Happy New Year!

Happy new year and very best wishes for 2010! Many thanks for your friendship and support this year!

Looking Forward: The year 2009 at SSS brought the introduction of Tabac Aurea and Lieu de Reves, as well as the reformulation of many of the older scents to incorporate the new low-atranol oakmoss and the new labdanum. Next up for the coming year is to finish the Encens Tranquille reformulation and get Ambre Noir back on the list, and then my goal is to introduce Bouquet Blanche before spring. In 2010 I’d also like to add more lotion scent options (each scent needs adjustments to be done in an oil format rather than alcohol, so that is why not all scents are currently offered in lotion). I have some wonderful new naturals that I’m anxious to work with, and I plan to do a couple special scents this year with those.

Encens Tranquille: I have a basic formula for the new Encens Tranquille that I like, with just a couple of slight variations on it (with and without elemi, and with zero vanilla versus a tiny touch of vanilla). I’m sending out testers today of three versions just to a couple people to help me narrow the choices down to one or two samples, and then I’ll send samples to the other testers I have promised. Notes are frankincense CO2 (lots!), sandalwood, myrrh, cedar, ambergris, patchouli, oakmoss, cistus, labdanum, orris, guaiacwood, angelica root, musk, vanilla.

The Next Week: Unfortunately, I have a sore throat today and seem to be coming down with a cold. I’ve not had a cold or flu bug in over 7 years, so this may hit me a bit hard. (I don’t have kids or a regular office job, so I don’t tend to be exposed to many bugs.) I can’t complain since I rarely get sick. My brother and family are coming today to stay at my Mom’s through the weekend and I hope to still enjoy a nice visit with them since I didn’t see them at Christmas. I suspect by tomorrow my nose won’t be able to sniff well enough to blend for a week, and that will slow me down on Ambre Noir. I do need time to do the end-of-year inventory and paperwork though, so I’ll focus on that for now instead. I started taking astragalus root extract yesterday to help boost my immune system and will see if I can recover quickly.

New Year’s Thoughts: In honor of the change from 2009 to 2010, here’s a link to an article in today’s online Examiner.com by the talented natural perfumer Ayala Sender with a nice summary of major trends in fragrance over the last decade. She discusses things you’ve probably noticed too, like market oversaturation, the growth of niche brands, and trends in scent types such as sweet gourmands, fruity florals, and the “new” chypre. She also mentions the growth of the natural perfumery sector, and I heartily agree that is a wonderful trend. I remain committed to using both naturals and synthetics to try to achieve the best of both worlds. I enjoy using many naturals in my formulas and specifically avoid some synthetics that just don’t appeal to me, such as the ozonic Calone and Helional, though in the best hands even these can be used to advantage (for example, Vetiver Extraordinaire has an ozone note that works thanks to the expertise of Dominique Ropion, and Un Matin d’Orage by Isabelle Doyen is a fascinating dewy white floral that makes good use of ozonic notes).

If I read Ayala correctly, she’s anticipating the divide between natural perfumes and synthetic perfumes to grow, and she’s right that the divide has already magnified in the mainstream market with few naturals left in many of those formulas. I’m still optimistic, however, that the indie and niche perfume sectors will keep alive the tradition of mixing naturals and synthetics to strive for the best combinations, and maybe with continued market pressure from the fragrance community the IFRA situation will improve. Time will tell. It seems ideal to have both options for people: all-naturals made by talented perfumers who are committed to the art, and blends by perfumers who choose to combine generous amounts of high-quality naturals with some equally carefully chosen synthetics.

Hope you have a fun New Year’s Eve, and again I send my thanks and very best wishes for 2010!

Best of the Best for 2009 — some of my favorite things last year

I’d like to thank Elena of Perfume Shrine for organizing this group blog post and for including me. I like to think of the annual “best” lists as “favorites” lists by the writers because it is so subjective. So, here are some of my favorites from last year. We were allowed to include other categories besides fragrance so I’ve added a few non-scent categories as well.

Favorite New Introductions of 2009:
I’ve not tried all the new scents that debuted in 2009 (hard to keep up!), but of the new releases I tried these were some of my favorites, in no particular order. I linked to my previous posts where I discussed these, but sometimes you have to scroll down the post and look for the paragraph.
— Czech & Speake Dark Rose
— Van Cleef & Arpels Gardénia Pétale
— Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire Pour Femme
— L’Artisan Havana Vanilla
— Amouage Ubar
— Hermes Eau de Genetian Blanche

Favorite Reformulation for 2009:
Czech & Speake Dark Rose (this scent has been gone for several years and they did a nice job with the reformulation)

Favorite Vintage Finds:
Parfums of Caron Bellodgia, Chanel Coco, Caron Nuit de Noel, and Guerlain Mitsouko, and edp of Rochas Femme, and edc of Dior Miss Dior. I’ve liked some of these for a long time but finally acquired decants or minis or bottles. The Miss Dior was something I hadn’t tried before this year and a kind friend introduced me to it (thanks!).

