Dark, rich, dirty rose

Last week I tried Magie Noire for the first time (it’s great!), and yesterday I tried another dark and dirty rose, Gucci’s sadly discontinued L’Arte di Gucci.  It’s quite something, a very rich dark rose with fruity topnotes on an earthy base with patchouli, vetiver, leather, moss, woods, and musk. It has some spice from geranium (but none of the soapiness that geranium can have) and some other floral notes (primarily tuberose and a little dirty narcissus), but the rose dominates.  It’s a diva scent and very extroverted; it doesn’t fit my quiet personality but I love the smell because I’m a sucker for dark rose scents.  Lasting power is excellent.  The rose is very deep and smells damscone-rich.  Yum.  I’ll have to do a comparison, but I think Magie Noire seemed to be a bit more animalic on me and Gucci is more earthy, though the Gucci has some leather notes too.

I’m almost caught up with orders again.  I’ll give an update soon on the new scents, and it’ll be time for a newsletter soon too.  We’re still having a major heat wave here!  I’m very thankful for the air conditioning, which has been needed this summer more than usual.  It wasn’t a sensible day to try a dark rose, but I couldn’t resist.

Running a tad behind…

I need to be out for this afternoon so that’s going to put me just a bit behind, but I should still have the current orders mailed out by Friday.  If you’re ordering today it will probably go out Monday.

We’re having a hot spell again with temps over 100 each day.   We always have one final heat wave at the end of August or beginning of September (usually just before my birthday in early Sept, yes I’m a Virgo!).  October is one of my favorite months for our weather, with the intensity taken out of the summer heat but still lovely warm days as the vineyards start to change color.

I’m really pleased with the great response to the new Ambre Noir; many people are loving their samples and ordering bottles.  The new Winter Woods testers are going over well too.  I’ve been too busy to get back to the Gardenia but will do that as soon as I can.

I tried a sample of the new DK Chaos and like it a lot.  It starts out a little similar to Black Cashmere with the woods/spice/incense theme but evolves in a lighter direction, becoming gentler and sweeter than BC in the drydown and with different notes.  I’ll have to get out my BC sample (been a while).   Chaos has sweeter spices in the drydown, lots of yummy cedar, and less incense than I remember in BC.  The opening does have the herbal quality people have mentioned, but I like it.  Chaos changed quite a lot on me as it went, so I’ll have to give it another run.  I pick up on some ionones in the drydown too.  It’s a nice woodsy scent with soft spices and lasted around 4 hours for me from a little spritz, but I should try a bigger squirt and give that a better test (I just have a sample though).

My mandevilla vine I purchased and planted earlier this summer is having a nice bloom.  The scent is sort of between jasmine and gardenia, softer than either of those but very lovely.   I’m glad it seems to be growing happily and blooming.

How do perfumers choose between alcohol or oil format?

Someone suggested I do a blog post to explain from the perfumer’s point of view how the decision is made whether to create a perfume in oil or alcohol form.  I thought it was a great idea because I receive questions about this issue quite frequently.  Why does a perfumer pick one base or the other?  Can any scent be made in either form?  I’ll try to answer some of these common questions.


What reasons might a perfumer have to create one or more scents in an oil base?

  • Some perfumers like the way oil scents stay closer to the skin and last a bit longer, especially when made at parfum concentration.
  • Some natural ingredients don’t mix well in alcohol, causing separation or settling out of material.
  • Some perfumers don’t want to deal with the expenses, regulations, and shipping fees on alcohol.  (In the US, you need to purchase an expensive federal permit if you want to buy more than 5 gallons of specially denatured alcohol per year.  You can buy more than 5 gallons of undenatured alcohol, but you must pay a tax on it.  Shipping for alcohol is expensive too.)
  • Some perfumers and customers like having the option of an oil base if they have skin issues with alcohol or if they’re looking for an all-natural product (though some natural perfumers use grape alcohol).


What reasons might a perfumer have to create one or more scents in an alcohol base?

  • Some perfumers like the sillage that alcohol offers and/or the way alcohol perfume dries faster on the skin. 
  • Some perfumers want to offer spray bottles because that format is popular.
  • Many perfumers appreciate the way alcohol opens up a scent and really helps the fragrance bloom.
  • Some ingredients only mix in alcohol and won’t do well in an oil base, causing separation or settling out of material. 


Some perfumers like to choose the base specifically for each scent, depending on what seems most appropriate for the scent.  And some perfumers prefer not to offer the same scent in both formats because that makes compounding more involved.


