Happy Thanksgiving!

Wanted to wish anyone reading a wonderful Thanksgiving day! I’m certainly thankful for so many things in my life at this time: friends and family, a special cottage in a beautiful location, the opportunity to do something interesting and creative, and the fun of sharing my fragrance interest with the wonderful online community that has grown right along with the web over the years.

The photo above is one of the wild turkeys as it walked through our yard. I’ve posted this on Thanksgiving before but couldn’t resist again; I love the wild turkeys that we see almost daily here.

My brother and family can’t come until Friday so we’ll celebrate here Friday instead of Thursday, but that’s ok. I’ll have some time Thursday to catch up on things, though I may fall behind again on Friday because I’ll be out for a while. Haven’t seen them in a few months though, so it’ll be nice to have them visit.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quick update on new scents

I tested the Wood Violet without plum again yesterday and decided to set that aside for now (don’t like it enough to pursue), but I also tested the new cedary woods scent and will continue with that one.  It needs a name!  The notes are violet, rose, cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, ambergris, cinnamon, clove, tonka, and musk.  It opens with some violet and rose notes but those soften to the background and it becomes a soft cedary woods scent, fairly dry and unisex.  I need to keep testing it, but I like it so far.

I also tested Reves again and will start to send a couple testers out.  I have taken it back to the original idea of soft and powdery heliotrope tempered by very soft woods and am liking the result.  Notes are soft florals (iris, violet, rose, jasmine), soft cedar and musk, sweet heliotrope and tonka, dry ambergris and vetiver, and a touch of anise.  It’s more on the feminine and powdery side.  I’ll update the info for it on the website soon, in the upcoming scents section.

I took a break from Gardenia Musk but will resume work on it as I can.

Some misc IFRA info and comment on room sprays

Several things have put IFRA in my mind the last few days: a blog post I saw recently reviewing the room spray Massoia by Geodesis, an article in Perfumer & Flavorist online magazine, and the new low-atranol oakmoss now available. I’ll touch on all three briefly.

Here’s a link to the article “Special Report: IFRA Workshop—Allergy Prevalence in Fragrance, November 4, 2008, Brussels, Belgium” from the P&F newsletter. I think it has some interesting tidbits.


A blog review of Massoia room spray review caught my eye recently because IFRA standards prohibit massoia bark from being used as a fragrance ingredient, and many companies try to comply with IFRA suggested guidelines.  I don’t know if this room spray contains real massoia or if that is just a note achieved with synthetics, but if it is real that may be one reason this is a room spray and not meant for skin.  Massoia can be a skin irritant to some people, though it does have a wonderful coconut scent and is very long lasting.  There are other ways to get coconut notes without using massoia though, of course.  Sometimes roomsprays contain ingredients that may be irritants for skin, so using them on clothing may be safer for your skin.  Whether IFRA standards are reasonable or correct is a whole other issue, but it sounds like enough people reacted to massoia to make it be a flag to them.   This skin irritant issue is good to keep in mind in general when dealing with room sprays.

Lastly, several sources are offering low-atranol versions of oakmoss because atranol and chloroatranol are thought to be the major potential allergens in moss.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.  I don’t think we know enough to say how much this oakmoss will reduce allergic problems in practice because other potential allergens may be in moss too, but if atranol is the main problem maybe this new product will help.  I’m looking into this issue more, and I’m getting a sample of the new low-atranol moss to see how it compares to regular oakmoss (it has to be better than the synthetic moss substitutes I’ve smelled!).

Lieu de Reves

I had a chance to work on Lieu de Reves this weekend and am pleased with the progress. I took out a sandalwood ingredient that was interacting with some of the ionones to cause an odd musty note that I didn’t like. I also took out a sweet musk and added a drier musk, added a soft white floral note, and increased heliotrope. The iris is coming forward more now, which I like. It’s powdery from the iris/orris/rose/heliotrope combo, but the woods and vetiver cut the powder and I’m finding it pretty. It may be ready for testers soon.

I finally tried Dior Homme on Friday (created by Olivier Polge in 2005). I think it’s beautiful, but I can understand why some guys would find it too powdery, sweet, or feminine. It sure is a pretty composition though, and it had tremendous lasting power on me. I love the gorgeous iris note and the soft vetiver and leather notes in the base (the leather notes were so subtle I’d love to know what it’d be like with some of these base notes a little bit stronger). I could see women wearing this very easily, but the lovely, soft woodsy base makes it unisex enough for some men to enjoy too. I think men are open to wearing floral notes these days, but the sweet and powdery aspect of Dior Homme may put some men off because powdery notes have more feminine associations. Another unisex iris scent I greatly admire is Divine L’Homme de Coeur, which a brighter, less sweet and powdery iris fragrance that might appeal to a wider audience of men; I’ve acquired a few samples of this one that I enjoy wearing.

Holiday Gift Certificates

I’ve had some inquires about gift certificates so thought I’d post a little update about them. You can purchase two kinds of gift certificates from Sonoma Scent Studio. These GC options are available all year, but the winter holidays are the times when I get most requests for them.

