Custom tweaks of nature

I thought this was an interesting blurb in Perfumer and Flavorist about how natural ingredients are being tweaked to de-color them or remove allergens or change the scent profile in some way (such as removing the dirtiest part of patchouli).   Jean Claude Ellena has discussed doing this to design custom natural components in his perfumes; for example, he had a Grasse lab concoct a special version of lavender for him to use in Hermes Brin de Reglisse.

We saw blue sky today for the first time in nearly a week of gray smoke!  It was very nice.  🙂

Checking In…

The smokiness in the air was a little better today, though we didn’t have blue sky yet.  We had a bit of a breeze that may have helped reduce the thickness of the smoke, and maybe the fires are getting more under control and that’s contributing to the improvement too.

I worked on orders and gave a quick try to the L’Artisan scent L’Ete un Douce.  I love many from the L’Artisan line, but this one wasn’t a perfect fit for me.  It’s summery and very well done, but more clean than I usually like.

The first two musk package sniffers are testing away and we’ll get the packages sent off to the next two people when they’re done.


We haven’t seen the blue sky here for days; smoke from the fires in northern California has blanketed us, blocking out the sun and the view of the nearby hills.  It’s weirdly muggy and the air smells like fire.  People are trying to stay inside to breath less smoke.  Sure hope this clears up soon.  I’m lucky that the fires have not come close enough to be a threat to our home.   I really feel for the people who weren’t so lucky.

I should be able to get back to some blending this weekend, I hope.

Sending Out Traveling Musk Packages

I’ll send out two identical traveling musk packages Tuesday the 24th.  The first two people can sniff, report back their results via email to or to my personal email (given in the package), and then send on to the next two people.  We have the first six or so in line already.

Here are the questions I’d love for you to answer:

— For each vial, dab a little on your skin or on a scent strip and sniff it on and off for a couple of hours.  How strong would you rate the scent on a scale of 0 – 5 with 0 being none at all and 5 being very strong?  Which ones seem to last longest to you?  Do they come and go or stay steady?

— For each vial, jot down a couple words that give your main impressions, such as powdery, sweet, fruity, clean, animalic, herbal, musty, earthy, woodsy, honeyed, floral, dry, etc.

I’ll tabulate the results.  No names will be associated with the data; all data will just be tabulated so we can look for patterns. 

Let’s start a thread below this post for questions and reporting back on this experiment.  Many people are anosmic to at least one musk, so don’t be surprised if you can’t smell all of these.  I diluted them down to a very skin-safe level which will make some seem soft; this experiment will require unperfumed skin before you start or else the musks would get lost mingling with your regular fragrance of the day.  A number of the musks are similar and a couple are more unusual.  Musks do their work partly in conjunction with other ingredients so sniffing them in isolation is not giving the full story, but it will help see which ones you can smell directly.

In addition to the musks, I included vials of ISO E Super and Ambroxan since people are commonly partially anosmic to those as well and because they’re fun to sniff if you can smell them.

Tess, if you read this I need your address to get you in line for a package.  You can send me an email.

Have fun sniffing and thanks for participating!


Quick Update

The Now Smell This blog featured a very nice review of Sonoma’s Velvet Rose shea cream yesterday:

I’m catching up on orders and making two identical traveling musk packages.  I’ll post the details on that when I mail them out to the first two people Monday or Tuesday.  Should be a fun experiment!

Update on Cameo: I’ve had some questions about why Cameo is missing from the scent list.  When I added Vintage Rose to the Boutique Collection I took Cameo down, thinking I didn’t need two roses of the same category in that list.  They are quite different in detail though, even though they are both somewhat nostagic rose scents; Cameo is powdery and has a violet note whereas Vintage Rose has a plum note and is woodsy/ambery, almost incensy.  I will probably add Cameo back and put it in the Studio Collection, but I thought I’d wait and try a different labdanum in it first in case that makes it work in lotion (the labdanum in it does not work in an oil base, but a more recently acquired labdanum might work in an oil base).  Cameo doesn’t have much labdanum, just a touch, so the substitution might be just fine.  I have that on my To Do list…

It’s been ridiculously hot for days (my porch thermometer in the shade has reached 104 to 107 for five afternoons in a row).  Today looks like mid 90’s so that’s a slight improvement.  We have a lot of smoke in the air outside from fires in the area.  Sure hope the fires are rapidly contained.  Other parts of the state are also very hot.



