2016 Taste TV Artisan Fragrance Awards

TasteTV_awards_bottle_smFor several years, Taste TV has sponsored an annual awards program for artisan perfumers. I have not entered before, but I submitted three entries for 2016 (you are allowed to enter 1 to 3 entries each year, and they can be any scent that you have not entered before). Entries were due before the new Equestrian was ready, so I entered Yin & Ylang, Amber Incense, and Winter Woods.

Winter Woods received top score in all five of their categories (artistry, aroma, scent seductiveness, ingredient combinations, and uniqueness). Yin & Ylang (a collaboration with Cafleurebon) received top score in three categories. All three entries (Winter Woods, Yin & Ylang,  Amber Incense) received Silver Medals in the Judges Top Selections. The full page of results can be seen here. Congrats to all the perfumers and thank you to Taste TV and the judges for all their work on the awards program!

2016 Perfumed Plume Awards

logo_PerfumedPlumeThe Perfumed Plume Awards for fragrance journalism were just announced, and the Perfume In Progress post Ten Tips For Exploring The World Of Perfume was named one of the top submissions. I’m honored to be included in such good company!

Mark Behnke of Colognoisseur, Jasia Julia Nielson with Michelyn Camen of Cafleurebon, and Dana El Masri with Michelyn Camen of Cafleurebon received first prizes for the blog categories. This awards program is the first in the US that is dedicated to fragrance writing, similar to the Jasmine Awards in the UK and Prix Jasmine in France. There are several awards for fragrance writing that are given as part of the annual US Fragrance Foundation Awards, but this is the first fragrance awards program in the US that is dedicated solely to writing. Congrats to all, and best wishes to the Perfumed Plume program!

Spring Update and AIX Scent Fair in May


I wanted to check in on this rainy first day of spring. I’m working on a new scent with hay and leather notes (more on that to come!).

I’m planning to take part in the AIX Scent Fair May 6-8 in Los Angeles. If you can be in the area at that time you’ll want to attend because it will be a great chance to meet fellow perfume lovers and try perfumes from many artisan brands. I won’t be there in person, but my line will share a table with another indie and you’ll be able to sniff testers of both our scents. In addition to 40 tables of perfumes to explore, you can participate in workshops and attend the keynote presentation. It should be fun! The fair is being co-organized by the Institute for Art and Olfaction, Luckyscent, and Hammer Museum. I will post more about it as the date nears.

I took the photo above a few weeks ago when the daffodils were in bloom. Now the bulbs and plum tree are done blooming, the oak trees are leafing out, and the roses are setting their first buds. Happy Spring!

Ten Tips for Exploring the World of Perfume

IMG_1524edsmIf you have just recently discovered the world of niche and artisan fragrance offerings online, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. The internet has encouraged an explosion of options, from large niche lines that are sold worldwide via specialty boutiques to small artisan lines like mine that are sold through brand websites. Here are some tips for those who are beginning to explore the world of scent beyond casual sampling at your local store counter.

 These tips apply equally well to mainstream and niche categories (treasures can be found in both), but you may find that you need more online help with niche options because they are less available at your local store.

1. Join the fragrance community

online_iconsmallestOnline Resources: The online fragrance community began years ago on forums and then expanded to blogs and Facebook groups. You can visit several options to find a place where you feel comfortable. Good places to start include Basenotes, Fragrantica, MakeupAlley, Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Cafleurebon, Perfume Posse, Colognoisseur, The Non-Blonde, EauMG, Chemist in the Bottle, PerfumeShrine, Undina’s Looking Glass, and many other blogs that you will find linked from those starting points. Fragrance aficionados are eager to share their love of scent with others and are generous with knowledge and samples. You will likely make some lifelong friendships that extend beyond the world of fragrance. Forums, Facebook groups, and blogs have developed their own communities, with some overlap in membership and content.

Offline Resources: Fragrance fans can meet in person at a number of events each year, including Sniffapalooza’s Spring Fling and Fall Ball, special events scheduled at boutiques (such as “meet the perfumer” events), and meet-ups coordinated by informal local groups of fragrance lovers on both coasts. You can hear of these in-person events through the online community. If you become interested in learning more about perfumery itself, you might check this post about perfumery schools and classes to find some introductory classes offered by indie perfumers or by organizations such as the Institute for Art and Olfaction (IAO).

