Archive for the natural perfumery Category

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.


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?

eau de cologne, again

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

Jiminy crickets.  This addition of water stuff really gives me fits.

I managed to add a few milliliters of filtered water to one blend, minimal clouding.  The trick is to either work with one of those magnetic stirrer jobbies, or to be really thorough and swift with your stirring rod as you add drop by drop.

The second blend… well.  It looks like lemonade.  Here’s what kills me: it clarifies beautifully when you put it in a warm water bath.  Warm it up, et voila, you have ze cleeer ztuff.  Let it cool, bam, back to lemonade.  I wish I could remember why water does this, but I can’t even remember how to write out a chemical equation for what happens when you add anhydrous to water, so…

File under ‘Whinge of the Day’.

Both of them smell purty, though.


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.

Musk rose (hard to find, but worth it)

Posted in mandrake apothecary, natural aromatics, natural perfumery with tags , , on May 11, 2008 by scentedwench

I was talking about using blue lotus phytol, a few posts down…

I also happen to have a small (okay, hoarded) quantity of musk rose phytol.  Rosa moschatus.

Because Circe is almost running low, I broke it out today to use in that perfume.  Musk rose is like rose petal preserves.  But it’s not marmalade like a solvent-extracted absolute is, and it’s not a shrieking steam-distilled otto (rose otto always makes me think of opera for some reason; it is a lot of sound and fury and mezzo soprano high notes, all in a teeny weeny little apothecary bottle!).

Warm, faintly spicy red and pink rose petals, more than anything else.  It adds a bit more texture and atmosphere than the Bulgarian Rosa damascena I use in Circe, or rather it seems to augment and strengthen it?  I am still deciding whether it is top to middle, or middle to base.

Orris, sweet and dusty orris

Posted in natural aromatics, natural perfumery with tags , , , on May 10, 2008 by scentedwench

I went to Lise Manniche for an entry on iris this morning, because I felt like I was missing something in my appreciation.

“Varieties of iris grow wild in Egypt today; Dioscorides gave nar as its Egyptian name. Petals of Iris albicans Lange or I. florentina have been identified in an Egyptian burial of Graeco-Roman date, and the dried root could well have reached the country, this being the part of the plant that is used in perfumery (‘orris root’). It was on Theophrastus’s list of aromatic plants.” (p.19, Sacred Luxuries [if you don’t have this book, and you’re a student of perfumery, find yourself a used copy…])

I’m riffing on violets currently. Orris is sort of a ‘standard’ for producing a violet accord, in conjunction with essences that tease out its purple fruity petaled potential, like boronia. When I go to my orris absolute, it doesn’t quite spell ‘violet’ to me. The whole roots do, however. Either some judicious tincturing in grape alcohol is in order, or I need to work further on channeling Viola odorata, eh. Or, yes.