Lieu de Reves and Sienna Musk Sample Drawing!

The month of February 2009 is the 5th anniversary of the Sonoma Scent Studio website.  I’ve focused on building a fragrance line of woods, florals, incense, musks, and woodsy gourmands.  I still have lots of work to do but have made good progress on the website and packaging over the years.  I greatly appreciate the support the fragrance community gives to small indie brands.  Time goes by so quickly!

To celebrate I wanted to do a drawing on the blog, but I need to put that off for just a bit while I finish Tabac Aurea and a few other necessities.  Instead, I’ll coordinate with a couple other blogs to run a sample drawing or two; that way, they can handle the drawing details and I can still offer some samples for fun to the drawing winners.  One drawing is happening now on the PerfumeShrine blog, so head on over if you’d like to try to win one of five sample sets with the new Lieu de Reves and also Sienna Musk.  You can read a review of Lieu de Reves there too.  Here’s the link to the review and to enter the drawing:

Sample drawing for Lieu de Reves and Sienna Musk

When Tabac Aurea is ready there will be a drawing for that as well, either on my blog or another blog, so stay tuned for that if you’re interested!

Oakmoss Wednesday

I’m getting low on the older oakmoss, so tomorrow I need to run trials on the new moss in Fireside Intense to calibrate the right level.  Every time you switch suppliers you need to do this, so I try to stay with the same supplier as much as possible.  This low-atranol moss is worth the switch though.

I always keep a little “standard” vial of every ingredient (diluted to the level I use) in a library of “standards” so that each new batch that comes in can be tested against the original batch and I can adjust the dilution rate if needed to keep the final scent power per gram the same.  I also keep a library of “standards” for my perfumes and compare new batches with old to make sure they seem the same for quality control.  It’s hard when you use lots of naturals to keep everything identical each time, but always buying each natural item from the same supplier really helps, as long as their sources remain constant.

I’ve put the new labdanum into Rose Musc and while I was at it I softened the musk blend; I prefer this.  It’s quite similar but gentler now.  I’ll get it back on the site soon. 

I’m busy keeping up with orders and trying to finish Tabac and Gardenia.  I have a couple flowers on my little gardenia plant, so I’m sniffing them obsessively to memorize the scent, lol.  I got a pretty photo I can post of one bloom.

In The News: Czech & Speake Dark Rose Returns

The Czech & Speake website now lists Dark Rose as available for preorder and it will be in stock mid-March. This scent is a cult classic but has been unavailable for several years. Dark Rose may well have been reformulated, so we’ll have to see how the new version compares to the old, which was a rich, dark, unisex rose with spicy saffron. I would guess that they were forced to reformulate either due to ingredients that became unavailable or more likely ingredients that were no longer allowed by IFRA standards at the usage levels in the original formula (but that’s just my guess and I don’t think the company has ever said why it was out of production for so long).  Saffron accords in perfumes often include the expensive aroma chemical called Safranal, and IFRA now restricts the usage of Safranal for leave-on skin applications to 0.0050 percent. 

Here’s a link for fellow rose lovers:

This is their listing of notes: “The spicy note of saffron is combined with an elegant bouquet of Bulgarian rose in the top note. Middle notes feature a mixture of exotic woods, patchouli, sandalwood, oudh unveiling a dry down of liquid amber and white musk.”

I’d sure love to get a sample of the new version!  (I had a small sample of the original version years ago.)  For other dark roses with this vibe and with oud notes, you can try the Montale line.

PerfumeShrine recently did a four-part series on saffron that begins here:

Flower headspace versus floral absolutes

If you’ve smelled floral absolutes such as rose or jasmine, you know they don’t smell the same as putting your nose in a fresh flower.  The process of extracting the floral absolute yields a different chemical composition than the combination of constituents that is floating in the air right around a flower in what people call the “headspace.”  Now that we can actually analyze the air around a blossom, we can measure what is in the headspace of a flower and use that information to accent floral absolutes to make them more like real fresh flowers, or to build floral accords for flowers that yield little to no absolute, or to simplify a floral accord down to a few basic ingredients that merely suggest aspects of that flower to complement the rest of the fragrance composition.