2. Sample, Sample, Sample!

samplestrans_ed3smEven though you will be tempted to buy unsniffed after reading an intriguing review, you’ll save money in the long run if you stick to a “sample first” policy. When you sample, use a large enough dose to simulate spraying from the bottle, and wait long enough to judge the drydown to be sure you won’t tire of the scent after the topnotes are gone. Give your nose some breaks, and don’t try to sample too many scents at once. You can buy samples from places like Surrender To Chance, Luckyscent, Twisted Lily, Indigo Perfumery, Indie Scents, Olfactif, and the brands’ own websites. You can also sample in person if you happen to live near a boutique like Scent Bar (Los Angeles), Tiger Lily (San Francisco), or Twisted Lily (Brooklyn). As you acquire samples, you can swap the ones you do not want to keep with other fragrance lovers who have things for swap that you want to try. You can even buy decants (small amounts of perfume decanted from a full bottle) when you want more than a sample but not a full size.

3. Discover your preferences, but keep an open mind and revisit


Try different types of scents; you may think that you only like certain types, such as fresh scents or light woodsy amber scents, but you may be surprised to find that you also enjoy other types once you try them. Realize that your tastes may change over time, and revisit samples as you learn. You may want to try some all-natural scents too; they usually stay closer to the skin and have shorter lasting power, but you won’t know whether you connect with them until you sample.

 You can read more about fragrance categories here on Now Smell This and here on the Art et Parfum site.

4. Learn the notes

AIcollage_strokedAs your interest deepens, learn to identify notes such as jasmine, rose, violet, orange blossom, iris, ylang, cedar, sandalwood, labdanum, aldehydes, fruits, spices, musk, leather, amber, and greens. Some notes will be familiar to you from foods and plants, while some notes will be new. Keep track of notes that you like or dislike, but realize that your preferences may be qualified by other factors and may change with time; for example, you may like jasmine as long as it is not too indolic, or you may like fresh smells as long as they are not ozonic.

To help you learn notes, you can sample scents that showcase single notes, and you can even buy samples of ingredients from places like Perfumer’s Apprentice (both naturals and synthetics) and Eden Botanicals (naturals only).

 Notes do not correspond one-to-one to ingredients because a note is often created with an accord that is built from multiple ingredients. Perfumer’s Apprentice lists examples of accord formulas for things like apple, sandalwood, and amber to illustrate how accords are built from individual ingredients, and you can purchase samples of the accords if you want to sniff them. Perfumers generally build their own accords for various notes, creating the desired character and nuance to the notes and to the overall composition.

I have links on my website to short descriptions of many of the notes in my scents, and other sites also have similar note descriptions. You can also find in-depth posts on quite a few natural ingredients on Smellyblog, which is a blog written by another indie perfumer, Ayala Moriel.

chanel55. Try some classics

Try mainstream classics like Chanel No 5 and Patou Joy, but don’t worry if they aren’t instant favorites. Be sure to try some classic niche choices too, such as scents from Serge Lutens, Comme des Garcons, L’Artisan, Annick Goutal, Frederic Malle, and Parfums de Nicolai. 
Surrender To Chance makes it easy to try classics with themed sample packs. They also have samples of vintage classics if you want to try some of the scents that are no longer available or that have been radically altered in newer versions (though vintage buying is prone to risk because scents can go off after a number of years).

6. Wear perfume to please yourself, and build a wardrobe

Advertisements would have you believe that perfume’s purpose is to influence those around you, but it can bring even more enjoyment to the one wearing it.

 If you collect a variety of scents to choose from each day, you’ll find that you enjoy changing scents with the weather and season, with the occasion, and with your mood. Some scents are subtle enough to be work appropriate, while others are better worn when you are not in close quarters. The idea of a signature scent has waned as people have realized that wearing the same scent daily can desensitize you to it and can lead to over-application; by changing scents frequently, your nose will stay fresh. Loved ones may have some special favorites that you will enjoy wearing when you spend time with them. Your collection need not be large, and you may decide to opt for smaller bottle or decant sizes to allow for more variety.

woman_smelling_coffee_smallest7. Pay more attention to scent in daily life

You will improve your sniffing ability if you pay attention to the scents of daily life: the aroma of ingredients, such as spices and herbs, when you are cooking; the scents of the foods you eat; the scents of flowers, leaves, and soil in the garden; the scent in the air just before it rains; the scent of a loved one. Most of us are quite focused on what we see and hear, but being more aware of the smells around you as you go through your day can add a new dimension to your senses and can increase mindfulness.