Favorite Introductions To My Line in 2009:
Tabac Aurea, the Body Silk Lotion (this is becoming a staple for me), and the 5 ml purse sprays

Some Favorite New Ingredients of 2009:
— the new low-atranol oakmoss by Biolandes (a really good alternative because it is all-natural oakmoss with the atranol removed and smells like real moss, unlike so many synthetic moss replacement ingredients)
— my new labdanum and cistus oils from France (love using these in the base of ambery and incense fragrances)
— Cosmone musk (A Givaudan musk that had been captive but became available to the rest of us in 2009. A very pretty powdery musk that I’ve enjoyed using in a couple formulas, including the new Bouquet Blanche.)

Favorite Winter Cuddly Non-Scent Items:
— down slipper booties from REI (a Christmas gift last year)
— an Eddie Bauer down Yukon Classic jacket in a pretty plum color (This was a Christmas gift to me this year. I haven’t bought a new down jacket in over 20 years so this is exciting, lol, and it was even on sale. It is just a bit fitted, which is nice, and the sleeves are long enough! Nice warm fleece at collar and cuffs, and great pockets too.)

Favorite Skin Care Items 2009:
— red raspberry seed oil (have always loved this for facial care, very lightly applied in winter to combat dryness)
— Paula’s Choice Resist Facial Moisturizer (I can’t use anything rich in silicone on my face or it breaks out, so this light-weight silicone-free moisturizer with lots of antioxidants was a great find. It works for my sensitive facial skin.)

Favorite Star Performers In My Garden Last Year:
— Karl Foerster feather reed grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora (tireless and carefree all year, from first green shoots in spring to beautiful golden blooming plumes backlit by late summer sun, to dried golden plumage in the autumn frost before we cut it back in winter for another annual cycle)
— Souvenir de Claudius Denoyel red climbing rose (blooms much more for me than Mr Lincoln and has an exquisite deep, rich, red rose scent)
— Ambraham Darby rose (always a star with its big, heavily-scented, peachy-pink, many-petaled blooms)
— Provence Lavender (easy and long-blooming here in our summer heat, and very fragrant)
Mandevilla vine (fun for its white fragrant blooms and exotic looks)

Other Blogs in this Best of 2009 Post:
Be sure to check out other blogs participating in today’s Best of 2009 post, listed below. And chime in on your favorites of 2009 if you like! I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones.

PerfumeShrine, 1000fragrances, AyalaSmellyBlog, BittergraceNotes, Shoes,cake,perfume, EiderdownPressJournal, ScentHive, Olfactarama, Roxana’s Illuminated Journal, A Rose Beyond the Thames, The Non Blonde, Notes from the Ledge, I Smell Therefore I Am, Under the Cupola, All I am a Redhead, Perfume In Progress, Savvy Thinker, MossyLoomings

Also Now Smell This did its Best of 2009 post on Tuesday, which is a fun read.

Some bottle thoughts — feedback welcome

The last case of half oz bottles (17 ml) that I purchased has a bigger problem with slightly leaning necks than usual; the necks on some of the bottles must lean just a little off vertical, even though it is hard to notice by naked eye, because the sprayers do not sit quite vertical when you screw them on. You’ve probably seen photos of indie perfume bottles on the web where the sprayer is not quite vertical but leans to one side slightly. The reason is usually not the sprayer but the neck of the bottle itself. No sprayer will sit quite vertical if the bottle neck is not quite perfectly straight. It could be a combination of the orientation of the neck and the threads on the neck that makes the sprayers sit slightly off kilter.

I’ve found that my one oz bottles are much better than the half oz; the half oz are always more crooked but this last batch was worse and I am having to not use a significant number of these because they just look too funny to me even though they still function just fine. They do look normal when you screw on the shorter splash caps; it’s just the taller spray caps that emphasize the tilt. I’m talking with my supplier about the issue to see if switching to another style bottle would help, but I like this kind because they have a nice large area for the label and they fit my boxes. It’s normal for these to not be totally perfect, but usually I don’t have to throw out very many bottles per case and this time I have quite a pile of rejects stacking up.