Labdanum and amber

tonka orris lab

The picture above shows tonka beans, orris root, a jar of labdanum absolute, and lavender blossoms.  Photo copyright

When I made Ambre Noir, I wanted a very dark labdanum-rich amber scent with a little leather and rose and very little vanilla.  I also wanted woods, moss, and incense.  I like the way it turned out, but I want to soften one of the woodsy leathery notes and I may decrease the rose.

Many labdanum fans have loved Ambre Noir as is, but some people have said they’d prefer more of a sweet golden amber note and less labdanum.  I would like to keep it fairly dark and resinous, so I may do a separate golden amber and keep noir very dark, or I may just lighten the labdanum aspect a touch.

Each perfumer mixes amber accords to taste, using labdanum as one of the main constituents and adding things like benzoin, peru balsam, vanilla, tonka, patchouli, sandalwood, cedar, frankincense, myrrh, oakmoss, vetiver, ambergris, orris, citrus, and spices.  From the dark Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan to the gourmand Hermes Ambre Narguile to the smoky Tom Ford Amber Absolute, each amber scent takes the theme in its own direction.

Ambergris and ambroxan are not the same as an amber accord, though they are often used in amber accords.  Ambergris is the interesting substance passed out of a whale’s digestive system that floats around in the ocean or washes up on beaches and if found by someone who recognizes it is sold for a lot of money as a rare perfume ingredient with fixative qualities.  Ambroxan is a synthetic ingredient created by a large fragrance aroma chemical company trying to find something that does for perfume what natural ambergris does.  Many of these synthetic ambergris components are available (Ambroxan, Ambrox DL, Cetalox, Cetalox Laevo, etc), but Ambroxan is my own favorite so far.

Was another hot day today!  I need to make some updates to the website, keep orders flowing out, and make progress on the new scents.  Will return to Ambre Noir shortly…

Busy, busy…

I’ve been busy keeping up with orders and haven’t been able to work on the new scents lately.  I’ll have a post soon, hopefully tomorrow eve, on labdanum and how it relates to amber accords and my decisions on Ambre Noir.

Was filtering a new batch of Jour Ensoleille this morning and enjoying the scent of orange blossom and neroli.  Wish I could think of a way to use these filters when I’m done.  Seems a shame to throw them out; they might work to scent potpourri, but I’m not sure.  I use fine grain lab filters (the holes in coffee filters are way too big) and after filtering a batch I toss out the filter, but it sure does smell good.  🙂 

FYI for Bay Area folks, the author of the new book What the Nose Knows, Avery Gilbert, will be at the Borders Bookstore on Union Square in San Francisco on July 23 at 7 pm to discuss the book and sign copies.

Happy Father’s Day!

This is a little late, but I wanted to say happy father’s day.  I had an enjoyable afternoon/evening visiting with my family.  My brother and sis-in-law were here with the two girls and it’s always fun to catch up on what they’ve been doing. 

I’ll have a new perfume-related post soon.  I think there’s enough interest in the musk sniffing package, so I’ll see if I can put that together next weekend.

Champagne de Bois is back and boxes are in

Champagne de Bois is back on the list and is available again.  The reformulation is done and I think it turned out very well.  I switched to the new labdanum, eliminated cedar, altered the aldehyde balance, and changed the jasmine.  It’s a rich, warm, woodsy fragrance with aldehydes, jasmine, clove, sandalwood, labdanum absolute, amber, vetiver, and musk.  Testers have been enthusiastic about it (the final version is the same as the tester version that went out, for those who are wondering about that).

The new perfume boxes are now shippping with orders.  The photo below shows Velvet Rose in a half oz bottle with the perfume box and also in the 1/6 oz parfum oil with its box.  You can’t see it in this photo, but the jasmine vine wraps around the box and a label on the back gives the ml amount, scent name, etc. so the box can be used with all the scents.  It is sized to be a perfect fit for the one oz bottles but works well for the half oz too with a little tissue.

bottles and boxes