You’ve probably noticed how a scent can vividly bring back a memory of a person, place, or event. Scents of everyday surroundings make life richer and make memories stronger. To this day, I can’t smell star jasmine without it taking me back to when I was young and spent some happy sunny afternoons with friends swimming at our kind neighbor’s pool next to a long fence covered with an impressive wall of star jasmine. We all have scent memories associated with holidays and major events, but some of our most significant scent memories are associated with more mundane moments. I’m always touched when customers write to tell me that one of my scents has brought a memory back to mind.

8. Realize that people often smell different things from the same scent

nose_icon_smI always mail test samples to friends as I work on new scent formulas, and this process has taught me how differently people smell the same perfume. Skin chemistry affects scent, but even if perfume is sprayed on a blotter to take skin out of the equation, people will not smell scent the same way. We each have genetic differences in our scent receptors that determine our relative sensitivity to different ingredients. Between being more sensitive to some ingredients and anosmic to others, the same scent will smell different to different noses. In addition to that genetic variation, we develop preferences over time through our experiences and scent associations, and this combination of genetics and experience helps determine why we love certain smells more than others.

Realize that you won’t always agree with reviews on blogs or forums; don’t let a negative review stop you from sampling something you think you might love, and don’t let a rave review inspire you to buy a full bottle without sampling first. You’ll gradually discover which reviewers and perfumers most often have similar noses and preferences to your own, but be understanding of those with different views because their perception is just as real to them as yours is to you.

9. Try different application methods

Rather than applying fragrance near my neck or face where the scent will be constantly in range of my nose, I prefer to use fragrance on my wrists where it will waft in and out of my breathing space as I move. You can experiment with placement and dosage to see what you like best. You’ll apply a larger dose if you spray a scent than if you dab it from a dauber vial. If you are new to scent, you may find that you enjoy it dabbed on your wrists but are overwhelmed if you spray it on your neck. You’ll also find that perfume oil behaves differently than alcohol-based perfume; oils generally stay closer to your skin.

dictionary-icon10. Learn the language

Words like eau de parfum, accord, sillage, and chypre may confuse you at first, but you’ll soon speak the jargon. Bois de Jasmin and Now Smell This have helpful glossaries of perfume terms that can serve as references while you learn.

And finally, have fun with your new hobby, and enjoy your time spent with like-minded, or like-nosed, people!

Some of my readers with a long fragrance hobby history may have tips to add to this list, so please feel free to comment below. Also, newcomers can see the Perfume 101 posts on Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, and Perfume Posse for more advice and for recommendations for scents, by category, that you might want to sample.

Some links: Amber Incense review and more on scent perception

Julie of The Redolent Mermaid blog just posted a review of the new SSS Amber Incense. Her blog, which has a pretty new format, features reviews with gorgeous product photography and fun DIY project tutorials.

I also wanted to post a link to a recent article about scent perception because we’ve been covering that topic here on my blog for quite a few years. I’ve been tagging posts with the tag “genetics” to help identify the topic of the genetic basis for scent perception. If you’re interested in that topic you can search for my posts with the “genetics” tag to find more information. This particular article discusses a way to identify people according to their “olfactory fingerprint” because our scent perception may vary enough from one person to the next to make each one of us identifiably unique. An interesting thought! 🙂

Just editing this to add a link to another online article on this same study about our olfactory fingerprint. This is fascinating, “Researchers then repeated that sniff test on another 130 subjects. But this time they did a blood test, too, to figure out each person’s HLA type—an immune factor that determines whether you’ll reject someone’s organ, for example. They found that people who perceived smells similarly also had similar HLA types.” They suggest that taking sniff tests may become a first line medical screening test someday.

Just adding a link to one more article about the olfactory fingerprint.

Evening of Perfumery in Sacramento, CA

I received notice about an event in California that I thought I would mention in case anyone is interested. The American Society of Perfumers and The International Fragrance Association, North America are sponsoring an “Evening of Perfumery” event on August 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Sutter Club, 1220 9th Street, Sacramento, CA. The announcement said, “Drawing inspiration from nature, vistas, and crops native to California, perfumers Chris Diienno (drom international, Inc. USA) and Monica Aneiros-Burke (Arylessence, Inc.) will present perfumes created for this event. These unique scents will illustrate how important California is to the craft of perfumery in the United States and worldwide.” The perfumers will discuss their fragrant interpretations of California. For more information or to RSVP (before August 14) email rsvp@ifrana.org.