One kind can be purchased online through the shopping cart either with PayPal or with a credit card; you can specify any dollar amount and choose to print the GC on your printer and mail it to your recipient or choose to have it automatically emailed to your recipient. This type of GC is through PayPal and the recipient needs to have a PayPal account to redeem it.

The other type of GC is one that I can set up for you through my shopping cart; I can give you a code that your recipient can use anytime in 2009 for either $35 or $50 (enough to cover any half oz or one oz bottle, respectively) and the recipient does not need to have a Paypal account to redeem the GC, nor do you need Paypal to purchase the GC. I can either email the code number to you or I can print a little GC card with the code number on it to send to you or to your giftee. If you purchase a few samples to go with your GC, I’ll hang them on some sample cards with scent descriptions so the carded samples and GC together make a nice-looking gift. To purchase this type of GC, just send me an email and I’ll send you an invoice. I can send your GC plus any desired samples to you or directly to your recipient with a gift message.

Hope that helps answer questions about GC’s! I don’t have any codes set up right now other than gift card codes (that’s another frequently asked question).

Autumn’s beauty

I snuck out for a couple hours today to go to Preston winery, which has been a longtime family favorite because of the beautiful scenery, very nice wines, and wonderful organic gardens on site. Preston sells organic olive oil made from their own crop as well as produce that varies with the season. Today’s bounty included organic squash, walnuts, pumpkins, chard, pomegranates, and persimmon. They also sell fresh sourdough bread that they bake in their custom brick oven. The winery is in Dry Creek Valley with the coastal hills in the distance, and it’s an enchanting spot. On this gorgeous 78 degree day, the low angle autumn sunlight illuminated the golden foliage of the vineyards that cover the rolling hills — one of my treasured fall sights. When my young nieces visit, they love to play with the friendly Preston cats and watch the chickens.

I didn’t get to work on the blends this weekend (spent the weekend doing orders so I’d be able to spare a couple hours to get out today), but I did wear the two take-offs of Wood Violet and decided they’re ready for some tester input. One is much like the original but with a very subtle plum note instead of a strongly featured plum note; I’ll be curious if some people prefer this. The other is quite different, a cedary woods scent with just a soft violet note (cedar, sandal, patch, vetiver, ambergris, violet, plum, rose, cinnamon, clove, musk). It is non-linear, changing a lot as it goes, and I think this one has a lot of potential.

I may take a short break from gardenia and get back to Reves after I catch up on orders again. But it was nice to play hookey today. 🙂

Our own scent truth

I’ve found it very interesting to see the variation in how people perceive a scent, and part of the reason for the variation seems to be that for any given note or ingredient people have different sensitivities and tolerances to it. What is often called “skin chemistry” also plays a role, but even if you eliminate skin differences by having people smell scent strips, they will still describe a scent differently, and the differences go beyond semantics. I see a sort of a bell curve effect, where the majority of people experience the basic aspects of a scent in the same way but differ in the details, while a few people at the outside edges of the curve experience the scent completely differently, maybe because they are anosmic to some major components and/or extra sensitive to others.

For example, most people who sniff Rose Musc smell both the rose and musk components, plus labdanum and ambergris. Some smell more rose than musk and vice versa, but most people get both main components. One person wrote, however, that she gets all rose and no musk or any other basenotes at all, and another person wrote that she got all musk and zero rose. I’m guessing the people at the outer extremes like that must either be so sensitive to some ingredients they do smell in the scent that they’re not registering the others, or else they are at least partially anosmic to the ones they can’t smell.

Reviews of Andy Tauer’s new Vetiver Dance are interesting because some people say they don’t get any lily of the valley at all and others say it dominates all else on them. I’m in the middle ground because I smell a distinct and fairly strong lily of the valley note but not dominant over the rest of the scent, and I suspect most people fall into that general range. Whether people like the lily of the valley note is a different question than whether they perceive it to be there; when you read reviews of any scent, you’ll see differences both in opinion and in perception (and some, but not all, of the differences in perception will be due to the scent actually smelling a little different on different people).

One person couldn’t smell any smoke in Fireside Intense, and that is her own scent truth even though it’s surprising to others who smell lots of smoke. Perhaps she is so sensitive to something else in the blend that it wipes out her ability to smell the smoke. It’d be interesting to have her smell some of the ingredients to pinpoint what’s going on and how the scent could be altered to remove the ingredient that gets in the way for her (anosmia seems less like the culprit here because Fireside Intense has so many smoky ingredients it seems unlikely to be anosmic to all of them). I wonder if these sensitivities happen in the nose, or more likely farther up the pathway and maybe in the brain’s perception of scent? I don’t know enough about the science of smell perception to explain the differences I see, but I know they are real and sometimes large.

I have a dear friend who can detect a drop of rose or sandalwood from a mile away, lol, so she needs those notes to be very subtle or they feel overwhelming (yes, you know who you are if you’re reading!). Others can be sensitive to cedar or musk or a certain spice and it’s not that they dislike the note, but they just need it to be very subtle. I suppose you could say that’s a preference, but it’s because they are so sensitive to some notes that those notes loom over all others if they are too strong, and often what they consider too strong is a level considered yummy by many others.

