A Note on Scent Updates

I had a couple emails from people who read my last post and became worried that I might change the current Champagne de Bois; I just added a phrase to that sentence in that post to make it read better (I hope!), but I thought I’d also post a quick note here to say I have no plans to change the current Champagne de Bois. What I had meant in that sentence is that I’d changed it last year as one of my goals. I’m very happy with how it is currently.

I should probably say a few words about my scent list strategy in general. The year 2007 was a major change for my offerings; I was closed for a number of months in 2007 while I worked on a new scent list and reorganized the website. During that downtime I discontinued a number of the more gourmand scents I’d had on my list and focused just on the special blends I did that were more unique. I’ve mentioned this change of direction several times on my blog. During 2008 I continued to develop the scent list in that direction, working on new scents and updating two of the older ones (Champagne de Bois and Ambre Noir).

I want to offer a shorter list than what I had pre-2007, but I want them all to be unique and very high quality. I don’t plan to do another large-scale adjustment of the list like I did in 2007, but it was a necessary thing to do at that time to move in the direction I wanted to go. I have a plan for what I want Sonoma Scent Studio to be, but it takes time to make it a reality because I’m doing it by myself. I’m happy with the progress so far, and I can’t say enough thanks for the encouragement and support I’ve received along the way.

I keep learning more and more each year I do this, and I acquire more beautiful materials to work with. I have added so many wonderful ingredients to my stock that it has opened up the possibilities to the scents I make. I do worry about the many fragrance launches already happening each year, and I always think about the ways I can make my offerings special as a small company free to use as expensive ingredients as I want without having per kilo price restrictions put on me or being told to use melon notes, lol. I’m lucky to have the freedom I do and hope to build a really fine but small collection of fragrances. Making the best products I can and providing excellent customer sevice have always been my primary goals, and I hope I can make a niche for myself that way.

PS I apologize to those who enjoy melon notes, but we all have a few things we don’t like and I rarely enjoy melon in fragrance even though I love fresh melon as food. I like almost every note in some contexts though, when done well (I need to sample FM Therese again because on first sampling years ago I thought it was very pretty but it does have a light melon note to many people, so there you go!).

Thoughts for the New Year

Each year as January 1st approaches we tend to look back at the previous year to see what we accomplished and set some new goals for the upcoming year. I completed quite a few of the goals I’d hoped to achieve last year, though my To Do list is always a bit longer than what can be squeezed into a year.

One big goal for last year was to design and produce custom boxes for the perfume bottles and switch to professionally printed labels. I moved away from the oak tree logo and took on a botanical theme with a jasmine vine instead. I wanted a botanical theme on the boxes that would be unisex and could work for any scent, and I think the design turned out well. A related goal was to re-design the website header and shea cream labels to match the new perfume boxes and labels to make them all look consistent.

Another major goal that was accomplished last year was to finish a number of new scents (Sienna Musk, Vintage Rose, Winter Woods, Wood Violet) and update a couple of older scents (Champagne de Bois, Ambre Noir). And of course an ongoing goal is to keep sourcing all kinds of wonderful new ingredients; I added many new things to my stock this past year.

Another goal was to stay open all year with no days off, which I accomplished, though I want to amend that for next year by taking one week off sometime in the summer just for fun (maybe even two weeks several months apart!).

One main goal for 2009 is to finish more new scents that are already in various stages of development: Lieu de Reves, Gardenia Musk, Zen Musk, the new woodsy masculine scent, and a few more. And I’ll continue to source new ingredients. I need to work the new low-atranol oakmoss into the formulas that contain moss after my shipment comes in late January.

Besides working on the fragrances, another project to think about for the coming year is to try to have my products available in some boutiques. This involves packaging and pricing decisions. I think the packaging is just about set. After I integrate the new moss into the formulas and make a few other ingredient adjustments, I’ll need to update the cost sheets for each scent and see how to make it all work for retail.

I didn’t have enough time to start open studio hours in 2008, but I did continue to meet more of the wonderful people out there who are interested in fragrance via online interaction, and I always enjoy that. Next year I would like to either start having some limited open studio hours or choose a local boutique to carry my fragrances so people would have a local spot to go try testers. A local boutique would be very helpful until I catch up to the point where I can take enough hours off to host an open studio.