I think this event is part of an effort to educate the public and lawmakers about fragrance (a similar event was held in Washington D.C. last November, but with different perfumers and a different fragrant theme).

EU Regulations Update — Good News For Now

Reports are coming out that the EU has decided, at least for now, to continue to allow the low atranol version of oakmoss and tree moss while only banning moss that has not had the allergens atranol and chloroatranol reduced. Most perfumers (myself included) already switched to the low atranol version of oakmoss years ago when that standard was first set by IFRA, so there will be no change for us. IFRA not only requires the use of the low atranol type but also places a limit on the percentage of use of the low atranol type. Even at the IFRA level it is useful though, and I have the low atranol natural moss in many of my perfumes. I am glad to hear they are not banning it. Suppliers are actually getting better at removing atranol and chloroatranol, so the levels are extremely low.

The EU also decided not to implement the drastic restrictions on a number of ingredients, like citral and eugenol, that would have made it virtually impossible to use naturals anymore. They are going to conduct more research so this saga will continue, but at least the pace has slowed and better studies will be done.

Lyral (a synthetic lily of the valley ingredient sometimes referred to as HICC, short for hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde) will be banned. It was already heavily restricted and this move was expected, so I doubt anyone will be surprised. I do not use Lyral in any of my scents and never have used it, so this issue does not affect my formulations.

It sounds like the EU still wants to require labeling for over 80 allergens rather than the current 26, but they may allow the allergen listings to be made online rather than on the product boxes. There will still be a lot of work to comply with the EU rules, but this is overall very good news, at least for now. I think the great outpouring of concern over the proposed regulations helped persuade lawmakers to do further research before taking those drastic steps.

I’m not selling in the EU so these rules don’t technically apply to me at the moment, but I believe that the EU is setting precedents that may well migrate to the USA eventually. Also, the IFRA and EU ingredient regulations affect what is considered “currently accepted practices” for product liability insurance purposes, so the standards do have an effect on all perfumers whether directly or indirectly.

I will update if the news changes.

Petition Concerning EU Regulations

I posted on Feb 13 about the latest round in proposed EU restrictions on perfumery ingredients, and I posted again shortly thereafter to give the
address for emails to the EU commission for those who wanted to voice their concerns. There is now a petition you can sign on parfumo.net if you would like a quicker way to make your voice heard than writing a letter yourself. It doesn’t take long to read and sign the petition if you agree with it. Many of you will have already seen the petition since it has been mentioned on numerous blogs and on Facebook, but I thought I’d post for people who have not seen it yet.

The IAO Awards Finalists

The top ten finalists were announced today for the artisan and indie categories of the 2013 Institute For Art And Olfaction Awards. This is the first year for the award program and they did an outstanding job of putting together a distinguished group of judges for the blind judging. I did not enter this year because the entries had to be scents created in 2013 and I didn’t want to enter my 2013 natural creations, but I feel very supportive of their program. They made a separate category for artisan perfumers, which is a first for an award program like this.

I’m happy to see Lisa Fong (of Artemesia Perfumes), Ellen Covey (of Olympic Orchids), Meredith Smith (of Sweet Anthem Perfumes), and Josh Meyer (of Imaginary Authors) in the top ten artisan group. All are very nice people and are fellow west coast indie perfumers.

European Commission Accepting Comments

The European Commission is accepting comments about restrictions and labeling of allergens in perfume. The following link takes you to a post that provides more information and gives the email and snail mail addresses for public comment. This is your chance to make your voice heard.

Mark Behnke wrote a very interesting blog post on his new blog the Colognoisseur about the inadequacy of the allergy testing used to make the EU rulings, and he explains why we need better allergy trials. He is a chemist with the background to speak knowledgeably on this topic. He writes, “The studies these bans and restrictions have been based on were performed one time at one concentration on 25 patients with no controls, positive or negative!” He suggests that proper studies be done with controls, multiple concentrations, more people, and multiple ethnicities to see if the 23 identified allergens are really a problem.

A post on Grain de Musc gives the timeline for what will happen and encourages people to contribute their opinions via the contact addresses given.