When presented with an isolated aroma chemical or a perfume with a high amount of that chemical, people will have lots of common ground but major differences too. With ISO E Super, for example, some find it woodsy/cedary/ambery and very pleasant, some find it mildly unpleasant and sour, some smell vinegar or pickles, and some are anosmic to it or find it comes and goes. Another interesting example is the aroma chem methyl laitone, which is a creamy, milky, lactonic ingredient often used to soften sandalwood or white floral accords. Most people get a note of coconut from it, though not the same as coconut aldehyde. Some people are very sensitive to the coconut note and get very strong coconut even when it is used in tiny dilution in a blend, and at the other extreme some people just sense a creaminess and smell no coconut whether sniffing it in isolation or in a blend.

The upshot of all this for me is to be aware of and tolerant of our differences. Remember when you sniff or review something that your experience is just as valid as anyone else’s, but that other people may differ greatly in how they experience the same scent and their scent truth is just as real to them as yours is to you. Sometimes our tastes change with time and we come to appreciate things we didn’t like before, but some of our basic sensitivities, anosmias, and preferences will probably remain fairly steady over time.

This post isn’t meant to be very scientific, but meant just to state some observations I’ve made while working on scents. Dr. Luca Turin may have explanations for the differences we experience in perception of scents, though he may have focused more on the similarities in how we smell scents because that’s more relevant to the basic mechanics of scent perception that operate in us all, and because it is probably more important overall than our quirky differences.

There must be a fair amount of agreement in what we smell in order for perfumes to seem pretty much the same to many of us; for example, most of us perceive something like Coco as rich, warm, and spicy. But when you get into the deeper details people start to differ not just in preference but in perception too, and at least some of this individual variation seems to come from people’s different sensitivities to various ingredients, making some notes stand out to them more than others and sometimes even totally masking lighter notes.

Maybe I’ll come to understand all this better as I keep working and learning, but the topic is fascinating to me. Keeping ingredient sensitivities in mind helps me understand the variety of reactions I get from scent testers and helps me customize perfumes for people (I’ve not had time to do custom blends this year but really want to get back to it eventually).


I should have worked on Gardenia Musk today but got sidetracked on a new project. I made some exciting progress though and will return to Gardenia tomorrow with a fresher nose. When I left off the day before yesterday Gardenia seemed improved and ready for testing.

I usually plant daffodils long before this but just didn’t have time this year. We finally put a few in pots yesterday and I hope they do ok. The paperwhites that live in the ground from year to year are already poking up; they usually bloom just before Christmas. It’s mild enough here that they can grow outside and stay in the ground, multiplying from one year to the next. I have some daffodils that stay in the ground too, but they don’t seem as fast to multiply as the paperwhites.

The crape myrtle has bright fall leaf color now; it’s always the last to turn color and drop leaves. The poor Japanese maples fried a bit in heat waves this summer so they didn’t turn color this year, just dropped leaves as if to say they finally gave up for the season.

Sure looks and feels like November. Time to think about the holidays and I’m not ready, lol.

This and That…

Just wanted to check in today. We had a glorious pink sunrise this morning! The light cloud cover sometimes makes the sky glow pink as the sun rises. We look out over a valley where the fog often rolls in overnight, but the fog breaks up sometime in the morning and if it is just right as the sun comes up the sky is beautiful. Wish I could get a picture.

I tried Tom Ford’s Noir de Noir on one wrist yesterday with a bigger spritz than the first time I tried it, and the most prominent notes to me are plumy rose with a woodsy patchouli base. The patch comes out very strong on me, a little more than I’d like, but not as strong certainly as L’Artisan’s VdR. I like the rose in Noir de Noir though and it lasted all day. Don’t know if the patch is this prominent on others; it’d be interesting to sniff it on someone else. I find I need to test things a couple times to really see what they do (sometimes I don’t apply enough the first time, and I just get a better feeling for the scent on my skin after a few wears).

Saturday I took the tonka back out of Gardenia Musk because it was going too sweet, and I’m trying a couple new additions to it. Will see if this works better.

Already Friday again!

I’ve been really busy keeping up with some large orders this week and haven’t had time to post or work on the new scents. Hope to catch my breath this weekend — can’t believe it’s Friday already.

I’m realizing more and more how individualized our scent experience is, and how differently people experience the same scent. I want to post about this topic in a few days. It’d be fun to be able to tweak my scents for individual people when they find they want a little more or less of this or that (and usually for every person who wants a note more pronounced there’s another who wants it more subdued, reinforcing the allure of custom scenting).

I tried my Amouage Lyric samples (men and women) and though they are nice they didn’t call out to me. Also tried L’Artisan’s Fleur de Narcisse and liked it very much; I smell delicate floral notes with hay, tabac, and soft greens. It’s a subtle and very pretty blend. The iris comes out a lot to me with even a hint of violet, but that’s because iris and violet notes are both built with ionones and there’s a lot of cross-over.

We’re between rain storms today and tomorrow; hope to poke my head out tomorrow and get outside at least a little bit. I did catch Obama’s acceptance speech Tuesday night and am glad to see the hope this historic election has brought to many people.