Some thoughts as the year ends

The year of 2011 was one of regrouping for me after a difficult personal/family situation that had lasted over one and a half years, finally ending in mid March 2011 and allowing me to concentrate fully on the business again. I restored all the scents back to the website in the spring, and then I worked with a graphic artist to design the new boxes. The oak leaf illustration led to a new face for the website that debuted last summer. All the while I was working on a number of scents, but only two were released in 2011: To Dream early in the year and Fig Tree in fall. I completed many tasks that put me in a good position to make the most of 2012, and I can’t wait to get started!

I’ll be batching Nostalgie over the next couple weeks and releasing it in January. I’ve had very encouraging feedback from many testers and am really happy about it. I had been rushing to try to get it out in December, but I’m glad I took my time with it. I have some other new scents and exciting projects coming soon, and I hope to start open hours by appointment this spring (that goal was on last year’s list too, but I think it will finally happen this year).

I look forward to meeting other west coast perfumers in some upcoming events being planned for 2012. So far I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mandy Aftel and Ayala Moriel — both visits were such a treat! I enjoyed talking perfumery and smelling some of their creations. I love Mandy’s Tango, Parfum Prive, Honey Blossom, and Candide. I look forward to trying Secret Garden. I’ve been a fan of Ayala’s line since long before we met, but she shared samples of some new scents that were fun to sniff. Her new tuberose coming this next year is a gorgeous perfume that is not to be missed. Her Orcas release this year is the first scent that I’ve liked that smells coastal (it’s marine in a natural way instead of synthetic marine, and it makes you think of a rugged tree-lined coast rather than sun-tanning on the beach). Sniffing the creations of natural perfumers pulls at my heart to keep emphasizing naturals more and more in my own scents.

I wanted to say thanks to a number of people who included me in their best of 2011 posts. Thanks so much Jessica of Now Smell This, Birgit of Olfactria’s Travels, and Victoria of EauMG for including To Dream in your lists of 2011 favorites! Thanks Natalie at Another Perfume Blog for including Fig Tree shea cream in your 2011 list, and thanks Lavanya for including Champagne de Bois in your 2011 favorite discoveries list on Pieces of Paper, Squiggly Lines. Champagne de Bois also appeared in Victoria’s New Year’s Champagne theme post on EauMG. Many thanks also to Elena of Perfumeshrine for mentioning me in her post today for the close of 2011. I’m truly honored to be included in the company of so many fabulous perfumers and products.

I didn’t try many of the new releases this year, considering how many new scents came out. Of the mainstream scents I tried, I liked Bottega Veneta and Tom Ford’s Violet Blonde. My biggest disappointment was Chanel 19 Poudre, which I did not like despite good lasting power on my skin (some people complained of poor lasting power, but for me it just felt too generic). One of the most beautiful perfumes I sniffed for the first time this year was a sample of vintage Deneuve parfum that a generous perfume fairy gifted me — it is gorgeous.

On the ingredient horizon, Mysore sandalwood has been easier to source, and I acquired some lovely tuberose and mimosa absolutes this year. I’ve also been organizing my inventory and have a better system for keeping track of the many bottles.

I’m so grateful for all the kind and wonderful people I’ve met in the perfume community. Many, many thanks for your support, and I wish you all a fabulous 2012 full of happiness and fragrant delights!

A Couple Reviews and Quick Update

Wanted to say a belated thank you to Trish for her lovely review of Fig Tree perfume and shea cream on ScentHive about a week ago! And thank you to Carol of Bloody Frida for her mini reviews of Incense Pure, Lieu de Reves, Rose Musc, and Sienna Musk today!

I’m doing the annual end-of-year paperwork and am about to start inventory. I’ve been working on an organization project with the files and inventory. Do others get the urge to organize and clean up around the end of the year? I always want to tie up loose ends. I need to get back to the Nostalgie release — that will be top priority for January.

I’m looking forward to a family get together for New Year’s weekend. I’ll post some thoughts about 2011/2012 as we ring in the new year. Hope everyone has been having a good holiday!

Happy Holidays!

I want to wish everyone a happy holiday weekend! However you celebrate, I hope you have a good time with friends and family. My brother won’t come up until New Year’s weekend, so I’ll just have a little Christmas eve with my parents and then the whole family will get together the following weekend.

I’ll have a year-end post next week, but for now I just want to say a quick thank you for your support of indie brands like mine. It’s so nice to be able to create things that add a little pleasure to people’s lives — it’s good to feel useful. I really appreciate all the kindness that has come my way. Many, many thanks, and right back to you with all that positive energy! 🙂 Happy holidays!