These bottles are from a wholesale source that is willing to sell by the case instead of by the 10,000. The bottles are nice in that they have no seams on the sides like some cheaper bottles, but they still have this slight tilt problem. I’ve researched other bottles numerous times over the years, but the prettiest ones I’ve seen are crimp style or parfum style. Crimp pumps are the kind that are permanently crimped on rather than removable via screw threads. I’ve heard customers say they prefer screw cap to crimp because of ease of decanting and the option to use a splash cap if desired. And as beautiful as some parfum stopper style bottles can be, most people say they prefer spray bottles.

For now, I’m thinking of keeping the one oz spray bottles that I have but replacing the half oz spray bottles with 10 ml purse sprays that are identical to my new 5 ml black purse sprays but a tad taller and larger in diameter. The purse sprays are so attractive and convenient that I think this would be a nice way to go, and I’d love to be through with the leaning sprayer issue on those half oz bottles. One of the 10 ml purse sprays fits my black perfume boxes if I use a little tissue paper for padding, and two of the 10 ml purse sprays exactly fit the box with no padding.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and it seemed like an appropriate end-of-year topic (since it is a planning for the future issue). I know this is a busy week when people are often out of town, but if you catch this post and have some opinions I’d love to hear from you. Would a 10 ml purse spray be ok with people instead of the 17 ml bottle? If I change bottles some day, do you prefer a plainer screw cap bottle or a higher-end crimp style or a very nice parfum stopper style? My ideal would be a screw cap with perfectly straight neck/sprayer, no seams, a good spot for a label, and less than 10,000 minimum; my one oz bottles come pretty close to this ideal, though the sprayers aren’t always perfectly straight on those either. Maybe some entrepreneur out there will want to fill this need for the growing indie perfume market and will come up with more offerings of this type.

Happy holidays and a heartfelt thank you!

I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday! Hope you have a great time with family however you celebrate. I also want to extend my very sincere thank you for the support you’ve given me and other indie perfumers. The online fragrance community is truly a special group and I’m grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met. I’ve had some personal challenges this year so the encouragement I’ve received here is more appreciated than you can imagine. I have lots to work on in the coming year with some ideas for new things that will be fun; I’ll share those plans in a “looking forward” post before the first of the year.

I still have packages to wrap for my family but things are under control. After Christmas I need to do inventory and year-end paperwork (yuck!).

I have a new version of Encens Tranquille that seems nice to me. I should send out some testers after Christmas to see if it works for others. Notes are frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, cedar, ambergris, labdanum, cistus, angelica root, guaiacwood, orris, oakmoss, patchouli, vanilla (tiny bit), and musk. The sandalwood accord is softer than the original but still a prominent part of the drydown. I’d like to go back and do a quick blend closer to the original as well, for people who are looking forward to as close a match as possible. The new one is the same in character but is gentler to me because of the different sandalwood accord and some additional notes like orris.

Sending very best holiday wishes!

Caught up! Well, with orders anyway… And some sniffing notes

Finally caught up after a very busy couple of weeks; all orders have shipped, mostly via Priority Mail, and all should arrive before the 25th. That sure feels good! Now I need to do a few last Christmas things for my family, and I have to eventually get back to paperwork that has gone undone for too long. But I can take a moment to feel good that the shipping is under control again.

While packing orders I test sniffed a few samples of new releases. I’ll have to wear some of these again when I can concentrate more on them, but I made some first impressions. The one that interested me the most was L’Artisan’s new Havana Vanilla by Bertrand Duchaufour, which was to me a delicious blend of the most rummy vanilla I’ve ever smelled with lots of musk, some light woods, a hint of banana, light tobacco, and just a bit of dirtiness from some narcissus. I don’t usually like vanilla scents and this sometimes veered close to being too sweet, but it stayed just within sweetness bounds for me and mesmerized me with its long-lasting rum note. It is hard to do a rum note that goes on forever like that. I liked the musks in the base too, and I’m betting the musk base may be partly why people’s perceptions of this scent vary so widely. Some people report that it is light and fleeting for them, but I found it long-lasting and rich.

I also sniffed the Van Cleef & Arpels scents and liked Gardenia Petals best. It has the prettiest musk base you can ask for teamed with light florals. Very nicely done and it worked well for my nose and skin. The beautiful musk blend compliments the delicate white floral notes just perfectly.

I also tried some others that didn’t fare as well. Oriental Lounge from The Different Company started out with promise but turned too sweet for me. Sel de Vetiver still remains my favorite TDC with Bois d’Iris close behind, both wonderful to me.