Another goal for 2009 is to offer more scents for the shea cream, and if there’s time I’d love to do a couple special parfum limited editions with some wonderful but limited and very expensive ingredients (mostly floral absolutes). And a mundane but important goal is to implement a better inventory tracking system; it’ll take time to set up but save time in the long run. If I could afford it, I’d love to get some bookkeeping help so I could devote that time to scent work instead, but we’ll see how that goes.

It’s been fun to meet so many wonderful people this year and I’ve been happy to see the nice reviews written about the fragrances. Thanks so much for supporting small artisanal lines. Anytime you have suggestions you are always welcome to send an email; I listen to all comments and take them to heart. I don’t always have enough time to implement everything right away, but things go on the To Do list and are accomplished in priority order as time allows.

Overall I think it was a great year in 2008 with many goals accomplished, and I have a solid vision of what needs to be done next. I’ll just keep working my way through the To Do list. I’m looking forward to more progress in 2009!

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone reading a wonderful holiday and all the best in 2009! Hope you have a great time with family this long holiday weekend.

I’ll be testing the new Reves this weekend, which seems about done, and the new woods scent, which is getting close too. And I need to wear Coco and No. 22 because they are holiday traditions.

Hope you have some fun scented holiday pleasures (we have gingerbread and almond cookies scenting the air here). I don’t have a tree this year, but will visit with family tomorrow and enjoy the sight and scent of their fresh green douglas fir tree.

Best wishes for a very special and joyous holiday however you celebrate!

Holiday Schedule

If all goes well I plan to stay open and continue shipping right though December and into January, but I may take a week off from shipping orders in mid January for inventory and paperwork. Orders are still coming in and shipping out (those received yesterday should ship Monday). I’ll be in town and answering email as usual this week.

Tried Tom Ford Black Orchid — wow, that’s one strong scent! Too much for me even with just one squirt. I’d have to try a small dab from a vial rather than a squirt. The first hour was overbearing, but the earthy patchouli-rich drydown was interesting and had some yummy aspects, though a bit on the sweet side. I really like the earthy aspect of Black Orchid and like the floral accord, but I’d need to tone it down and edit out a few ingredients to make it a fit for me (I get some ozonic notes that I don’t care for because I’m sensitive to those). I still like his Japan Noir and Noir de Noir the best of the ones I’ve tried. His advertising turns me off, but it’s still interesting to try some of the scents, especially so I know what people are talking about when they tell me the scents they do and don’t like.

Black Orchid has some ingredients I don’t like to use in my scents that are common in department store scents for giving extra sillage and strength. I actually like the bold use of earthy notes in Black Orchid, but the touches of ozonic notes don’t work for me, though I realize they are there partly to counter sweetness. I think the ingredients that niche scents often leave out or use very sparingly are just as important in defining “niche” as the ingredients that are put in. People assume niche scents have more naturals and more expensive ingredients, and on the whole that is probably true, but they also tend to use less of some things that department store scents use in abundance. The term niche is being used less as so many new lines are launched, but that’s a whole other topic….

I need to wrap my presents for family members. Haven’t started that yet. Hope your last-minute shopping and holiday prep are going well!

This and that…

I’ve found the scents from Divine to be very well done, so this blog review of two new scents in their line is interesting:


So far I like their men’s scent L’Homme de Coeur the best, but I like L’Homme Sage and L’Inspiratrice too, and the whole line is well done.  These two new fragrances feature immortelle, which is fun in moderation but can be overly sweet if used in anything but very small amounts.  L’Homme Sage has a beautiful soft immortelle note, so I bet the new scents will use it to good advantage too.

The exchange rate just took a big jump in the wrong direction and made my order of naturals from France much more expensive; I made my decision on what to buy last week, but with all the paperwork the order wasn’t ready on their end to finalize until today, which was just a couple days too late to get a better rate.  Not good luck for me.   Many things like this go into the cost of creating perfume, and the costs keep going up, making it especially tough for small artisan lines that don’t buy ingredients in large quantities.

Better get back to orders and to getting holiday cards in the mail.  I’m running out of time on those cards…

Checking in…

I redesigned the labels on the shea cream jars to incorporate the jasmine theme similar to the perfume boxes (I’ve been meaning to do this and went ahead with it now because I’m starting to ship the new shea formula today and wanted it to have the new labels). You can see a photo below for the previous post; I just updated the photo to show the new labels.