A Note on The Idea of a Brand’s Signature Base

People comment that they often find a note or accord that seems to run in common between multiple scents in the same line. For example, people talk of the Guerlinade base, or the Tauerade base, or the way the Chanel brand’s style is associated with aldehydes. I can’t speak for other brands, but I’d like to address this notion a little bit with respect to my own line.

There is no single ingredient that is in all my scents other than the alcohol base. The aromatic ingredients are formulated from scratch for every scent, with no standard “base accord” used in common. In fact, I’ve not made my own accords to use in scents the way many perfumers do; that is, I formulate a new “amber” or “musk” or “sandalwood” accord for every scent rather than blending one standard accord to use repeatedly every time I need “amber” or “sandalwood” etc. This approach takes more time, but it allows me to customize each scent to try to avoid a sameness from one scent to another.

That said, I obviously have some likes and dislikes, so labdanum, sandalwoods, cedars, and musks find their way into many of my scents. The exact ingredients and accords are different, but if you tend to dislike some of the notes that I use frequently, you might need to eliminate a number of my scents from being possibilities for you. And even if you do like the notes and ingredients, if your sensitivities are radically different than mine, the scents might not be balanced to your taste. I think part of the reason we have favorite perfumers is because our scent receptors have a lot in common with theirs in terms of our sensitivities.

I’ll give some examples to help you understand a little more where I’m coming from. Let’s briefly talk about ingredient accords for musk, sandalwood, amber, and cedar.

When I add a musk accord to a scent, I can choose between the 11 synthetic musks I currently stock (like muscone, isomuscone, cosmone, ambrettolide, muscenone, velvione, habanolide, etc) plus the many natural ingredients I stock that have musky facets (like labdanum, angelica root, and ambrette seed). I can then add animalic facets to the musk accord with items like castoreum and/or civet and/or para cresyls, etc. I will usually choose several of the synthetics and several of the naturals to include in the blend. Each synthetic musk has a slightly different character and those variations determine which I choose for any particular formula (synthetic musks have different degrees of powder, sweetness, floral notes etc). At first I did not realize how common it was for people to be anosmic to some musks, but more recently I have been trying to make my blends work whether people can smell musk or not. I’ve not yet found a musk that I can’t smell, and even though I’m not anosmic to them I’m also not overly sensitive to them so they don’t cause me headaches or block out the rest of the scent as they seem to do for some folks.

Other accords work the same way. A sandalwood note might be composed of several of the many synthetic sandalwood ingredients I have (things like Javanol, Polysantol, Ebanol, etc), plus several of the natural sandalwoods I have (currently Mysore, New Caledonia, and Australian). An amber accord might be built with a synthetic or two (things like Ysamber K, Timberol, Cedramber etc) plus many naturals (like labdanum, benzoin, tolu, vanilla, spices, woods). A cedar note might come from a mix of natural sources (like Texas, Atlas, Virginia) plus a synth or two (like CedrAmbre, ISO E Super).

I literally have hundreds of ingredients, both synth and natural, so the possibilities for new combinations are nearly limitless. Sometimes one scent will lead to an idea for another, for example the plum note in Wood Violet led to the idea of Vintage Rose. If you dislike the plum in one you may dislike it in both. A number of my earlier scents used ISO E Super, but I’m using that less often now because it seems to have been overused in perfumery. ISO E Super is very useful at times though; if we were to give up ISO E we would lose modern classics like Feminite du Bois and Terre d’Hermes. ISO E causes problems for some people, either coming and going or smelling like pickles. To me it is very steady, with no disappearing act, and it has facets of cedar, amber, musk, and floral.

I always try to keep an open mind, realizing that no single scent will work for everyone. I try to tweak my formulas to work for as many people as I can, but it’s not possible to have a 100% hit rate. I’m sure that my scent preferences and my genetic receptor sensitivities do set up a certain style that is recognizable, but it’s not because I’m intentionally using some standard ingredients in every scent’s base. I’ve found some people dislike ISO E Super or Javanol or labdanum or certain musks or heliotrope or something else, and I can help steer them away from sampling those scents that contain their kryptonite ingredients. 🙂 And by the way, I do have my own kryptonite ingredients. I can’t tolerate much in the way of ozone or melon, even the mild ozone in green synthetic notes and lily of the valley aroma chemicals.

I also think my style is evolving as I go. I’m trying to use higher and higher levels of naturals, and I’m using less synthetic musk. I’m also exploring some new territory — I’m currently working on my first scent with a noticeable civet note, and I have plans for a couple dry masculine scents. There are always new things to learn, and I hope to keep building and improving as the years go by.

