia de Nicolai’s Château Eau Fraîche.  The notes listed at beautyhabit are moss, hay, leather, and grass, but I get a tabac note too.  It opens with lots of green moss, grass, and hay notes, and very soon the tabac comes out on me.  Then the soft leather note emerges, and the drydown has just a bit of sweetness in the base.   It’s very pleasant and sophisticated.  I love subtle tabac notes, and the leather is quite soft.  The moss and hay notes make me think of being outside in the summer sunshine.  I need to save time to give this one a better test run.  It’s interesting.

So much to do.  I’ll check in again soon.

Curbing sweetness

Just working on a scent where I need to cut the sweetness a bit and sometimes it is hard to do while keeping the basic scent the same.  Some balsamic items like salicylates can cut sweetness, but I don’t like them in this.  I already have some dry woods in here, but the sweet spices, sweet musks, and sweet Javanol (a nice sandalwood chem) make it a little sweeter than I want.  I have an aldehyde and some citrus in it, and those help.  Also some hedione.  Patchouli would help, but I don’t like it in this.  Ambroxan can help.  So, that’s what I’m doing tonight, adjusting and sniffing for sweetness.

Took a brief chance to try a new scent: un Parfum d’Ailleuro et Fleurs by The Different Company.  The first half hour is a very pretty floral with neroli and tuberose over musk, but then the florals fade and it becomes a very soft floral musk.  It’s pretty but not sure the lasting power is enough for me.  I’ll need to try again with fresher skin.

Vintage Rose will be the first of the three new scents to go on the list as soon as I finish the page for it, and it should be followed shortly by Wood Violet.  Will get that done soon.