Archive for June, 2007

spikenard, Nardostachys jatamansi

Posted in natural aromatics, perfume on June 26, 2007 by scentedwench

There are multiple forms of this available, but I favor the amber.  Spikenard is the renowned ‘nard’ that the woman (one of the women to form the Mary Magdalene composite character in the Bible) anointed Jesus’ feet with.

So, it has religiously symbolic trappings, which appeal.  A nose-governed friend of mine asked if Mary Magdalene could be a patron saint of perfumery, and I guess I could see that.

Honestly though, it just smells divine.  The green distillation is woody, biting, spicy,
dusty, diaphanous, and faintly herbaceous.  It ages well.

The amber distillation is woody, dusty, faintly acrid, faintly sweet, diaphanous, and resembles a single malt whiskey in its depth.  Imagine sipping a 12-yr old Laphroaig or even Oban, and then imagine what the taste smells like.

Spikenard is useful in leather accords, in meditational bases, and I’m learning it gets along quite well with florals as well.

It is also quite scarce.  I probably will not buy any more once my bottles are nearly empty, and it is likely I’ll store a wee bit for aging that only get brought out to be sniffed for inspiration.

Damascena, Centifolia, Bourbonia, Moschatus, and how!

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, natural perfumery, perfume on June 25, 2007 by scentedwench

May had me in the planning stages of a project based around roses, and June has seen that to completion, sort of. We’re still blending and reblending and aging and tweaking, but I think that the rosy end of the tunnel is approaching!

The rose is one of the longest-cultivated flowers. It is traditionally known as the Queen of flowers, where Jasmine is King. And there are so many aromatic species being used in perfumery. And then the species vary geographically, in hue and shading.

Rosa damascena from Turkey varies from that grown in Bulgaria, for example. My bottle of Turkish rose has a bright shrillness reminiscent of tea roses and lemon, of all things. But the Bulgarian rose is faintly warm and almost edible in its sweetness.

And the various species and extractions vary greatly in consistency. I have phytonic extractions of the damascena and moschatus species, which tend to be waxier, resembling a thick pectin-laden jam. Traditional solvent-extractions tend to be closer to an oil in consistency, the exception being the bourbonia species which tends to produce waxy extractions.

Rose otto, a steam-distillation of the petals, crystallizes just below room temperature.

And though it is an exercise in filtering and possibly futility, I still try to work w/ rose concrete, despite its waxy and hard texture. I have Rosa bourbonia and Rosa damascena in concrete form. The best possible thing is dissolving and aging for an eternity, and then using the tincture drop by drop, I’m starting to think.

I’m hoping to write about white water lily and blue lotus (both of them phytonic extractions) in the next entry, depending on how much blending I get done this week!

Demeter and Hekate are still available. I’ve about 10 bottles of each left, at present.

And after a couple months of procrastination, I’ve finally put up a page of perfumes from the various collections that work particularly well with male chemistry, available individually, and as samplers.

Demeter and Hekate, new unguents!

Posted in cats, charitable donations, mandrake apothecary, natural perfumery, news, perfume on June 18, 2007 by scentedwench

I am offering up jojoba-based unguents this month, Demeter and Hekate. They are available for $25 (5 ml green glass bottle), or as a pair for $45. It is a limited run of 20 bottles of each, and I may produce them regularly, depending on the feedback I get.

Demeter is a meditation on amber, resin, chocolate, coffee, and jasmine. There is also musk ambrette as an underlying base, which marries the above with one’s skin scent. I was looking to celebrate the sweetness and the deepness of life. Demeter is one of those deities who resides in the Olympian pantheon as well as with the Earthly and even Underworldly. So, we’ve got earthy richness, as well as dizzying narcotic sweetness.

Hekate is an adventure into meditation and transcendence, from within a deep place in the earth. She predates Greek myth and when she was written into the pantheon she had many guises. Before she became known as the Queen of Ghosts and a deity of sorcery, she was a deity of the Underworld. Prior to that she was a goddess who presided over births, and a guardian of thresholds and doorways. Ah, domesticity! We see mention of Hekate dating back to prehistoric Anatolia, which, depending on your stance on prehistoric gynocentric culture’s existence, was possibly a civilization of Goddess-worshippers.

Hekate’s unguent draws from many places, geographically, and I chose to play up her sorceress and earthy traits. All witches have familiars, if you want to go stereotypical, and what better familiar to invoke than Bastet, eh. The cat goddess of Egypt was also the patroness of perfumery. Her aromatic in this unguent is the blue lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), an ethereal flower which glows with an underworldly fire. Then we look to Turkish rose, to bring Anatolia into the composition. Clary sage brings in a meditational element. Amber spikenard brings the peaks and airlessness of the Himalayas to the scent, and we cannot forget about spikenard and Mary Magdalene. Henna attar brings India’s vibrant aromatic culture to the heart and base.

Proceeds of sales go to Alley Cat Allies.

Cats have saved civilization a few times, if you think about it. They protect Demeter’s grains from rodents. They killed the vermin carrying Bubonic plague. And hey, I happen to like having two familiars 🙂 There is nothing like having a pussycat napping under the lavender when I’m out weeding my garden. She’s watching over me, of course, in between snores, and keeping me company. And then I have the one who likes to snooze nearby when I’m formulating new blends at my workbench.