Archive for the mandrake apothecary Category

rosemary revisited

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics with tags , , , on June 15, 2008 by scentedwench

I had to decant sample vials of Rosemary today and something about its greenish brown gummy character (the absolute is like a olive green hunk of herbaceous fudge) made me wonder how it would behave with chocolate, to sort of play up the fudgy weirdness, and would a particularly dusty and greenish-smell patchouli be an appropriate supporting note in that.

Which got me to thinking about lavender and chocolate, and patchouli of course.  I used to make a soap (back in the days of using fragrance oils) which was scented with equal parts patchouli, lavender, and vanilla FO.  It sounds gnarly and kinda gross to think about, but the vanilla softened and absorbed the camphor of the lavender, which kicked down some of the ‘just be mellow, man!’ vibes of the patchouli with its purple buds.

I have a vial of ‘rosemary extract’ that I may dilute judiciously and blend a bit with, since it has a similar character to the spendier absolute, and is easier to work with.

But I need more ideas on what to blend rosemary with.  The essential oil of rosemary is singularly blunt and deadening to things aside from eucalyptus species and the various mints, and I don’t relish putting it into perfume, but a couple drops are okay in eau de cologne, so…

*looks at rosemary bottles on workbench*  Hmmm.


the power of copal and myrrh

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, perfume with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2008 by scentedwench

I poured and packed three bottles of Ofrenda this morning, for an order.  This is one that I had to make an emergency batch of a couple months ago, because it looked like I’d be running out in June (and lo… it happened).

It’s a bit strange to describe, but I feel like I’m working in sacred space when I blend this one.  Granted, it is all about sacred space…  It’s offertory incense with some twists to bring the natural world (the greater temple) into the hand-made world, the inner temple – whatever space you are sanctifying with scent.

And it is supported by a tripod of resins.  Frankincense (Boswellia sacra in this instance), copal, and myrrh.

I think that my favorite essence in this is the Abies grandis and not just because it smells of Christmas trees.  It adds an evergreen to the incense which elevates the resins and coats them with silvery frost.

Just thinking aloud 🙂

appreciating roses right now

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, natural perfumery with tags , , on June 6, 2008 by scentedwench

I had to make up another batch of Medea some weeks ago, and finally filtered it yesterday afternoon, after work.  There is something very guttural and yet refined about how the damask rose plays off of pink lotus, ginger lily, and carnation.  The touch of ambrette in the base (not a predominant note, so I don’t usually list it) adds a powdery and sort of antique hue to the whole mix.  Sort of like applying a sepia tint.  I smell this and I think of my great grandmother in her younger years (I have a picture of her dressed like a flapper, with the bobbed chin-length hairdo), for some reason.  I can imagine her dabbing this on and applying some to a cloth brooch on her lapel.

explorations of Pogostemon cablin

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics with tags , on May 29, 2008 by scentedwench

I have a 16 oz bottle of dark patchouli from India that I’ve been hoarding for about six years. Aside from it making the opening of the bottle a bit tarry over time, it has aged into something really special. Golden, fruity, contemplative, green, herbaceous, dusty, sweet freshly-turned soil. All at once.

So I’m embarking on blends with it. I’ve so far tried the following in various combinations:
vetiver w/ rose
vanuatu sandalwood
morrocan rose
rose otto
cocoa absolute
ylang ylang
choya ral
ruh motia
peru balsam

Nary a top note in those experimental blends, either. I find that patchouli either loses itself and you get something greater than the sum of the parts, or if you add enough, it creates a monotone of sorts. Not a bad monotone either, but the character really comes through.

I’m not one who thinks of the 1960s, or how my mom smelled in the several years after I was born, when I sniff patchouli. When I contemplate my bottle, I see a universal blender, an economic one even in light of current shortages driving the cost up. And for those naysayers who say that it leaves its grubby footprints in everything it is added to, nope. I know some very studied patchouli-haters who fail to detect it in a number of my perfumes where it plays a supporting role and adds green tones to render the leaves and branches the flowers are blooming from.

co-distills and attars rock

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, natural perfumery with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2008 by scentedwench

I’ve been playing with attars in a very limited fashion for some years now.  There are the obvious tonalities like mitti (baked earth distilled into sandalwood), gulhina (henna into same), motia (jasmine sambac into same), et al.

But you can get attars (I think these are technically co-distills) in vetiver as well.  My current favorite is Rosa bourbonia in vetiver.  The first attraction is the vetiver is like buttah.  Ruh khus from India has a really refined nature that is generally lacking in the distillations from Madagascar, Java, and Haiti.  Product from these places tends to have a burnt note going on, beneath the sweatsocks and thick grassy butter.  And that’s not a bad thing, because even a burnt bouquet is valuable in blending.

The vetiver has a warm golden earthy glow, which is taken up and amplified by a very quiet whiff of rose otto (and rose otto tends to be a really big brassy opera diva, by itself, so this is effect is priceless).

Current blending plans with this stuff:
patchouli (a distillation that behaves more like a heart note than a base)
a single crumb of jasmine grandiflorum concrete
maybe clary sage and frankincense?


Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, natural perfumery with tags , , on May 20, 2008 by scentedwench

From Lise Manniche (Sacred Luxuries), “…The well-known flower pistils of Crocus sativus relate to Egypt only as far as saffron is an ingredient in the kyphi recipe provided by Galen.  This presumably occurred because saffron was much loved in the classical world for its scent as well as its colour.  It was known in the Bible as karcom.  It has long been grown in Europe, and grew in Persia where it was cultivated in the 10th century AD.

…Pliny praises saffron from Soli in Cilicia, later superseded by saffron from Rhodes.  He quotes a recipe for saffron perfume, crocinum, which also included cinnabar (a naturally occurring mineral), wine and alkanet (a dyeing plant).  Theophrastus claims that in his day the best saffron for perfume came from the island of Aegina and from Cilicia…” (p.23)

When I read this passage, a passage from Arctander comes to mind, wherein he observes a tendency to opine that things just don’t smell the way they used to.

But is it just a ‘things just ain’t the way they used to be, grrr’ tendency, or is there some validity to it?  I have to wonder, given how the climate has changed, how the air is now full of pollutants that did not exist thousands of years ago, and how those pollutants and aromatic compounds must negatively impact our nasal receptors.

Observation for the day:
The ‘golden age’ of scent probably started in the fertile crescent several thousand years ago.

Plan for the day:
Create something with saffron as a predominant note, but something that is not foodie/gourmand.

ginger on my mind

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural perfumery, perfume with tags , , , on May 12, 2008 by scentedwench

When I picture a fire-breathing dragon, I tend to think of ginger from several angles.  Ginger is sweetness, spice, sharp edges that dull into almost cool surfaces, warmth, and fire in the belly.  And it’s one of those aromatics that is unmistakeable, much like cinnamon cannot be mistaken for any other essence.

And I worked with a great deal of ginger yesterday, the essential oil from fresh roots, and from dried roots, and then ginger lily CO2 extract, which is not a species of ginger, but has the definite dry heat like the EO from the dried roots has.  It glows red, and is faintly leathery and ashy, when you touch it up with the smoldering campfires of cade or choya.

Ignis is my ode to fire.  A blazing salamander out of Paracelsus.