Archive for the natural aromatics 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.


degrees of coffee

Posted in natural aromatics with tags , , , , on June 11, 2008 by scentedwench

I have a row of bottles at my work bench, filled with freshly roasted coffee beans of various origin, and biodynamic grape alcohol.  They’ve been there since I moved, following a crazed trip to Peet’s for a half pound of decaf that quickly became a quest to try coffees from all producing continents.

What is surprising is how while they all have very distinctive toasted and burnt tones due to the roasting and the oil sheen which results from that (and which seems to be the first element to get acrid and flat), they all assume a uniform darkness that only seems to change with the elements one combines them with.  But with a twist.  If I add rose to samples of all four, it brings out different elements.  Same rose, different coffees.

If you’ve ever tinctured roasted cocoa nibs, you’ll know how cacao gives up different secrets with different florals.

After the coffee experiment, I’m itching to source roasted cocoa nibs of different origins/species, and try the above experiment.

All of this is to say that in perfumery, the sky is indeed the limit when it comes to shading, drawing out nuances, tones and different hues.

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.

timing belts and removing grime

Posted in natural aromatics, sugar scrubs with tags , , on May 31, 2008 by scentedwench

This has absolutely nothing to do with perfume, but aromatics play into it, so I’ll forge along and just post anyway.

We’re trying to get the Buttless Wonder Car to pass smog, which in CA can be quite difficult to do unless you have a brand new vehicle, and it means having to adjust the timing belt in our case; apparently the timing was off by something like 10 points? So, I’m out there aiming a timing light at the belt and the little calibration doohickey, and BF is manually accelerating the idle with his hand, and his hands are filthy! Go figure, right.

We finally got the setting down between 5 and 6, where it belongs. We swapped out a sensor and readjusted one of the hoses on the air filter, too.

I made a sugar scrub for his thrashed hands. Rice bran oil, granulated sugar, a bit of steam-distilled sweet orange, a breath of patchouli, a drop of vanilla CO2 just for the hell of it. And it took the crap clean off. A quick follow-up with some gentle handmade soap, and his hands are cleaner than they’d be had he used soap alone, or one of those harsh orange cleaner w/ pumice products geared towards mechanics.

If you tinker with cars, or you live with someone who does, sugar scrubs are the way to go. Salt will burn like crazy on abrasions and cuts, even if you’re using a more powdery product like pickling salt.

[/public service announcement]

antiquated-book-smell, and other things

Posted in formulation, natural aromatics with tags , , , on May 30, 2008 by scentedwench

It’s been done, maybe to death; I’m not sure because I’ve not looked for others doing this for a couple years, but I’m thinking about recreating the smell of antiquated books. Down to the old leather binding.

I know to start with some antique terpeneless patchouli I managed to source a long time ago, and I have ideas on a vegetal leather, but I’m not sure if I should stop with the book itself, or if I need to create the library itself and possibly a library patron. Hm.

Yeah, make that the 50 bazillionth pot I have on the stove!

But it’s a fun something to let my mind wander to while I’m doing the other 49 bazillion things.

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.