Hope that’s helpful background information to some degree! I’ll have a Christmas post tomorrow…

Updated to add:

I forgot to mention that some ingredients function as part of several accords since ingredients generally have multiple facets to them. For example violet leaf adds to the green notes and the leather notes in a scent; jasmine adds floral and animalic notes; Javanol adds sandalwood, musk, and some vague floral notes; ISO E Super adds cedar, amber, floral, and musk-like notes; osmanthus adds floral, apricot, and leather notes, etc. I don’t think of each ingredient as part of just one accord; I tend to think of most ingredients as belonging to multiple accords. I suppose each perfumer has a different way of working though. You could assign ingredients to the note/accord they contribute to the most and just realize they will influence other accords as well, but I tend to view the whole formula as an entity instead. I do sometimes break pieces of a formula out to work on separately for a while — maybe the heart or the base or the floral notes etc. I don’t formulate in pieces that I then try to put together at the end though.

And when I gave the little examples above, those weren’t meant to be exhaustive. A typical sandalwood accord would include other things besides sandalwood ingredients, like ionones, creamy notes, possibly vetiver and cedar and musk, etc. Again, those auxiliary notes are playing multiple roles in the formula. It sounds complex, but it’s more intuitive once you start playing with ingredients, and I’m probably not explaining it very well. I’d have to work on a write-up for a while to make a better organized explanation, and I’ll save that for another day.

Holiday Drawing Winners!

Thanks so much to all who joined the holiday drawing! It was really fun to read all the stories and traditions. Nice to share some holiday cheer.

We had 70 entrants, so I assigned numbers to everyone and then used to generate a random sequence from 1 to 70. The top number to come up was that of Claudia, so you can choose any 17 ml bottle. Just send me an email when you decide which one you’d like. And the second place number was that of Maggie, so you can pick 5 mini sprays for your sample box. You can both email me at

I wish I could be Santa Claus and send packages to all of you! It’d be fun to do that. 🙂 The fragrance community is so wonderful. A post on NST today summed up the way many of us feel lucky and appreciative to be part of such a great group of people. It’s a nice read for this season of giving thanks to those in our lives.

Some Fragrance News Tidbits

Wanted to say thank you to Birgit at Olfactoria’s Travels for a beautifully written review of Incense Pure, and thank you to Noor for his review of a number of SSS scents.

The entrants for the Indie category of the Fifi awards have been announced, and I wish my indie friends good luck! I had thought about entering Nostalgie but couldn’t finish it in time. Maybe next year. Incense Pure would have been nice to enter, but it was released in 2010 and the contest was just for scents created in 2011. It’s great that The Fragrance Foundation is now offering an indie category. Companies that entered range from one person businesses like mine all the way up to much larger indies, with the restriction of being in a maximum of 50 stores. Companies nominate themselves, and then a panel of judges will narrow the field to 5 finalists and one winner in January.

Bell Fragrance and Flavors announced its list for the top trends in fragrance notes for 2012. I don’t know how accurate their past predictions have been, but their list for 2012 is as follows: Ginger Orchid, Orange Flower, Tart Guava, Gold Amber, Green Pear, Spicy Bergamot, Root Beer, Pink Pepper, Leather, Tomato Leaf. Seems like we’ve already seen a lot of pink pepper. Leather has been making an appearance in quite a few new releases. Chypres seem to be coming back, though in a different form than those of the past, partly because of oakmoss restrictions and partly because of changing tastes.

I’ll close the holiday draw soon, probably tonight, and will announce winners.

Updated to add: I also wanted to mention a fun series of fragrance blogger interviews being posted on the Scents of Self blog. It’s a great way to get to know more about the bloggers you enjoy reading. What a great idea by Arielle of Scents of Self!

Holiday Drawing!

I’d like to do a drawing to celebrate the holidays. First prize will be a 17 ml bottle of your choice, and second prize will be a boxed set of 5 mini spray samples of your choice. Just leave a comment to enter. Maybe tell us one of your favorite holiday traditions, or tell us if you’ve put up a tree yet, or whether you’ve finished your shopping yet. I’ll leave it open until Monday. Happy Holidays!

Change In Plans — Nostalgie Release

I’m so sorry, but with filling many Christmas orders and running behind, I’ve decided it would be better to put off the Nostalgie release until January. I’ll shoot for early January right after the holidays so we’ll still have many months of cool weather for wearing Nostalgie. I’ll try to make samples available before the official release.

I’m keeping up with orders so far, with turn-around running about 2 days. I’d like to do a holiday drawing on the blog and will set that up this week.