I’ve been scrambling to keep up with orders so I haven’t made more progress on the new blends the last few days. It’s been quite cold here and we have snow on the nearby mountains; it’s very pretty, but every time it snows my high speed internet goes down because the wireless signal is broadcast from the mountain and the equipment fails in bad weather. We don’t have the option of DSL or cable out here. I’m on stuck on dial-up tonight, but at least I do have that for back-up.

update: High speed is back up, yay! But I expect it to go in and out all winter like it did last year.

Shea Body Cream


As of today we’ve switched the formula for the natural shea body cream so that it has a slightly thicker consistency.  The feel when you apply it is still the same smooth and easily absorbed cream, but it goes on a little drier.  We had originally offered it in lotion bottles but found it was just a bit too thick for bottles so we switched to jars about a year ago.  As long as it is in jars, we thought we’d go even thicker and have now made that change.  The new formula makes for a very rich body cream, though it still is lighter and more easily absorbed than body butter.  I just wanted to give a heads up that it is a bit different now.

The cream has been a popular gift for holiday giving, especially in the rose and lavender scents.  I hope to add some new scents to the body cream list early next year.  Small samples are available for purchase on the website.

The body cream has 35% shea butter and all natural oils.  No parabens, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, TEA/DEA, mineral oil, petrolatum, silicones, propylene glycol, or isopropyl myristate.  In addition to shea butter, it contains

silk protein (helps bind water to skin to keep it hydrated and gives the cream a smooth feel during application)

evening primrose oil (a concentrated source of the essential fatty acid called gamma-linoleic acid or GLA that is beneficial to skin)

rosehip oil (high in vitamin A as well as linolenic and linoleic essential fatty acids)

avocado oil (rich in vitamins A, E, and D as well as oleic and linoleic essential fatty acids and skin-softening sterolins)

olive oil (a lovely oil for skin that is rich in oleic essential fatty acid and contains some polyphenol antioxidants)

sunflower oil (emollient oil that contains vitamin E and linoleic essential fatty acid)

So, that’s the shea update for now.  If you’ve liked the old version you should like this one too; it’s very similar, just a tad thicker.

December, The Busy Season

I’m scrambling to do some holiday rituals like shopping and cards along with the usual orders, scent development, sourcing of new materials, etc.  I just tried some very nice naturals this week from France and am working on an order.  I’ll get some mimosa absolute that will be fun because I’ve not had a large enough quantity before to use it in a scent on my list.  Mimosa absolute has some powdery floral aspects but also hints of smooth, soft leather and dried hay.  Yum.  The new woodsy kilo finally ships Monday and I’m looking forward to that too.

It’s been quite cold here, in the 40s at night, so it feels like December (for CA anyway).  I’m making progress on the new fragrances as I can in between orders.  I’d also really like to add more scents to the body cream list, including Champagne and Sienna.  Another one I’d like to offer would be a light citrusy scent that would be refreshing while you apply the cream and then disappear fairly quickly to not interfere with your later fragrance.  It’d be a more fun option than unscented but still not be like perfume.

Many companies are doing holiday sales right now.  I can’t handle the extra order volume a sale would bring at this time, but February will be Sonoma Scent Studio’s 5th anniversary and I’m hoping to do a special on the site or a giveaway on the blog to celebrate.  I’ll see how it goes.  January is the month for inventory and tax prep (yuck!), so if I’m good this year and finish maybe I’ll be able to celebrate in February.

Meantime, eveyone is celebrating the holidays — hope your holidays are off to a great start!  🙂

Monday’s This and That

I snuck in some work on the new woods scent today, juggling some notes around to smooth the scent and adding a couple things for details (a touch of castoreum for richness in the base and another dry woodsy heart note). I’ll try the three testers in the morning with a fresh nose and see where I am. Hope to work again on Reves tomorrow too because I was feeling optimistic when I last left off yesterday.

There was a nice mention of Champagne de Bois this weekend as a holiday scent choice:

Five Fragrances For The Holidays

I sure love two of the other picks: Chanel 22, which is a long-term favorite of mine, and SL Fumerie Turque.  Chanel Coco feels like a festive holiday scent to me too, spicy, warm, and formal.

My poor garden is looking bedraggled and needs a winter cutting back. The paperwhites are starting to bloom now, with their very intense, heady scent. They’re too potent for many people, but I enjoy bringing in just one sprig at a time.  They always bloom from Thanksiving through Christmas here and help make me feel like it’s the holiday season.