Many ingredients are easier to use if you pre-dilute them before incorporating them into perfume.  For example, many solids and resins need to be warmed and blended with alcohol (and possibly filtered to remove residue) before use.  Some of these substances can be thinned much more easily in alcohol than in oil bases.  Even when an ingredient can be incorporated into an oil base as well as in alcohol, that means keeping stock of the pre-diluted ingredient in two different forms.  Perfumers have so many bottles of things already, keeping two sets of ingredients for oil versus edp does complicate matters.  Some people avoid that issue by diluting resins in solvents that can be used in either oil or alcohol base, but others prefer to use alcohol as the solvent to tightly control and minimize the final percentage of common solvents like triethyl citrate and dipropylene glycol.  Some of these things are fine at small concentrations and can even add fixation, but if you add too much they will over-fix and damp down your fragrance.


The same issues apply to lotions as to oil bases because lotions are basically an oil base combined with a water phase by an emulsifier (there’s no alcohol).  To do a fragrance in lotion I have to keep a separate alcohol-free fragrance concentrate, and that’s only possible for scents that don’t require an ingredient that needs pre-dilution in alcohol.


I currently offer three scents from the perfume list in both oil and edp form: Opal, Egyptian Musk, and Velvet Rose.  I like to offer the musks in oil because many people like musk oil roll-ons.  I formulated Velvet Rose specifically with lotion in mind as a goal; I really wanted to have a rose lotion so I made sure I didn’t put anything into Velvet Rose that was incompatible with oil bases.   I originally did more oil scents but I’ve gradually shifted more toward alcohol because I like the way the fragrances mature over time and bloom in the alcohol base and I have enough to keep me very busy already without keeping multiple forms of fragrance concentrate for each scent.  (Also, I was originally drawn to oils since I am a dabber rather than a sprayer, but I later decided my favorite approach was to use alcohol parfum and dab it.)


Still, I’d like to add a few more of my scents to the lotion list after I deal with a labdanum issue.  I have one beautiful labdanum resin that works well in alcohol and I’ve used it in all my scents that contain labdanum.  I recently found a labdanum resin that can be used in either alcohol or oil and is close enough in smell to substitute in the oil and lotion versions of my scents.  When I have time I will reformulate a few scents for lotion with that new labdanum (I’ll keep the alcohol versions the same and just develop a slightly modified formula for the lotion versions).


Bath and body etailers who purchase ready-made fragrance oils in common solvent bases can easily just mix those fragrance oils into either oil or edp base, as well as into bases for soaps, lotions, etc.  But perfumers who compound their own blends from scratch using raw aroma chemicals and natural ingredients have lots more to think about when choosing bases for their fragrance concentrates.  Hope this has answered some questions about that process!  The answers to this question of oil vs alcohol will vary from perfumer to perfumer, but this should explain at least some of the issues involved.


Sneak peek at a new scent…

I’ve been working on Gardenia Musk, Lieu de Reves, and a third project I haven’t mentioned by name yet but that seems almost ready.  It’s a new woodsy gourmand and I’ll let this page serve here as a sneak peek, but I won’t add it to the site probably for about a week. 


I was debating whether to use autumn or winter in the name but autumn conjures leaves, apples, and spices while winter seems more in synch with cozy smoky ambered woods.  This isn’t a dry or stark wood though; it’s a fall and winter cozy woods scent.

I’ve also made good progress on Reves; I really like the added soft rose note and decided against a couple other things I had tried in it.  I’m hoping to get back to Gardenia within a day or two.

I love these late summer days and the upcoming fall days.  The warm evenings with spectacular light on the hills are one of my favorite things.  Hope you’re enjoying summer’s late stages.  🙂

This and that…

I haven’t had a chance to work on the new scents the last few days and really want to get back to them.  In addition to Gardenia Musk and Reves, I have a new woodsy scent in the works.  Can’t wait to make more progress this week.

I did get to experience a quick trial wearing of Lancome’s classic Magie Noire and enjoyed it — a dirty rose.  It’s very dark and sophisticated with a pretty rose note and some fruity berry and blackcurrant notes, all backed by an animalic woodsy base.  Fun!  I’ll be getting a sample of the new Chaos and am looking forward to that!

The price of gasoline is really affecting my material costs.  One of my recent kilo purchases had to ship 2 day air because it is not good to ship this ingredient in the warm season via UPS ground, but the 2 day air was $50 shipping, ouch.  Gas prices have been painful for everyone.

My brother and family are spending the week at Tahoe for vacation, and my folks are babysitting their dog.  Sounds like lots of people are taking a vacation this week to fit it in before school starts again for the kids.  Can’t believe it’s that time of year again.  I’d better get back to work…

Interview and reviews on today’s Sniffapalooza Magazine

Today’s new issue of Sniffapalooza Magazine contains an interview that I did with writer Kathy Patterson.   Kathy also reviewed Vintage Rose and Champagne de Bois.  You need to scroll down the page a little to find the article, but you may want to check out some of the other pieces in this issue too:


Oh deer!