Headspace analysis may not trap all the scent components exactly as you smell it, so headspace analysts sometimes compare the headspace measurements to the chemical breakdown of absolutes to find a balance between the two that will best approximate the scent of the fresh live flower.  Sometimes chemicals that are found in very small amounts have a huge impact on the flower’s scent, as in rose ketones for roses.

When researchers measure the headspace of living flowers still attached to the plant, they find differences depending on what time of day they take the measurements; flowers often peak in scent at the time of day or night when their pollinators are active.  And of course, cut flowers rapidly change with time, producing different headspace results than living flowers.  Headspace measurements also vary with region in which the plant is grown, as well as soil and weather conditions and other conditions specific to that particular year and location.

One problem in translating the headspace into a perfume is that some of the main constituents are short-lived topnotes that dissipate quickly on your skin, making it difficult to duplicate the flower’s scent for any long length of time.  Although floral perfumes can be beautiful, we may not find something that exactly duplicates our favorite flower.  Sometimes the beauty of floral perfumes is in the creative differences from the real flower; for example, the perfume may be a rich tapestry woven with other notes instead of being a soliflore, or it may be a creative interpretation of a soliflore that emphasizes certain aspects of the real flower and minimizes others. 

I’ve thought about all these issues in the context of working on gardenia, especially since gardenia absolute is not commercially available (except for one very new and expensive source I mentioned here on the blog a while back).  In a post soon I’ll delve more into the gardenia headspace components.

Updated to add: photo above is the old centifolia rose Fantin Latour in my garden (copyright Sonoma Scent Studio). Wonderful fragrance but just blooms once per year in spring. Gets to be huge here in California and covers itself with blooms.

Mid-week Update

I uploaded this picture of the new Lieu de Reves to the website. I’ll hold off on a newsletter announcing it for now, assuming that Tabac Aurea is almost done and I can send a newsletter for the two. I like the bit of extra tabac I just added to Tabac Aurea.

The Sonoma Scent Studio line has just been added to the fragrantica database and some reviews are starting to accumulate there. It’s a large database where community members can read and write reviews, read interviews and articles, and check a perfume blogroll that lists links to the latest entries on various perfume blogs.

Here’s the home page:

and the Sonoma Scent Studio page:

The Perfumed Court has added three more Sonoma Scent Studio fragrances to their decant list: Wood Violet, Voile de Violette, and Champagne de Bois.

It’s been cold and rainy, with 3 feet of snow on the nearby mountains according to my ISP, which has had outages in our internet service because of the storms.  I’ve been back and forth between dial-up and high speed since Saturday.  My plum tree doesn’t realize it’s still cold though and is really starting to bloom.

New label design for 1 oz bottles

I’m changing the labels for the 1 oz bottles. As shown in this quick photo, they’re gold on black and slightly larger. I’m doing these myself until I have them printed. They look nice; they have a glossy background that holds up well and they’re printing very crisply, much better than they look in this uploaded photo. I don’t look forward to redoing the photos on the website, but I’ll update them when I can; I’ve been very consistent with my bottles over the years (I’ve had these 34 ml and 17 ml for quite a few years now), but I’ve changed the labels a few times. Only the labels for the 34 ml bottles will change; the labels for the 17 ml bottles will remain the same ivory color as before. Both designs coordinate with the boxes and the new design just reverses the color scheme with light on dark instead of vice versa.

More thoughts on tobacco scents and ingredients

I’ve been thinking about some fragrances with tobacco notes that I’ve tried and how they relate to my goals and ingredients for Tabac Aurea. I admire Hermes Ambre Narguile with its smooth, gourmand, ambery base, its subtle soft tabac note, its warm spices, and its interesting apple note for contrast. I wanted to do a tabac with a gourmand aspect too, but without the strong apple note. To me, the apple accord in Ambre Narguile smells like it has damascones it it. Damascones have rosy aspects but also fruity tones of plum, blackcurrant, and apple, and subtle tabac nuances too. I’ve used beta damascone in Tabac Aurea because it has more plumy and rosy notes and less apple; delta damascone and alpha damascone seem less rosy and plumy and more appley to me.