Cuir Cordoba by Keiko Mecheri was pleasantly fruity floral to me, but the fruity notes overwhelmed the leather to my nose. This is where relative sensitivities come into play, and fruit notes can sometimes take over for me. I do fine with plum and berry notes from most damascones, but I am fairly sensitive to berry notes from raspberry ketone and there must be something like that in Cuir Cordoba’s fruity accord that was coming out too strongly to me. I’ll need to sniff this one again. Many people have loved it — those who need leather notes to be on the soft side and can handle the fruity notes may find it to be perfect.

Although I loved Francis Kurkdjian’s Lumiere Noire pour femme (as mentioned previously here on the blog), the APOM femme and Cologne Pour le Soir didn’t do as much on my skin. That’s why we all need to test things for ourselves though, to judge how things work for our own skin and noses.

Time for me to get back to blending work on ET and AN. I’ve had a break from them and can be more objective now.

Holiday shipping update, Vintage Rose review, and musk link

It’s very busy but I’m keeping up fairly well and turn-around is about 2 days right now. The USPS suggests Monday as the last day for shipping via Priority Mail to arrive before the 25th, but Saturday is safer. All the orders that have been placed so far should safely arrive before Christmas, but as the week goes on it cuts things closer. If you are concerned about timing a package for Christmas you can send me an email to inquire before ordering.

There was a very nice review of Vintage Rose yesterday on I Smell Therefore I Am. Thanks Abby!

And there’s an interesting series about musks starting today (Tuesday) on the PerfumShrine blog. Older perfumes had animalic notes from animal sources, such as deer musk, civet, and beaver castoreum. Most modern perfumes do not use these animal ingredients because of animal cruelty awareness (we don’t use them here at Sonoma Scent Studio). The modern synthetic musks tend to smell much more clean than the old natural animalics, so perfumers of today add animalic notes by using synthetic civet and castoreum as well as ingredients like para cresyls (narcissus type notes with barnyard animalic nuances) and indoles (fecal smells found in jasmine and other florals). Naturals that can add musky notes include labdanum, angelica root, ambrette seed, and ambergris. The older nitromusks are not used much anymore because they did not biodegrade in the environment but the newer macrocyclic musks are supposed to biodegrade much better. Synthetic musks contain various amounts of powdery, sweet, floral, woodsy, animalic, and clean aspects. Different musks will work better in each composition so perfumers choose them to fit the scent and often use several in hopes of getting around anosmia issues (if someone can’t smell one they may smell others in the fragrance). The musk series on Perfumshrine will continue and will be interesting to follow.

Turn-around time update

Turn-around time is a little longer than usual this week because of the incoming stream of holiday orders. Normally turn-around is just a day or two, but right now it is averaging 2-3 days before your order ships out. Still not bad, but I wanted to mention this so you don’t panic if you don’t get a shipping notice the first day or two after your order. Also you need to take that extra time into consideration when planning for Christmas orders. Smaller non-sample orders ship Priority Mail, which normally takes 2-3 days, but usps shipping can be a bit slower this time of year. Larger orders ship UPS, which can take 1-7 days depending how far you are from California. Sample orders ship First Class except for gift sample boxes and those ship Priority. Hope that all makes sense! I’m happy to answer email questions if you have any.

I’m right there with you doing my last-minute shopping now too! 🙂 It doesn’t take me as long as some people though because we have a small family.

In search of chocolate gift ideas

My Mom is a chocolate lover, and I thought it’d be fun to find a new item this year for her on the chocolate theme. She loves nice dark bittersweet chocolate, and she loves See’s chocolates. I was thinking maybe a special hot chocolate would be different and maybe something that’s bittersweet but in bite sized portions rather than bars. Any suggestions or favorites? Thanks if so! 🙂

Holiday inventory update

I just sold out of the shea cream today because of higher than expected demand (I’ve been getting quite a few orders for 4-10 jars at a time). I can’t get more shea from my supplier until early Jan so I’ll be out of stock on the cream until then. If there is enough interest I could continue doing the shea cream for a few more months after the new year.

I do have more of the new Body Silk lotion in stock; it’s just the shea cream that is out because it is an old favorite at holiday time and people love to use it as gifts. I’ll do better next year at predicting demand — I apologize for falling short on it this year. Early in 2010 I plan to have some new scents for the body lotion, and I wiil give details later. I don’t expect to run short on anything else before Christmas. I ordered more purse sprays because I’m low, but those should arrive today.

I may not have time for a few more days for blending, but I’ll do my best to keep making progress on ET and AN.