I was just a couple feet away from a young buck on the other side of the garden fence this evening. I surprised him when I rounded the corner, but he wasn’t scared enough to run off.  He had modest sized antlers with two prongs and the usual big brown eyes and huge ears constantly on the alert.  He stared longingly at all the green plants on the other side of the fence in my garden. 

I felt badly that the gnats were bothering him; he kept swishing his short little tail and stamping his back feet, making me wish he at least had a better tail to swish with.  I also wished I had a camera in hand because his face was beautiful and I was close enough to get a great picture.  I watched him for quite a while as he wandered around grazing, not very concerned about me but staring at me from time to time. 

Earlier we’d had a big group of wild turkeys come through (they walk through on a nightly journey to their sleeping quarters almost every evening).  It’s fun to share the area with the wildlife, though I don’t share my garden.  Mom has a wonderful crop of corn, beans, peas, peppers, strawberries, and lettuce that she’s trying not to share with them, but the deer did get some of her herbs.

I’m testing a new synthetic galbanum ingredient this evening; the natural has fairly short lasting power and the fragrance chem companies all offer synths that they hope perfumers will prefer for their better lasting power.  I feel like I made good progress on Reves and also on an exciting new scent that I don’t want to mention just yet.  I need to work more on the gardenia though.

Hot summer days

It was 108 F again here today; it’s been a really hot summer, but I do better than many people in the heat.  I’m a cold wimp though, so that makes California a good spot for me.

The grasses in the garden border now have golden plumes that glow when backlit, and I love seeing them in the late afternoon light.   Whenever I can I take a few minutes at lunch and dinner to go out on the porch and peek at the garden while sniffing the latest tester scent out in the fresh air, or as fresh as it is when over 100 degrees, lol.

I think I have an interesting variation on Reves and will need to run it by a few testers because it’s unusual.  I’m trying some new things on Gardenia.  I’m enjoying sending out the boxes for the edp.  It feels good to give the bottles a send-off in custom boxes, and they make the outgoing packages feel more finished to me.

Hope you’re having fun watching the Olympics!  I’ve been trying to catch a bit in the evening as I work on orders; the athletes are always so amazing. 

Many people like to listen to music as they blend, but I focus best when it’s quiet.  If I’m really working intensely on sniffing and blending, I do it without any other distractions.  Limiting input to the other senses helps me focus on smell.  Not as much fun, but it’s more effective for me and speeds up the decision process for what tweaks to try next.

Back to some sniffing and tweaking…

Back up to speed

My internet connection is back up to speed again; my ISP had a problem that they fixed on their end.  Glad to be off dial-up! 

Had a few hours Sunday to work on Lieu de Reves and made some progress.  I increased the orris and added some soft floral notes that are interesting in it; I’m testing that result against the first version.

I’ve not worn Encens Tranquille in a while because it’s been so warm, but I wore it today to test a new batch for consistency.  I really enjoyed it and that’s fun when I wear one of my own that I’ve not worn in a while and remember why I like it.  🙂   I love real incense notes, real frankincense and myrrh essential oils, especially with dry woods and labdanum.

I  need to get back to Gardenia Musk.  I have a running list I keep for the things I want to try next in each scent under development.  The next thing up for gardenia is to try to add even a bit more oomph to the floral notes and experiment with the ultra subtle peach note to see if it might be nice a touch stronger.

Everyone has heard the news by now that Donna Karan has brought back Chaos and some others.  I think that’s great, especially since they obviously listened to the many requests to bring back Chaos.  It’s nice that public demand in this case brought about a happy re-issue.

Continuing my bad luck recently with computers, my website email has been down for about 6 hours now.  If you’re trying to reach me via the info@ email it may take a bit longer before I get it.  If my web host doesn’t fix it by morning I’ll post my personal email here so you can reach me.  Many of you already have that and are welcome to use it.

Edited to add: the website email info@sonomascentstudio.com is ok again now, 10 pm CA time.  I’ll catch up on emails tomorrow.  Working on some orders now…

Checking in again…

It’s been a really busy week.  Ambre Noir is on the site now and should be great for fall.  I’ll keep working on Gardenia Musk and Lieu de Reves as I can.  I tried some interesting new ingredients and that’s always exciting.   Received shipment of a kilo yesterday that had leaked some, but it only lost about 30 grams, luckily.

My high speed internet connection is not working and I’ve spent a frustrating day troubleshooting after talking with the ISP tech help.  No progress yet so I’m stuck on dial-up for now.  We are in the country just out of range for DSL and cable, which leaves me with only a couple choices for high speed.   I hope to get this resolved next week, but meantime I am on slow dial-up that times out a lot.

Tried a sample of Annick Goutal Neroli today and found it to be lovely and fresh.  It’s not very long-lasting but just enough to make it worthwhile (maybe 4 hours or so, but I need to test a few times to see).  Very pretty and helped perk up my mood, which has been a bit low today over these internet issues.