I like Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque with its rich sweet base, tobacco note, rose note (always a favorite for me), and smoky notes that for me are not quite cigarette, though they flirt with cigarette smoke and results on your skin may vary on that. It’s a bit too sweet for me to wear often, but it’s fun to wear my decant from time to time. I also like the tobacco scent Parfum de Luxe by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz; it is rich and warm with a strong but not overpowering honeyed tabac absolute note, and though it is sweet it seems less so than the SL. (It’s the DSH scent I’ve liked the best so far, and it’s in her Parfum Beaux Arts Collection.) I’m not fond of strong cigarette smoke notes like the ones I get from Habanita and Fifi Chachnil, though those scents work beautifully for many people so you might give them a try if you like tobacco.

I’m trying to avoid cigarette smoke notes in Tabac Aurea, and instead I’m focusing on soft pipe tobacco in a warm and woodsy gourmand setting. Tonka bean and coumarin have tabac undertones, so they make nice companions for tabac; I’ve used tonka in Tabac Aurea, but I need to use a light touch because tonka and coumarin do push scents in the sweet direction. Tobacco absolute is sweet to begin with, and it has interesting green/herbal nuances that let you know it came from a leaf. For a drier tabac scent with hay notes, Patricia de Nikolai’s Vie de Chateau is wonderful and more masculine.

I’ve worked the new labdanum into Tabac Aurea and like it, and I’ve increased the tabac note. I think the next mod is about ready. I keep thinking I’m done and then find something else that I decide to adjust…

I’m just about done working the new labdanum into Rose Musc too and can get that back onto the site. I’m pleased with the new kilo of labdanum from France; it’s quite nice.

Website refresh

I made some changes to the Sonoma Scent Studio website, mostly improvements to the home page. If any photos or headers don’t come up for you, just refresh the page to force it to reload the new version. For some reason I can set Internet Explorer to automatically check for new site versions when I surf, but I have to refresh Firefox by hand. If anyone else has the same trouble on Firefox with some pictures on my pages not loading, just try a refresh and it should fix the problem. I use IE most of the time but I always test my site on Firefox too after I make website code changes.

I’ve been slowly trying to upgrade the photos on my pages, working on them in PhotoShop to cut out backgrounds etc. I like the way the ingredients photo turned out; I actually took that late last summer with a collection of flowers that happened to be available from my garden that day.

Labdanum absolute adjustments

I’ve sampled about 11 different labdanum absolutes from various sources and they’ve all been a little different in color, thickness, and most importantly, scent. I’ve been using one that is very nice but more on the sweet side; the new kilo of labdanum I just got from France is not quite as sweet and is very beautiful. I’m hoping they will continue to offer this for some time since it is one of their specialty products. Labdanum absolutes vary in the amount of muskiness, sweetness, floral nuances, etc that they have in their scent, but they all have a sweet ambery fragrance that makes a wonderful base note. Which one you prefer is really personal preference. (Note that although cistus essential oil and labdanum absolute both come from the same plant, Cistus ladaniferus, their scent is completely different.)

I’m going to try this new labdanum in all my scent formulas that contain labdanum and see on a one by one basis if I prefer it to the one I’m currently using. I need to determine the correct conversion ratio since the odor strength per gram of the two is a little different. I’m trying it in the new Tabac Aurea formula, which had contained a slightly drier labdanum than my usual one, so the switch should be ok since this one is drier too.

So, I’m continuing to work on the new formulas, tabac and gardenia, while starting to go through the older formulas to work in the new moss and labdanum.  Neither one should cause major changes in the scents; it’ll be subtle. 

Thought this looked like an interesting collaboration between Luca Turin’s Flexitral company and MIT to model the olfactory process:

And from the previous post, I realized I forgot another men’s scent I tried recently and liked very much: Annick Goutal’s Duel. It has a lovely mate note and soft sueded leather. I love mate absolute, as well as a mate tincture that I’ve made. Mate has a deep, earthy tea note with medium lasting power. In Duel, the tea note lasts quite well for me and is wonderful in combination with the soft leather. It’s a dry and masculine scent, with subtle hints of tobacco and some orris in the base as well, but it’s the tea and soft, smooth leather combo that captivated me.